By Amy Wang for The Oregonian
If your summer travel budget won’t stretch to cover airfare, or if you’re just not a fan of family air travel, try a road trip. Here in Portland, we’re fortunate to have plentiful great destinations within reasonable driving distance.
Here’s one set of criteria that can be helpful in choosing a destination:
Are there outdoor AND indoor attractions? Because it’s probably going to rain at some point.
What sort of entertainment will be available? Going online and searching for events at your intended destination before you go can make the trip a lot more enjoyable.
Are there family-friendly restaurants? Go online and search for restaurants at your destination, then preview the menus. Sometimes you can also find photos that show whether the dining room will be child-friendly – tables not too close together, a back deck, casual settings.
Are there family-friendly hotels? Staying at a hotel or motel with a pool guarantees instant entertainment, sometimes multiple times a day; with older children who can be trusted in deep water, one parent can relax while the other supervises the kids at the pool. Also look for in-room fridges and microwaves, which allow you to bring food from home and keep down your dining-out expenses. Bonuses: Free breakfasts, board games, cable and DVD players. (Note: If you don’t see a DVD player in your room, ask at the front desk – some hotels keep them in storage and will bring one out at no extra charge.)
With these criteria in mind, here’s a list of 8 destinations to try this summer.
Good for a weekend
Outdoor attractions: Fort Clatsop, where Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery camped from December 1805 to March 1806.
Astoria Column, a historical marker that visitors can climb for a view of the coast.
Riverwalk, a 5.1-mile paved trail that takes pedestrians along the waterfront past not only shops and restaurants but also working fish processors. The Astoria Riverfront Trolley runs alongside the trail. h
Astoria Sunday Market, with food, crafts, music and much more in the heart of downtown.
Fort Stevens State Park, best known for the wreck of the Peter Iredale. There are also junior ranger programs.
The Garden of Surging Waves, an interpretive park dedicated to the city’s Chinese-American heritage, is set to open May 17.
Columbia River Maritime Museum, which is home to interactive exhibits on the legendary Columbia River Bar, the salmon canneries that once ran the local economy, and the lightship Columbia, a National Historic Landmark.
Astoria Aquatic Center has a recreation pool, slides and pool toys.
Where to eat:
Only in Astoria: The musical “Shanghaied in Astoria,” a family-friendly production that lovingly lampoons local history (be prepared for lots of Scandinavian jokes) is entering its 30th season and runs from July 11 to Sept. 14.
Travel Astoria has more family fun ideas.
Outdoor attractions: Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort, where the chairlifts remain open in summer for scenic rides
Lava Lands Visitor Center, where you can learn about Central Oregon geology and walk on a volcanic butte
Paulina Lake, a great spot for camping/fishing/hiking/boating/
Tumalo Falls, offering a kid-friendly hike to see a 97-foot waterfall
Indoor attractions: High Desert Museum, where kids can learn about wildlife and Central Oregon history
SHARC, Sunriver’s new aquatic center
Where to eat: Bend dining has gone upscale in recent years, but families can still find reasonably priced meals. Try McMenamins’ Old St. Francis School, Cascade Lakes Lodge, or Kebaba‘s Middle Eastern fare. VisitBend.com has lots more restaurant suggestions.
Where to stay: VisitBend.com offers a chart indicating which hotels and motels have pools, complimentary breakfast and other notable features (scroll all the way down). If your budget allows, try a family-oriented resort such as Mt. Bachelor Village or Sunriver Resort, about 20 minutes south of Bend.
Only in Bend: The Old Mill District, once occupied by two lumber mills, has now become an extravaganza of retail, restaurants and entertainment. Families flock there to shop, eat, see a movie, or take in a concert at the Les Schwab Amphitheater, where the summer 2014 lineup includes Steely Dan on July 3, Ringo Starr on July 17, Amos Lee on July 18 and the Dave Matthews Band on Aug. 26.
VisitBend.com has more family fun ideas.
HOOD RIVER/THE DALLES
Outdoor attractions: The new Hood River Waterfront Park is already a popular spot despite still being a work in progress.
Rowena Crest Trailhead in Mosier, between Hood River and The Dalles, has kid-friendly trails with instant-gratification views and the chance to see a harmless garter snake sunning itself.
If your family loves to bike, don’t miss the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, which is closed to cars – the Mosier Twin Tunnels are especially cool.
Indoor attractions: The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center has interactive historical and nature exhibits and a live birds of prey show.
Maryhill Museum of Art houses one of the most eclectic collections you’ll ever see. Ask at the visitor desk for one of the kids’ visitor brochures, which offer art-themed scavenger hunts to keep kids engaged as they move through the exhibits.
Hood River County History Museum is a low-key but interesting stop near a small play area.
Where to eat: Hood River has more restaurants than ever, but it’s easy to get sticker shock, with entrees at many places creeping over $20. Some places below that price range that welcome kids: Pizzicato, Bette’s Place (breakfast and lunch only) Hood River Bagel, Romuls (Italian – don’t miss the fried eggplant appetizer), Big Horse Brew Pub, Sixth Street Bistro and Full Sail Brew Pub.
Where to stay: The Hood River Inn has a heated outdoor pool with a view of the Columbia, breakfast vouchers for the city’s only waterfront hotel restaurant, the Riverside Grill, and easy access to a paved riverfront path.
Only in Hood River: Kids between ages 7 and 12 who can swim at least 20 feet can take windsurfing lessons at a private beach courtesy of Hood River WaterPlay.
HoodRiver.org has more family fun ideas.
Outdoor attractions: Stroll the historic bayfront on Bay Boulevard, where the resident sea lions are a big draw with kids. When weather and water conditions allow, harbor boat tours go out several times a day and include a “catch” that introduce kids to some of the local marine life.
At Yaquina Head Natural Area, families can see a lighthouse, explore tide pools and visit the interpretive center to learn more about coastal life.
South Beach State Park is home to junior ranger activities, bike paths (and bike rentals in summer), guided hikes, kayak tours and much more
Coast Park, a city park, has an elaborate play area that includes a pirate ship.
Indoor attractions: Oregon Coast Aquarium boasts A “Passages of the Deep” tunnel in which sharks and other marine life swim over your head, a seabird aviary, a “Sea and Me” exhibit for wee ones, seals and sea lions – you get the idea.
At Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center, budding scientists can simulate a tsunami, learn about estuary pollution and much more.
Where to stay: A Holiday Inn Express and a La Quinta are within walking distance of the aquarium and the adjacent Aquarium Village, a shopping center featuring all-local businesses.
Only in Newport: You can sleep with sharks in an Oregon Coast Aquarium overnight program geared to families.
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Photo courtesy of Hatfield Marine Science Center