Family Soccer Pilgrimage: Pro Women’s Soccer Makes Portland Ideal Family Trip

Portland, Oregon, to host NWSL Championship Game on September 22

Can we discuss one more reason for families to visit the Rose City?

Just three words.

Professional. Women's. Soccer.

. . .  of epic proportions. Portland has a main stage for your sons and daughters to watch women get paid to play a sport at the highest level. 

Home to the Portland Thorns FC - the reigning National Women’s Soccer League Champions (NWSL), Portland's Soccer scene is a mighty draw. 

And the atmosphere in this stadium is absolutely electric. The team averages 17,653 fans per game; nearly double any other professional women’s soccer club

Plus, if you want to catch both men’s MLS and women’s NWLS soccer in one trip, both the Portland Thorns and the MLS Portland Timbers actually play in the same stadium — sometimes within days of one another.

Even better, on September 22, Portland will host the NWSL Championship. Tickets are still available

Getting Around the Rose City 

While in Portland, your family won’t need a car. You can saunter around downtown, hit some genuine forested trails in Forest Park, nosh at food carts and famed restaurants all without setting foot in a car or Uber. With kids, even!

Between Portland International Airport's MAX Train connection and the historic Providence Park's location, smack in the middle of the city, you can handily rely on public transportationStill, what else should a family do in between matches? Here are my suggestions for a car-free trip, staying close-in to the downtown core:

Eat

If you are lucky enough to be a tourist in Portland mid-week, then you are lucky enough to dine like a local (read: without the famed waitlists of the weekend).

Since you’ve got time on your side, I’d recommend hitting up a famed breakfast spot on a weekday, including as Mother’s Bistro, Besaw’s, Broder Cafe or Gravy. All are kid-friendly, ususally locally sourced and delish. 

For lunch, the food carts, are - of course - a good choice. My favorite pod of carts for a family is the grouping at SW 10th & Alder, just a few blocks from the family-friendly Director Park (a city-center park that is complete with a giant chess board and water fountains).

As for dinner, we personally don’t tend to frequent places geared toward families. In fact, we often hit-up brewpub happy hours around the city with our brood. Light fare, light prices. Kid menus are often available. For a sit-down meal, dinner reservations are pretty standard. Long waits - even at casual spots - abound. I’ll elaborate more about our favorite family food spots in Portland in another post - watch this space! - but in the meantime you can never go wrong for a family of any age with almost any McMenamins pub for a unique atmosphere and pub fare (locals may disagree on service, but we all still flock here). There are nearly 60 them smattered in historic and modern sites across the region. Other great family spots include: Boke Bowl (ramen and steam buns), Dick’s Kitchen (burgers and veggie fare), Fireside (epic location on NW 23rd). Top brewery options: Breakside (any location), Rogue Brewing, 10 Barrel and Deschutes Brewing.

Do

If you’re an active family over the age of about 8, and hiking is your game, the 4T Trail is a free self-guided hiking, walking city/forest adventure. Consisting of a citywide loop including the Trail, Tram, Trolly, and Train. This trail will take you through a pacific northwest conifer forest to the highest point in Portland at 1,073 feet above sea level (with multiple volcano views, too!) and back down through a maze of the city’s unparalleled public transit system.

Another option is a family bike ride through the city core. A number of local bike shops can set the whole family up.

Other downtown to-dos depending on your family’s ages and adventure level:

  • Portland Art Museum (kids are always free!).

  • Shopping and eating your way down NW 23rd St with stops along the coffee houses, donut and ice cream shops (especially good for teenagers).

  • Take the MAX train through the West Hills tunnel and get off at Washington Park where you can hit up The Oregon Zoo, Portland Children’s Museum and World Forestry Center in one stop.

  • Portland Farmers Market, every Saturday, year round. A local diner’s delight.

  • No list would be complete without Powell’s Books. Let your older kids and teens roam the famed bookstore and get caught up in the literary magic.

  • During summer months, the Oregon Zoo typically has concerts. Check availability of last-minute tickets. Epic sunset setting in the middle of a forested zoo.

  • Keeping with the soccer them (and, as an alum), I might add, the University of Portland Pilots Division I soccer program puts on pretty good matches nearby.

Shop

Thorns & Timbers Team Stores: Prep for your soccer weekend by ordering gear online in advance. Or hit up the store while you’re in town at their storefront.

Wildfang: For a very Portland and feminist fashion moment, check out the bricks-and-mortar version of this US-based women's apparel company featuring tomboyish clothing with a social message. The company was founded by two former female Nike executives and has a cult following among power women across the country. The designers have even done a special collaboration with the Thorns, check it out

Portland Gear: For teens (and parents) who want to go home with the perfect gear, head to Portland Gear Shop, located just across from Providence Park.

Nike: For some teens, no trip is complete with a trek to the home base; the mecca of shoe and sports apparel design. For this, you can hit up the downtown Nike Store. This store does sell the product, but is also a museum to all things Nike and located across from the Pioneer Place mall downtown.

Sleep

Some people love a private rental (Airbnb) but as a mom, I looooove the amenities a hotel gives me (even an affordable hotel). Translation: no kitchen + housekeeping + front desk = happy parent on vacation.

The list of amazing hotels has grown exponentially in the downtown districts, so check-out the latest lists and deals. Some standouts with proximity to Providence Park include:

  • Heathman Hotel: If you want to stay downtown in a unique, bespoke vintage hotel (and the lap of luxury), book your family in one the newly refurbished Heathman Hotel rooms. Each guest room features original Portland art and the hotel boasts a massive guest library. Enjoy the hotel’s famed Russian Tea inside the storied Tea Court Lounge. Curated by James Beard award-winning Vitaly Paley, this tea is loaded with sweet and savory Russian bites and teas. ($38 for adults and $16 for children). Even if you’re not staying at The Heathman, you can call ahead for a booking.

  • Residence Downtown/Riverplace: right on the Willamette River and a stone’s throw across the water (and a skip across the Hawthorne Bridge) to OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry).

  • The Inn at Northrup Station is right on the trolley line and in the center of the NW Historic District and the revitalized and happening Slabtown. Plenty to walk to and historic architecture to peruse.

Travel Portland always has a great list of Downtown and Northwest District accommodations.