Pint-Sized Nightlife in Portland

Oona Baker - Portland
April 17, 2012

After being bundled in for the long, rainy season, Portlanders often overlook the plethora of nighttime places to get out and about as a family. Sure, you can spend the evening dining al fresco at a neighborhood pub or watching the kids ride bikes up and down the block in the evening air, but we think you just might be surprised at the selection of enriching evening adventures that await! When the daylight savings time arrives, a whole new world of outdoor experiences return for the year. You still might have to wear rain boots (sigh.) and definitely a jacket, but there's lots to do that doesn't involve sitting inside, wishing for brighter days. 

Whether you want to get down and dirty with a reptile or two, or take in a classic on the big screen, here are Savvy's picks for places that let the little ones in your life can stay up late (Okay, maybe not that late) and savor the fun that springtime in Portland affords!

Drive in for delightful family time

Time for some classic cinematic car fun! Pack up the kids in their jammies and a favorite stuffed friend, then head straight for the 99W Drive-In. Just a short drive from Portland proper, this nostalgic night time spot is a great way to introduce a "new" way to experience the movies. No longer confined to those scratchy door speakers, car radios now provide the sound for the show. Children are sure to be charmed by the comical concession reel during intermission! This return to a simpler time, before 3-D glasses and stadium seating, might be just what the doctor ordered for a fantastic family outing as the evenings grow warmer. For ultimate summer fun, a cozy truck bed just might be the best place to catch a flick. You can even include Fido in the movie fun as animals are permitted as long as they remain in a vehicle. Savvy tip: this is a cash-only establishment (really, no ATM access) so be sure to bring plenty of money for the snack bar and admission. Consider taking in a movie on a Sunday evening, when the lines are shorter, and for a last minute supper, hit the Burgerville near by. 

Investigate nature at night

Portland residents are so fortunate to have miles of green space at their fingertips, and equally impressive is the amount of children's programming at parks around town. Many nature centers feature special events that enable kids to get up close and personal with bats, snakes, or owls. Cooper Mountain will be holding an upcoming event where school-aged science investigators can enjoy a pizza dinner and then experience the park at night. This affordable evening of environmental exploring is a chance for children to experience the delicate balance of ecology. Roaming natural areas in search of reptiles and their amphibian friends has never been so fun! Plus, parents get to enjoy three hours of absolutely alone adult time. For other outdoor opportunities, why not venture out on a nighttime river walk and listen to the sounds of nature at night, or stop and see if you can spot the quiet majesty of owls hunting for prey at Tryon Creek

See the city sights from a rugged site

A visit to this natural oasis is a perfect way to spend an active evening. Located just off SE 162nd in East Portland, Powell Butte Nature Park is actually an extinct volcano and the second largest natural space in the metro area. If the skies are clear, you can actually catch a glimpse of Mt. Hood, Helens, Jefferson, or Adams from the top of this ancient cinder cone. Bring bikes, trikes, or strollers, and a picnic supper to take advantage of the hours of outdoorsy fun. As the sun sets, you'll have an epic view of downtown and the hills to the west. If you're feeling especially adventurous, you can take the #9 Powell bus and skip the drive. The park closes at 10:00 p.m., so there's plenty of time to linger looking at ferns, roam through the meadows, and catch the glorious last rays of a sunset. Keep your eyes open and you just might see a few park residents peeking out of their woodland homes. See if your little ones can spot squirrels, chipmunks, and many birds of prey. Bring bird/animal guides and count how many critters call Powell Butte home. 

An amusement park evening is A-OK

Charming and historic Oaks Park is already a much-adored family destination, but things just got a little bit more fun with the addition of a miniature golf course! After you've spent the day looping the loop, smashed and crashed bumper cars, or picnicked by the scenic shores of the Willamette, let the kids sharpen their golf skills and take a shot at this sweet outdoor sport. This shiny new attraction just opened a few weeks ago and promises to keep even the littlest swingers enthralled. With an eighteen-hole course, petite putt-putters can stay busy for hours. The golf course stays open until 7:00 p.m. in the spring, and afterward, the whole family can strap on their skates and hit the rink next door for nighttime roller action. (If you're lucky, you might see members of the Rose City Rollers practicing!) With best buddies or siblings in tow, this family park brings the fun long after the sun sets. Savvy tip: If younger children lose interest, or simply need a breather from the non-stop activity, check out the gentle train ride for a diversion. Look for $7 Saturday Night specials coming soon, and don't forget to put the upcoming Multnomah County fair on your calendars!    

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