Daren Lewis offered this one for the Portland Oregon metro area:
OMSI: The Oregon
Museum of Science and Industry is a really great example of the modern science museum. It is located on a former PGE property and incorporates the old power plant turbine hall. OMSI has the standard fare of OMNIMAX theater, planetarium and traveling shows as well as some really fun permanat installations. The real jewel from a geekdad perspective is the retired USS Blueback, the last active
Navy diesel submarine. Tours are available regularly and there is a monthly set of two hour technical tours as well.
Side trip: The
Portland bridges. From OMSI it is a quick walk to the downtown bridges and more than once I’ve been offered tours of the towers and inner workings just for showing interest.
Washington Park, including the Oregon Zoo, Portland Children’s Museum, World Forestry Center and hiking: This is one of those something for everyone, decide when you get there kind of outings. The zoo is great and has some wonderful new installations focusing on the Northwest.
It is also worth checking out the Elephants program. The zoo has the world’s most successful Asian elephant zoo breeding program.
Side trip: The MAX
(our light rail) station platform at Washington is 260 feet below ground and is the deepest transit station in North America. A core drill sample from the surface to the station level is displayed in the station with notes on the geologic and cultural history of the region.
National Historic Site: The highlight is the reconstruction of the Hudson’s
Bay Company stockade. There is a tower redoubt, baking and blacksmithing demonstrations and occasional black powder cannon firings.
Willamette Locks at
Oregon City: River engineering is a big part of the economy in the region
(for good and ill) and the Willamette Locks are a great, close in, example of how the rivers are operated for commerce. My kids got to operate the locks under the supervision of the lock master – smiles from ear to ear. Make sure the locks are in operation before visiting. The Army Corps of Engineers operates the locks only when they have the budget to do so. If your kids like this trip consider a visit to Bonneville.
Arrival of the Jayhawks:
A few times a year the Coast Guard Jayhawk rescue helicopters come up from Air
Station Astoria to do a SAR demonstration. They always do a demonstration at the June Rose Festival Fleet Week but my favorite place to get up close and personal is the occasional open houses at Coast Guard Sector Portland. The demonstration is within about 100 feet of dock and you get a great view. At either of these events you can tour the USCGC Bluebell, our local buoy tender.
(I’m a Coast Guard Auxiliarist so I have a bias on this one). Photos here.
Top deck of the
Portland Airport parking structure: The terminal of the airport is between two of the main runways. On a clear day you can get a great view of the airport operations from the top deck of the airport parking structure. There are also great views of Mt. Hood and the Columbia River.
Out of town…
Maritime Museum: A newer facility and a great anchor for a trip to Astoria.
They have wonderful exhibits on the history, natural history and commerce of the Columbia River. As a Coastie I really enjoy the USCG lifesaving exhibits and the Lightship Columbia. Some weekends the Coast Guard cutters that dock at the adjacent dock are open for tours. Make sure to stop for fish and chips at the Bowpicker (an actual retired fishing boat) across the street from the museum.
Go, just go…. But make sure to check the tips on beach safety.
Museum : Home of the Spruce Goose. If the kids are interested aviation this is trip you must take. They have wonderful collection of aircraft from the beginning of flight to WWII war birds to an SR-71 all under the longest wingspan of any aircraft ever built, Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose.
Finally, anywhere you are…
Fly: get your kids up in a light airplane and have a look at your neighborhood and favorite places. It may cost a few hundred dollars but I think it is an invaluable experience to get a new perspective on our world.
Buy Memberships: Memberships are a totally freeing experience when you have kids. It removes all the tension of going somewhere and spending $40 on a outing that doesn’t work out. We have
OMSI and zoo memberships so we can down and spend an hour without breaking the bank. The zoo and science memberships are often reciprocal with other zoos and science museums so you can visit others for free when traveling. I often go to science museums when I have a free afternoon while traveling on business.