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Let's face it. Portland's a wet place. This hip, artsy city on the Willamette River gets a whopping 37.2 inches of rain each year.
But not to worry. Portland's built for rain. On yucky days, the kids can climb aboard a Navy sub at the science museum, see a puppet show at one of several children's theaters, and even ride four-foot waves at an indoor water park.
On sunny days, there's the renowned Oregon zoo, an old-fashioned amusement park, or just a walk around compact downtown, hanging out in art-filled plazas, reading the quotes from famous people etched in the sidewalks.
The city's proximity to mountains and ocean means lots of outdoor activities within an hour of downtown. But who needs to go that far? Right in Portland's backyard, you can take a jet boat tour and scream with delight as pilots do 360's in the water, spraying everyone onboard.
Rain or shine, Portland's small town ambiance will make your family feel right at home. So, pack the galoshes and umbrellas (even in summer months you're likely to get spritzed) and get ready to play, Portland-style.
First, the weather. Find out what Mother Nature's got in store each day at Pioneer Courthouse Square, one of the city's famous gathering places. A silly, 25-foot weather machine topped with an earth-shaped ball flashes a sun on nice days, a blue heron on questionable days and a dragon on rainy ones. As you may expect, the weather dragon makes more appearances than its counterparts.
But Portland works around that with plenty of indoor culture and adventures. Here are some of our favorites:
When the sun shines, Portland's a magical place. But hurry, you don't know how long the good weather will last. Here are some of the best outdoor activities:
Type of trip: Education, entertainment
Best ages: 5 and up
Ideal trip length: 3-4 days
Distance: Seattle, WA (173 miles), Boise, ID (431 miles), San Francisco, CA (634 miles)
Best time to go: September through November for the great deals and good weather. "The Portland Big Deal," beginning in October, offers discounts on hotels and restaurants to performing arts and attractions. Some attractions close down after October, so plan accordingly.
Weather: 75/52 degrees in September; 64/45 in October. December is the wettest, with an average of 6.13 inches of rainfall; July is the driest month, with just a half-inch of rain.
Lodging: Look for special deals Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. Hotels participating in "The Portland Big Deal" offer affordable rooms from October to May. Call 1-87-PORTLAND.
Squirm factor: None
Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI) 1945 SE Water Ave., Portland Phone: 800-955-6674
Portland Children's Museum 24015 SW Canyon Rd., across from the zoo Phone: 503-223-6500
Oregon Children's Theatre Performances at Keller Auditorium, SW 3rd Ave. and at Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hal 1037 SW Broadway, Portland Phone: 503-228-9571
Tears of Joy Theatre Company The Winningstad Theatre at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts Phone: 503-248-0557 Check performance schedule.
Willamette Jetboat Excursions Located at OMSI Submarine Dock, 1945 SE Water Ave., Portland Phone: 888-538-2628
Oregon Zoo 4001 SW Canyon Rd., Portland Phone: 503-226-1561
Oaks Amusement Park & Roller Skating Rink Located on the east end of Sellwood Bridge at Tacoma St., Portland Phone: 503-233-5777
Portland Saturday Market 108 W Burnside, Portland Phone: 503-222-6072
Favorite local spot: North Clackamas Aquatic Park 7300 SE Harmony Rd, Milwaukie, OR, just south of Portland off I-205 Phone: 503-557-SURF Summer never ends at this indoor aquatic park, open even on the chilliest days. Hop on a tube and surf four-foot waves in the 200,000-gallon wave pool. Or check out the two large water slides and one steep drop slide. There's even fun for your wee ones in an interactive kiddie pool with fountains.
Best souvenir: A can of slug chowder at Made in Oregon stores. Kids love it for the high gross-out factor. But it's really just a water-based soup, and the only slug is the one on the label.
Annual events: (check for dates)
Traffic alert: All downtown Portland streets are one-way. If you miss a turn, you'll have to go a couple blocks out of your way to get back on track.
The nation's only designated National Scenic Area is home to 77 waterfalls that cascade from the glaciers and snowfields of nearby Mount Hood. Nearly all are accessible via easy trails.
The feature attraction: Multnomah Falls, a double-tiered waterfall that roars 620 feet over a mossy cliff at the top of the Columbia River Gorge. It's a great place to soak up the beauty and enjoy a picnic lunch. The trail to the top is a paved 1.2 miles.
Top off your day with a visit to Bonneville Dam, which spans the Columbia River. Park rangers are on-site to provide free tours and talks on fish, hydropower, and history. Or you can tour the dam and look yourself. Plan an hour to check out the underwater fish-viewing windows and the next door fish hatchery, with its pools of sturgeon and salmon.
The Gorge (20 minutes from downtown) on I-84 just west of the Bonneville Dam. The Dam (40 miles from Portland) on I-84 just a few miles east of where Historic Columbia River Highway and I-84 intersect, Cascade Locks, 541-374-8820.
Reviewed April 2004.