Exploring the Beaver State on Your Family Vacation
Set out on a road trip with the family in tow across Oregon’s diverse landscape, pausing along the way to enjoy attractions catering to young travelers. Expose children to recreational activities throughout the state’s lush natural settings, from the snow-capped peaks of the Cascade Mountains, to craggy coastlines dotted with rocky outcrops, to dense pine forests. Major cities like Portland offer educational institutions and facilities for curious little minds, including world-class parks, renowned zoos and kid-friendly museums.
Discover Green Open Space
Perched high above the skyline of downtown Portland, Washington Park (4001 SW Canyon Rd., Portland, OR) covers more than 400 acres and is open to the public, rain or shine. Active kids will gravitate toward the park’s playgrounds, tennis courts and soccer field, while junior nature lovers spend their day perusing the Portland Japanese Garden, the Hoyt Arboretum and the free International Rose Test Garden. Save time for a visit to the park’s Portland Children’s Museum (4015 Southwest Canyon Rd., Portland, OR), where kids work in make-believe vet offices and get lost in hedge mazes, or the 64-acre Oregon Zoo, where giraffes wander an African savanna and California condors spread their enormous wings.
Gaze Into a Majestic Lake
Tucked away in the southern Oregon region of the Cascade Mountains, Crater Lake National Park is home to the famed lake the deepest in the United States at 1,949 feet. Inside the caldera of the volcano Mount Mazama, the sparkling blue lake is fed exclusively by rain and snow. The two visitor’s centers provide educational exhibits on the lake and local wildlife, as well as panoramic views of the lake. The park is open year-round, but some roads close during the heavy winter snow, including portions of Rim Road, the main highway that takes visitors around the caldera.
Visit an Underwater World
The bustling central coastal town of Newport features scores of family-friendly attractions, including the Oregon Coast Aquarium (2820 SE Ferry Slip Rd., Newport, OR). Explore the grounds of the aquarium, stopping to view such unique creatures as a giant Pacific octopus, moon jellyfish and starry flounders. For an up-close encounter, walk through a glass tunnel as leopard sharks, China rockfish and bat rays swim all around you. Guests can pay an additional fee on select nights to spend the night in the tunnel and sleep with the sharks. Make sure to check out the daily feeding sessions held throughout the grounds.
Soar to the Highest Heights
The Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum (500 NE Captain Michael King Smith Way, McMinnville, OR) celebrates the history of flight in many forms. Kids dreaming of someday becoming a pilot will love seeing such revered aircraft as the Spruce Goose, a SR-71 Blackbird and a B-17 Flying Fortress. Children with their heads in another stratosphere will enjoy such space travel artifacts as rocket boosters, Mercury space capsules and a replica of a Mars rover. For an added fee, watch 3-D films on the history of air and space travel, or visit the adjacent indoor water park with airplane-themed slides and splash pads.
Enjoy Interactive Exhibits
Located along the central Oregon beach town of Florence, Sea Lion Caves (91560 US-101, Florence, OR) gives children a chance to experience wildlife in their natural habitat. Take an elevator down into this massive oceanfront cave, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll see hundreds of sea lions lounging in the cavern. Remember, since they are wild animals, there’s no guarantee the sea lions will be on-site, but they’re usually present in the cave during the winter and fall. On some occasions, particularly during the summer, kids may catch a glimpse of killer whales swimming near the cave.
A travel writer since 2002, Leah Rendon has written countless articles for online pop-culture magazines and various travel-related websites, including Eurobooking and World66. Gosford also has experience in copywriting, having developed a series of articles related to network marketing. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a degree in theater arts.