Seeing Portland through my daughter’s eyes

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Touring Portlandia through the eyes of a 7-year-old

We came for a bar mitzvah, a welcome-to-manhood celebration for teenagers in the Jewish faith. It was the first time my oldest daughter would meet a bunch of her cousins, the first time I would see the cousins’ parents (my cousins) in more than 15 years. Anticipation for the trip to Portland was high. And, ultimately, the family stuff was as fun as we expected it would be.

But in between family events, in what my 7-year-old and I called “the down time,” we managed to have some pretty magical experiences in Portland, too. We crafted our own donut crawl. We strolled through a rose garden. We found a rock emblazoned with art.

I chronicled many of our adventures on my family travel blog, Wandering Pod. I had my daughter “report” about our trip too—with the camera of an old cell phone and her journal.

Here are the most endearing of her impressions.


My kids love planes (go figure) so our Big Girl was excited to have a chance to snap a picture of our plane on the tarmac at PDX. She immediately texted the picture to my wife back home with instructions for Mom to share it with her 5-year-old sister (who wants to be a pilot).


We took MAX, Portland’s light rail system, from the airport downtown, and hopped off right near Pioneer Courthouse Square. Here, the Big Girl spotted drinking fountains unlike any she’d seen before—instead of just one fountain, each had four separate drinking heads. Her assessment: “This would be great if you were here with three friends.”


We spent the weekend at Hotel Lucia, a boutique hotel right in the heart of downtown. While I checked in, my daughter obsessed over the needlepoints and pillows on some of the couches in the lobby. She took more than 50 pictures of what she saw; this was the most revealing of the bunch.


Serendipity comes in many forms when you travel, and for us, on this particular trip, it came in the form of a rock which my daughter quite literally stumbled upon during our first afternoon. The rock was noteworthy for two reasons. First, a cat was painted on one side, and my kids love cats. Second, a URL on the back of the rock led us to a website that told us the story of the rock; an artist paints them and distributes them all over town in the hopes that people will find them, snap a pic, and post the pic to social media. We were happy to comply.


Our Big Girl is obsessed with art, so naturally she was drawn to some of the murals around town. She waited minutes to take this shot, since a truck was blocking part of the foreground for a while. While we waited, we ate donuts we had purchased from Blue Star Donuts up the street.


Everyone in our family loves Hawaii (my wife and I got married there in 2004), so anything that reminds us of the islands usually makes a big impression. Perhaps that’s why the Big Girl was so captivated by these pineapple statuettes in the window of a home furnishings store. She lobbied hard to go in and buy one. Somehow, I was able to deflect the requests.


Before our trip, I had regaled my kid with stories about bar mitzvahs of my youth. The DJs! The goodie bags! The pigs-in-blankets! Of course this only put her on alert for the same highpoints this time around. When she spotted this bar mitzvah’s equivalent of pigs-in-blankets, she shrieked and snapped a bunch of pictures. These were gourmet and organic and fancy. But they still brought me back.


Who doesn’t love a good photo booth? Though my Big Girl technically didn’t take this picture, I found it incredibly representative of our Portland experience: fun, unexpected, and unforgettable .Just what family travel should be.

What are some of your favorite places in Portland and why?

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Matt Villano

In more than 20 years as a professional journalist, Matt Villano has had articles published in outlets including TIME, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, National Geographic Traveler, Sunset, Coastal Living, and Entrepreneur, to name a few. He currently blogs about family travel at, and occasionally covers family travel for Family Fun and Scholastic Parent & Child magazines. Villano also wrote the family travel blog for Parenting magazine, and an adventure travel blog for (a one-time website of Brand USA). In addition to travel, Villano’s areas of expertise are business, technology and gambling. When he’s not working at his stand-up desk, Villano is chasing after his three daughters, both of whom are future New York Yankees fans. His favorite destination on Earth is his (adopted) hometown of Healdsburg, California. No. 2 on the list: Vancouver Island, British Columbia (specifically Tofino). For more about Villano, visit

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