Look, we get it.
We know you love your kids, and it's painful spending time away from them. But we also know that, sometimes, you need at least a few minutes for yourself. No need to feel guilty about it. We're not judging—in fact, we're here to help.
Sure, when it's nice out, you can always dump your little one at the nearest park and stare off into space for a while. But Portland's rainy season is long. Where do you go when it's pouring outside, li'l Kendall's spinning in circles in the living room, and you're on the brink of insanity?
Take a deep breath. We've got some suggestions for you.
IKEA Play Area (Småland)
10280 NE Cascades Parkway,
Named after a province in Sweden that literally translates to "Small Land," IKEA's very own day care service allows parents to leave their children supervised for 30 minutes to an hour, free of charge, allowing you to wander the vast, mazelike emporium of DIY furniture unencumbered. Children must be potty trained, wear socks and be between 37 and 54 inches tall.
For the Kids: Once children set foot in this play area, they enter the world of Småland—a wonderland of giant clogs and plastic trees mimicking the beauty of the Swedish countryside. Complete with a ball pit, and quiet time for reading or watching a show, kids may be content in this little land for well over their prescribed one-hour allotment.
For the Parents: Perhaps the intention is for parents to browse the store and complete their shopping needs without interruption, but we won't judge if you just need a moment to head up to the restaurant for a plate of those famous meatballs or that decadent chocolate cake.
Ironically, for a building that used to be a legit elementary school, there are no traditional day care services available on the premises. But Kennedy School's movie theater—one of Portland's few remaining second-run theaters, by the way—is stocked with couches rather than typical, confining theater seats, giving parents a pretty sweet opportunity to take a nap while their kids enjoy some movie they don't have to pretend to like. Tickets are $3 for kids and $5 for adults, too, making this one of the more affordable and possibly restful outings around town.
For the Kids: Popcorn, candy, gazing with wide-eyed wonder at the marvels of modern-day animation—or a CGI lion or whatever.
For the Parents: Old-school sofas and comfy loveseats perfect for dozing. There's also a soaking pool on the property, and while the website says all minors must be accompanied by a parent or guardian, what's to stop you from "going to the bathroom" for 30 minutes to an hour?
This is the inverse of Kennedy School—it's a way to see a movie you actually want to see, without your kid bothering you. Academy Theater—Portland's other last remaining second-run theater—offers in-house baby sitting for $9.50, plus the price of admission, which, at only $3, makes it still pretty worth it if you're desperate to leave the house and watching something above a PG rating. Reservations are required, and children must be 2 to 8 years old to participate.
For the Kids: Toys, books, and all the classic day care necessities.
For the Parents: Cinematic freedom—or, y'know, another nap.
It's the play area of your child's dreams—and for you, alcohol! This family-owned indoor playground and cafe combines the needs of both parent and child seamlessly, while offering reasonable daily rates: $4 for kids 3 and under, $8 for 4 and up on weekdays. The cafe is stocked with real food options, plus kombucha, espresso drinks and even local beer and wine. Parents can play free of charge, and are welcome to join their kids on their various play structures—which seems entirely against the point, but after a few glasses of rosé and/or Breakside IPA, who knows?
For the Kids: A triple-level jungle gym, ball-cannon room, two interactive dance floors, and a separate room for children 3 and under.
For the Parents: A comfortable seat to dine and drink while keeping your kid just in your periphery.
The proprietors of this indoor play area went above and beyond, creating a facility with a special focus on early childhood development. Every detail aims to create the best environment for wee ones—replacing fluorescent lighting, for example, with special bulbs that simulate sunlight, and using muted colors that won't overstimulate children with special needs. Their goal is to create a safe space for kids to play so their parents can relax nearby. And with free Wi-Fi, an espresso bar and beer on tap, that's not hard to do. Be forewarned, though: Entry costs $11.
For the Kids: One big jungle gym, a slide and other floor mats and games to play.
For the Parents: A clean, aesthetically pleasing wooden bar looking out onto the play area.
The closest place one might find to a traditional park is this play area. It's also the most bare bones on this list—oh, and it's in the basement of a Lutheran church. But hey, it's got toys and play structures, and at 3,000 square feet, there's plenty of room for kids to roam. New renovations were completed in February, and it's only $5 per child per day.
For the Kids: Play structures and slides, doll houses and toy kitchen sets, among many other toys.
For the Parents: Benches to zone out on for a while. And there's God stuff happening upstairs, if you're into that sort of thing.
This is the place to make messes—and you won't have to clean up. Smartypants offers an array of arts and crafts for your child, and you, if you feel like participating. All materials are provided, from paints to flubber to clay, making it easy to bring out everyone's inner artist. It's geared for ages up to 10, but this is one situation where parents may have just as much fun as the kids.
For the Kids: Endless artistic possibilities.
For the Parents: A chance to see if your kid has the talent to achieve for the arty dreams you abandoned years ago.
Lloyd Center, Clackamas Town Center and Washington Square Mall
2201 Lloyd Center; 12000 SE 82nd Ave., Happy Valley; 9585 SW Washington Square Road, Tigard.
For the ultimate no-cost playland experience, head to the nearest shopping mall. They don't promise to be the cleanest, but they are definitely free of charge, and the tykes won't know the difference.
For the Kids: Lloyd has the smallest play area, but still offers the classic tiny slides. (It also has an ice skating rink, but you'll need to be a bit more engaged and alert there.) Clackamas has more to offer, with tunnels and plastic animals. And Washington Square has a mini bridge, among other attractions. Strangely, they all tend to follow a woodland theme.
For the Parents: Comfortable seating play areas, and with an enclosed area safe from the surrounding hullabaloo, you need only half pay attention while dissolving into that Orange Julius.
The Hollywood Fred Meyer
3030 NE Weidler St., 503-280-1300.
Often overlooked by customers, Fred Meyer's free child care service is available to children between the ages of 2 and 5, allowing parents to set out on grocery duty free from constant pestering by their youngsters. It's not the most glamorous of day care services, but it gets the job done.
For the Kids: Toys, books, playmats and other kids to play with.
For the Adults: A shopping trip free from interruption—or, on one of those rare, oppressively hot Portland summer days, an excuse to idle in the freezer aisle for a few hours.
Plenty of brewpubs in town are family-friendly, but this recently opened bar in the Concordia neighborhood will actually remind you of the watering holes you spent so many youthful nights in before selling out to responsibility. WW previously called Jinx a place for "housebound punk parents in need of an escape," and we stand by that.
For the Kids: Pinball and a killer kids' menu.
For the Parents: Booze, good music and the company of other adults—remember that?