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.

Theater

Jason and the Argonauts- Oregon Children’s Theatre

 

When I first read about Oregon Children’s Theatre’s Jason and the Argonauts play, I had reservations.  Serious ones.  When it came time to renew our subscription, I read the brief summary provided which indicated that two adult men were going to use action figures and paper boats to reenact the classic tale.  Immediately, visions of creepy guys who make you want to run a background check  playing with G.I Joes on YouTube popped into my mind.  I debated whether this was one we really needed to see.  But, Oregon Children’s Theatre has never let us down and I as I have nothing but faith in their judgement and production capabilities, I put our theater fate in their hands and bought the tickets.

This weekend, it was time to find out what we had gotten ourselves into.  When I attempted to explain the play to the kiddos, Chicken simply raised her eyebrows, gave me a skeptical look, and carried on with her business.  Apparently not my best sales pitch.  Nugget, however, was immediately on board.  “You mean they’re going to play with Star Wars toys?  Cool!!”  Not quite, I told him, but all he cared about was that he was going to see someone play with toys.  Whatever floats your boat, buddy.

We left early enough to stop and have a treat at the Starbucks near theater.  If you read this blog, you will notice a theme here.  Things always go better when mom is caffeinated. Then we headed over to check out the pre-show activities.

This time, the activity was folding paper into a boat.  At least that was the intent.  There were laminated instruction sheet with visual instructions. Apparently we fail in the visual spatial skills department and couldn’t figure it out, so we scrapped that plan and made some more than adequate paper envelopes and airplanes.  We were sufficiently pleased with ourselves.

We then settled into our seats, occupying our time with the word searches found in the program, and I continued questioning my decision to come.  The lights went down, I took a deep breath, and the show began.  And about 30 seconds in we were hooked.

This show is as far from a creepy YouTube video as you can get.  The main characters, Josh and Andy, guide us through our journey, moving flawlessly between the variety of characters they play.  As Josh and Andy, they are charming, endearing, hilarious, and I walked away kind of wanting to invite them for a play date.  They take turns playing Jason, Hercules, argonauts, princesses, kings, old men, and a range of other characters and each character is distinct due to their impressive talent.  The action figures are used to perfection, mirroring the movements of the actors and vice versa.  The toys add humor, interest, and really function as supporting cast members.

Any time the play becomes a bit intense, possibly scary for littles, or goes down the path of the classic tale long enough that the younger patrons become a bit wiggly, humor is inserted at the perfect time to re-engage even the youngest viewers.   The show was so well done, you could feel the mood shifting in the auditorium as the actors moved between characters and the tone changed.  You rarely have a perfectly silent auditorium at a children’s theater, when children honor the silent pauses that hold emotion created by the actors, but this happened several times and audience members were captivated by what was happening on stage.  A noteworthy feat.

Nugget was delighted each time Spiderman made an appearance (no, he’s not in the original version), Chicken lost it when a modified version of the theme song from Titanic was sung, Nugget cheered during the sword fights, and they both sat open mouthed when a wind machine was used to blow up an inflatable tail that was attached one of the actors in order to turn him into a monster.

The lighting is beautiful and enhanced a simple but creatively functional set.  What initially appears to be a simple wooden cart transforms into a giant paper boat, a king’s throne, and later comes apart to become two pieces of set.  A wooden box functions as a toy box, prop holder, seat, and ship anchor.

I think the recommended age of 7 and up is about right.  Nugget didn’t really follow the complete story line (his summary was “it’s two guys looking for a really cool coat”), but he laughed and can’t stop talking about how funny it was.  Chicken tends to be a pretty serious theater goer and isn’t known for having strong reactions during the actual shows, although she usually has plenty to say afterwards.  This time, I heard her laugh out loud over and over again, sometimes even throwing her head back.  It was really fun to see.  She leaned over more than once to whisper “this is so good!”  Nugget clapped enthusiastically at the end, and he is definitely not one to applaud if he does not mean it.  Then he couldn’t get out of the theater fast enough to go meet the cast.

Possibly due to having only two cast members and/or the smaller audience size (it’s held in the Winningstad which has a lower seating capacity), the actors took time to chat with each child longer than I have found is typical there.  They asked each child about their favorite part, and provided a response to the child’s answer.  They were nice when Nugget asked them each to sign his program in three specific spots (the cover, their picture, and the word search), and briefly talked Timbers with him when they noticed his Timbers gear.  One even tried to prove that his beard was real when Nugget asked why he didn’t have a beard in the advertising materials.

Overall, this was definitely our favorite show of the season so far and is for sure in the top three that we have seen there.  If you are going to take your kiddo to one show this season, take them to this one.

So…

What it is: hilarious, smart, engaging, an incredibly talented cast, a perfect length for younger viewers (about 70 minutes) but probably best for those 6 or 7 and up, creative, sassy, suspenseful, silly, a simple but effective set, a play you should definitely go see

What it’s not: a fully accessible storyline for very young children (they will likely still find it funny, though)

Do we recommend it?  A million percent yes!  Go!  Go now!

The show is running until May 19th.  Grab your tickets here:  https://www.octc.org

If you can’t make this show (but you really must try), Diary of a Worm, a Spider, and a Fly is up next.  Next season will begin in the fall, and they will be doing Dragons Love Tacos!  We are so excited!

 

Adventure Box, Coffee Shops & Restaurants

Slappy Cakes

Today we had some of the best pancakes I have ever eaten.  It was our first trip to Slappy Cakes and we are officially hooked!  For those of you who, like us, have never visited before, Slappy Cakes is an incredibly popular breakfast spot in southeast Portland.  The idea is to select a pancake batter, things to mix in, and toppings for serving.  There are nonstick griddles built into the tables and you are free to let your food creativity flow!

We chose chocolate batter and traditional buttermilk.  Chicken and Nugget talked me into chocolate chips, whipped cream, and strawberries.  How do you say no to that?!?  Examples of other options include blueberries, bacon, candied bacon, nuts, coconut, lemon curd, bananas, lavender honey, etc.

Chicken and Nugget had a blast drawing pictures with the batter, trying out different combinations, attempting to flip the pancakes, and eating the fruits of their labor.  Nugget cheered for me every time I successfully flipped a pancake, so that was an added bonus that put a little pep in my step.  We may not be pancake Picassos, but we had fun- and that seems like the point, doesn’t it? And the pancakes were seriously delicious.  I don’t know how they did it.

Like I mentioned, this place is popular.  We got there around 9:30 and were told the wait would be an hour.  Luckily they use a texting system, so we headed out to explore the area, finding and adorable hat boutique.  We wound up waiting about 30 minutes.

Once we were seated, service was incredibly quick.  Since we only ordered pancakes, they have all the batters already in bottles and the toppings already prepared, so the wait time is minimal.

If you don’t feel like going to a restaurant and still cooking your own food, they do have a traditional breakfast menu.  We didn’t try any of it, but many people around us did.  The servings were huge and it all looked really good.

Batters were about $8 a bottle, and toppings/mix ins were $2-3.  Maple syrup was available on the table for no additional charge.  The waitress said each bottle would make about 3 pancakes the size of their serving plate.  That seems about right.  Our two bottles of batter and three toppings, two of which we had refilled (which they charge for), ran about $30.  We ate it all and the three of us left full but not stuffed.  Well, Nugget was stuffed.  Chicken and I had a bit more self restraint.  You could get away with spending less, or spending quite a bit more.  Depending how many things you add in, you could wind up with some pretty pricey pancakes.  Just be mindful, and you should be fine.

Overall, Slappy Cakes was a huge hit and we will definitely be going back!

What it is: a fun, family friendly restaurant, design-your-own pancakes, delicious, interactive, a mix of communal and stand alone tables, quick service once seated

What it’s not: a short wait

Would we recommend it?  Totally!  Chicken and Nugget were trying to talk me into another visit before we even finished eating!  As they were getting ready for bed later in the evening, I heard Chicken say “Slappy Cakes was really good, wasn’t it?”  Nugget answered “Yeah.  I wish we could live there.”

More information about Slappy Cakes can be found here:  https://www.slappycakes.com/portland

 

 

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/

 

 

Theater

Legend of Rock, Paper, and Scissors- Oregon Children’s Theater

Rock, paper, scissors, shoot!  Rock, paper, scissors, shoot!  The classic game that has solved many a childhood problem, and perhaps some adulthood ones too, has become a musical!

Our trip to the theater this weekend was extra fun because we brought along one of Nugget’s friends from Kindergarten.  It was the second time this little had been to the theater (the first being a field trip earlier this school year), and it was fun to see the magic fresh through his eyes.

Both boys had been on a daily countdown for their theater date for a couple of weeks.  At home, we read the book again to get ready.  We ate dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets.  We wondered how the battles would go.  We were ready!  So, it turns out, was our little friend.  When his mom sent a picture that morning of our friend sitting on a chair staring out the window waiting for us to arrive, we kicked into high gear and got there early so we could all go for hot chocolate.

So into the car we all piled, with Chicken taking on the role of caregiver and theater expert for both boys.  She explained to our friend how it all works, asked if he would like to participate in the pre-show activities, and wondered if he would like to get his program signed after the show.  Chicken and Nugget were both thrilled when he said yes to all of the above.

Getting there so early meant we got a prime parking spot.  Yay!  We walked around the corner to the closest Starbucks and chit chatted as we enjoyed our drinks.  Then we made sure not to step on any lines on our way back to the theater- wouldn’t want to get electrocuted so close to show time!

The preshow activity for this play was a coloring and writing activity.  There were coloring sheets and fresh crayons (fresh crayons are a big deal in kid land) for each Rock, Paper, and Scissors.  There was also writing prompt paper kids could use to create their own stories.  All of the kiddos did a great job coloring and we smartly carried our papers into the theater with us. Once seated, they of course had play the Rock, Paper, Scissors game, complete with a referee for any questionable calls.  When the lights went down, the kids were so ready!

The play has a set up reminiscent of a wrestling match.  There is a narrator who introduces our heros- and frequently gets interrupted by Rock.  The narrator provides us with background information and builds the excitement for the various battles in a way that reminded me of a circus ringleader- in a good way.  The audience was encouraged to cheer for the characters and those in the front row got running high fives from some of the cast.  The boys decided to wave their papers for their favorite characters, just like waving a fan sign at a sporting event.  We were in the back row of the orchestra, so it was a great way for them to get engaged without blocking anyone else’s view.

Each main character has a battle or two with opponents from their realm, only to find themselves insufficiently challenged.  At the end, they all battle each other and find they win some and lose some, and that is okay!  It’s definitely a play with a good message.

The songs were long and a bit repetitive and the set was not at the same level of amazingness I have come to appreciate at Oregon Children’s Theater.  But I did love the incorporation of a variety of styles of music.  Each character had a style associated with them.   Rock (guess who that was for), jazzy/bluesy music for Paper, and a bit of salsa flair for Scissors.  The boys were bopping along to the rock and jazz, while Chicken was swaying in her seat to the salsa.  Scissors also incorporated a bit of Spanish, and all of the kids I had with me speak Spanish to varying degrees.  The actor playing the narrator was fun and fantastic.  Although the peach was only on stage for a few minutes, he was hilarious and full of sass- definitely one of our favorite characters.

What it it: Kid friendly, funny, including of a variety of music, engaging of the audience, based on a fun children’s book and true to that story, nonviolent despite the concept of the battles

What it is not: the best set we’ve seen at this theater

Do we recommend it:  Yes!  Especially with hot chocolate and extra especially if your child is a fan of the book

 

Welcome and About

Welcome!

Thank you for visiting!  I am new to the world of blogging, so we shall see how this goes!  I am excited about learning and sharing some of the adventures I have with Chicken and Nugget.

Chicken is my 11-year-old daughter and Nugget is my 8-year-old son.  Although if asked, they will both say they are Nugget.  While I would love to say that we go out and about on a regular basis due to my amazing organization and creativity, it’s really just a survival strategy.  We all do better when we are out doing something, learning together, and kept busy (that’s mom code for the kids fight less if we have something to do).  I started taking them places when they were pretty young, and I am lucky that they are now relatively easy to take out in public and know the behavior drill for the fun things we do.  They also know I will not hesitate to end the activity and head home if they don’t hold up their end of the deal.

Because I am a huge fan of survival, over the years we have found some favorite places and activities, and continue to seek out new adventures.  I often get asked “how do you find all these things?”  Since I don’t have a good or coherent answer, I thought I would start to share the places we go and opinions of them so that maybe you will be inspired to try something new with your kids.

My goal is to provide you with the basic info- where is it, how much does it cost, etc., as well as our perspective.  The good, the not great, if we recommend it.  As we get started, I will share things we are currently doing as well as fun activities from the past.  And yes, we go to a lot of theater.  Like, A LOT of theater. We all love a good musical!

We are doing this completely independently and do not receive any money or perks for our reviews.

All that said, thank you again for taking the time to look at our blog!  We hope hope you find inspiration for things to do with your own chickens and nuggets!

Find us on Facebook at @adventureswithchickenandnugget

-Erica