What’s to Love: Around 2005, the museum received a 7 million dollar renovation, and it shows! Most of the exhibits are family-friendly. The building itself is beautiful. Adults will marvel at the woodwork, hand carvings, and Cascadian-style architecture. I have to admit, I wasn’t expecting too much (in terms of family fun) when we decided to give the Forestry Center an initial visit, but I was pleasantly surprised.
There are plenty of exhibits and activities to keep the whole family interested and engaged. Right off the bat, your kids will definitely want to jump in the river raft, which literally shakes, rattles and rolls down simulated rapids. During the quick jaunt, a picture is taken of the participants, which you can buy on your way out.
For older kids, take a ride on a vertical, chairlift up to a simulated canopy. Your kids will enjoy the view of the entire museum. There is a fun, hollowed-out log for toddlers to explore, and they will love the outdoor patio in the back of the museum. Look for buttons to push while playing around the log – they play recordings of common animals sounds.
There is a giant tractor/backhoe, and kids are welcome to climb up into the cab and play with the controls. Of course, it doesn’t actually move. There are some video-game-like-exhibits where kids can play with the controls, turn knobs, jump up and down, etc. Younger kids won’t understand some of these options, but older kids will enjoy these simulations. There is so much more…please check out their website for additional information. Here is a short clip.
Caveats: The coolest exhibit in the museum (canopy chair lift) costs extra money! UPDATE: 02/26/10: Unfortunately, the “coolest exhibit” has also been closed for over a year as of this update. Even the extra money they were charging was not enough to pay to keep the ride going. Fortunately, there are still MANY fun options, and your family will still have a blast. This is still one of the better indoor educational opportunities in Portland.
Website: World Forestry Center
Distance from Portland: Within 2 miles of downtown Portland.
Recommended Ages: All ages, even toddlers will have fun walking around the museum.
Parental Stress Factor: Low stress! They designed the museum with an open floor plan with plenty of space between exhibits. Even when it’s busy, it never feels crowded. Plus, most of the traffic is headed to the Children’s Museum and/or Zoo.
Physical Difficulty: Fully accessible.
Family Fun Factor: Medium High. It’s fun and educational, but it’s certainly not Oaks Amusement Park.
Pet Friendly: No pets.
Weather Considerations: Great activity for a rainy day!
Insider Info: When considering a visit to the Zoo, Children’s Museum, or World Forestry Center, keep in mind that the Forestry Center is the least expensive option for a day visit. Also, annual family membership plans start at only $45. Here is a link to their membership information. When you buy an annual membership at any of these destinations, your parking fee is waived!
Family Tips: Don’t forget to check-out the steam train outside the museum (on the left side when you’re facing the building). The outdoor patio in the back of the museum is the perfect spot to crack out a lunch or snacks. To avoid the $2 parking fee, take the Max Train. Your kids will have fun on the train, and it’s a pretty cool ride through a long tunnel. Better yet, if you’re bike riders, take your bikes on the train to avoid a pretty long, uphill ride, and enjoy an all-downhill ride back into town.
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