The Oregon Trail:
Our first stop in Oregon was on our way north into Washington from Idaho. We stopped at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. Because, you know, you have to! It is operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Did you know they have Junior Ranger programs? I sure didn’t! They also had two other time consuming kid activities and my kids were definitely more into those. Thankfully the Ranger was lenient (I think that it helped that it was closing time) and he just quizzed the kids, checked over what they did do, and gave them their badges once they promised to complete their books on their own. Whew, because I don’t think I have my stuff together enough to ever get the booklets mailed in! Just being honest. After we left the building we drove down to the turn out where you can park and walk to the wagon ruts. Like the actual OREGON TRAIL! Talk about bringing history to life! WOW!
Several hundred miles (and the state of Washington) later…
Portland, Oregon City, and Salem:
We are back in Oregon! We wanted to explore the area around Portland and dispersed camping is tough to find anywhere close. We found a reasonably priced RV park right on the Clickamas River. It is in Oregon City and is also close to the Willamette River so the park is named Clickamette RV Park (see what they did there?). The camp host was super helpful and gave us lots of tips on things to do in and around the area, as well as corn to feed the ducks. Of all the things we did in our three days there, the ducks were all of the kids’ favorites!
Our first day in Portland we checked off two iconic stops: Voodoo Doughnuts and Powell’s City of Books. The 30 minute pastry line was well with the wait and the doughnut choices were pretty clever. I had a raspberry jelly filled one shaped like a voodoo doll – complete with a pretzel stake through its heart. Keeping Portland weird is a real thing! And if you look closely, you can see that painted on the building behind the kids!
After an (un)healthy dose of sugar we went to Powell’s City of Books that was down the street. The book store is an entire city block and is 4 stories high. They boast having over a million books. The RV section was lacking (duh) but the rest of the store was everything you could want! I really like how they stock the new and used copies of books together so you can choose without having to hunt for a new or used version of what you want. Each kiddo got a book and we even found a collapsible coffee dripper in their travel section. Add in some yummy coffee from their cafe and all was right with the world! Outside the bookstore are lots of shops to wander through and restaurants to eat in. You could easily spend a day just in this neighborhood. Like Seattle, there is a large transient population so just be alert and maybe chat with the kids about what they might expect.
We went back to Portland the next day to check out OMSI (pronounced ohm-ze) which is the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. We spent three HOURS in the kids hands on room before heading upstairs to the life sciences rooms. We used our ASTC membership and got in free (heck yeah!). The kids always have a blast at these places and we definitely check it off as a school day because they always leave a little smarter!
We had no problem finding parking in the city. It was all metered but pretty cheap. Like $2 for 2 hours, and you can use your credit/debit card. OMSI charged a $5 flat rate.
Oregon City has the only vertical street in the country! You can take the elevator for free from one level of this city to the other. The viewing platform at the top has some unique holographic images that are pretty well done. They show the history of the elevator – from the first water powered version built in 1915 to the current one that was built in the 50’s. It is quite a story that starts with the original 700+ stairs up, then the 5+ minute ride up the unreliable elevator, to the current 15 second ride. The part we liked the most was on the viewing platform. On the windows overlooking the city are white vinyl outlines of what you are seeing and brief description. Brilliantly simple way to know what you are looking at!
We spent an enjoyable afternoon in the State’s capitol of Salem. We split the time between the Gilbert House Children’s Museum and having coffee with a new friend! A fellow RVer responded to my question online about ideas of things to see in the northwest. She was so helpful that I promised her a cup of coffee when we came her way. We finally paid up! We spent a fun couple of hours getting to know Joanna from www.justenoughcanvas.com and are grateful for making another new friend on our adventure! As for the Gilbert House, it is a fantastic place for toddlers on the inside and everyone else on the outside! Inside is filled with great options for learning through play. If I lived in the area I would have spent hours and hours (and hours) there with my kids when they were little. Of course our ASTC membership gets us in free 🙂 Outside there is a crazy cool play structure that is fun for all ages! Of course I somehow didn’t get a single picture so the picture here is from their website. Next door to the Gilbert House is Riverfront Park and I called the city and they said we were a-ok to park the RV there (not overnight). There is nice looking path the runs along the river there if you wanted to ride bikes or go for a walk to the cool old carousel in the park. When we were there they were constructing an ice rink in the park so check that out if you are there in the winter!
McMinnville, Lincoln City, and more
After the day in Salem we drove about 30 minutes to the Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville. They allow you stay overnight in their GIANT parking lot free for one night! They ask you to park on the north end by the Boy Scout’s arch. We arrived at night and it was DARK. When we woke up we were impressed with the beautiful park behind us!
With our ASTC membership we were able to get into both museum buildings, space and air. There was a really impressive collection in both including the Spruce Goose! We even got a special “backstage” tour from the ridiculously knowledgeable and gregarious volunteer who just seemed to take a liking to us. Thanks, Sarge!
Outside the museum is a super awesome play ground that even our big kids liked. Mike and I may have climbed around a little too 🙂
The next day we traveled to the 101 and into Lincoln City. We lot docked at the Chinook Winds Casino where we could hear and see the ocean albeit at a distance. We spent the afternoon walking along the beach and checking out the awesome tide pools. Google “Lincoln City tide pools” and go check them out!
We traveled down the 101 and stopped at Boice Cope RV Park. It is right next to Floras Lake and just a small strip of land separates it from the beach and ocean. Despite rain, some thunderstorms, and a round of stuffy noses we
enjoyed a nice walk around the lake and to the ocean. The kids had a lot of fun on the beach and the fresh air was good for us all! We also got to see some bald eagles that nest there.
Our last stop in Oregon was our favorite state park yet – and not just because of it’s name. Harris Beach State Park was a gorgeous, wooded campground within walking distance to a trail that you can walk down to explore tide pools and awesome sea stacks. I know that was a run-on sentence but I couldn’t help myself! It was so so very beautiful! Cue picture overload…
We very much enjoyed Oregon! We stuck to the coast and here is my RV advice about that: there is little to no boondocking anywhere on the Oregon coast. The campgrounds along the southern coast are almost all state parks and the spots are small. This is the one time (in six months) that not having a reservation bit us. We were too big for most parks and many of them were booked in advance. I suggest planning ahead, and I almost never suggest that!