Indoor Play

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.


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.

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

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.

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.

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?


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!

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.




Eek! It’s Halloween 2016

Halloween 2016Get the spooky scoop on all of Portland’s westside activities this Halloween.

Great Pumpkin Hunt at Garden Home Recreation Center (Portland, 6 to 8 pm, $10): Come for games, crafts, a bouncy house, and bring a flashlight and hunt for pumpkins out back

Monster Mash at Bridgeport Village (Tigard, 9:00 to 10:30 am): California Pizza Kitchen is hosting a fun morning for kids. Registration required.
Villains in the Village at Bridgeport Village (Tigard, 10:30 am to noon): Wear your costume and come fight villains at this fun, free event

Safe Trick-or-Treat at Pacific University (Forest Grove, 4 to 7 pm): This 18th annual event has free treats and activities for all
Night-time Walkabout at Jackson Bottom Wetlands (Hillsboro, 6 to 8 pm, ages 8 and up): Register for this free event

Night-time Walkabout at Jackson Bottom Wetlands (Hillsboro, 6 to 8 pm, ages 8 and up): Register for this FREE event

Squishing of the Squash (Oregon Zoo, 10:30 to 11:30 am, FREE with zoo admission): Some of the world’s largest animals squish some of the area’s largest pumpkins
Spooky Dance Party at Shute Park Library (Hillsboro, 6:30 to 8 pm): Dress in costume and come shake it to spooky (but not scary) music
Enchanted Trail and Haunted Trail at Mary S. Young Park (West Linn, 7 to 10 pm, various prices): Bring kids 8 and younger to the charming storybook-themed Enchanted Trail, or wait later to bring the big kids to the freaky Haunted Trail.

Enchanted Trail and Haunted Trail at Mary S. Young Park (West Linn, 7 to 10 pm, various prices): Bring kids 8 and younger to the charming storybook-themed Enchanted Trail, or wait later to bring the big kids to the freaky Haunted Trail.
Howloween at the Oregon Zoo (Portland, 10 am to 3 pm, FREE with zoo admission): Dress in costume and participate in this fun but educational scavenger hunt at the zoo, collecting treats and prizes.
Dia de los Muertos Crafts (Beaverton Library, 11 am to noon)
Oaks Park Halloween Spooktacular (Portland, 1 pm and 7 pm): Skate in costume to Halloween music–games and costume parade too
Halloween Carnival (Beaverton Library, 3 to 4 pm, grades 1 to 5)

Howloween at the Oregon Zoo (Portland, 10 am to 3 pm, FREE with zoo admission): Dress in costume and participate in this fun but educational scavenger hunt at the zoo, collecting treats and prizes.
Not-So-Scary Halloween (Portland Children’s Museum, 10 am to 3 pm): Trick-or-treating, crafts, and games
Oaks Park Halloween Spooktacular (Portland, 1 pm and 7 pm): Skate in costume to Halloween music–games and costume parade too

Spooky Babies (Beaverton Library, 10:30 to 11:15 am, up to age 6): Bring your little ones in costume for a parade and fun.
Halloween Dance-o-Rama (Tualatin Public Library, 11 am to noon, ages 6 and under)
Harvest on Main (Hillsboro, 5 to 9 pm): Downtown Hillsboro’s former “Safe n’ Sane” event is now Harvest on Main, and includes more activities and longer hours. You can still bring kids for trick or treating at local businesses as well as fun activities.
Trick-or-Treat at the Streets of Tanasbourne (Hillsboro, 1 to 3 pm, ages 12 and under)
Halloween at Orenco Station (Hillsboro, 3:30 to 5:30 pm): Trick-or-treat in Orenco Station, and enjoy games and crafts with Fancy That and the Dentists at Orenco Station
Spooky Storytime (Beaverton Library, 4 to 5 pm)
Trick-or-Treating at McMenamins’s Grand Lodge (Forest Grove, 4:30 to 6:30 pm, all ages)
Mall-o-ween at Cedar Hills Crossing (Beaverton, 6 to 7 pm): Trick-or-treat at participating stores

Anything I missed? Please comment below!


8 MORE Dessert Places to Love in the Portland Burbs

Screen shot 2016-07-22 at 9.54.22 AM

A while back I came up with 8 dessert places to love on Portland’s west side. Well since then, I’ve sampled—and fallen for—some new ones. So without further adieu, here are 8 more sweet stops I’m happy to take my kids to:

  1. Momo’s Hawaiian Ice: Hillsboro
    This place is the real deal—the ice is perfectly shaved, the flavors are extensive, and you can go big with ice cream and authentic Hawaiian toppings. Big portions, fair prices. It’s tropically delicious.
  2. Beaverton Bakery: Beaverton
    This bakery turns 90 this year, and through the years they’ve been perfecting sugar cookies, cakes, and other specialty bakery creations. We got our wedding cake here, and we love coming back and grabbing a treat with our kids.
  3. The Pie Guy: North Plains
    We first fell in love with his pies at the Hillsboro Farmers’ Market, but my sister just informed me you can now go to his stand. Daily. Stop delaying that gratification! My favorites are Razzleberry and Coconut Cream. Mmmmm boy.
  4. Alotto Gelato: Orenco
    This new-ish spot in Orenco Station (next to La Provence) offers rich, creamy, gelato and Italian sodas in various flavors. It ain’t cheap, but it’s a great sometimes treat.
  5. Donut Day: Beaverton, Tigard
    These are sweet, rich donuts. My husband raves about their coconut, I love their regular glazed. Also try the buttermilk bar and their fritters. Tip: It’s easier to access their Beaverton shop by the side street instead of TV Highway.
  6. Nothing Bundt Cakes: Beaverton, Tualatin, Clackamas
    These little darlings look adorable and taste amazing. The frosting is sweet, but the cake is rich, moist, and just right. They are a great place to order treats for parties or special occasions!
  7. Dutch Bros Coffee: Various locations
    Yes, it’s a drive-thru coffee chain, but it’s headquartered in Oregon and feeeeels local-ish. Also, a junior menu with delicious smoothies, shakes, and hot chocolate? It just hits the spot sometimes.
  8. Sesame Donuts: Beaverton, Hillsboro, Tigard
    We first tried these donuts (oddly enough) at the cafe in the Hillsboro Main Library. You can buy a ton of donut holes for cheap, and I found them to be a traditional yet tasty donut. Their other locations are open 24/7. Try their trademark Sesame Donut.


Taking Kids to Newport, OR

During our Kindergartener’s first Spring Break, our family spent a few fun-filled days in Oregon’s own city of Newport. Located along the central coast, this city and beach make for a kid-happy vacation. With options for playing indoors and outdoors, take your kids to Newport and you’re sure to find something fantastic for everyone in your crew.

Screen shot 2016-04-04 at 10.41.50 AM


  • Oregon Coast Aquarium: This is a small yet beautiful aquarium, with a variety of animals. A highlight is walking through their awesome tunneled tank, while fish and sharks swim all around you. Open daily 10 am to 5 or 6 pm, admission is pricey: in 2016 it ranges from $14.95 to $22.95 per person (kids 0 to 2 are free).
  • Hatfield Marine Science Center: If you want to see marine life without paying aquarium prices, this FREE visitor center from OSU is a great alternative. They have please-touch tidepools, a resident octopus, and several other fish varieties on display.
  • Bay Boulevard/Bayfront: Technically this is both indoor and outdoor play, but I’d consider walking along the bayfront a must-do in Newport. The heart of the city is along Bay Boulevard, where you can see fisherman coming in, hear the relentless barking of the sea lions, and find local shops, artists, and restaurants.


  • Yaquina Head Lighthouse: We loved Yaquina Head so much we went twice during our short weekend. We didn’t tour the beautiful and historic lighthouse (small children can’t go up), but we walked around it and enjoyed the incredible views—it’s a great spot for whale watching. You’ll pay a fee to enter the area, but it lasts for a few days and gives you access to the interpretive center (which is worth a visit) and Cobble Beach (see below).
  • Cobble Beach: Descend the stairs on the south side of Yaquina Head and you’ll find an unexpected treasure—Oregon’s only naturally-occurring cobble beach. It’s made up entirely of smooth black rocks that crackle as the waves come in at high tide. It offers views of harbor seals and tide pools galore at low tide. Park Rangers stand by to offer info on marine life.
  • Agate Beach: Our hotel was right off of Agate Beach, so we spent a lot of time here playing, kiting, bonfiring, etc. It’s a nice, flat sandy beach with a small river and great views of Yaquina Head. We saw whales from here with our binoculars (!!!!), but oddly enough we did not see agates (head closer to the state park and I think you’ll have success).
  • Yaquina Bay Lighthouse and Recreation Site: This lighthouse lacks the wow factor of Yaquina Head, so we only drove by here quickly. Apparently the recreation site has a nice beach with beautiful views


  • Mo’s on the Newport Bayfront: This is the original of the popular Oregon coast chain. Located on Newport’s busy Bay Boulevard, this place is extremely casual and welcoming to families. You’re not an Oregonian if you haven’t tried their chowder.
  • Pig ‘N Pancake: This is another Oregon coast chain that we like for their breakfast food. It’s not earth-shattering, but our kids are happy here. Interestingly, the Newport location is in the old city hall building built in the 1920s.
  • Georgie’s Beachside Grill: This is a very nice place that will require your kids to be in restaurant-mode. We enjoyed our food and the service, but the real winner of the night was the view. Ask to be seated by a window, and you’re sure to be dazzled.

Well done, Newport. Well done.

Tillamook Cheese Factory

What: Tillamook Cheese Factory
Where: 4175 Highway 101 North, Tillamook, OR
Who: All Ages
When: Daily 8 am to 6 pm (Labor Day to mid-June) or 8 pm (Mid-June to Labor Day)
Cost: FREE
Why: It’s a fun family outing at a proud Oregon institution

Screen shot 2016-02-15 at 8.48.06 PM

Growing up when my mom would want us to smile for a picture, she’d say “Tillamook” and we’d say “CHEESE!” It’s just hard to talk about cheese and not bring up Tillamook, especially here in Oregon.

Tillamook Cheese is headquartered in green and gorgeous Tillamook County, Oregon. They make delicious cheese, ice cream, yogurt, and more with milk from dozens of local dairy farmers.

The cheese factory is located just off Highway 101 on the coast. It’s open daily for free self-guided tours. With a birds-eye view you get to watch the actual factory floor where they mix, age, and package the cheese. (We went with friends today and one of the employees waved up to our kids. They went wild.)

Downstairs your kids can play around with the photo spots in the lobby. The informative posters and signs may be lost on them, but the orange VW van is a HIT.

You can also sample the squeaky cheese curds and some of their popular flavors. Then you can shop for Tillamook products and merchandise, and grab a bite to eat. The food at the cafe is tasty yet a bit overpriced, but we simply must stop at the ice cream counter for a cone. (Tillamook Mudslide? Hazelnut and Salted Caramel?? Oh baby.)

Weekends and holidays will be busy, so prepare yourself for long food lanes and slow-moving traffic. The drive there is breathtaking and it’s close to other great stops on the coast like Cape Lookout and Rockaway Beach.

So next time you’re cruising the coast, make time to stop at Tillamook. You (and your tastebuds!) won’t regret it.

Big Al’s

What: Big Al’s at Progress Ridge
Where: 14950 SW Barrows Road, Beaverton, OR 97007
Who: All Ages
When: Usually 11:00 am to 11:00 pm, weekend times extended
Why: It’s a family-friendly play place with great grown-up touches

Screen shot 2016-01-27 at 12.53.27 PM

A few weeks ago we went to Big Al’s at Progress Ridge for my niece’s birthday party. We’d never been there before and we didn’t quite know what to expect.

First thought: The name is no joke. It’s BIG! As in grandiose. It includes a sports bar, arcade, bowling alley, and swanky VIP bowling alley. It’s sleek, clean, and well-designed.

My second thought: Should our kids be here?? I wondered if someone was going to card us and send us, our snotty noses, and our stroller packing. It just seemed too grown-up and too nice of a place to bring children.

But good news! While children probably aren’t the target demographic, Big Al’s still makes families very, very welcome. We were there on a Saturday morning, and the place was full to the brim with kids. The staff was friendly and patient with all the chaos.

There are discounts for kids 12 and under too—like Eat2Play (a meal + arcade deal) and $2 bowling before 5:00 pm. They offers fun birthday packages (including party rooms), arcade options just for small kids, and a rewards shop that caused my girls’ hearts to soar. They also participate in the Kids Bowl Free summer program.

We thought the arcade was pricey (about $1.25 a game), but that was our only complaint. Big Al’s is a great place for your snot-nosed little darlings on a rainy afternoon, or your main squeeze on a date night. Give it a try sometime.

Portland’s Best Passes and Memberships for Families

We use Christmas money every year to buy a family membership somewhere around town. It’s exciting to pick where we’ll spend our free time in the new year.

Want to know why we love passes? (Of course you do!):
– It saves us money after just a few uses. (Case in point: one visit to the Oregon Zoo for an average family of 5=$48.50, membership for a household=$114.00. Go more than 2.5 times on the pass and it’s worth it. Boom.)
– The investment helps motivate us to get out and enjoy an outing with our family regularly. I hate to waste dinero, so we make that pass count and have fun doing it.
– Membership takes off the pressure to “see the whole place.” We can go for a short visit without the guilt.
– Passes usually include discounts to on-site shops, special extended hours, or other perks.
A Good Gray: Portland's Best Passes and Memberships for Families
We’ve stuck to the Oregon Zoo membership so far, but we’re ready to try something new. I’ve been researching some of the best annual passes around, and here’s what I’ve found:

EVERGREEN AVIATION AND SPACE MUSEUM* (McMinnville, $125-150/family): This museum ain’t close but apparently it’s amazing. It has tons of information on air history, from airplanes (including the real Spruce Goose!) to space travel, and also a kid zone, playground, and carousel. Pass offers discounts for water park and IMAX theater. **A smart friend just told me that this pass is part of a reciprocal passport program that can get you into dozens of other museums across the country.

OREGON MUSEUM OF SCIENCE AND INDUSTRY (OMSI) (Portland, $105-$135/family): This big ol’ museum is hands on and full of scientific fun for all ages (there is even a baby/toddler area for little ones). Around May there’s an OMSI Groupon for a highly-discounted membership deal (in 2015 it was 46% off!). **A smart friend just told me that this pass is part of a reciprocal passport program that can get you into dozens of other museums across the country.

OREGON PACIFIC COAST PASSPORT ($35/vehicle): This annual vehicle passport will get you free day passes into various popular coastal parks, including Fort Stevens, Cape Lookout, and Sand Lake.

OREGON ZOO* (Portland, $114/family): With a wide variety of animals in a variety of settings, it’s hard not to find something to love here. There is also a train, summer concerts, Zoo Lights, and new renovations (we were fascinated by the new Elephant Lands). This pass can also get you into 120 other zoos across the country.

PORTLAND ART MUSEUM (Portland, $95/couple, children always FREE): If you’re a family of art lovers—or you’re trying to become one—head to the art museum for extensive exhibits in a variety of art forms.

PORTLAND CHILDREN’S MUSEUM (Portland, $80/2 people, $25/each additional person): If you have small children, this museum offers hours of entertainment and discovery. They provide hands-on play both indoors and out, and our kids love this place.

RICE NORTHWEST MUSEUM OF ROCKS AND MINERALS* (Hillsboro, $90/family): This small museum is full of a world-class collection of fine rocks and minerals, as well as fossils, meteorites, and gemstones.

WASHINGTON COUNTY MUSEUM* (Hillsboro, $100/person+3 guests): This is a small and simple museum featuring local history and is best for older children.

WORLD FORESTRY CENTER* (Portland, $50/person+5 guests): We found this discovery museum to be interesting but also best for older children. They have rotating art exhibits throughout the year as part of the museum.

*One cool advantage of these starred venues? If you buy a pass to one of 8 participating attractions, you can get into the other 7 for FREE during different months throughout the year. Here’s the schedule for 2016:
January – Oregon Zoo
February – World Forestry Center
March – Oregon Historical Society
April – Lan Su Chinese Garden
June – Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals
September – Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum
October – Washington County Museum
December – Historic Deepwood Estate