Columbia River Maritime Museum

A Good Gray Columbia River Maritime Museum

What: Columbia River Maritime Museum
Where: 1792 Marine Drive, Astoria

When: Daily 9:30 am to 5:00 pm
Why: It offers hours of history and activities for your whole family
Cost: Kids 5 and under FREE, Kids ages 6 and over $5, Adults $14, Seniors $12

This summer my in-laws treated us all to a visit to the Columbia River Maritime Museum right on the riverfront of charming Astoria, Oregon. I knew it’d have boats and history, but it seriously exceeded my expectations! We easily spent over 2 hours here, discovering and learning.

The main focus of the museum is the history of the Columbia River as well as general maritime information. I was also fascinated by the information on the Coast Guard, weather systems, and the many, many shipwrecks on the Columbia sandbar. The displays are large and creative–and usually to scale–and they’ve created exhibits with every age in mind. Adults can find plenty of information while kids crawl through certain displays, captain their own ship, and even give a weather report with a green screen.

Museum admission includes a tour of the lightship Columbia. It was decommissioned in 1979, and now sits docked behind the building. Walking (and stumbling!) through it gives you a real taste of ship life.

For an extra $5 each we also watched their 3-D movie “Hurricane 3D,” which I found interesting but not earth-shattering (although I did have a wiggly 2-year-old on my lap).

While you’re in Astoria, you can also check out the Astoria Column (and throw a toy plane from the top!), drive by the Goonie’s House, or ride the Astoria Riverfront Trolley. Sometimes I get snooty because Astoria isn’t on the ocean, but really, it’s a delightful place to visit.

Mount St. Helens Visitor Centers

Mount St. Helens Visitor Centers A Good Gray

On a clear, cloudless day, we can see Mount St. Helens from the Portland area. The 1980 eruption greatly diminished the peak, but it’s still a mighty member of the Cascade Range. And oh man, does it have stories to tell.

If you want to give your kids a healthy respect for Mother Nature, take them to one of three operating visitor centers for this volcanic neighbor:

  1. Johnston Ridge Observatory: This center is at the end of highway 504, with an incredible view of St. Helens. There are several interactive exhibits (many kid-friendly) and a large theater with shows impactful enough to leave my sensitive 4-year-old in horrified tears. True story. There are also outdoor trails and an amphitheater used for a cool Music on the Mountain series in the summer. (Open mid-May to October, admission is FREE for kids under 15, $8 for adults).
  2. Forest Learning Center: This location is within the 1980 blast zone, and is provided by Weyerhaeuser Company. It includes extensive information on the eruption and the recovery of the forests and animal life, and includes kids exhibits. There’s also a FREE eruption movie and an exterior playground. (Open end of May to October, FREE admission)
  3. Mt. St. Helens Visitor Center at Silver Lake: Located at mile 5 on Highway 504, it’s the original Visitor Center built in 1993 and the gateway to the mountain. It’s farthest from St. Helens and a bit dated, but it’s closest to I-5 and includes a movie and a scenic walking trail along the lake. (Open year-round, admission is FREE for kids under 6, $2.50 for kids 7-17, $5 for adults, or $15 per family).

Sadly the Coldwater Ridge Visitor Center, just 8 miles from the crater and a powerful memory for me as a kid, closed in 2007 due to budget restrictions. Boo!

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Tillamook Forest Center

What: Tillamook Forest Center
Where: 45500 Wilson River Hwy (Route 6), Tillamook

When: Spring, Summer, and Fall (closed December to February)
Why: It’s a beautiful, fun, and educational stop along Highway 6
Cost: FREE

Tillamook Forest Center A Good Gray

On our drives down Highway 6 towards Tillamook and the central coast beaches over the years, we’ve often passed the Tillamook Forest Center. I’d heard it was a fun stop for kids, but we’d never had a good opportunity to stop… until now.

The Tillamook Forest Center is tucked in the middle of the lush, green Tillamook State Forest. The highway cuts through the forest along the Wilson River, and the forest center is just off the road about 30 miles from Highway 26 and 22 miles from Tillamook.

The center is absolutely free, although donations are welcome. The center is new, well-crafted, and staffed with super helpful guides. Inside you’ll find great information on the history of the area, the great Tillamook Burn (I had no idea!), and the unique wildlife of the forest. There are many, many “please touch” activities for kids, tons of interesting visuals, and a gift shop. There’s also an award-winning film that plays regularly called “Legacy of Fire” (we didn’t have time for it, so the nerd in me deffffinitely wants to go back).

Outside you’ll find this impressive 40-foot replica of a lookout tower (our girls practically ran up all those stairs!) as well as an amazing suspension bridge out back crossing over the beautiful Wilson River.

Our stop was short, but I will gladly go back. This is the sort of place you could visit regularly and always find something new to explore, indoors or out. Plus, as you take in the beauty and rich history of this forest, you just might fall in love with Oregon a little bit more.

Bridal Veil Falls in the Columbia River Gorge

What: Bridal Veil Falls
Where: Columbia River Gorge

When: Year round
Why: These beautiful falls are only a short hike away
Cost: FREE

A Good Gray Bridal Veil Falls

Last July we hiked with my husband’s entire family—2 grandparents, 6 parents, and 10 kids ages 1 to 12—headed to the Gorge. Before showing them Latourell Falls, we stopped to check out the nearby Bridal Veil Falls for the first time.

Bridal Veil Falls was perfect for our group—it’s absolutely gorgeous with fairly easy access. It’s just a few miles west of Multnomah Falls off of the Historic Columbia River Highway. There’s a free parking lot with public restrooms (also free) (just to be clear).

There are actually two trails for Bridal Veil. The upper trail is a half mile round trip, and takes you around the precipice of the cliffs of the Gorge. Apparently you get a great view of the Pillars of Hercules, which is a big basalt tower with a killer name.

The lower trail is only about a mile round trip (but very steep), and it brings you up close and personal to the falls. That’s the route we picked. It was shady with some great glimpses of the Columbia.

Once you reach the roaring, tiered falls, you can view them from above at a platform and then climb (carefully!) down to the rocks. We spent tons of time exploring, tossing stones, and enjoying the refreshing spray by the pool. The lush, moss-covered scene even in the middle of summer will warm your Oregon-loving heart.

Save some energy for the hike back up, because the incline was a bit much for little legs. But overall this is an easy hike with a breathtaking payoff.

Portland Races for Families

A Good Gray Portland Races for Families

Want to be more active as a family? Try one of these local races that are juuuust right for families.
Dates for 2017 have been included.

SPRING
ORRC Hagg Lake Runs (Gaston): May 6, 2017, 10.5 miler, 10k, 5k; strollers welcome
Cinco de Mayo Run/Walk (Portland): May 7, 2017, Half Marathon, 10k, 5k, Kids Half-Miler; jogging strollers welcome
Lake Run (Lake Oswego): May 13, 2017, 10k, 5k, Kids Dash;
Run Mama Run (Portland): May 14, 2017, 10k, 5k, Kids Fun Run; stroller friendly
Health Hillsboro Family 5k (Hillsboro): May 20, 2017, 5k; $5 adults, FREE under 18, stroller friendly

SUMMER
Grateful Dad Run/Walk (Portland): June 17, 2017, Half Marathon, 10k, 5k, Kids Half Miler; this fun Father’s Day has a beautiful route along the Columbia River
Summer Solstice Sundowner at the Oregon Zoo (Portland): June 22, 2017 at 7:00 pm, 5k, Kids Run, Tot Trot; course runs entirely through the zoo
Color Fun Fest 5k (Portland): July 22, 2017, 5k; kids 12 and under free, wear white to this family-friendly run and brace yourself for some color!
Beaverton Sun Run (Beaverton): July 23, 2017, 10k, 5k, Kids Dash
Ladybug Run for CDH Awareness (Tigard): July 29, 2017, 10k, 5k, Kids Runs; this race raises money for children and families affected by CDH, a condition our sweet nephew, Jake, was born with
Garlic Run/Walk (North Plains): August 12, 2017, Half Marathon, 10k, 5k; no strollers

FALL
Hero-Up (Tigard): Sept. 2, 2017, Half Marathon, 5k, Kids Run; this fundraising race helps commemorates the life of the organizer’s son and raises money for children’s cancer research
Portland Marathon Kids Runs (Portland): Oct. 8, 2017, Marathon, Half Marathon, Kids and Toddler Runs

Any I missed? Let me know of your favorites!

Easter 2017: what’s hoppin’ on Portland’s West Side

Easter is almost here! There are plenty of fun activities for you and your fam… hop to it!

Easter 2017

APRIL 7 (FRIDAY)
Underwater Egg Hunt (Beaverton): Hunt for eggs in the pool and other fun Easter activities at the Conestoga Recreation and Aquatic Center. Preregister now! $7, 5:30 to 8:30 pm.

APRIL 8 (SATURDAY)
Peter Rabbit Pancake Breakfast and Carnival (West Linn): In its 41st year, this event at West Linn High School is a treat. From 8:00 am to noon, pay a small fee for breakfast, games, auction, and a visit with Peter Rabbit.
Breakfast with the Easter Bunny at Bridgeport Village (Tigard): For $10 a ticket you can enjoy breakfast, crafts, music, prizes, and visits with the Easter Bunny and Mother Goose.
Egg Hunt for Hope (Sherwood): This fundraising egg hunt begins at 1:00 pm.

APRIL 15 (SATURDAY)
Underwater EGGstravaganza at SHARC (Hillsboro): Bring your kids to hunt for eggs and prizes, and even visit with the Easter Bunny. $10/resident, $15/non-resident.
Rabbit Romp at the Oregon Zoo (Portland): Free with zoo admission, children 10 and under can hunt for candy eggs every 15 minutes from 9:30 am to 3:00 pm.
Hippity Hop Bunny Hop Through the Pearl District (Portland): Come to the Pearl for fun activities, treats, and a hug and picture with the Easter Bunny. 10:30 am to 3:00 pm.
Spring Egg Hunt (Portland): This egg hunt—rain or shine—will have candy and prize eggs, as well as hot chocolate and donuts at Garden Home Recreation Center. Register online, $7, 11:00 am to noon.
Great Westside Easter Egg Hunt (Hillsboro): At the Washington County Fair Complex you can enjoy egg hunts and visits with the Easter Bunny. (Additional activities are available for an extra fee.) 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, $5/family.
Egg Hunt at Lee Farms (Tualatin): Each child 12 and under gets to hunt for eggs, decorate a cookie, see the Easter Bunny, and make crafts. 10:00 am to 12:30 pm. Tickets are $6 and are selling out fast.
Alpenrose Dairy Egg-stravaganza (Portland): Come for egg hunts (with prizes!), the Easter Bunny, and more, starting at 10:30 am.
Egg Hunt at Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm (Woodburn): Bring your little ones to hunt at one of the most beautiful places in Oregon. Come early for the hunts at 10:00 am and noon.

APRIL 16 (SUNDAY)
Sunrise Easter Service at Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm (Woodburn): What a beautiful place to start Easter Sunday! This 7:00 am Sunrise Easter Service in the tulip fields will be run by WAMA, Woodburn Area Ministerial Association.
Anything I missed? Please let me know in the comments below!

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Cape Meares Lighthouse

What: Cape Meares Lighthouse
Where: Tip of Cape Meares just south of Tillamook Bay

When: Year round, 7 am to dusk (tours April to October)
Why: You get a historical lighthouse, incredible views, and natural wonders all in one stop
Cost: FREE

a-good-gray-cape-meares-lighthouse

About 10 miles west of Tillamook way out on Cape Meares, you’ll find a bit of a treasure: a historical lighthouse surrounded by interesting wildlife, spectacular views, and fascinating trees. And it’s all accessible from the same parking lot.

The Cape Meares Lighthouse was built in 1889. As Oregon’s shortest lighthouse, it gives you a great view of its top with little effort. There is a shady, paved trail down to the lighthouse from the parking lot (save some energy for the walk back because it’s deceivingly steep). They have a teensy interpretive/gift shop and free tours from April to October (with limited days/times in the Spring and Fall). Small children aren’t allowed on the tour, but anyone can walk around the lighthouse exterior year-round.

Cape Meares is also a great place to bird-watch or whale watch during migration seasons. There are designated viewing points, but there are incredible views all around, in part thanks to the National Wildlife Refuge that cover the cape.

A short hike from the parking lot you’ll also find two interesting Sitka Spruces. There are two you won’t want to miss: one is the Octupus Tree, which has what looks like tentacles reaching up. It’s an Oregon Heritage Tree, which basically means it’s super old. And cool. It’s considered a sacred tree to local tribes, and is probably 250 years old. (It was already an adult by the time Lewis & Clark made it to the coast!)

The second Sitka is even larger and older: Old Spruce is 144 feet tall and 15.5 feet in diameter, and is an estimated 750 to 800 years old! It’s the oldest of its kind in the state. Old Spruce will require you to park in a different lot (near the entrance to the scenic viewpoint), but it’s still only takes a short hike to reach it.

When you visit, try to check the roads in advance. We had to turn home once during a rainy season due to sinkholes, and I know the roads have been closed for landslides before too.

You probably won’t spend hours and hours at Cape Meares, but it’s a breathtaking spot and well worth the scenic drive.

 

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Picture Books by Audrey and Don Wood

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If you haven’t had the delightful experience of reading a book by Audrey and Don Wood, you simply must remedy that STAT.

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Photo courtsey Scholastic.com

This husband-wife team has turned out a heap of adored books—they’ve collaborated on over 50! While Audrey has written several books with other illustrators, her best ones are all illustrated by Don.

So try one of these favorites out. You shant be disappointed!

 

Piggies
piggiesMy sister and her kids first shared this with me long before I was a mom (the copy we have still has a note in the front addressed to “Aunt Jackie”). My kids now love it for the easy story-telling and the terrifically charming illustrations.

The Napping House
nappingThis delightful picture book is a winner thanks to repetitive storytelling style and darling illustrations. It’s a great read when you’re waking up!

The Little Mouse, The Red Ripe Strawberry, and The Big Hungry Bear
little-mouseThe title is a giveaway to the plot (a little mouse is trying to hide his red, ripe strawberry from a big hungry bear), but it’s hilarious. And just plain cute.

Quick as a Cricket
cricketAs a parent, you’ll love how this book teaches opposing emotions and our complex characteristics as human beings. Your kids will just think it’s cool. Try it out.

King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub
kingThis tale is funny, quirky, and beautifully illustrated. Plus, it earned a Caldecott Honor!

Elbert’s Bad WordelbertThis book helps teach kids how to talk appropriately in a fun way. Don and Audrey teamed up for the illustrations, so together they take a different style for this book.

Heckedy Peg
heckedyFolks, this story is a bit twisted and dark. It reminds me of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. But I can’t help but like it! The artwork helps add some innocent magic. Read it with an older child.
Which are your favorites??ave

‘Tis the Week Before Christmas: Portland’s West Side 2016

christmas-2016

‘Tis the week before Christmas,
And the kids are out of school
They’re overflowing with seasonal cheer
And you juuust might lose your cool

But thank your lucky stars!
Portland is full of holiday fun
Check out the list below

And start with your favorite one

Bundle up your sweet family
And go make some memories
Merry Christmas to all

And to all, the happiest holidees!


CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
Christmas Ships (Portland, through Dec. 18, 7 to 8 pm): Since 1954 Portlanders have paraded down the Willamette and Columbia Rivers with their boats and ships blinged out for Christmas. Find a spot on the waterfront and enjoy the fun.
Winter Wonderland at Portland International Raceway (Portland, evenings Nov. 25 to Dec. 25, $20/car): Stay cozy in the car and drive through this spectacular light display.
ZooLights at the Oregon Zoo (Portland, Nov. 25 to Jan. 1, 5 to 9 pm): The zoo dazzles with a million and a half lights. Prices vary, members are free. It gets busy, so plan for a crowd.
The Grotto’s Christmas Festival of Lights (Portland, through Dec. 30, 5 to 9:30 pm): Walk through the impressive light displays at the Grotto, a 62-acre Catholic Shrine and botanical garden. There are half a million lights, holiday concerts, and outdoor caroling. Adults $11, children (3-12) $6, children 2 and under FREE.
Christmas Fantasy Trail at Wenzel Farm (Oregon City, Dec. 2 to 30, 6-9 pm): Take a walk surrounded by thousands of Christmas lights, including a castle and tunnel. Adults $6, Children 12 and under $5.
Peacock Lane Christmas Lights (Portland, Dec. 15 to 31, 7 to 10 pm): These neighbors have a long gone all out providing beautiful Christmas displays. FREE. It gets busy, so it’s best to park far and walk more.
Lighting of Maddox Woods (West Linn, Nov. 19 to Dec. 31, 4-9 pm): Enjoy a magical walk down a lighted, accessible path through the woods to a viewing platform on the Willamette River.

INDOOR EVENTS
Pittock Mansion Christmas Exhibit (Portland, Nov. 21 to Dec. 31, 11 am to 4 pm): Their annual holiday exhibit doesn’t disappoint. Enjoy each room’s “Symbols of the Season” while local musicians play. Adults $11, Youth (ages 6-18) $8, Children under 6 FREE.
24 Days of Music at the Portland Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Lake Oswego, Dec. 1 to 24, 7 pm): Come to the visitor center for nightly choirs and performances. Admission is free, but seating is limited.
The Nutcracker Ballet (Keller Auditorium, Portland, Dec. 10 to 26, 2:00 pm/7:30 pm): Share the magic of the Nutcracker ballet with your child. Performed by the Oregon Ballet Theatre.
“A Christmas Carol” at Portland Playhouse (Portland, Nov. 30 to Dec. 30, 2:00 pm/7:00 pm): Introduce your children to this Christmas classic with a live performance.

OUTDOOR EVENTS
Christmas in Dairyville and Storybook Lane at Alpenrose Dairy  (Portland, through Dec. 18, times vary): This charming little Portland-area tradition includes carols, cool decor, and Santa.  Admission is free.
The Holiday Express by the OR Rail Heritage Foundation (From Oaks Park Station, various dates and times until Dec. 18): Join Santa and his elves on this vintage train as you wind through both the wilderness and the city. Tickets sell out fast, but you might get lucky!
The Polar Express by the Mt. Hood Railroad (Hood River, various dates and times until Dec. 28): Join Santa on this magical train ride based on the popular book and movie “The Polar Express.” You’ll get treated to hot cocoa, music, and a special gift. Buy tickets in advance!
Winter Village at Orenco Station (Hillsboro, Dec. 2 to Jan. 2, 10 am to 10 pm): This holiday tradition in its 2nd year and brings the only open-air ice skating rink to the area. Adults $12, Kids 4-9 $9, Kids 3 and under FREE, plus skate rental.

SINGLE DAY EVENTS
Song Circle Holiday Edition at Beaverton Library (Beaverton, Dec. 19, 6:30 pm)
Gingerbread Houses at Beaverton Library (Beaverton, Dec. 19, 4 pm): Registration required
Jingle Babies at Beaverton Library (Beaverton, Dec. 20, 10:30 am): For children 0 to 6.
Life-Sized Candyland Game at Brookwood Library (Hillsboro, Dec. 20, 2:30 pm)
Family Holiday Movie at Beaverton Library (Beaverton, Dec. 21, 2-4:00 pm)
Winter Crafts at Shute Park Library (Hillsboro, Dec. 21, 2-3:30 pm)
Holiday Storytime at Beaverton Library (Beaverton, Dec. 22, 1:00 pm): Ages 2-6
Holiday Movie Marathon at Shute Park Library (Hillsboro, Dec. 22, 2:30-5:30 pm)
Winter Wonderland at Brookwood Library (Hillsboro, Dec. 23, times vary): Christmas movies, Family Holiday Sing-Alongs, Storytimes

Anything I missed? What would you add?

GUEST POST: CHRISTMAS STORIES UNDER THE TREE

When my super-mom friend, Janel, told me about this Christmas tradition of hers last year, I knew I wanted to share it with each of you. I hope you feel inspired!
a-good-gray-christmas-stories-under-the-tree-a-family-tradition

My favorite tradition is reading a Christmas story under the Christmas tree each night. I wrap and number them, and the kids think it’s the best that they get to open a present each night. I LOVE it and so do they! When my oldest (now 8 years old) was a baby I started collecting Christmas books. I have always loved children’s lit, and knew it was something I wanted to make part of our Christmas. I love how it makes our home feel!

At first, I checked them out at the library, and slowly each year I have added to the collection. I also keep them with my Christmas decorations and the books only come out at Christmas time.

Here are some of our very, very favorites:

1. Santa Claus: This one my kids spend hours looking through. It tells about Santa’s workshop and has really fascinating details.

2. I Believe in Santa Claus: About Santa and Christ and their similarities.

3. Christmas Day in the Morning: This is our very favorite! You know it’s good when it makes my husband tear up.

4. Merry Christmas Mom and Dad (A Golden Look-Look Book): Gotta love Mercer Mayer.

5.The Tale of Three Trees: A Traditional Folktale: Three trees grow up to be just what they always dreamed, but in a completely different way then they pictured. All centered around parts of Christ’s life.

6. Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree: I love how this tree provides holiday cheer for so many. First published in 1963, this story has been a favorite for generations. The illustrations are fun and cheerful.

7. The Polar Express: This is a must with little boys.

8. Bear Stays Up for Christmas: We love the Bear books and this one does not disappoint. Cute story and rhymes, and colorful pages.

9. The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey: Perfect for anybody who has lost somebody, and also perfect for anybody else as a Christmas story. Beautiful illustrations.

10. The Mansion: Beautiful message in this one.

11. Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas: It’s fun to add authors your kids are already familiar with.

12. The Empty Stocking: This story is about a pair of twins, one nice and one naughty, who are a little nervous about Christmas morning.

13. Olivia Claus: We love Olivia, and she’s done it again!

14. The Gingerbread Man: I love this version of the gingerbread man, it really comes to life.

15. Frosty the Snowman: My kids ask for this one a lot, probably because they love the song.

16. The Gift of the Magi: This timeless story of love and sacrifice of a young couple is made even more wonderful by the detailed illustrations.

17. C is for Christmas: Full of color and fantastic detail, this is a wonderful version of the classic story.

18. Let it Snow: The darling Toot and Puddle are back in this Christmas story about the gift of friendship

19. The Year of the Perfect Christmas TreeThis unforgettable tale, a seasonal classic, is a touching and joyful story about courage and the power of family.

20. The Mitten: Full of color and fantastic detail, this is a wonderful version of the classic story.

21. The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving: The bear cubs learn a valuable lesson about sharing with one another.

22. Walk this World at Christmastime: This is a journey through the world at Christmastime. It has flaps for children to look through and beautiful pictures.

23. How the Grinch Stole Christmas: This one is a must and a classic.

24. The Night Before Christmas: We always read this Christmas Eve, and I love the Clement C. Moore version.

I’m so grateful for great books to bring in the Christmas spirit.

Janel is someone I admire greatly. She loves her family and delights in her children, and she’s one of the most beautiful, happy, determined people I know! She lives in Portland’s west side with her husband and four children.

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