Sunday, April 20, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Portland: Compact And Crammed With Possibilities

Special To The Seattle Times

PORTLAND - Sniff around this city for a few days and your family will discover a lot more than flowers in the City of Roses.

Smells, sights and sounds in this easy-going metropolis are much like Seattle's: both cities embrace waterfronts, zoos, science and books. That's why the 180-mile jaunt south offers a familiar sense of escape for Seattle families.


Most go by car: figure 3.5 hours from Seattle on Interstate 5.

But a fun outing for the family might be Amtrak's four-hour Seattle-Portland run which disembarks in refurbished Union Station near the downtown. Reservations on the route's higher-speed Talgo train offer comfortable family seating (800-872-7245) Round-trip fares are $31 to $58; children 2 to 15 years are half price).

The Talgo leaves Seattle at 8 a.m. arriving in Portland at noon; returns at 5:30 p.m. arriving in Seattle at 9:20 p.m. There is other daily Amtrak service to Portland, too. For about $6, taxi to a downtown hotel. WHERE TO STAY

Most of Portland's overnight accommodations are clustered downtown west of the Willamette River and in the Lloyd Center-Convention area east of the river. Rates run $85 to $160 a night for family-friendly lodging - some with swimming pools, kitchenettes and continental breakfast.

Here are a few that offer some of these amenities: The Days Inn City Center ($90-$125); 1414 S.W. Sixth Ave., (800) 899-0248 or (503) 221-1611; The Mark Spencer Bed-and-Breakfast Hotel ($72-$109); 409 S.W. 11th Ave.; (800) 548-3934 or (503) 224-3293; Residence Inn by Marriott ($90-$135) 1710 N.E. Multnomah, near Lloyd Center; (800) 331-3131 or (503) 288-1400.


Get a good map of the city, especially of downtown where you'll likely spend much of your time. Public transit is free downtown, but walking may be easier. In Portland, an overtime parking ticket is $18.

Portland's 200-foot-long level city blocks seem more walkable than Seattle's steeper 300-foot-long blocks. And Portland packs a lot of character into 10 square blocks between the Willamette River and 10th Avenue, and Burnside and Jefferson streets.

Tri-Met buses and the MAX light-rail system connect east and west sides of the Willamette River. Children younger than 6 ride free. Adult fares range from $1.05 to $1.35; older children pay 80 cents.


You have only a couple weeks to catch the free "America's Smithsonian" touring exhibition, daily through May 6 at the Portland Expo Center (2060 N. Marine Dr., off I-5 Exit 306-B). See hundreds of artifacts including the Muppets' Kermit the frog, the Abraham Lincoln's assassination-night top hat and Dizzy Gillespie's trumpet. Last admittance is at 6 p.m. There's a $3.50 service charge to order advance tickets by phone: (800) 913-8687. Parking is $4.

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) is exclusive West Coast host to the Giants of the Gobi fossils exhibit: dinosaur and mammal bones from the Inner Mongolia desert, with 75 specimens and 16 complete prehistoric creatures.

OMSI's year-round favorites include hands-on chemistry and physics labs designed for those pre-teen and adults, and the Richard Scarry "BusyTown" play center for toddlers. Also explore the tight spaces in the 219-foot USS Blueback, a decommissioned submarine moored next to OMSI.

Admission is $9.50 for adults, $8 for students 4-13 (800-955-6674 or 503-797-4000). Tickets in advance: (800) 992-TIXX.

Families with tots may prefer the make-believe restaurant, doctor's office, grocery store and more at the Portland Children's Museum. In its basement clay center, aprons, design tools and wash bins are ready for those who want to mash mounds of moldable clay into wild shapes.

The museum's Native American annex will include a pow-wow video, a ceremonial drum kids can beat, traditional clothes they can wear, and a replica of a longhouse. (Open daily, 9 a.m to 5 p.m., 3037 S.W. Second Ave.; 503-823-2230; admission is $3.50).


Washington Park, a few miles west of downtown, features a cluster of family favorites: the International Rose Test Garden, Japanese Gardens, World Forestry Center and Metro Washington Park Zoo.

Pachyderms are king at this zoo (503-226-1561), where visitors celebrated elder elephant Packy's 35th birthday this spring. Adult admission, $5.50; ages 3-11 $3.50; second Tuesday of the month is free.

Families with tots may enjoy the gentle 35-minute round-trip Zoo Railway ride to the International Rose Test Garden (tickets are $3 and less). Both the Rose and Japanese gardens offer spectacular city and mountain views (free admission; open daily). The enviro-education forestry center is $3 for adults; $2 for students; (503-228-1367). Take the Tri-Met bus 63 from downtown.

Those with a vehicle may enjoy the 40-minute drive east along the scenic Columbia River Gorge to Multnomah Falls, at 620 feet, it's the country's second highest waterfall and Oregon's most visited attraction.

Another popular way to sample the Columbia's beauty is on a two-hour Cascade Sternwheeler cruise, mid-June to mid-October from downtown Portland. ($12 adults; $6 children; 503-223-3928).


1. Stroll along the Willamette River's west shore through Tom McCall Waterfront Park downtown with its walking paths, Waterfront Story Garden - a granite and cobblestone tribute to storytellers, and 100 cherry trees in the Japanese-American Historical Plaza. On the west edge near Old Town is Saturday Market (503-222-6072).

2. Rose Garden Commons, on the east side of the Willamette River near downtown, is a 30-acre campus featuring an open plaza with casual restaurants and "Essential Forces" - two water-and-fire pillars at a water fountain. Its 500 kinetic water jets explode every two seconds in dancing patterns, taunting kids to race the sprays.

3. At U.S. Grant Park, northeast of Lloyd Center, young readers and their parents may recall the antics of "Henry Huggins," his neighbor "Beezus" and her little sister, "Ramona the Pest." Author Beverly Cleary set her popular tales in this neighborhood so city leaders erected sculptures of her book characters near the park's wading pool and playground (Northeast 33rd and U.S. Grant Place).

4. Little literati get a kick out of the entire downtown block known as Powell's City of Books. With 1 million new and used books, Powell's is a book-browsers Nirvana. Open 9 a.m.-11 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday; 1005 W. Burnside; (800) 878-7323.

5. Peanut Butter and Jam outdoor concerts fill Pioneer Courthouse Square, noon Tuesdays and Thursdays, June 12-Aug. 28.


May 1 is free family admission day at the Cinco de Mayo celebration in Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Discover a Mexican village featuring Latino arts, craft, foods, music and Friday night fireworks.

Fireworks, carnival rides, parades and other fun mark the annual Portland Rose Festival, May 29-June 22. The June 4 Junior Parade has nearly 10,000 children taking part, the world's largest for children. The Grand Floral Parade is June 7. Phone (503) 227-2681).

Kids can play in a giant sand box while 18 business teams design their own sand sculptures during Sand in the City, afternoons on July 11-13 at Pioneer Courthouse Square.


Its circus posters are faded, but the decades-old Carnival restaurant, just southwest of downtown, still serves up hearty burgers and thick milkshakes. Kids can design their own hot dog ($1.45) or hamburger ($2.25) from the carousel-like condiment bar. (Monday-through Saturday lunch and dinner, 2805 S.W. Sam Jackson Park Road; 503-227-4244.)

At The Rose Quarter families have a handful of lunch and dinner choices, including Cucina! Cucina! Italian Cafe (503-238-9800), and a remodeled Jody Maroni's Sausage Kingdom (503-236-8052).

Tots may prefer the colorful romping room at Old Wives Tales (1300 E. Burnside; 503-238-0470) near Lloyd Center where adults will find a full-service restaurant with healthy and ethnic food choices. East of Lloyd Center, there's Bavarian accordion music at The Rheinlander & Gustav's Bier Stube (5035 N.E. Sandy Blvd.; 503-249-0507).


Here are some basic costs of a visit to Portland: Transportation:

By train: Two adult and two children round-trip fares, $150.

By car: Gasoline for the about 460 total miles, $40.

In town: Two adult all-day bus passes; one student pass; child free, $7. Lodging:

Two nights at downtown hotel, $200. Meals:

Two $20 breakfasts; two $30 lunches; two $60 dinners, $220. Entertainment:

OMSI admission, $35.

Metro Washington Park Zoo, $20.

Rose Quarter, Powell's and Waterfront Park, free. Total:

By car, (includes parking) about $535.

By train, $632.


Portland Tourism: Three World Trade Center, 26 S.W. Salmon, Portland, OR 97204-3299. Phone (800) 345-3214. Web site

"Portland: City-Smart Guidebook" by Linda Danielson ($14.95 by John Muir).

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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