Three elements are essential to a successful family vacation: an itinerary that’s simple, a location where everything you need is close by and, above all, activities that the whole family will love. Oregon has all this, and more. Whether you are looking for a hip trip to the city or wanting an adventure on the beach, Oregon is full of fun activities that people of all ages will enjoy.
Winds along the Oregon shoreline are usually perfect for a day of flying kites on the beach.
Kids don’t want to travel to Portland for the wine bars or shopping escapades in the Pearl District, but there are plenty of other amusements for the entire family. Grocery shopping, building a two-story house and excavating for buried treasure take on new meaning at Portland’s Children’s Museum (portlandcm.org), where colorful exhibits are all set up for pint-size explorers. Or when you need a place to run off energy, you and the kids can stretch your legs at Forest Park (portlandonline.com/parks). This 5,000-acre park, one of the largest city parks in the U.S., has numerous trails for walking and biking. From there, tiptoe through the smallest city park: Mills End Park is only 24 inches in diameter.
Unscheduled entertainment is in abundance on the Oregon coast, matching the constant motion of the Pacific tides. Adventures can be found on a whim, such as flying kites on the beach or combing the sand for shells and buried treasure. Near Florence, an astounding collection of marine animals gather at the Sea Lions Cave (sealioncaves.com), where visitors can see unusual sea birds, watch killer whales migrate north or gawk at hundreds of sea lions gathering on the rocks and in the cave. Then take your family one hour south down the coast to climb 500-foot mountains of sand at the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area (fs.fed.us/), stopping to check out the picturesque Heceta Lighthouse along the way.
When you visit Oregon’s capital city, skip the stodgy architecture tours and head straight for the Enchanted Forest (enchantedforest.com). This themed playground embodies many childhood fantasies coming to life, from the castle on Storybook Lane to secret tunnels in the Indian Caves. A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village (acgilbert.org), a nonprofit children’s museum, also can host a full day of play at exhibits in one of the village’s three historic buildings or in the 20,000-square-foot Outdoor Discovery Center. You can climb the world’s largest Erector Set Tower, blow some fun in the bubble room and create your own toys in the Toy Inventors’ Workshop.
Any time of year is a good time to visit Bend and central Oregon. Take a summertime camping trip and pitch a tent in Tumalo State Park (oregonstateparks.org), where you can wade and fish in the scenic Deschutes River. In the winter, you can find fresh snow on 806 acres at Hoodoo Mountain Resort (hoodoo.com). Or head indoors to learn more about the great outdoors at the High Desert Museum (highdesertmuseum.org). Family activities are scheduled throughout the year for hands-on exploration, but the favorites tend to be the live otter and big cat exhibits.
- Portland Children’s Museum: Home page
- “Lonely Planet: Washington, Oregon & the Pacific Northwest”; Sandra Bao; 2008
- Sea Lion Caves: Home page
- U.S. Forest Service: Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
- Enchanted Forest Theme Park: Home page
- A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village: Home page
- Siri Stafford/Lifesize/Getty Images