It’s Fun AND Educational: The Best Museums in Portland

Where can I go to have fun AND learn in Portland?

Three best museums in Portland

The idea of learning and having fundoesn’tt have to be separate entities! Few places understand this as well as Portland.

In many parts of the country, museums and learning centers are stuffy and uptight, but many attractions in PDX go against the grain. Several local museums feature hands-on displays. Others display local history with knowledge that’s impossible to find anywhere else. Oregon is home to many one-of-a-kind companies, and local museums capture the positive feeling of the Pacific Northwest in a way that can’t be replicated. Three museums that are exclusive to Portland are the Oregon Historical Society Museum, the Oregon Zoo, and the Oregon Museum of Science Industry (better known as OMSI). There isn’t a better way to learn local history firsthand than by visiting one of these places, and you’ll have fun doing it!

Experience local history at the Oregon Historical Society Museum

Established right before the start of the 20th century, the Oregon Historical Society Museum contains a research library, in-person exhibits, and online information that’s hard to get ahold of elsewhere. With rare artifacts, one of a kind documents, and a venue rental for business meetings and award dinners, the museum has a little bit of everything. And much of the local history can’t be found anywhere else!

What can you expect to find at the Oregon Historical Society Museum?

Oregon historical society Portland

  • One of the largest libraries in the state – There are literally millions of media pieces in the Oregon Historical Society’s research library in Portland. This includes thousands of books, maps, newspaper reels, and videotapes along with millions of photographs in its vast collection. With handwritten historical manuscripts, government documents, and thousands of rolls of microfilm, there’s always more to learn!
  • Permanent and rotating exhibits – From a permanent exhibit on local Oregon history to an intimate look at the life of President John F. Kennedy, the museum integrates the local life of Portland with national and global history. Several of these exhibits are also interactive so viewers can gain in-depth knowledge in a hands-on environment.
  • Online exhibits and information – Some fascinating information about Portland and the rest of the state is hard to find elsewhere. Online exhibits, such as Lost Portland, show a time when the city was an upscale urban metropolis and how the buildings have fallen and decayed over the decades.

Feed the animals at the Oregon Zoo

After grabbing a bite at a local pizzeria, head down U.S. Hwy 26 to the see and feed the animals. But don’t feel bad that you didn’t save any delicious pizza for them – nutritious food for the animals is provided during these special tours at the Oregon Zoo! With 64-acres in the midst of urban Portland, the zoo emphasizes sustainability and simulating the natural environment of the animals. With a large variety of animals, special events, and classes and field trips, the zoo has something for everyone!

What’s a typical day like at the Oregon Zoo?

Oregon Zoo Portland

  • Creatures, creatures, and more creatures! – It’s a zoo here! Emulating multiple environments, the zoo layout has regions for everything from the heat of the African Savanna to the chill of the Arctic. But the zoo also makes sure not to forget its roots. With a large section dedicated to the Pacific Northwest, animals that are often found in the Portland metro area can be viewed in an environment much like their natural surroundings.
  • Special events give a one-of-a-kind experience – While there’s plenty of things to see on a typical day, sometimes the zoo has special events as well. These include elephant encounters, feeding the giraffes, and the always popular zoo lights. See the pride of Portland with over a million lights showcasing dozens of displays, many of them animated!
  • A field trip to remember – One of the most popular places for field trips in Portland, the zoo offers discounted rates to make sure everyone can afford to go. Always striving to make the day memorable, the zoo includes activity guides and an optional zoo school class where students have hands-on experiences while at the same time learning new information about the animals.

See advances in science and industry at OMSI

While spending a day playing at local arcades is always worthwhile fun, OMSI provides a unique experience. It’s both a museum with visual exhibits of local advances in the industry as well as a science center with rotating exhibits that make sure information stays current. There are many staples of OMSI that are open daily, such as the labs, planetarium, and even a submarine, but also special, limited-time attractions, as well. With hands-on, interactive displays, classes and labs, and the largest theater screen in Portland, there’s always something exciting happening at OMSI!

Don’t miss out on these exciting features:

OMSI Portland

  • Interactive exhibits– Ever want to launch a foam ball through a giant fan and see how far it can go? Give it a try in the science playground! There are over 200 interactive exhibits in five halls covering several areas of science. Currently, these include nutrition, the ocean, life science, the many clever ways that Portland conserves energy, and much more. And don’t forget to check the featured, limited-time exhibit either! 
  • Stop by a class or science lab – While most of the features are hands-on, special classes and labs are all about doing science experiments yourself. Experience 3D printers, uncover dinosaur fossils, create your own watershed, learn the shocking facts behind static electricity, and mix chemicals like a mad scientist right in the middle of urban Portland!
  • Enjoy the top-of-the-line planetarium and theater – You don’t have to wait until night to see the stars in Portland. The daily starry night’s show in the domed theater is just one of the many shows OMSI offers. Enjoy laser light shows, star parties, and much more in the Planetarium. Want to catch a late night movie? Try the Empirical Theater, the largest IMAX screen in Oregon! With science documentaries and Hollywood movies, there’s something to see for everyone!

Directions from OMSI to Moving Forward Restoration LLC

1945 SE Water Ave, Portland, OR 97214

Get on SE Grand Ave from SE Water Ave
2 min (0.6 mi)

Take SE McLoughlin Blvd to SE Holgate Blvd
5 min (1.6 mi)

Moving Forward Restoration LLC
2528 SE Holgate Blvd, Portland, OR 97202