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:


Holiday, Winter Activities

Oregon Zoo Lights

We do lots of things. And I jam as much holiday fun in as we can. Yet I have avoided zoo lights like the plague. We went when Chicken was probably around 1. Almost an hour just to find parking, leading to a hungry and screeching Chicken in the back seat. Freezing cold and rain. So stinking crowded you couldn’t see the lights. I was traumatized and never looked back.

Until this year. Grandpa has a zoo membership and asked if we wanted to go. Chicken and Nugget immediately accepted the invitation and I couldn’t bring myself to be the evil villain who rained on their holiday parade. I mean, that was going to happen at zoo lights anyway, right?

I am now a more experienced mom. I packed my bag full of snacks. We took the Max. I put them in their warmest coats and brought along the hats, scarves, and gloves. We were ready for zoo lights battle. I was feeling pretty good about myself and was ready to kick some butt.

We went on the very last day of zoo lights, so I was ready to deal with all the other zoo lights stragglers. Of which there were essentially none. We disembarked from the Max to find a pretty empty parking lot. There was no line to get in. No line for the zoo train. No line at the bathrooms. No line for food. There were other people, but it was in no way crowded. It didn’t rain and it wasn’t even cold. My preparation turned me into a pack mule as I lugged around the unneeded gear.

It was completely great. We got there before dark and the majority of the animals were out. We got to see several animals close up that we often struggle to find. We could see all the lights, take pictures without a bunch of people we didn’t know in them, and could move about freely as we pleased rather than being pushed along by the masses. We wound up staying about four hours, which prompted us to grab a quick bite at the AfriCafe, which we shared with about three other people. It was fantastic.

I have no idea what the difference was. Was it because it was after Christmas? Because Portland Public Schools was already back in session? Because literally everyone else in Portland had already gone? I have no clue. But we were all thrilled.

Nugget said his favorite part was the giraffes and the zoo lights train. Chicken liked just about everything.

The Good: beautiful lights, a way to mix things up at the zoo, fun holiday tradition

The Not Great: it’s a zoo, which has its own set of ethical dilemmas, it can be waaaaaaaay more crowded than it was today

Would we recommend it? On a day like today- absolutely! On a day like last time- never in a million years. The gamble is yours, my friends!