Portland Children’s Activities Weekend Round Up: April 1- 3, 2016

Kid's playing in a Portland Park

Easter is over and next weekend is quickly approaching! We thought we would take the time to highlight some of the upcoming kid’s events for this weekend in the greater Portland Area.

Friday, April 1

  • Messy Art Drop In at Sparks Art Center in Portland: 9am – 12pm: Come by with your preschool children, ages 2 to 5 (older siblings are welcomed too) to participate in a free-for-all art session! Kids can come and make any art they choose using the variety of supplies and materials available to them. Cost is per child, and it is free for adults to participate along with their children. The cost for the activity is on a per hour basis, $7 for one hour, $10 for 2 hours, and $12 for a 3 hour art session. The Sparks Art Center generously offers a “10 minute grace period”, where if your child becomes uninterested within the first 10 minutes, they will refund your money and let you try again on another day. This is perfect for those creative kiddos in your life!
  • Free First Friday at Portland Children’s Museum: 4pm – 8pm:  All ages are welcome to come explore the Portland Children’s Museum for Free on the “Free First Friday”, a monthly event. For the first Friday of every month, the museum secures a sponsor so that families can enjoy all the museum has to offer at no cost. This month is sponsored by Target Corporation. The Portland Children’s museum includes permanent exhibits such as “Building Bridgetown” and “Pet Hospital“, where kids have the opportunity to play real life professions. The museum is also exhibiting a temporary attraction, “Run! Jum! Fly! Adventures in Action” until May 15, 2016.  The exhibit focuses on “Action Training” and promotes healthy living and activity for kids.

Saturday, April 2

  • Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn: 9am – 6pm: There is so much to do at this Festival! No need to Rent a Bounce house when there are so many better options at a nearby festival. In addition to the 40 acres of beautiful countryside vineyards, flowers, and mountains, there are countless family activities.  The event includes train rides, bounce houses, portable climbing wall, zip line, and archery tag. For adults there is wine tasting, paint balling, and more.  Following in their namesake, there will also be wooden shoe making demonstrations. Costs for activities in the area run from $1 up to $10 depending on the activity. If you plan on eating, plan on bringing at least $20 per person to enjoy some of the activities along with the food. The Tulip Fest is open daily until May 1, 2016, but best to check their website for details on which activities are available on the day you plan on attending.
  • Pacific Northwest Reptile and Exotic Animal Show in Hillsboro at the Washington County Fairgrounds: 10am – 5pmThis great all ages event is the largest all ages exotic animal show in all of the Northwest.  Perfect for kids of all ages and their families, this show could even send you home with a new member of the family! They offer daily raffles that include thousands of dollars worth of equipment and new reptile pets. Admission is free for children under 5 years of age, $5 for kids ages 6-10, and $9 for children 10+ and adults.  It’s not every weekend that your kids will have the opportunity to hold a giant snake!

Sunday, April 3

  • Family Open Play at Upper Westside Play Gym in Portland: 12pm-1:30pm:  This gym promotes healthy living and family fun with cheap weekend drop- in hours for kids of all ages. In addition to a fully loaded gym, there are kitchen and play room areas stocked to the brim with different sensory activities and arts and crafts. Cost is $5 for the first child, and $2.50 for subsequent siblings. The Upper Westside Play Gym also offers a punch card if you are a frequent visitor that grants you a 20% discount per visit.

Do you have an upcoming Oregon or Washington event that you would like to have featured in our blog? Let us know in the comments below or email us at [email protected] Happy Playing!


Downtown Portland’s Dunk Tank Dynasty – Everything you need to know about Dunk Tank Rentals

Dunk tank rentals are super easy in Portland Oregon

Renting a Dunk Tank in Portland is an easy task.  There are multiple Portland Dunk Tank rental companies available that are competitively priced, insured, and competent at providing their service. Before you eagerly go placing a giant bucket of water at your Portland office, there are few things you should know about the actual water rental itself, so that you can plan your dunking event accordingly.

Most Risk Management groups won’t allow Dunk Tanks

This is more of a problem for school carnivals than it is for corporate events, but you should definitely check with your risk management group before booking. Many schools will not allow a standing body of water that is above a certain depth. They consider it too high of a risk for drowning, and don’t want to deal with the potential consequences should the unthinkable happen. If your corporate event or school carnival won’t allow a traditional dunk tank, make sure you investigate dunk tank alternatives.

Drive up Access is Required

Where are you planning on putting your dunk tank? Dunk Tanks are typically trailers that travel horizontally while being delivered. They can be moved by hand,  but if a small car can’t access the location, it is doubtful that you will be able to get it to where you want it to go. Some companies offer collapsible dunk tank rentals that can be put in tighter areas not typically accessible by vehicles, but it will be easier to find a vendor if you plan for an easy access spot in a parking lot, or in front of a building entrance adjacent to the road.

It Takes Time to Fill

500 gallons is a lot of water, and is the total volume of your average Portland dunk tank rental. Make sure you coordinate with your event rental company to arrive at your event well before the start time. You will need at least 15 minutes to setup the actual dunk tank, and an additional hour to fill the tank to the top. Check your water pressure ahead of time to make sure your hose flows at a good rate, so there aren’t any issues on the day of your event. Sometimes it is possible to work with the Portland Fire Department to schedule a time for them to come out and fill your tank super fast. Be careful though, sometime the water from fire hydrants is not suitable for humans to swim in.

The Water can get Gross

Speaking of not being suitable for humans… How long is your event? As your dunk tank is used, over time the water quality can degrade. With multiple individuals repeatedly dunking into the same water, you can introduce dirt, grass, and other not so pleasant elements. If your event is over 4 hours in length, it is wise to schedule some time to replace the water in the dunk tank.  You don’t want your guests to be put off and not eat your delicious catering just because of some dirty water! If you are looking for a quicker way to keep the water clean, consider purchasing bromine tablets and adding them to tank prior to the event.

500 Gallons of Water have to go somewhere

Your event is over and your dunk tank rental was a huge success! Cleanup time has come, and you go to drain the dunk tank. Oops. I guess we shouldn’t have put a giant tub of water next to Mrs. Gretchen’s brand new flower bed. What goes in must come out. Make sure you plan ahead in the placement of your dunk tank and put it in an area where such a large volume of water won’t cause damage.  If possible, placing the tank next to a large sewer drain or equivalent works best.  If you absolutely can’t find a good place with drainage, you can always hire a Portland septic company to come pump the water out at the end of your event. Just check with your rental company before doing so.

Don’t let these minor logistical challenges discourage you from booking a dunk tank for your next Portland corporate event or school carnival, just consider it one of the many rewarding event challenges that can be overcome!


5 Key Considerations before Selecting an Event Coordinator for your Party

Selecting and event rental company for your Portland event is not an easy task!

Portland and Seattle are about to have an absolutely killer summers this year.  Now that it’s March, many companies and individuals are starting to plan their summer events, picnics, and celebrations.  Depending on the size of your event, you may have hired an event coordinator in the past, or are considering hiring one this year. There are hundreds of variables that you can consider when selecting an event planning company or individual. We think there are five topics in particular that are worth focusing on more than others.

Event Coordinator Experience

How much experience does your perspective planner have? Is this a side hobby for them, or have they been doing it full time for decades? Being fresh out of school and eager to coordinate events certainly has an appeal to it, and that eagerness can overcome some lack of experience. But, the thing about an event planner with experience is exactly that, they have been through hundreds or even thousands events over their career, and have encountered and learned from thousands of unique situations. They will have worked in and around Seattle and Portland Venues, and will know how to logistically navigate a variety of situations.  Experience is just one of the five top criteria for selecting an event planner. Before you toss away Novice Natasha, make sure you check out the remaining four criteria.

Event Coordinator Cost

We’d like to think that price shouldn’t be a factor when planning awesome events. Unfortunately, budget are usually a harsh reality when it comes to planning events. Remember Novice Natasha from earlier? This is one area where she may shine. If an inexperienced event coordinator is just getting into the industry, they might have rock bottom pricing just to get their foot in the door and gain the necessary experience. More established, reputable companies are likely to have higher prices, which could affect the amount of entertainment and food you can have at your event. Coordinators charge in a number of different ways,

  • Flat Fee: The Event Planner will charge you a flat rate for their services. Depending on the complexity of your event and the planner’s level experience, you could expect this amount to be anywhere from $500 to several thousand.
  • % of Event Cost: A popular method of charging is to charge a flat 10% to 20% on top of the cost of the event. As an example, if your event budget is $20,000 and the planner charges 15%, you can expect to pay them $3000.  The downside of this cost structure is that you will sometimes have to pay more just because you have more guests. Catering arrangements for example, are often the same for 50 guests as they are for 200 guests, yet you will pay 400% more for the event planner just because you have four times the guest count.
  • Hourly Rate: This method of billing is pretty straight forward.  You are charged an hourly amount for the work that the event coordinator does for your event. Hourly rates can range from $25 – $500/hr. depending on event complexity and the planner’s experience.  If you choose a planner with an hourly rate, make sure you get estimates from the Event Planer in advance, with a maximum hour allowance.  Complicated event situations could quickly escalate your cost and have unintended consequences.

Event Coordinator Network

An Event Coordinator is only as good as their network. What types of equipment rental vendors are they using? What local Portland or Seattle catering companies do they have a relationship with? Do they know where to get rental Soft Serve machines from if your event is in Beaverton?  Have they compiled a list of local Portland and Seattle venues that they have worked at in the past? A planner with a solid network will be able to work more efficiently, with less unknowns and risks.  Finding an Event Planner with a solid Service Partner Network is an insurance policy for event success.

Event Coordinator Portfolio

What type of crazy events has your prospective event coordinator put together in the past? Different from experience, this is about someone’s ability to execute on crazy ideas, unique themes, and logistical nightmares.  Ask to see some of your planner’s previous work. They should already have a portfolio prepared with the work they are most proud of. Similar to a photographer or artist, this is their art, and they will want to show it to you.  The Event Planner’s portfolio can also give you inspiration for your own event, and who better to use, than someone who has done that exact thing before.

Event Coordinator Culture

Perhaps the most overlooked, but equally important factor when considering Event Planners is the company culture or individual’s personality.  You are in the midst of planning your most special occasion for your company, non-profit, or friends. You deserve to be able to work with someone that you can relate to, and that shares your values and goals. Ask your Event Coordinator candidate tough questions about their company culture, and what they expectations of their employees are. How do they complete their own work internally?  The way they execute their events internally will reflect directly on your celebration.  Make sure your future Event Planner’s integrity and culture reflects your own.

That’s a wrap! Our personal recommendation for Seattle and Portland Event Planners is National Event Pros. They are based out of Seattle, WA but do fantastic work all of the nation. Their network is well established, they are priced competitively, and they maintain their own inventory of attractions, giving them a huge depth of unique experience. Regardless of what Event Coordinator you select, make sure they stack up against our 5 key considerations!



Moonwalk Rentals and why Portland now calls them Bounce Houses

These aren't the kind of moonwalk rentals we have in stock...

The history of the Bounce House is a fascinating one. The inflatable fun structures have only been in existence for a total of 57 years! They have received all sorts of names over the years like moonwalk, bounce house, bouncy castle, and so much more.  Why is it that the name moonwalk was the original terminology, and why isn’t it used prominently anymore?

In 1959, mechanical engineer John Scurlock was designing inflatable tennis court covers to manufacture and sell. While he was working on developing the covers, he noticed that his employees were taking turns jumping on the pads.  He recognized the fun they were having as a potential business opportunity, and quickly became the inventor of inflatable domes, tents, moonwalks, and more. His greatest credited invention is the inflatable pillow the firefighters use when jumping out of high buildings. This inflatable pillow has saved thousands of lives over the course of it’s existence.

From the time Scurlock first noticed his employees playing on the inflatable pillow, it took nearly 10 years for him to establish the first moonwalk rental company. The moonwalk rentals were initially called “Space Walks” or “Space Pillows”. The name was appropriate, given that America and Russia’s space race first took off in 1955, just years before Scurlock invented bouncy houses and culminated with the first walk on the moon in 1969. Given America’s obsession with space, and the associated movements in lower or zero gravity environments, it was only natural for “Moonwalk Rentals” to be the best marketing ploy.  The name Moonwalk wasn’t officially coined until 1975, when Neiman Marcus developed an enclosed version of the inflatable with walls around the exterior that prevented kids from falling out (a safety feature we are very grateful for here in Portland and Seattle!).

A very interesting tidbit about moonwalks and bouncy houses is that they have been almost exclusively a rental business.  While there are some low quality bounce houses that you can purchase from Wall Mart and other department store outlets, a majority of the high quality inflatables and bounce house are only available as rentals. Even with the cost of new bouncy houses dropping over the years, the price point still makes it to difficult for people to afford anything other than a moonwalk rental.

As the space race came to an end, America’s focus and fascination with space also slowly died off. The word Moonwalk slowly went away with America’s declining interest. Moonwalk soon came second to many other terms such as bouncy house, bounce castle, jolly jump, inflatable trampoline, and many more.  West Coast cities historically are exposed to trends much later than the East Coast. With Bounce House Rentals originating in Louisiana, the South East, by the time the inflatable had made it’s way over to Portland, it’s no wonder the term Moonwalk had become secondary.

Perhaps with a new and exciting space race brewing, this time out of competition between corporations, and not countries, we will see a resurgence of the term “moonwalk”.  We are definitely fans of space, and the classic terminology has always had a nice ring to it.

If you are looking to bring back a blast from the past with a traditional Moonwalk rental, we can definitely bring one to your local Portland, Hillsboro, Seattle, or Beaverton event this coming summer. Happy Jumping!


Your Source for Fun when you can’t find the Sun – Whirligig at the Seattle Center House

Kids on Jurassic Play Center, a Portland Bounce House Rental

Here in the Northwest, it’s the time of year when the Sun doesn’t like to come out very often. Fortunately, organizations like the Seattle Center team up with Bouncer Rental Northwest to bring all sorts of indoor, bouncy, inflatable fun.  A couple years ago we did a Whirligig write-up that went into details of several of the onsite activities for kids at the Seattle Center. This year, we will go into more depth on the individual bounce houses that are being brought in for Whirligig and what the cost to your family will be.  If you are planning an event in Portland or Seattle this summer, it is also a great activity to test out any slides, obstacle courses, or bounce house rentals you might be considering.

If you are one of our customers in the Portland, Hillsboro, or Beaverton area, we highly recommend making a day trip up to Seattle for the Whirligig event. In addition to all of the fun Seattle has to offer, your kids can enjoy an entire day of low-priced, unlimited inflatable fun.

Let’s bounce our way into the details!

Dates and Times

Whirligig starts on Friday, April 1st 2016 and is operational every single day until Sunday, April 17th 2016. The event times are 11am to 6pm daily.  If you are looking to attend when it is less busy with shorter lines, the best times to attend are weekday evenings from 3pm-6pm.  Alternatively, show up first thing in the morning prior to opening so that you can get in line and quickly get a wristband. Any weekday (Except Thursdays, see below) will be much slower than Saturday and Sundays.


Whirligig is an absolute steal when it comes to playing on inflatable rides. Unlimited wristbands are $8 per child. Getting a wristband means that the kids can go on any of the rides in center house as many times as they want during that particular day. If your child is under the age of 4 and doesn’t want to ride on the large rides, there is a restricted toddler area on the second floor that is reserved for kids under the age of 4. The unlimited toddler pass is only $4.50. However, if your young child is ambitious, and still wants to ride all of the rides, be aware that you will need to purchase the more expensive all day pass. If you are just passing through for the day, tickets are available for $1.50 a piece (with rides costing 1 or 2 tickets), but this option is not recommended unless you only plan on doing one or two rides.

If you compare the cost of the unlimited passes to the average bounce house rental in Portland or Seattle, I think you’ll find it’s a steal. $8 for unlimited use of 10 bounce houses instead of the normal cost of $200-$300 to have a single bounce house delivered to your house.

For a real deal, come on Thursdays when everything is FREE! All of the rides, free, all day long. Be warned though, it will be very, very busy.


Onto the best part of the experience! The inflatable slides, obstacle courses, and bounce houses! There are a grand total of 10 bounce rides that are brought into the Seattle Center House. Two of the bounce houses are reserved for children under the age of 4. Remember: Each and every one of these inflatables can be rented for your corporate event, summer picnic, or other special occasion. Click on any of the links below to get a detailed description of the interactive ride and stunning picture!

Toddler Area

Main Floor Play Area

We hope you come out to visit us this year and enjoy your experience at the Whirligig!


Guide to Portland Park Party Planning

Portland Park events

If you are hosting a corporate picnic, public event, or children’s birthday party at a Portland Park, there are a few things you need to know prior to showing up on the day of your event. Portland parks and recreation department has many rules, restrictions, and fees to consider when you start the event planning process.  Make sure you understand all of the following requirements and restrictions before sending out invites to your guests!


The first thing to check when you start planning your Portland park party is if the site you want is available. The Portland Parks & Rec website has an online reservation tool that can be used for both parks and other venues owned by the department.  In addition to being able to see what parks and venues are available, you’ll be able to access tools like maps, venue descriptions, and maximum capacities.  With Portland’s vast inventory of parks and venues, you should be able to find a location that fits your party, even if your primary choice isn’t available. As always, the earlier you start planning your event, the more options you will have.


There are a several different park fees that you should know going into the planning process. Parks are expensive to maintain, and there is additional liability the city takes on by letting you host a party at a Portland Park. The fees can vary by park location and what type of event you are hosting, but here is the basic rundown,

  • Park Site Reservation Fee: Starts at $21 for simple parties (like a birthday party) but can go much higher depending on the park and amount of space being requested
  • $100 Special Use Fee: If you are planning on your party being more than a simple barbecue, you can count on a special use fee. This is a fee that they will charge you for pretty much anything beyond the simplest of parties.
  • $176 Inflatable Usage Fee: If you are planning on having an inflatable or bounce house at your event, be prepared to pay the City of Portland $176 for each inflatable you have at the park.  This can get pretty pricey depending on how many inflatables you have, so make sure you prepare your event budget accordingly.
  • $66 Vehicle Access Pass: If you have any vehicles or event vendors that need to access the event location, each vehicle will need to have a $66 vehicle access pass. Again, if you have several vendors or a lot of equipment to be brought in, make sure you schedule these costs accordingly in your event budget.

Event Liability Insurance

For any event requiring the use of inflatables, bounce houses, or other specialty equipment, Portland Parks require that you carry a $1 million umbrella insurance policy and list the City of Portland as an additional insured on the policy. This is a simple enough task as long as you select a reputable event rental company.   Most established and licensed rental companies will far exceed the $1 million insured requirement.

Event Layout and Maps

Often there can be gas pipes, electrical, and sewage running beneath park sites. To avoid surprises on event day, send the parks department a layout map of your event ahead of time. The more detail your map has the better. This way, if there is an issue, the parks department will let you know ahead of time what needs to be moved. If you leave this detail to fate, you run the risk of a Park Supervisor telling you to move or shutdown an inflatable ride or bounce house on the day of the event.

Event Hours

Most Portland Parks are officially open from 8am to 9pm. Uless you do something about it, your event will need to end by 9pm.  Failing to evacuate the park by 9pm may result in a Park Supervisor asking you and your guests to leave at the peak of your celebration. To avoid this party pooper outcome, schedule your event earlier in the evening, or work with the parks department to request an exception to their traditional closure rules.

Alcohol at your Event

If you are planning on having alcohol at your event in a Portland park, the city actually has some pretty reasonable rules in this department. If your event is less than 50 people and everyone is bringing their own alcohol, you do not need to do anything. If your event has more than 50 people and/or the alcohol is being served or provided by a single entity, then you will be required to provide proof of insurance to the parks department.


If all of this is confusing in anyway, you can always consult the Portland Parks and Rec picnic guide or just give them a call with any questions you might have. We have found the representatives to be extremely helpful and knowledgeable in our conversations.  As long as you follow this simple guide and Portland Park rules and guidelines, you should have a successful event to add to the books!