It’s kind of ironic that to get to Pendleton from Portland, you have to head east. Because the little city along the Umatilla River that functions as a gateway to the dry side of Oregon bills itself as “The Real West.” And indeed, even if you’re not visiting during the world-famous Pendleton Round-up, Pendleton is a great place to take your little cowgirls and cowboys for a taste of the old-timey wild west.
Start at the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute, about 10 minutes outside of town, at the Umatilla Indian Reservation. The museum tells the familiar story of the pioneers on the Oregon Trail from the perspective of the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla Tribes, and includes hands-on exhibits that make plain the deep and abiding connection between the Native tribes and their lands. Next, stop off at Emigrant Springs State Park, a popular resting point along the Oregon Trail and stretch your legs on the nature trail there.
Back in Pendleton proper, kids will love the Children’s Museum of Eastern Oregon on Main Street, which has tons of educational exhibits and activities for ages 0-6, including a Lewis and Clark-themed area. You will drool over the signature wool clothing and blankets on display at Pendleton Woolen Mills, an iconic Oregon brand. Tours of the factory are available on weekdays at 9 am, 11 am, 1:30 pm and 3:30 pm.
Grumbling tummies will be well-served at Prodigal Son Brewery and Pub, the city’s first craft brewery, which has surefire kid pleasers like mac and cheese with a side of seasonal veggies and a quesadilla with greens on the menu. To sleep, check out the fantastically named NEIGH-bors bed and breakfast, which offers accommodations for horses and people alike, including a 600-square-foot apartment with a queen bed and queen futon in the living room, and a view of the property’s horses grazing in the field out your window. It’s just $105 per night (bring your own horse and you get a $20 discount.)