50 Free Museums in Washington & Oregon for Military Families

This summer, military families get free passes into over 50 fantastic Pacific Northwest museums. The Blue Star Museums initiative is a partnership among Blue Star Families, the National Endowment for the Arts, and more than 1,000 museums across America. Blue Star Museums offer free admission to active duty military personnel and their families from Memorial Day, May 30, 2011, through Labor Day, September 5, 2011. Read more at the Blue Star Museums page.

A few of my favorite family museums: High Desert Museum (in Bend, Ore.), Portland Art Museum (Portland, Ore.), University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History (Eugene, Ore.), Kids Discovery Museum (Bainbridge Island, Wash.), KidsQuest Children’s Museum (Bellevue, Wash.), Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum (Leavenworth, Wash.), and the Burke Museum, Museum of Flight, Seattle Art Museum and Museum of History & Industry (Seattle).

Oregon Museums participating in Blue Star Museums

Washington Museums participating in Blue Star Museums

A Perfect 5-Day Oregon Road Trip

If you’re thinking of sun, sun and more sun (and who isn’t, at this point?), you’ll probably find warm weather and bright days in Oregon. I’d like to offer this Oregon Family Road Trip for your consideration. We went on this 5-day getaway last year over Labor Day weekend (plus a few more days) and had a lovely time – although you could also do this over Memorial Day or during summer break.

Day 1 of your Oregon Road Trip: Mt Hood

Drive from your starting point eastward toward Mt. Hood. Pull over at Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Store (right outside Portland, in Milwaukie). This grainy emporium features a giant waterwheel, real mill-grinding stones, great breakfast and lunch in the café and plenty of snacks for your Oregon road trip. I know it seems goofy to visit a store, but this store is pretty cool. Let kids pick a snack or two (gluten-free or not) from the bulk bins and enjoy a lunch, either from the second-story dining area or on the outdoor patio.  Bob's Red Mill near Portland, Oregon

Playing on the lawn outside Bob’s Red Mill Store

Stop off at Mt. Hood’s village of Government Camp and visit the Mt. Hood Cultural Center and Museum (check out the teeny-tiny mountain-climbing boots belonging to an elementary-aged kid). Or enjoy the kid-friendly birdwatching, hiking, wildflower-photographing (no picking!) or mountain biking on Mt. Hood. Read more about summer activities at The Village at Government Camp site.

Stay overnight at Timberline Lodge. Read more about our family accommodations at Timberline.

Day 2 of your Oregon Road Trip: Bend

Snow-covered mountain caps gradually fade into fir forest and grassy pasture, before flattening out into Central Oregon’s sun-kissed topography. Deep-green leafy trees cluster along riverbanks and wildflowers pop out of the most unexpected roadsides.

For an optional stop between Mt. Hood and Bend, pull over at Kahneeta Resort & Casino and visit the museum’s traditionally designed encampment (read more about staying at Kahneeta at Milagros Boutique’s blog). Or you can pull out a gallon of sunblock and visit the always-hot Smith Rock State Park, where rock climbers scamper up the face like tiny lycra-clad spiders. Wade in Crooked River’s banks, and show kids “Monkey Face,” a 350-foot-tall rock formation that resembles a primate’s mug.

Continue on until you reach the compact, turn-of-the-century-quaint town of Bend. Lunch at a family-friendly restaurant (our pick: The airy, spacious, healthy-but-delicious Deschutes Brewery).

Bend family restaurant with kids

Coloring outside the lines at the Deschutes Brewery.

Then, stretch your legs on Bend’s streets: Children’s clothing stores, bookstores, toy shops and two candy and ice cream shops (Powell’s Sweet Shoppe and Goody’s Soda Fountain and Candy) pack the downtown grid.

Pick up food at a grocery store before heading to your Bend condo or resort; the on-site food options are typically expensive and mediocre. My family gives eight thumbs up to the deli salads and quick-cook pizzas from the Bend Whole Foods. Most of these stores are clustered in Bend’s suburbs, along Highway 20.

Staying in the Bend family-friendly Sunriver Resort:

We stayed at the Sunriver Resort in one of the condominium vacation rentals. The kids loved Sunriver, and I have to say, the adults loved it too.  Among the attractions: Three outdoor pools (and one indoor pool), a fascinating observatory and nature center (my kids and husband went on a four-star “family owl walk”), a kids’ camp (Ft. Funnigan) that runs through both day and evening, an arcade, bike paths that line the river and weave through pine forests and horseback riding.

Sunriver Lodge’s front entry, where even the bears welcome you.

Take a VERY close look at the condo vacation rentals before committing to your purchase. Each rental is decorated and maintained at different standards. Our first rental was unacceptable to me (sort of mildew-smelling, mold in bathroom, oven will burn kids) and I asked to move to a different property. The second property was immensely better.

Also, familiarize yourself with the Sunriver map. If you think you’ll mostly be hanging out in your room, biking the trails or out in the surrounding area, it’s fine to be located further from the main lodge area. But if you have young children that tire easily or you want to be able to access the pools, try to stay near the Lodge area (lodge guestrooms, rentals in the Tennis Village Condo areas). The new, upscale Caldera Springs area is incredible, if your budget can afford the expense or if you’re sharing the cost with another family.

Caldera Springs at Sunriver Resort

The amazing outdoor swimming area at Caldera Springs.

Bring your bikes or shop around on-site for the best bike rental prices, and do not neglect to check out prices in the Sunriver Village Mall. Prices (per day or multi-day) vary tremendously, and you’ll kick yourself if you pay far more than you should.

Check the Sunriver vacation packages and deals page. Accommodations aren’t cheap, but they’re worth it. Really, they are. I like this property far better than I like Washington’s Suncadia (sorry, Suncadia). On the resort’s website, you can sign up to be included in deal e-mails.

Do I need to add that my kids are now nagging me to death to return to Sunriver Resort? No, I do not. Endlessly. They. Nag.

Day 3 of your Oregon Road Trip: Bend Environment

You may want to chill at the resort for the morning (hey, did you see that list of things to do?). In the afternoon heat, think about escaping to two cool spots that are unique to our region:

Lava once scoured and scorched this area of earth. But that lava now provides you with an always-chilly escape into the earth’s basement. Pack a sweater and jeans, sturdy shoes and a flashlight (One flashlight for EACH MEMBER of the family. I am not kidding about this) Then head into the dank, dark lava caves at Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

Oregon Lava Tubes with kids

Oregon Lava Tubes

It is pitch-black once you get deep inside and you cannot even see your hand in front of your face; see, aren’t you glad you brought so many flashlights? Not a place for young children terrified of the dark, but a great exploratory experience for big kids and their fraidy-cave parents. Lamps can be rented at the monument, but it’s better to just bring your own.

The High Desert Museum is incredible. A toddler- and preschooler-friendly play area entertains little ones, while the Volcano Country exhibit handily beats boring school geology discussions.

Things to do with kids in Bend Oregon, High Desert Museum

High Desert Museum in Bend, Oregon

You’ll also learn about local flora and fauna and Central Oregon’s wild history in a glossy, contemporary building. Outdoors, a heavily shaded area shelters a working replica of a lumber camp; on high-traffic days, you’ll even see period-dressed men recreating the planing of timber.

Even kids can help saw wood at High Desert Museum.

A top-notch historical museum with a calendar full of family activities.

Day 4 of your Oregon Road Trip: Eugene, Oregon

Today, you return to Oregon’s western through a gorgeous evergreen route. Before hitting the road, eat breakfast at Alpenglow Cafe, which serves up real maple syrup alongside generous portions of homestyle pancakes, homemade breads and locally-smoked meats. Oregon family-friendly and Oregon farm-friendly can’t be beat. Of course, there are plenty of vegetarian options as well (this is the Pacific Northwest, after all) — you can even sub in tofu for those farm eggs.

In my opinion, the best way to go from Eugene to Bend is to take the 2.5 hour, two-lane Highway 26 route, which pulls you through the western-style town of Sisters, Ore., before shooting you over the mountains. You’ll enjoy ear-popping mountaintop panoramas before descending into Western Oregon’s verdant firs and deciduous trees.

Ponderosa pine forest, Bend.

Ponderosa pine forest, Bend.

Now that you’re in Eugene around midday, what will you do? Check out this family guide for 15 fun things to do with kids in Eugene, Oregon.

Sniff! Are you sad about going home yet?

I loved writing this trip report up and can’t wait to repeat this trip. Does your family have a favorite Oregon road trip itinerary?

Eugene with Kids: Activities and restaurants for family fun

Eugene offers multiple options to keep your family entertained and well-fed. For this piece, I visited Eugene, and I also consulted with Melanie Willson, a Vancouver Island mom that lived in Eugene for several of the past few years; she still visits regularly. I trust Melanie’s opinions and found her Eugene-with-kids suggestions wonderful and spot-on accurate. I hope you find them equally useful.

Here are over 15 things to do with kids in the Eugene area:

Ride a six-foot wave at Splash! At Lively Park in Eugene’s neighboring city of Springfield, about 20 minutes from downtown Eugene. This swim center is a lap above similar community pools; there’s a baby pool, a corkscrew slide, hot tubs – and oh yeah – that crazy, deep wave pool that tosses swimmers around like driftwood. In a fun way, of course. This is one of my favorite pools in the Pacific Northwest.

Eugene Playground

Lively Playground

Once you’re done playing in the pool, a giant climbing playground waits outside for a second round of fun (as in, yes, you should bring lunch/snacks – you’ll be here a while).

University of Oregon Eugene museum with kids

Sitting in a meteorite outside the U of O’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History

My favorite Eugene experience? The University of Oregon’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History, where kids can consider ancient traditional slippers and examine dioramas of traditional Native American life. Then, inquisitive kids give archeology a hand in the “Think Like a Scientist” lab, where they can use a magnifying glass to unravel bone and fossil mysteries or wonder at the evolution of a horse’s hoof.

At the U of O, learning about the Oregon Coast (and a great stop pre-Coast).

The compact, child-friendly area of the museum is clean, new, and stocked with interesting artifacts and hands-on options that make history and science come alive.

Eugene Raptor Center a kid-friendly thing to do in Eugene

Avian eyes at the Eugene Raptor Center

Spy an eagle or falcon at the evergreen-sheltered Cascades Raptor Center, where over 60 resident birds represent 33 species in outdoor cages. Each bird’s short story is right next to their cage, so you can discover more about each raptor – or maybe even “adopt” one. Wear sturdy shoes, as the ground is uneven.

The Science Factory, a fun thing to do with kids in Eugene

The Science Factory in Eugene

Play for an hour or two at the Science Factory Children’s Museum & Exploration Dome, the petite, well-loved cousin of science museums. You won’t find the multi-story experiences offered in the big cities, but it’s a fine way to spend an half-hour or so, and admission is only $4/person.

Science Factory in Eugene with kids

Inside the Science Factory in Eugene

Check the website for the current exhibit; when we were there, the museum focused on balls and ramps.

Run it off at RiverPlay Discovery Playground, where kids can uncover fossils in sand dig, climb a 25-foot replica of Skinner Butte or make a dam of sand and water in a replica Willamette River.

Browse nature’s bounty at the Eugene Saturday Market; farmers deliver fresh produce to downtown Eugene while artisans sell their eco-wares. Order lunch from an on-the-go restaurateur dishing up Mexican, Thai, Indian cuisines or US-style sandwiches. Listen to live music and give the kids a few bucks for a treat or two. “More tie-die stands than any other market I’ve encountered,” Melanie says, “and awesome Afghani food in the food court. The adjacent farmer’s market with everything you can imagine from the Willamette Valley, from duck eggs to huckleberries.”

Hike the 209-acre Mt. Pigsah Arboretum with your family – and bring the camera for photo-ready moments along wildflower meadows and in Evergreen forests. Check the website before you go and see if there’s a guided family walk on the calendar – then sign up for an educational ramble through the woods.

If you’re going to visit a toystore in Eugene for travel-ready playthings, The Elephant’s Trunk should be your destination. Located in downtown Eugene, this shop crams hundreds of toy options into a tidy, well-organized store. Dolls, animals, toddler toys and more.

Eugene 5th Street Public Market

The store’s nestled in the adorable, flower-strewn shopping center 5th Street Public Market.

Eating Out with Kids in Eugene

Dig into Thai at Ring of Fire, located in an unassuming strip mall. Ask for a seat in the back room, where your family can sit under giant umbrellas. This is a good option with adventurous, older children.

“So many kinds of beer from all over the world, the best local and far-away microbrews, and simple soups and delicious panini,” Melanie says of The Beer Stein. “It’s where U of O students and faculty often head for a beer, and where my playgroup would occasionally meet. As a Canadian used to paying 3-4 times as much for beer, I was in heaven.”

“Hideaway Bakery has a sandbox under cover on their patio, which is also heated,” Melanie says. “They have a terrific brick oven and yummy breads and treats, and the sandbox is filled with baking stuff for digging, like measuring cups, ladles, etc.”

Pluck a pie or pick up a tart at Sweet Life Patisserie. This patisserie takes its sugar seriously, with dozens upon dozens of cakes, pies, cupcakes, cheesecakes, tarts and tiny delectable chocolates, all laid out in several glass cases (try to refrain from licking the cases, it’s just not becoming of a mom). An amazing selection – even Eugene’s vegans are catered to — and it’s hard to go home with just one dessert.

kid-friendly Eugene restaurant

Morning Glory Cafe, a kid-friendly restaurant in Eugene

Get in touch with your inner tofu-yoga queen at Morning Glory Café. Yes, this is crunchy hippie food (you will find tempeh and sprouts) but there’s lots of food (split plates!) and those scrambles taste good. This café sits within a stone’s throw of the railroad terminal, so toddlers will have something to watch for, while you’re watching for breakfast’s arrival. A good option for those sensitive to wheat, dairy and other issues. “Don’t overlook their amazing tea blends,” Melanie says.

Laughing Planet and Café Yumm are both solid options with babies, toddlers, preschoolers and other picky personalities. The menus offer simple and  straightforward wrap, soups and bowls with Mexican and Asian twists. “Café Yumm is a Eugene classic,” Melanie says. “Rice and bean bowls with the ubiquitous Yumm! sauce that all of the locals are so addicted to that there are cafe yumms all over town, and sauce to buy and take home if you can’t wait for your next fix.”

How about Laughing Planet? Melanie made up a song to entertain toddlers en route to the popular stop: To the tune of  Frere Jacques: Laughing Planet, Laughing Planet/ Where are You? Where are you? / I want a burrito, I want a burrito/ And some soup, And some soup. “The soup of the day is generally delicious and the Che Burrito (Plantain, black bean and sweet potato) is not to be missed,” she says.

“In a city with lots of Thai restaurants, Sweet Basil is the place we went for consistent and delicious curries,” Melanie says. “”Good, basic Thai food at reasonable prices.”

“Iralia serves amazing Mediterranean food,” Melanie says. “They use simple, whole ingredients and a variety of influences to create amazing hearty dishes. Iraila is Eugene’s best kept secret.”

Thanks, Melanie! Readers, do you have any kid-friendly Eugene suggestions? For more information on the Eugene area, consult with Travel Lane County.

Best Hikes with Kids near Portland, Oregon

Today, we interview Bonnie Henderson, the author of Best Hikes with Kids: Oregon. Let’s find out more about hiking in Northwestern Oregon.

Do you have any favorite rainy-day hikes in Oregon? Is there an area of Oregon that’s particularly wonderful for family hiking, even during spring or fall? Why do you like that kid-friendly hike?

Bonnie: I love hiking at the Oregon Coast in the winter when the weather is crummy. Not if it’s pouring, and not on the beach itself, but when you’re tired of the same old trails around your house and the Cascades are still snowed under, the forest right along the coast is a great place to go. I’m thinking of the Fort to Sea Trail near Astoria-Warrenton, for instance, and trails in Oswald West State Park. The big trees provide some protection from rain and wind, and the forest is so lush and alive. In the fall you’re likely to find lots of different kinds of mushrooms popping up, and in the early spring there’s bright yellow skunk cabbage.

I live in Eugene, so I love to hike at Cape Perpetua, just south of Yachats, in the winter. It’s usually not too cold on rainy days; wear decent rain gear, bring a change of clothes, have a thermos of something hot to drink back in the car, and don’t worry about getting a little wet.

The Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area is great for hiking with kids in fall and winter (as long as there’s no ice storm) and even better in spring, when the wildflowers are blooming and waterfalls are gushing. I haven’t been out to the Sandy River Delta Trail since the Confluence Project bird blind was completed, but I look forward to going; I expect that will be a great hike with kids, and just a short drive east of Portland at the west end of the gorge.

Q. What’s your favorite hike that’s either in or near Portland?

Bonnie: There are SO many, but with kids I really like Tryon Creek State Park (lots of choices of short-ish loop trails) and trails on Sauvie Island (especially Oak Island). Sauvie Island is great because it’s SO close but feels like you’re really getting out of the city (which you are). The trails at the Audubon Sanctuary on NW Cornell Road are close in and great to walk with young children.

Q. Can you suggest a good one-night backpacking hike with kids, anywhere near Portland or Eugene?

Bonnie: My very favorite is Bobby Lake Trail, in the Willamette National Forest. It’s probably farther than Portlanders want to drive, so I’ll describe it and you’ll see what qualities I think make a great backpack with kids; you could look for something like this close to wherever you live. (It’s hard to find something this good that’s close to Portland AND uncrowded.) Bobby Lake is a smallish lake near Waldo Lake Area in the central Cascades. It’s a pretty boring hike in, but it’s flat and only about 2.5 miles, so very doable for almost any kid. There are a number of good campsites scattered along the edge. There’s a huge rock that slopes into the lake, which is great for sunning and launching a swim. (Many beautiful mountain lakes have marshy or rocky shoreline and aren’t inviting for swimming). And from the lakeside campsite you can stage day hikes, such as a circumnavigation of the lake or a hike up a nearby peak for a great view. It is very mosquito-y there, which is true for many lakes in the high Cascades, so I wouldn’t recommend going (especially with kids) before the second half of August.

Q. Are there any accessible, close-in to Portland hikes that are great for snowshoeing after snow falls or before it melts?

Bonnie: The Crosstown Trail on Mount Hood comes to mind. It goes through the woods just above Government Camp, so you can rent snowshoes in the village and be snowshoeing in a few minutes. It’s in the trees, so you aren’t exposed to wind and driving snow if it’s a snowy day. It’s about an hour’s drive from Portland, but it’s rare that there is snow any closer than that (enough for snowshoeing). It’s great to be out in the deep quiet of winter, and if you stop to eat, guaranteed you’ll immediately be found by a party of “camp robbers” (gray jays or Clark’s nutcrackers) trying to snatch food out of your hand!

Readers, do you have a favorite family hike in Oregon, Washington or British Columbia? Do you mind sharing your secret ramble?

Coastal Kids: Things to Do in Florence, Oregon with Kids

Today, we interview mom (and Eugene, Ore., native) Emily Forsha. Emily grew up with the central Oregon coast as her playground. She knows that a foggy day in the Willamette Valley often means clear sunny skies at the coast, and that salt water taffy is best enjoyed sitting on the boardwalk in Old Town Florence. Now as the Tourism PR Manager at Travel Lane County and a mother to a 4 year-old and 15 month-old, Emily offers her fresh perspective as both a tourism industry professional and busy mom. All photos were provided by Emily.

Q. Do you have a favorite Oregon coast town? Why do you like it?

Emily: For us, Florence, Ore., is perfect; only an hour’s drive from Eugene and Interstate 5, we can go for just a spur-of-the-moment day trip, or stay for the whole weekend. The boardwalk in Old Town Florence is a special place for the entire family – it has an authentic, less “touristy” feel. We usually have a bowl of clam chowder at Mo’s, then head across the street for a scoop of homemade ice cream and salt water taffy from BJ’s Ice Cream Parlor.

Q. What’s your favorite family activity on the Oregon coast? What kinds of things do you like to do (with kids) in Florence and nearby?

We’re a family of hikers, so the hikes around this area are usually our go-to destinations. Washburne State Memorial Park’s Hobbit Trail is an easy 0.4-mile trail that evokes imaginative fairies and gnomes and leads to a flat, sandy beach. If your family is up for a longer, steeper jaunt, the 6-mile round-trip trail to the Heceta Head Lighthouse has outstanding seascape views.

Washburne State Park.

Cape Perpetua is the highest point on the Oregon coast, and alive with trails to explore. We’ve spent many days wandering old-growth forests and whale watching, but the best trail for families is the easy 0.6-mile walk on Captain Cook Trail, where you can investigate tidepools rich with marine life.

The giant dune buggy tour is the best way to see the 40 miles of Oregon Dunes in the Siuslaw National Forest – a truly awesome sight. We took both of our boys on our last trip to Florence, and it was the highlight of the trip for all of us. We rode the buggies from Sandland Adventures, then made an afternoon of it with fun train and go-kart rides, bumper boats and miniature golf.

Oregon Sand Dunes

Oregon Sand Dunes

But if I had to pick only one destination for families, it would probably be Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park. You can canoe, kayak, paddleboat or swim one of two freshwater lakes (Cleawox is our favorite). There are summer interpretive programs in the amphitheater for children, and huckleberries and blackberries galore.

Emily and son canoeing

Q. Any favorite kid-friendly restaurants in Florence? Formal/foodie (but where kids are OK) and informal?

We love having breakfast at the Nature’s Corner Cafe & Market – I let my kids fill up on the house-made organic chocolate milk and pancakes. Feast is the newest addition to Florence for foodies, and it is delicious. Definitely a more formal atmosphere, but we’re comfortable taking our kids for an early-evening dinner or Sunday brunch (my favorite!).

Q. Do you have a favorite time of year or season to visit Florence?

This is a tough question. It’s sort of a well-known secret that fall is a beautiful time on the central Oregon coast; less windy and often sunnier and clearer than in the Willamette Valley. As a kid, I loved the winter and spring whale watching weeks, and still enjoy them as an adult.

We’ve taken the kids for a winter getaway at Driftwood Shores; even if we don’t get lucky with weather, the hotels has a brand-new indoor kids’ pool and water play area that they absolutely love.

Florence oregon places to stay

Indoor pool!

Winter is also the best time to see the sea lions perched inside the Sea Lion Caves. In 2009 there were a record number of California sea lions inhabiting the caves during the winter months – between 300-500 on any given day. We’re excited to see how many will show up this year.

And for some reason, they know that during the winter months I’m more likely to let them sample the homemade fudge from the gift shop on the way out.

Read More about Florence with Kids:

Eugene, Cascades & Coast Tourism Information on Florence, Oregon

Florence Chamber of Commerce

Disclosure: I have worked with Emily in a professional context. When I wrote two articles for the Travel Lane County Visitors’ Guide (my employer was Saga City Media), I met Emily while in Eugene, while I was performing research. We hit it off (Emily’s super sweet) and she knows a lot about Florence, so we thought a joint post might be a great addition to Cascadia Kids. I am responsible for all links to businesses offered here.

The I-5 Drive: Kid-friendly Oregon stops from Portland to Southern Oregon

Today,  Amy Whitley, the Oregon-based editor at Pit Stops for Kids cruises over to guest-post on my blog. Pit Stops for Kids is a great resource for families traveling through our region. You’ll find parent reviews on road-side attractions, restaurants, motels, parks, and airport playspaces. Seriously, her site is fantastic. Thanks, Amy.

The Northwest is cross-crossed with dozens of wonderfully scenic and historic highways and byways, but sometimes, you just need to get from Point A to Point B. Living in Southern Oregon, we’ve put in our share of miles up and down I-5 from the Washington border to our north and the California border to our south. Luckily, this section of the interstate is chock full of great pit stops for kids!

From north to south, these are our top five favorites:

Enchanted Forest, Salem, Oregon. Exit 248.

Enchanted Forest is what we call “theme park lite”…and when you want to stop for only a few hours, that’s a good thing! The park is pretty, imaginative, and not overwhelming in size, allowing a family to cruise through the highlights from breakfast to lunch (or stay all day if desired). My kids especially love the fairy tale village and the Indian caves (think Disney’s Tom Sawyer Island in miniature). Read a full review here!

Splash! Lively Park Swim Center, Springfield, Oregon. Exit 194A.

Splash! is by far the best public swimming pool we’ve ever seen! With tubes, slides, a wave pool and more, your kids will be in heaven…even if the weather is insisting on the usual Oregon drizzle. And you’ll love the affordable admission and numerous lifeguards. If you don’t have towels on-hand, they’re available! Read more!.

Saturday Market, Eugene, Oregon. Exit 194B.

This one is only available on Saturdays, but so much fun, it’s still worth a spot on the list! Vibrant and colorful, the Eugene Saturday Market is a great place to take kids…especially around lunchtime. You’ll find a food court full of organic, local options, live entertainment, and many clothing and artisan vendors. Lots to see and take in!

On a Wildlife Safari. Photo courtesy Pit Stops for Kids.

Wildlife Safari, Winston, Oregon. Exit 119.

As an animal rights advocate, I was nervous the first time we visted Wildlife Safari: would it be a dubious operation? Would I feel the animals were well-cared for? I shouldn’t have worried. Wildlife Safari is an awesome experience (you get to drive past giraffes licking at your windshield and lions lounging in the sun!) and does much to educate visitors on animal welfare. You can easily spend half a day here! Details here!

Lithia Park, Ashland, Oregon. Exit 19.

Ashland is a beautiful town with lovely restaurants and performance arts, but if you only have time to stop and let little ones stretch their legs, Lithia Park is a must. Gorgeous in all seasons, Lithia is surrounded by old-growth trees and gardens, duck ponds, walking paths, and a great play park. In the winter, try the outdoor ice rink. Photo at upper right is from Lithia Park (courtesy of Pit Stops for Kids). Directions and details here. And if the weather is bad, try out ScienceWorks Museum instead!

Oregon Family Deals and Savings

Oregon deals, coupons and savings for family vacations in Eastern Oregon, Bend, the Oregon Coast, Newport, Mt. Hood, Portland and Southern Oregon.

Eastern Oregon Visitors AssociationPackages and deals

Eugene, Cascades and CoastDiscounts and special offers

Mt. Hood Territory: Coupons and deals

Newport, OregonSpecial deals and promotions

Oregon’s Adventure Coast (Coos Bay, North Bay, Charleston): Lodging specials

Oregon Coast Visitors AssociationTravel promotions and deals

Seaside Chamber of CommerceDeals and coupons (including kids eat free)

Travel PortlandSpecial offers, coupons and hotel deals

Travel OregonSeasonal offerings

Visit BendHotel and motel deals