Plan now for family memories that will last a lifetime. This spring break, get out of the house and have an adventure together. Here are seven of our top picks for family trips all around the Willamette Valley this spring:
For family-friendly fun without a lot of fuss, bring the kids to Salem, where they can meet Pancho the Elephant – the newest animal to join the herd at Salem’s Riverfront Carousel, one of the state’s only authentic Old World-style carousels. While you’re there, be sure to visit The Enchanted Forest. This quirky theme park features an eclectic mix of rides and activities – everything from wizards to a Western Town – and opens specifically for one week during spring break, before closing back down until the beginning of summer. Kids will also enjoy a trip through The Gilbert House Museum – a hands-on children’s museum named after the famous toy inventor, A.C. Gilbert.
Eugene, Cascades & Coast
Combine old-fashioned hiking with high-tech treasure hunting when you explore the Eugene, Cascades & Coast region’s GeoTour. Use a cell phone or a hand-held GPS device to download the coordinates for some of the more than 140 geocaches on the route, then follow the clues to find these hidden caches. The full tour stretches from the Oregon Coast to the crest of the Cascades, but it’s broken up into four editions. You can do each separately or spend a week on the entire tour. You’re guaranteed to discover something new on this interactive trip.
Mt. Hood Territory
Learn about life on real, working farms along Mt. Hood Territory’s Oregon Farm Loops (Farmlandia, Molalla & Canby Farm Loops). Meet rare, heritage ducks, pigs and cows at Boondockers, learn about elk from the experts at Rosse Posse Elk Ranch, visit sheep and baby lambs at SuDan Farms, Grab a bite to eat at Fir Point Farms and pick up some local keepsakes at Our Table’s on-farm grocery store. Please note that not all farms are open in the spring. I tried to call out ones that visitors can visit around that time. And please note that all members are working farms, so please call ahead to confirm hours/make an appointment. While you’re exploring the Canby Farm Loop, stop at Bricks and Minifigs in Canby. It’s the largest toy store of its kind, specializing in only new and used LEGO® items.
Feel like an archaeologist when you dig for petrified wood at Holleywood Ranch east of Albany. This little farm sits on a unique geological site, where more than 65 varieties of petrified wood have been identified. Bring your own shovel or rent tools from the ranch, then head out into the field to uncover your own specimens and keep what you find ($1.50 per pound of rocks). Nature lovers will get a kick out of this chance to play scientist for the day.
Rediscover your sense of wonder when you take the family on a guided kayaking tour down the Willamette River with Cascadia Expeditions. You can start in Corvallis’ vibrant downtown district, full of restaurants, pubs, and quirky shops, then head out onto the river and find yourself a world away. The plants and wildlife of the Willamette, a nationally-recognized Water Trail, will come to life as you paddle downstream.
The waterslides at Wings & Waves Waterpark in McMinnville are pretty spectacular, no matter how old you are. The three-story waterslide starts in a real Boeing 747 mounted on the roof of the building and then spirals three stories before splashing into the heated indoor pool below. The waterpark also features a wave pool and nine other waterslides, designed for kids from infant to teenager. Next door, you can explore all kinds of airplanes and spacecraft at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, including Howard Hughes’ legendary Spruce Goose, with its massive 320-foot wing-span; a Mercury Space capsule; and a WWII-era B-17 bomber. Kids will also enjoy the 3D theater and a space-themed playground.
Bonus trip: Wooden Shoe Farms Tulip Festival
When you plan your Willamette Valley trip, be sure to check the website for Wooden Shoe Tulip Farms. Stunning fields of tulips with Mt. Hood in the background make for amazing family photos, and kids will love taking a hay ride out to the field and playing in the farm-themed play area. Mother Nature dictates opening day for this annual festival, but March, April and May are usually good months for a visit. Check before you go to find out if the tulips are in bloom yet for 2015.