Day Trips, Outdoor Activities, Vacations

Sand Dunes in Florence, Oregon

Earlier this summer, our area had a few heat waves that were beyond anything I have experienced in my lifetime living in Oregon. So we decided to get out of our area. Knowing the beach closest to us would be flooded with people with the exact same idea, I crossed my fingers and we headed south. And we lucked out! It was 109 degrees at home, and a perfect 72 degrees in Florence. Bliss!

Our main destination was to ride the dunes. If you’re not familiar with the area, Florence has miles of beautiful sand dunes that are used for all sorts of recreation. We chose a giant dune buggy tour through Sandland Adventure Tours and pre-booked our tickets.

Check in was easy, and we were given a ticket with our assigned seats and told where to wait. Then the buggies pulled into the parking lot and we started to get even more excited. We climbed in and staff made sure everyone was buckled in appropriately. Then we were off!

The journey has a bit of a strage start- getting onto the highway. In a big ‘ole buggy. We didn’t have to go far before we turned onto a small road and entered a recreational area. We drove up and down dunes, bumped along on trails through the forest, and cruised along the beach. The driver provided interesting narration about the history of the area, the wildlife, formation of the dunes, navigating the dunes, and the vegetation. Each of us heard something we found quite interesting! They also stop a couple of places for you to take pictures of the beautiful views from the buggies.

The ride itself is fun, but not scary. You go down a few dunes, but not particularly fast. It was exciting enough to to elicit lots of giggles from all of us, but neither of the kids ever got scared. In fact, by the end, they wished we were going faster!

Their website does note to bring a jacket as it can be chilly. They were right! Although it was a beautiful, sunny day, the closer we got to the water’s edge, the foggier and colder it became.

Sandland also has a mini golf course, go karts, and bumper boats you can enjoy before of after your tour. Or you could go just for those activities!

The giant tour is $18 per person and lasts about an hour. It runs March through December. Pre-booking is recommended. You can also find prices and information for their more adventurous tours on their website.

There are other dune tour providers in the area that we have not tried. You can also rent various vehicles to zip around on your own. This is not recommended for novice riders.

What it’s not: scary, a thrill ride

What it is: fun, a unique beach activity, beautiful scenery, family friendly

Do we recommend it? Yes! We may even try the faster tour next time!

Additional tips: If you are looking to add even more fun to your trip, try checking out Sea Lion Caves, Honeyman State Park, Heceta Head, and the Hobbit trail, all of which are nearby. Florence also has an adorable downtown area, full of cute shops and yummy restaurants.

Day Trips, Fall Activities, Outdoor Activities, Sports, Spring and Summer Activities

Eagle Landing Golf Course

Nugget is a huge fan of mini-golf. Having only gone to the courses at Bullwinkles and Oaks Park, he was ready to try something new. After checking a few websites, we decided to try out Eagle Landing with some friends. Located not too far from Clackamas Town Center, Eagle Landing has a variety of courses, including two par-3 courses, mini golf, and even a dedicated soccer golf course. We learned we did not need reservations, and therefore selected a day and time that worked well for all of us, choosing mid-morning on a week day.

When we arrived, we entered the golf shop and were able to quickly pay and get started. We were able to choose either 18 or 36 holes of mini-golf, and we chose 18. I paid the $29 total for the three of us, we grabbed putters and golf balls, and we were off!

In front of the golf shop

The kids and their friends immediately got to putting and burned through the course in a blaze of glory. I have never seen such spunky and speedy golfers! I didn’t know it was even possible to golf that fast. The other mom and I took things at a more leisurely pace. The course itself was quite pretty. Rather than typical obstacles like windmills and castles seen at many mini-golf courses, Eagle Landing incorporated plants, bridges, rocks, and flowers, creating more natural challenges. We particularly enjoyed the water traps, which involved rescuing our golf balls with small nets.

It was not too busy while we were there. While we did see a few other groups, it never felt crowded and we never had to wait. It took us less than an hour to play the 18 holes, although you could definitely take longer if you don’t play at warp speed like these guys did.

After we finished, we wandered around to check out some of the other amenities. The par 3 course nearest the mini golf looked nice. And while the soccer golf course was quite simple, it also seemed like it could be a fun way to pass part of a day. While we did not go inside the club house, it certainly looked beautiful from the outside. A small area aptly named the cave, looked like an amazing place for a corporate party or wedding reception.

What it’s not: a stereotypical mini golf course with gimmicky obstacles, a particularly challenging course

What it is: a lovely outdoor setting, reasonably priced, kid friendly, a relaxing way to spend some time with friends, fun!

Do we recommend it? Yes! Chicken and Nugget both said they preferred courses with more over the top obstacles, but I loved the more natural setting. Regardless of preference, we all had a great time!

Day Trips, Fall Activities, Outdoor Activities, Spring and Summer Activities

Oregon Coast Railriders

Well, hmm.  Our summer calendar had three consecutive days with nothing significant to do.  Can’t have that, now, can we?  After considering my mental list (ok, fine.  It’s an actual list on my phone.  I may also have a Word Doc on my Google drive.  Don’t judge.) of things I hoped we would get to do this summer, we settled on Oregon Coast Railriders.  The weather looked like it was going to be about perfect, we were all itching for some time outside, and it just sounded fun.  And as we are at the point in the summer when all the togetherness can be a bit much, we invited some friends and were thrilled when they said yes.

The idea behind Oregon Coast Railriders is very cool.  They use tracks that aren’t in service anymore and pedal these fun wheeled contraptions through beautiful scenery.  I will refer to them as carts.  I can’t describe them so here is a picture.

2019-07-23_13-07-49_923

They have a departure from Bay City and departure from Wheeler.  Honestly the description of the Wheeler terrain sounded slightly more interesting, but Bay City’s proximity to Tillamook and the love of cheese and ice cream that Chicken and I share lead us to choose the Bay City departure.  There are three departures per day from mid May through early October, and we chose the mid-day option as it seemed the most doable as a day trip from Portland.

When we arrived we were provided with basic safety rules as well as helpful tips like not letting your toddlers lick the wheels.  As the carts seat four and we were a group of six, we were asked to separate into groups of three- one adult and two children in each.  Other groups had two to four adults.  Seats were adjusted for each individual.  Nugget is on the small side for a 6-year-old, but he was able to successfully pedal if he scrunched down in his seat a bit.  Or a lot.  And then we were off!

The ride lasted just over 2 hours, travelling through forested areas, over bridges and trestles, and crossing over roads.  Our two guides used hand held stop signs to get us across roads.  One crossing even required them to lower the train crossing gates- complete with lights and sounds.  That was a huge hit with the kids.  While you do get to see rivers and creeks, do not expect ocean views along the ride.  You will get to see cow pastures and dairy farms, which the kids also enjoyed.

The ride itself was not overly strenuous.  Nugget has some serious leg muscles built up from soccer, and he was able to pedal the car all by himself, although probably not for very long.  I was with the older girls, and they did a great job.  They were all about speed at the beginning and had us on quite the regimine, counting to synchronize our pedals to make us go as fast as possible.  As a result, they were a bit tuckered out on the return trip and I needed to provide more support.  As you can see, Chicken decided to kick back and relax part way through.

2019-07-23_12-13-05_436

You depart and return on the same track.  At the halfway mark, the guides use an ingeniously simple method of turning the carts around.  There are two port-a-potties should you need to do so.   Otherwise, there are not other stops.  The carts do have cupholders and I was glad that I brought a water bottle along.

2019-07-23_13-08-21_752

Our cart with one adult and two kids was at a disadvantage in terms of speed when compared to the groups of four adults, but we held our own just fine.  I wouldn’t have turned down another set of adult legs, though.

Overall, the kids and the adults had a great time and it was a fun and unique activity.  I would estimate kids need to be at least 6 to have any hope of reaching the pedals, and probably closer to 8 to do any meaningful pedaling.  Younger kids could still enjoy the ride.

So….

What it’s not: a ride with a beach view, a motorized ride

What it is: a fun outdoor activity through a beautiful natural setting, a mild workout, about 5 minutes from the Tillamook cheese factory, reasonably priced for a novel activity

Do we recommend it?  Yes!  It was a lot of fun and we are glad we went.  Try to pick a day with nice weather (yes, I know it’s Oregon.  Just do your best) and try to finagle at least two sets of teen or adult legs.

You can check out the ride options and reserve a trip here:  https://ocrailriders.com/

Day Trips, Spring and Summer Activities

Enchanted Forest

Enchanted Forest holds a special place in my heart.  I grew up near the area and have many fond memories of going there with family and friends.  It’s just far enough from our current home to have made it difficult to go and work around everyone’s nap time, so this was the summer I finally got to introduce Enchanted Forest to my own kids.

After a lazy morning and a stop for coffee, we arrived around 10:30.  Although the park is just off I-5, it is easy to forget that fact as soon as you walk through the castle entrance.  True to its name, the entire space in nestled in the woods.  The abundance of trees creates ample shade, making it a perfect place to visit on a hot day.

2019-06-28_14-12-47_650

After purchasing our tickets at the gate, we entered through the main castle into the world of fairy tales.  Statues of characters and plaques with the nursery rhymes are set just off the main walking path.  You can also enter some of the tales, such as Hansel and Gretel’s cottage and see the witch getting ready for her nap, go through the mine belonging to the Seven Dwarves, and check out the upstairs of the three bears house in search of Goldilocks.  You can take the slide belonging to the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, visit the tipsy house belonging to the crooked man, and go through a maze just because.

After winding through fairy tale land, we found ourselves in an old Western town.  There are storefronts with amusing displays, shops, and shooting galleries.  There’s also a hidden slide Chicken and Nugget went down over and over and over and over.  And over and over again.

Just up the hill from the Western town, you will find the haunted house that my kids were too scared to go into.  Continuing past the haunted house will lead you to the fairy tale theater.  This year’s production is Little Red Riding Hood and it is hilarious.  While we watched from a small outdoor amphitheater setup, a cast of three puts on a show of the classic tale with a Brooklyn twist.  The characters and humor are over the top, with lots of pop culture references and physical humor.  There is plenty of audience interaction and there were plenty of giggling kids in the audience.  Cast members also came out to talk to the audience, shake hands, and take pictures after the show.  Nugget insisted we skip this part, primarily due to the Big Bad Wolf’s repeated mention of how much he enjoys eating small humans.  The show lasts about 15 or 20 minutes and runs several times per day, free of charge.

There is also a old English village, which is home to a costume shop, face painters, music shows, and little areas to explore.  One of the restaurants, the Jolly Inn, is home to a water show that the kids were very impressed with.  As with a lot of Enchanted Forest, children tend to see the experience through a magical filter.   As adults, we would do well to take their lead.

Enchanted Forest is also home to several rides.  There is an area for little kids rides- a small train, bumper boats, frog hopper, etc.  The big attractions are the log ride (think Splash Mountain at Disneyland but smaller), Challenge of Mondor, and an ice mountain roller coaster.  All of these rides and attractions, including the haunted house, require tickets purchased either individually or as part of a ride bracelet that are separate from park admission.

Admission and a ride bracelet can add up quickly, so we chose to buy a small number of single tickets and it was perfect for us.  Chicken and Nugget each had four tickets to use as they wanted.  They each chose to ride the carousel and to pan for gold two times.  The nice thing is, you don’t have to decide the moment you get there.  Yes, you can buy tickets/bracelets at the main entrance, but you can also purchase them at several locations around the park later on.  Unused single tickets are also refundable.

There are lots of food options throughout the park.  There are snack stands, an ice cream parlor, and small restaurants with BBQ, hamburgers, pizza, hotdogs, and the like.  Prices are reasonable for the setting.  One thing we loved was the variety of seating options.  There was more traditional restaurant seating, a lovely picnic area, and plenty of small seating areas tucked away throughout the park that are perfect for a snack break or just a rest.

Although there is a lot to do, the park is small.  I would estimate it takes about an hour to get through.  However, once you are in, you can stay as long as you would like.  We stay over five hours, visiting the fairy tale section again and again, and spending A LOT of time on the two main slides.

Interestingly,  we tend to be of the “be there early and beat the crowds” mindset.  That was not the case here.  When we arrived, there was a steady stream of people and going through the fairy tale part felt crowded and rushed.  There was a line for one of the slides that was 5 to 10 minutes long.  As the day went on however, the crowd dwindled significantly.  By the time we left, it felt as though we had the park to ourselves.  The kids were able to go down the slides and run straight back to the top to go again without waiting at all.  We went on a Friday, so I don’t know if this holds true for weekends, but a staff member did tell us that as a general rule, mornings tend to be busy and that the crowds are much lower in the afternoons.

I also have to say, the staff were exceptional.  I observed all staff to be incredibly patient and friendly with all children.  The staff member in charge of the gold panning station, who happened to be standing under the sign proclaiming only one scoop per person, told Nugget he hadn’t found enough treasure and told Nugget to scoop again. This time the staff helped, and made sure Nugget walked away with a haul.  Another staff member saw me trying to take a selfie with the kids and stopped and offered to take a picture of us together, noting “I bet you’re not in many of the pictures with them.”  Right, she was!

As we left, Chicken said “That was so fun!  We have to come back again right away!”  Nugget was in full agreement.  So was I!

So…..

What it’s not: cheap if you buy all the things, comparable to Disneyland

What it is: magical to kids (probably until age 10 or so), simple family fun, a great place to spend a hot day

Would we recommend it?  Totally!  Go it with realistic expectations, see the magic through your kids’ eyes, and have a great time!

Day Trips, Sports, Spring and Summer Activities

Providence Park Open House and Game Viewing

This week, for a variety of reasons, we have spent much more time at home than we typically do.  It was a great reminder of why we choose to stay so busy.  So when an event notice popped up on my Facebook feed indicating that there would be an open house and Timbers away game viewing party in the new section of Providence Park, it was like a life-preserver I just had to grab.

Not knowing what to expect, we donned our Timbers gear, colored Nugget’s hair, and showed up at the designated time and found a small crowd waiting to get in.  As we entered, we were offered free tickets for the T2 game following the Timbers away game.

We were directed to take the elevator to the top floor.  Upon arrival, we were allowed to sit anywhere in the Duracell Deck area (the top level of the new expanded park section).  Out on concourse, Timber Joey was there to meet people and food samples were available- Chicken couldn’t get enough of the noodles that reminded me on pancit and Nugget ate more than his fair share of hot dogs.  There were also a few vendors promoting and sampling goods.  Two concession stands were open as well as beer and wine stands with items for purchase.

The game itself was played on the giant new scoreboard as well as another video screen in the stadium.  The whole experience was very cool and laid back.  The crowd was small and mellow and definitely had a viewing party vibe as opposed to a game day vibe.

2019-06-26_15-43-33_791

I happened to snap a picture while they were advertising the T2 game, but this is the screen the game was played on.  It’s huge!

Ironically, the Timbers game started late due to inclement weather where they were playing.  Then the T2 game was delayed due to the storm here in Portland.  This pushed things out later than expected, so we decided  to head home rather than stay and watch the T2 game.  This did not make me popular with Nugget.  As a side note  the Duracell Deck area is covered and we remained completely dry.  Yay!

2019-06-26_19-01-08_640

What it’s not: even close to the energy level of a home game, engaging for kids who don’t enjoy soccer games on TV

What it is: free!, a fun way for kiddos to experience the stadium, a unique way to watch an away game

Do we recommend it?  Sure!  What’s not to enjoy about watching a game outside on a beautiful Portland day?  If the Timbers continue to host these events, we would encourage you to check one out!  And if weather cooperates, stay for the the T2 game.

 

 

Coffee Shops & Restaurants, Day Trips, Spring and Summer Activities

Unger Farms- 2019

Unger Farms is one of our go-to places when we have nothing to do on a lazy summer day.  Tucked off of one of the back roads between Hillsboro and Forest Grove, I had no idea the treasures within despite the fact that I drove by nearly every day on my communute.  A friend suggested meeting there a few summers ago, and we were immediately hooked.

Ungers Farms is a family run farm focused on berries.  You have likely seen their delicious produce at any of a variety of local farmer’s markets.  I suppose most people make the trek to the farm for the u-pick experience, but funnily enough, we have never actually done that.

So why go to a u-pick berry farm if you’re not going to pick berries?  Excellent question.  There are several great reasons!  The location is beautiful and peaceful.  The grassy area, cafe, and simple playground are what has my kiddos begging to go there nearly every week.  We usually go on weekdays, which tend to be less crowded than the weekends.

Chicken and Nugget can spend hours swinging, playing tether ball, and meeting new friends.  The fresh air and calm environment is a great place to meet friends or just spend some time sipping lemonade and watching your kids run around in a safe outdoor space.  Ungers thoughtfully maintains a basket of balls and frisbees, as well as a small stash of blankets and quilts that are perfect for picnics.

All items on their menu incorporate their berries in some way, and we have enjoyed everything we have tried.  The berry lemonades/smoothies/popsicles are a huge hit on hot days!  You can enjoy your treats at the picnic tables by the play area, or sit at one of the tables overlooking the beautiful pond.

This is a family run farm and business, not a public playground, so we make sure to show our support by buying snacks, lunch, treats, or berries each time we go.  We encourage you to do the same.

What it’s not: a public park, fully shaded (though you can chase shade on the outskirts of the play area)

What it is:  beautiful, peaceful, yummy food, a great place to enjoy a gorgeous Oregon summer day

More information can be found here:  https://www.ungerfarms.com/

Day Trips, Spring and Summer Activities

Bonneville Dam and Fish Hatchery

Chicken is a Girl Scout and I am one of the the troop’s fearless (well, fearful) leaders.  Spring has arrived and so has overnight trip season.  This time, we were headed to the Girl Scout camp outside of Stevenson, Washington.  After our weekend there, we decided to break up the drive home with stops at Bonneville Dam as well as the fish hatchery.

I remember going to both of these places as a child, but as my only clear memory was of the Herman the sturgeon, I was curious to return.  We headed to the dam first.  We arrived with enough time to sign up for a tour, go downstairs to the fish viewing area, and take a quick peek at the gift shop.

The girls really enjoyed the fish viewing area.  There are several windows and you can see the fish as they attempt to make their way up the fish ladder.  There are informational sheets available to help you figure out what kind of fish you are seeing, and there is a measuring tape at the bottom of the window should you wish to try and estimate the size of the fish that swim by.  The number of fish you will see varies with the time of year.  Also in the downstairs area is information about the natural and hatchery life cycle of the fish, history of the facility, and other educational displays.

When we headed back upstairs for the tour, we found Ranger Meg waiting for us as well as a couple of families.  She spoke for 20 minutes or so about the dam, it’s history, it’s function, and how it works.  A slide presentation gave nice visuals, and she was able to answer all questions the kids asked.  She even had a bag of props that the kids got to use to create a mock-up of how the dam works.  This part felt very targeted for kids, and I don’t know if it would be part of a tour leaning more the the adult end of the age spectrum.

We then followed Meg outside and stood by the fish ladder as she share more information about the ladder and answered even more questions from the kids.  The tour continues to the powerhouse.  The Ranger put on a microphone headset and continued providing information.  There are also display items available to look at, mostly related to the history of the plant.  The power generators happened to be turned off while we were in there, but it would have been interesting to see them in action.

As we were leaving, we happened to catch a free nature show.  The Ranger had pointed out an osprey nest that had been built on one of the towers, and we got to see the osprey defending her nest from an interested bald eagle.  “It’s like the Avengers!,” one of the girls shouted.  Not quite, but it was still pretty cool.

Free tours of the dam are available 3 times per day.  Space is limited, so you may wish to plan ahead if you have your heart set on participating in one.  There is also a Junior Ranger program if that is something your kids would be interested in.  They complete a variety of activities determined by their age that we were told take about 30 minutes.  Once complete, they get “sworn in” as official junior rangers.  We didn’t quite have time for it during our visit, but it sounded like a fun opportunity.

The hatchery is a few minutes away and is a self tour.  You get to see the hatchery outdoor tanks full of different kinds of fish at different growth stages.  The highlight was definitely feeding the trout.  For $.25 you can purchase a handful of fish food and toss it to the excited fish.  It seems that they remain excited no matter how much food gets sent their way, and the girls were excited to see the fish jostle each other for food- sometimes coming partially out of the water.  Just past the feeding pond is the sturgeon pond, where you can see fish up to 13 feet long.  If you go down the stairs towards what looks like a little white house, you can look through a window and see into the water for a view of numerous fish.  There is also a gift shop with the all important espresso bar.

Overall, the girls seemed to enjoy the experiences and the general consensus was that they preferred the hatchery.

So….

What it is: a day trip from the Portland area, free, educational, a good spot for homeschool field trips, a good spot to break up a longer drive, a good way to bring engineering to life in a fun and practical way

What it’s not: a place we would make a special trip for

Do we recommend it?  Kind of.  It’s a great spot to break up a longer drive, and we did enjoy the hatchery in particular.  While it may be a bigger hit with kids who are really into engineering or learning about fish, I don’t know that we would make the trip with this as our sole destination.

Adventure Box, Day Trips, Parks, Spring and Summer Activities, Vacations

Wildlife Safari- Winston, Oregon

Nugget got licked by a giraffe!  No, really!  I was so excited!  Him, not so much.  Turns out his obsession with, adoration of, and fascination with all things giraffes does not extend to their slobber.  You win some, you lose some.

The highlight of our spring break was their adventure box gift that included a day trip to Wildlife Safari.  We had gone a couple of summers ago and all had a blast, so this time I added a cheetah encounter and a giraffe encounter to add to the magic.  It was totally worth it!

We began by leaving the Portland area bright and early and treating the kids to hot chocolate.  That’s code for “mom’s going to need coffee if she is going to make it through this day.”  Once caffeinated and sugared up, we were really on our way.  Wildlife Safari is in Winston, Oregon, near Roseburg, about 3 hours from Portland.  But armed with musical soundtracks, coloring books, and story prompt cards, it really wasn’t that bad.  It’s just a few minutes off of I-5, making it a perfect way to break up a long road trip.

When we got there, I checked us in for both encounters, which was a quick and painless process.  Then we spent some time checking out the Children’s Zoo.  I tried to convince Chicken and Nugget that meant it was a zoo where the children were kept, but they didn’t buy it.  This area has goats, donkeys, jack rabbits, animals like that.  You can buy cups of feed for $.25 for a little added fun.   Outside of the Children’s zoo, there are flamingos, reptiles, little tiny monkeys, and a bald eagle.  There is also currently an exhibit with a baby cheetah and his puppy buddy.  Except for the feed, all of these areas are free and you can visit without entry to the driving portion of the park.  Parking is also free.  There is also the requisite gift shop (which doubles as guest services and the place where you check in for encounters), snack stand, and cafeteria.

Then it was time to head to our first encounter- the cheetahs.  We were loaded onto a school bus and driven to the cheetah area.  After unloading we were lead to a grassy field.  Staff members brought out a portion of a cheetah pelt since you aren’t allowed to actually touch the cheetah.  Another staff member gave an informational presentation about cheetah’s and the cheetah program.  Then each family was pulled aside to have their picture take with the cheetah.  You are required to give the cheetah a ten foot radius.  You can pay extra to get prints of the pictures the staff member takes, or they are happy to use your own camera or cell phone.  After everyone has their turn, there is more time for questions.  They also have the cheetah lay down for you to see and take additional pictures of before loading back on the bus and returning to the drop off point.

We enjoyed the experience.  Cheetah’s are Chicken’s favorite animals and I was able to find a Groupon for half off.  The staff were very knowledgeable.  However, I think if we had paid full price and if Chicken wasn’t so into cheetah’s we may have been a bit disappointed by the level of interaction.  The group was also much larger than I had been told the max group size was.  I don’t think it really negatively impacted the experience, but just be forewarned that can apparently happen.

After the cheetah encounter, we stopped for lunch at the cafe.  It has the typical park fare- burgers, chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, veggie burgers, and the like.  Prices are comparable to what you would expect for the type of location, and while the food was nothing to write home about, it was adequate.  Since we were there right at lunch time, the lines were pretty long.  We began to get nervous that we were not going to get the food in time for the next encounter, but it all worked out in the end.  Yay!

And off we went to the giraffe encounter.  This time we rode in a vehicle that reminded me a of a hay bale ride at the pumpkin patch.  Except instead of hay bales it has bench seats.  The driver takes you through a portion of the park, which is an added bonus.  Once we arrived where the giraffes were, the giraffes immediately saw us and headed toward the truck, clearly in hopes of a snack.  We were given information about each giraffe, Erin, Maya, and 1-year-old Sally.  And may I just say, baby giraffes are adorable.  We were instructed on how to feed the giraffes and what to do if the giraffes became overly enthusiastic in their search for snack.

We formed a line and took turns feeding the giraffes until all of the food was gone.  The giraffes were calm, friendly, and stunning.  Of course, in a moment of parenting failure, right before it was Nuggets turn, I reached to put my hand on his shoulder and accidentally scratched his neck.  It scared him and he cried, missing one of his turns.  Sigh.  But we all rallied and he was finally up.  He was wide eyed and stunned as he got his chance.  It was so adorable.  And then the giraffe licked him.  He was not impressed.  Despite all his drama, he loved it and it fulfilled a lifelong dream.

The giraffe encounter was 100% worth it.  You get extra time in the park, and couldn’t get any closer to the giraffes.  They are incredible and majestic creatures, and having interaction with them felt like a once in a lifetime moment.  We didn’t feel rushed and we would absolutely do it again the next time we go.

After a quick snack, it was time to enter the drive through portion.  The idea of Wildlife Safari is that you are enclosed and the animals roam free.  Basically this means you stay in your car and the animals wander around.  It take an hour to an hour and a half to make your way through the park.  Along the way you will see zebras, elephants, tigers, bears, turkeys, buffalos, giraffes, dear, ostriches, and many others.  It’s truly amazing.  The animals are not afraid and often come quite close to the vehicles.

Near the end of the driving loop, you have the option of buying a cup of animal feed for $5.  Should you choose to do so, you will be incredibly popular with the deer, ostriches, and other animals in the area.  We bought one cup for the kids to share, and it it kept them plenty busy and definitely felt like enough.  Beware the ostrich- they can be a bit aggressive!

All in all, it was a wonderful day.  We arrived at the park at 10 in the morning, and left around 3.  We were busy the whole time and probably could have stayed longer if we weren’t facing the drive home.

Admission to each encounter and to the driving portion is by person and can add up pretty quickly.  Luckily, Groupon regularly has deals for admission, the cheetah encounter, and the elephant encounter (which is on our to-do list for next time), dropping the cost by about half.  So always check there first!  If you are lucky, you can sometime catch an additional discount if Groupon is running a special on Local Deals.

What it is: a drive through zoo, beautiful, a unique opportunity to see animals close-up in a setting closer to their natural habitat than a zoo, fun, a perfect stop to break up the drive from northern Oregon to southern Oregon or California

What it’s not: cheap, close to the Portland area

Do we recommend it? The park itself and the giraffe encounter- whole heartedly!!  The cheetah encounter- if cheetahs are totally your thing and you have ample budget, go for it.  Otherwise, I would save your money for one of the other opportunities.

More information about the park, encounters, events, and everything else can be found here:  https://wildlifesafari.net/

 

 

Adventure Box, Day Trips, Fun Gift Ideas, Holiday, Winter Activities

Cinnamon Bear Cruise- Portland Spirit Holiday Fun

This was our fifth year doing the Cinnamon Bear Cruise. So the kids clearly like it. Each year they have opted to have tickets be their gift from their grandpa in lieu of toys, so you know it’s a hit.

So what is the Cinnamon Bear Cruise? It’s based on a radio program from before the days of TV. There is also a book you can check out from the library to give your littles some context. It’s cute, but not one of our go to stories. Even if your kids don’t know the story and the characters, there is a good chance they will enjoy the novelty of the experience.

Then there’s the cruise. It lasts about 2 hours and departs from downtown Portland. There are light snacks- fruit, scones, coffee, hot chocolate, yogurt, that kind of thing. Boarding is a simple process and is facilitated by characters in costume. You even get to take a boarding photo with Captain Taffy, which you can later purchase for $10.

There are several activities that involve characters from the story- story time with Queen Melissa, singing carols with the fairies, pictures with Crazy Quilt Dragon, learning to be a pirate with Captain Taffy, a magic show with Presto the Magician, pictures with the Cinnamon bear (a copy of which is included in the price of the cruise), etc. And it is always fun to sit sipping coffee or hot chocolate and watch the city go by. Chicken and Nugget are always excited to spot OMSI and Oaks Park. One year we even spotted Santa paddle boarding down the river!

It took Nugget a couple years to warm up the the Cinnamon Bear in vivo character. Now he is a pro. This year he put on his pirate costume, complete with pirate booty, and was ready to go. He even got character signatures just like he does at plays. Chicken is more subtle and looks forward to the magic show every year. And the melon. Always the melon.

I don’t know how much longer Chicken will want to do it- I think she is getting close to the upper age that would find it interesting. But as long as they still think it’s fun, we will keep going. It has become a family holiday tradition that we all look forward to for the whole year.

The good: fun, unique, great holiday tradition, snacks and Cinnamon Bear photo are included, the magic show is pretty funny

The not great: For a large family it can get rather expensive, certain dates can be rather crowded

The cruises usually start around Thanksgiving and run until around Christmas time. You can find more information and buy tickets on their website: http://cinnamonbearcruise.com/

2018-12-23_10-05-50_349