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OMG! A cool Portland tour with tweens and teens

Published on: March 01, 2010


Our Ages & Stages section this month is a special Northwest family travel round-up by Lora Shinn, the author of ParentMap’s newest book, Northwest Kid Trips. We asked Lora for her expert opinion on local travel fun with kids, and she delivered! Read on for great ways to play — without getting on a plane —at  Northwest Kid Trips.

Got tweens? Teens who think they’re waaaay too cool for you? Convince them to log off Facebook and interface with you in Portland, Oregon, a city that knows teens. And you, awesome parent, will now know exactly where to hang in this cool city, which brings the cool from A to Z.

115 N.W. Fifth Avenue; 503-248-2900

Backspace is like your teen’s friend’s basement, if that friend’s mom had lots of networked computers, coffee, cool music, vegan food, Voodoo doughnuts and chess. She probably doesn’t. So here you are, with the cool kids. Open Monday-Wednesday, 7 a.m.–11 p.m.; Thursday and Friday, 7 a.m.–midnight; Saturday, 10 a.m.–midnight; Sunday, 10 a.m.–11 p.m. Cost: $6 per hour for non-members with a $3 half-hour minimum; $5 more for music shows.

Burnside Skatepark
Under the east end of the Burnside Bridge

Chances are that if you’ve got a preteen or teen into skating, that kid already knows all about the Burnside Skatepark and has it scheduled into your itinerary. After all, it’s where national pros and local amateurs skate side by side. If the weather’s too miserable on your trip to Portland or your child isn’t ready for the aggro-style skating, try the Department of Skateboarding’s ( indoor bowl, which has a 14-and-younger session on Saturdays.

Compound Gallery
107 N.W. Fifth Avenue; 503-796-2733

Tokidoki toys, foot-tall figures, plush dolls, compelling (and odd) art, tees and super old-school shoes (parents who grew up in the ’80s will be torn between nostalgia and nausea, depending upon your memories of that decade). It’s the place to go to see where contemporary culture will be in five years or so; right now, it’s for cutting-edge mature teens. Open Monday–Saturday, noon–8 p.m.; Sunday, noon–6 p.m.

Glowing Greens Black Light Adventures Miniature Golf (Pirate Adventure)
509 S.W. Taylor Street; 503-222-5554

The Pirates of the Caribbean could never hold their own against the Pirates of the Putt-Putt. This blacklighted golf adventure offers ska-style music, mildly scary skeletons, a rockin’ and rollin’ jukebox, and the typical ups and downs of a putt-putt course. Add 3-D glasses to make the fish and shells come alive. No food or drink allowed inside, so get your grog beforehand. Open Sunday, noon–10 p.m.; Monday–Thursday, 3 p.m.–10 p.m.; Friday, 3 p.m.–midnight; Saturday, noon–midnight. Adults (ages 13 and older)/$7; youth 7–12/$6; second game and half-round/$4.

Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade
511 N.W. Couch Street; 503-796-9364

Kids nowadays! They just don’t appreciate rudimentary graphics, joysticks and the satisfying “clink” of a quarter dropping into the slot. Take kids (elementary-school age or older) down memory lane at Ground Kontrol, where a bag of quarters will still buy you time with Frogger, Qwerty, Ms. Pac-Man and the Simpsons. Drive race cars really fast or play a mean game of pinball upstairs. It’s deliciously dark and grimy, like the pizza parlors from our youth. Kids are allowed in until 5 p.m., when the game show goes 21 and older. Open daily, from noon to 2:30 a.m. Free admission; most games cost one or two quarters per play.

Independent Publishing Resource Center
917 S.W. Oak Street, #218; 503-827-0249

If your teen authors are into cutting, pasting, and stapling their own ’zines, then steer them here. On Sunday afternoons, the IPRC opens its door to a drop-off ’zine session especially for kids younger than 18. Staff members provide help upon request. Open Monday, noon–10 p.m.; Tuesday–Thursday, 4–10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, noon–6 p.m.; special youth-only sessions Sunday, noon–5 p.m. Cost: $5/hour for workspace and equipment, free for youth on Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.

McMenamins Kennedy School
5736 N.E. 33rd Avenue; 503-249-3983 or 888-249-3983

At McMenamins Kennedy School, nodding off won’t get you kicked out of this hotel/entertainment center, although it’s housed in an original 1915 school. No television sets, but who needs one? There’s a movie theater, where you can catch a flick while eating pizza and downing beer (or root beer), a 102-degree soaking pool (popular with locals in winter), pub grub and chalkboards in every well-appointed room. Once the kids go to bed, mom and dad can take turns visiting the Detention Bar.

2915 N.E. M.L.K. Jr. Boulevard; 503-294-0769

Fabric, office supplies, art materials, paper, yarn and other castoffs from modern life are yours for the up-cycling. Open Monday and Tuesday, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.; Wednesday, 11 a.m.–7 p.m.; Thursday–Saturday, 11 a.m.–6 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.

3D Center of Art and Photography
1928 N.W. Lovejoy Street; 503-227-6667

Spectacularly strange, this tiny stop is kitschy-kitschy cool. The only museum in the United States devoted solely to stereo image “artistry,” it features 3-D devices dating from the late 1800s, a rotating exhibition and 3-D movies to watch. Don’t miss the Viewfinder cards focusing on Portland and the Columbia Gorge. Open Thursday–Saturday, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.; Sunday, 1–5 p.m.; first Thursday of the month, open until 9 p.m. Adults (older than 12)/$5; families/$7; first Thursday is free.


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