Wacky doughnut flavors, a thriving food truck scene and a hip counterculture made famous by “Portlandia,” are just a few reasons families should visit Portland, Oregon. We spent a weekend in Portland for another reason: the city’s (and my own) affection for the beautiful game of soccer.
Portland is arguably the center of the U.S. soccer universe and with a stadium located in the heart of the city, funky urbanites literally surround the two pro teams that play inside it. Don’t get me wrong, the doughnuts are outstanding, but after watching several Timbers home games on TV, a soccer match was my first choice Rose City experience.
Providence Park, home of the Timbers and Thorns FC, has a rich soccer history – Brazilian legend Pele’s final professional soccer match was there in 1977 – and is now the home of Timber Joey (a real-life lumberjack mascot), Alex Morgan (dynamic goal scorer for the Thorns and the U.S. Women’s National Team), and the most rabid soccer fan base this side of England – a fan base you and your kids should join, if only for one game.
Attending a soccer match in Portland with kids is a not only fun but also safe and easy to do – thanks to changing stations in every restroom, even babies are welcome! And because games take less than two hours to complete, with zero TV timeouts, there will be no whines of boredom. This is especially true if the Timbers are scoring goals, because that’s when the place really comes alive!
Throughout the entire game, chants will be sung, flags waved, and team scarves displayed proudly, and after every Timbers goal, Timber Joey will head down to the massive conifer trunk that sits behind the goal in front of the Timbers Army (the most ardent of local fans). From there, he’ll fire up his chainsaw, cut a round from the tree, and raise it up high causing everyone to go wild!
After the game, Joey runs around the stadium with one of the tree rounds for fans to touch. Kids’ eyes will light up at the sight of Joey in his hardhat holding that enormous piece of tree! Later, that same slice is presented to the goal scorer – the most unique keepsake in sports. This isn’t just a soccer match; it’s a way of life for the people of Portland.
My wife and I, along with our 10- and 7-year-old daughters, were cheering wildly along with over 20,000 of our new best friends as the Timbers erased an early 1-0 deficit to win in dramatic fashion. Over the course of two hours, you and your kids will be welcomed as adoptive members of this special family too, and you’ll leave with memories that’ll last long after the final whistle.
Where To Stay
Walking to the game with the rest of the Timbers’ green and yellow clad supporters is part of the experience too, so Park Lane Suites & Inn, an affordable, clean and comfortable hotel just a few blocks from the stadium, is the perfect spot.
Where To Eat
No outside food or drink is allowed inside Providence Park (sealed or empty water bottles and soft-sided juice containers are okay), so I recommend eating dinner before the game at the Koi Fusion Korean BBQ food truck, Mazatlan Mexican Restaurant or Eat Pizza (located inside a skinny building your kids will love!) — each is just a stone’s throw away. Oh, and as far as those gourmet doughnuts go, Blue Star on SW Washington — a half-mile away — will do nicely!
What To Do Before The Game
The city’s many fountains, especially the kid-friendly wading pool at Director Park, are an easy 15- to 20-minute walk from the stadium, offering families a free and extremely cool summertime experience before kickoff – so pack bathing suits!
Buy Your Tickets
Soccer season in the U.S. runs spring to fall with games on weekends and some Wednesday nights. Unless the rival Seattle Sounders are in town, Timbers tickets can be purchased in advance and start from just $25 per person. I recommend sitting in sections 215 to 218 for a perfect view of the game and to be close enough to the Timbers Army to soak up their energy (but still far enough away that your little kids won’t be frightened by that same energy!) Children under the age of 2 don’t need a ticket if sitting on a parent’s lap. Tickets to see Alex Morgan, the Thorns and the Rose City Riveters (the Thorns version of the Timbers Army) start at just $13.
— Jeff Bogle
Jeff Bogle is an at-home dad of two pre-tween daughters. He writes about parenthood, family travel and all things childhood on his site OutWithTheKids.com. He considers himself one of the luckiest guys in the world, although he needs to be reminded of this fact from time to time. Jeff also writes for PBS.