Outdoor Play

2017 Turkey Day Races in Portlandia

Want to burn some calories before the big feast this Thanksgiving? Bring your families and tie up those laces, and head to one of these fun turkey-trot races.


November 21 (TUESDAY)
Youth Turkey Trot (Hillsboro, Hare Field, 4:00 to 7:00 pm): Come to the 22nd Annual Hillsboro Turkey Trot for preschoolers through 8th graders. Winners take home a turkey!

November 22 (WEDNESDAY)
Turkey Trot 5k Run/Walk + Kids Trot (Portland International Raceway, 7:00 to 10:00 pm): Register to run through the raceway’s holiday lights. Dogs and strollers welcome!

November 23 (THURSDAY)
Turkey Trot at the Oregon Zoo (Portland, 8:00 to 9:45 am): This 4-mile fun run or walk winds through Washington Park and ends at the zoo. Children events included, and jogging strollers welcome. Register today.
Give ‘n’ Gobble (Sherwood High School, 8:00 am): This 5k walk or 10k run with a food drive is a Thanksgiving tradition. This race sells out, so register in advance.
Oregon Turkeython at Bridgeport Village (Tigard, 8:30 am): This fun morning includes a 5k, 10k, and Kidathon. Register online.
Oregon Food Bank Turkeython (Portland, 8:30 am): This race at Rock Creek Country Club is for kids and famililes. Register in advance.



Portland Japanese Garden

What: Portland Japanese Garden
Where: 611 SW Kingston Ave, Portland

When: Winter Mon. Noon to 4 pm and Tues.-Sun. 10 am to 4 pm; Summer Mon. Noon to 7 pm and Tues.-Sun. 10 am to 7 pm (Member hours earlier)
Why: The lush, meticulously-maintained gardens are breathtaking and peaceful
Cost: Children 5 and under FREE, Ages 6-17 $10.45, Students $11.95, Adults $14.95, Seniors $12.95

A Good Gray Portland Japanese Garden

My sister, who’s been an Oregonian for a few decades now, recently told me she’d never been to the Japanese Garden. I hadn’t been either, but she was especially frustrated it’d been on her bucket list forever, taunting her. Well the beautiful fall weather this week was just begging for an outing, so we decided to make. it. happen! I’m happy to report that my son, my sister, and I fiiinally made it to the Japanese Garden.

As my sister said afterwards, it met AND exceeded our expectations. It was absolutely gorgeous. Designed and started in the 1960s by a Japanese professor, this 9-acre garden has been called the most authentic of its kind outside of Japan.

You’ll find the towering evergreens and mossy grounds like any Northwest forest, but there are also plenty of water features, trees, and bushes that must look lovely in each season. There are two large rock gardens that are serene and peaceful. The grounds also include a cafe, gift shop, gallery, and learning centers (and the architecture is delicious).

Children are welcome, but they may need help navigating the quiet spots where you’ll find people seated and contemplating. You can do the whole garden quickly in 30 minutes, but allow more time to soak it all in. There are many stairs throughout, but if needed you can skip a lot of them if you use the shuttle from the parking lot.

The garden is located in Washington Park, right by the International Rose Test Garden. Parking is tricky and can be time-consuming, especially at peak times. Also brace yourself: the entrance fees are steep! Cultural Passes are not currently available to the gardens, but this could change because they’ve been available in the past. Also, families that receive SNAP benefits can get FREE admission.

Treat yourself to a gorgeous bit of a nature, whether it’s the vibrant changing trees or the bursting spring blossoms. I really think you and your family will love it!

Halloween Haunts 2017

A Good Gray Halloween 2017 Portland OR

Here’s what’s spooky and silly this year on Portland’s west side:

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. Register now.

Monster Mash Morning at Bridgeport Village (Tigard, 8 to 9:30 am, 9:00 to 10:30 am): Ways & Means Oyster House and California Pizza Kitchen are each hosting a fun morning for kids. Registration required.

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, 11:00 to 11:30 am, FREE with zoo admission): Some of the world’s largest animals squish some of the area’s largest pumpkins
Enchanted Trail and Haunted Trail at Mary S. Young Park (West Linn, 7 to 11 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.
Harvest on Main (Hillsboro, 10 am to 1 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.
Villains in the Village at Bridgeport Village (Tigard, 11 am to 12:30 pm): Wear your costume and come fight villains at this fun, free event
Dia de los Muertos Crafts (Beaverton Library, 11 am to noon)
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Beaverton, 11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm): The funny, family-friendly retelling of a spooky classic.
Oaks Park Halloween Spooktacular (Portland, 1 pm and 7 pm): Skate in costume to Halloween music–games and costume parade too
Spooky Dance Party at Shute Park Library (Hillsboro, 7 to 8:30 pm): Dress in costume and come shake it to spooky (but not scary) music. For preschoolers and elementary schoolers.
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.
Not-So-Scary Halloween (Portland Children’s Museum, 10 am to 2 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

Candy-Free Halloween (Portland Children’s Museum, 10 am to 1 pm): Trick-or-treating, crafts, and games
Spooky Babies Dance Party (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, 10 am to 11:30 am, ages 6 and under)
Trick-or-Treat at the Streets of Tanasbourne (Hillsboro, 1 to 3 pm or while supplies last, ages 12 and under)
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, 5:30 to 7 pm): Trick-or-treat at participating stores


Anything fun I missed? Please comment below!

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!


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.

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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!


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


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.




‘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?