We’ve got some great ideas for summer trips — when hopefully we’ll all be able to head out again. These getaways are less than a day’s drive from Portland. Take your pick of kid-friendly museums, family-friendly brewpubs, comfy hotels and superb shows.
Here are four of our favorite summer getaways, all within a few hours drive from Portland.
Thank you to the Kids ❤️ Adventure Guide sponsors!
Boy Scouts of America – Cascade Pacific Council, Columbia River Maritime Museum, Cornucopia Lodge & Pack Station, Kerr Bikes, OnPoint Community Credit Union, Seaside Visitors’ Bureau, and Willamette Sailing Club
In Astoria, you can bike or stroll the 6.4-mile Astoria Riverwalk, drinking in scenic Columbia River and city views. For lunch, pop into family-friendly Buoy Beer brewery — you might even spot sea lions lounging beneath the riverfront restaurant through a glass partition in the floor. If it rains, visit Captain Gray’s Port of Play — this Astoria Parks and Rec indoor play center features mats, trikes, scooters, slides, and room to roam for kids 10 and under. Hands-on exhibits will also keep tiny bodies (and minds) occupied.
Another great option is the Columbia River Maritime Museum where your kids can board a real ship, make a TV weather forecast, turn a ship’s wheel, and stand on a tugboat or destroyer bridge.
For a new view of Seaside, peek in on Painted Rock Beach — a secret stretch of sand just south of Seaside festooned with piles of colorful rocks artfully decorated by visitors past. Leave your own message behind and enjoy panoramic views of Tillamook Head.
If it rains, hit Funland Entertainment Center and try your luck at classic and cutting-edge arcade games, from skeeball to Dance Dance Revolution. Tucked right inside the arcade is Fultano’s Pizza, offering gourmet pizzas, pastas and sandwiches (gluten-friendly options abound!), plus an enormous, super-fresh salad bar.
Did you know that The Tillamook Cheese Factory in Tillamook, Oregon, gets more than a million visitors a year? This iconic, century-old dairy, notorious for its generous spread of free samples, recently opened the bigger, better, and fully revamped Tillamook Creamery Visitor Center. Visitors enjoy more dining and shopping space, more food options, and better cheese- and ice cream-making views. (And, yes, even more squeaky cheese samples.)
Newport, the Dungeness Crab Capital of the World, is home to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, whose dozen-plus exhibits include a seabird aviary, a giant Pacific octopus display and those famous barking sea lions. But this seaside stop also houses the West Coast’s largest commercial fishing fleet; stroll the Historic Bayfront to see the fisherpeople in action, then introduce your littles to the joys of fresh-caught fish and chips.
Seattle gets all the love, right? But here’s the deal: Sister city Tacoma is closer to Portland, significantly cheaper, way less crowded, and full of kid-friendly attractions to explore. Start at the city’s world-renowned Museum of Glass, featuring amazing works by favorite native son Dale Chihuly, like his 500-foot-long bridge of glass. This July 27, check out Glass Fest Northwest, a fun free event that celebrates PNW artists with music, hands-on activities, and glass-making demonstrations guaranteed to leave your kids googly-eyed.
Or head down to Point Defiance Park and check out Fort Nisqually, once the first European settlement on Puget Sound and now a living history museum. Volunteers in period dress are ready to take your kids’ questions at the blacksmith’s shop and down by the stockades. Nearby, drink in the views of towering Mount Rainier at Owen Beach.
You can fly a kite, rent a kayak, or even hop a ferry to Vashon Island. When it’s time to eat, hang your hat at local icon Harmon Brewing Company, and top it off with a scoop or two from Ice Cream Social, Tacoma’s answer to PDX’s Salt & Straw. Book a room at the hip Hotel Murano in downtown Tacoma and check for special family-friendly packages, like discounted museum tickets.
If you’re a Ducks fan, you already know about the mighty tailgate scene at Autzen Stadium on football Saturdays in the fall. But why fight the traffic on I-5? Come in summer instead and make a weekend of it. If you’re down to dress up, grab tickets for the Oregon Country Fair, happening Friday-Sunday, July 10-12 this year. Families are welcome at this colorful, only-in-Oregon celebration of human diversity. You can also check out the Discovery Village Playground at Skinner Butte Park all summer long, where kids can scale a mini-version of the iconic butte or dig for “fossils” in an archeology-themed sandbox.
On a rainy day, head inside to the city’s Eugene Science Center; it’s not OMSI-scale but has some fun and interactive science and technology exhibits, a special area for the smallest visitors and live star shows. Bigger kids can let it rip at the 23,000-square-foot WJ Skatepark + Urban Plaza, at Washington Jefferson Park, billed as the country’s largest covered and illuminated park; try the mini-snake run if your kid’s a novice.
Parents in the know recommend the build-your-own burritos and soft tacos at local mini-chain Burrito Boy. If the weather’s nice, visit Ninkasi Brewing Company’s The Better Living Room — a restaurant and taproom with tons of beer choices and a one-of-a-kind kids’ menu — spaetzle or croquettes, anyone? Later, swing by Vanilla Jill’s Scoops and Soups for some top-shelf ice cream. As for where to stay, check out vrbo.com or airbnb.com for a family-friendly vacation rental.
Maybe you think that bucolic Ashland, in southern Oregon, is a grown-ups only destination, given that not many kids might want to sit through Julius Caesar and Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2, no matter how stunning the setting? Think again. The home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is chock-full of kid-friendly fun, including on its legendary stages. Family Days, offered regularly on weekends May through October, feature hands-on activities and pre-performance discussions perfect for prepping theater-curious littles to actually enjoy sitting through classics like A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Afterward, stretch your legs at Lithia Park, the city’s 93-acre crown jewel, and don’t forget to sample the famously stinky Lithia mineral water from the bubbling fountain. There’s also an awesome play structure, a duck pond, and trails winding into the hills. (Pro tip: Locals tell us the sandbox at North Mountain Park in east Ashland is another winner.)
If it rains, head to ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum and check out interactive exhibits plus the Bubble Room, where visitors can stand inside a giant soap bubble. When the kids get hungry, fill ’em up with stacked sannies at Sammich, bargain-price Vietnamese pho noodle soup and spring rolls at Happy Bowl Restaurant, or the best chocolate chip cookies in town at Hither Coffee & Goods.
Bed down at the Ashland Hills Hotel & Suites, a family-friendly mid-century modern hotel located close to downtown and offering a deluxe continental breakfast. Pro tip: Be sure to snap a pic of your littles in the lobby’s groovy “Ball Chair.”