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!

Fall Activities, Outdoor Activities, Pumpkin Patches

Bauman’s Harvest Festival

This year two of our favorite pumpkin patches were closed, so we were on the hunt for a new place to go. Going to the pumpkin patch is one of our favorite activities of the year, so I wanted to find something good. After quite a bit of googling, note taking, and discussion (hey, nothing wrong with a little research!), we landed on Bauman’s Harvest Festival. And it was a hit! Hold on to your hats- the sheer amount of activities is resulting in quite a long post!

Bauman’s Harvest Festival is in Gervais, Oregon and was a bit over half an hour from our Portland suburb. Parking is free and rows are marked with decorated hay bale, both of which were appreciated.

After a short walk, we found ourselves at the ticket booths. There was a cash only line and a card line, and both moved fairly quickly. You have the option of a general admission ($8), which includes entry to the festival and some of the most basic activities. For $20 you can get an unlimited wristband, which allows you to do all of the activities as many times as you want. You also have the option of buying general admission and then paying for activities individually, but it seems like this wouldn’t make much financial sense in most cases. There are slight discounts for families of four or more. It is also slightly cheaper during the week, although not all activities are available on weekdays. I bought Chicken and Nugget wristbands and general admission for myself, and this worked out well for us.

Chicken and Nugget spotted the swing line as soon as we walked in and went straight to it. The swing line is a combination of a swing and a zip line- a swing is hooked to a long line and the kids ride it from one end to the other. Both kids LOVED it. Well, eventually. Nugget stood in line, made it to the top, and then came running down to watch Chicken. He wanted to make sure nothing bad happened to her before he risked it himself. Since she survived, he gave it a go. They did that ride over and over and over.

Next up was a simple hay maze, a hill to climb up with various slides down, and then apple cannons. Only Nugget did the cannon, which involved a worker putting an apple in a very long tube attached to some sort of machine. Using one had and a shoulder to try and cover his ears, Nugget pulled the trigger and sent the apple flying- way over the rows of targets he was trying to hit. He was pretty pleased with himself.

There were plenty of food options and they were reasonably priced for the setting. We first headed indoors to the main food area that had items such as baked potatoes, chili, corn dogs, hot dogs, soft pretzels, and the like. We stood in line for a few minutes before making a change in plans. This area is also home to music and entertainment, which while fun, was LOUD. Too loud for us. We went back outside and purchased apple cider slushies which were AMAZING!! We highly recommend them. Then we hopped over to the outside food vending area. Nugget got a corn dog, which was like all other corndogs. Chicken and I got street style tacos and they were surprisingly yummy! They come plain but there is a little salad-type bar where you can add toppings of your choice. We also got an order of curly fries. It was huge and even the three of us couldn’t finish it all! The fun part of this was we got to watch them use a potato spiralizer to cut fresh fries, resulting in a nice curly fry treat! There were plenty of other treats, like pumpkin donuts, ice cream, warm sodas, and even more.

With full bellies, we were off to more fun. This included a slide, a barrel train, an obstacle course, pedal carts, bouncy house, and much much more.

Once we were sufficiently worn out, we decided to go pick out our pumpkin. The pumpkin field is near the parking lot, and pumpkins are sold by weight. I did like that they had a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors of pumpkins. Chicken has a soft spot for wonky pumpkins, and she had her pick of the litter. Nugget prefers a perfectly round classic pumpkin, and there were plenty for him as well. Unfortunately, there were many, many pumpkins that had been smashed or were beginning to rot, so it took a bit of hunting to find our perfect pumpkins.

We spent about six hours there and did not do all of the activities. It is a great way to spend a beautiful fall day. We had a fantastic time and we would go back again. The only reason I may prefer other pumpkin patches, is that this festival’s activities are definitely geared toward children. Which meant a lot of parents watching their children play rather than families playing together. But sometimes there is joy in watching your littles have fun on their own, so this is not necessarily a bad thing.

What it’s not: the best place for pumpkins (at least during the part of the season we went), economical

What it is: fun, well planned, family friendly, a place you can spend the entire day, a good value but not necessarily cheap

More details can be found here: https://baumanshf.com/activities/

Outdoor Activities, Parks, Spring and Summer Activities

Dirksen Nature Park

We had heard about Dirksen Nature Park from several friends, so Nugget and I decided to go check it out one day while Chicken was at camp. We followed our trusty phone GPS and arrived at a tiny parking lot facing an empty field. I checked the address. Yep, we were at the right spot. What the heck was everyone so excited about? Then we noticed a small path and decided to follow it and see where it took us, which wound up being through a small wooded area that dumped us out in another big field.

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As I was becoming convinced my friends are crazy, I noticed people people moving around off to our left. We walked in their direction and as we turned a corner, we saw a playground! Yay!

Dirksen turned out to be pretty cool. There were some small traditional play structures with the added bonus of built in scavenger hunts that Nugget and other kids there seemed to love. There were some large logs and small stumps to play on that generally got ignored.

But there were definitely some stand out features. There were several carved and painted elements that could be used for climbing and sitting. There was also a rock area with a short rope climb and a turf area perfect for sliding on. There was a large tree stump with wall climbing grips that slightly older kids seemed to enjoy.

We did notice that there were two paved paths most people seemed to be coming from that appeared to be closely connected to civilization. So I’m guessing there are more logical places to park and my GPS was just having a little fun at my expense.

What it’s not: accessible for those with mobility issues, shaded at the time of day we were there

What it is: creative, pretty, clean bathrooms (hallelujah!), open space to play, unique

Do we recommend it? Yes! I don’t know that it will climb to the top of our list or become a family favorite, but it is a very cool park and is definitely worth checking out.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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/