What’s to Love: File this under “MUST VISIT NOW!” This place is AMAZING! Even a week after the visit, our kids were still talking about it, and I’m trying to fully grasp and articulate our experience. I cannot believe we hadn’t visited these incredible museums. Out in what seems like the middle of nowhere, Portlanders have access to aviation and spaces museums that rival anything you’d see at Cape Canaveral or Washington D.C., or anywhere else for that matter. These museums are squeaky clean, full of helpful volunteers, and will literally make you just stare in awe.
Here are all our pictures in a slideshow:
The morning of our visit, my son woke-up and practically demanded that we visit The World Forestry Center. I told him, “We can do that, but what about trying a new place called The Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum?” He looked at me disapprovingly, and started to break into full whine, “But I want to go to the World Forestry Center.” Well, eventually I convinced him that he was going to be very happy with this new place. After about 50 minutes in the car, the complaining finally stopped when we saw the museums from the road. One of the buildings has a jumbo jet on the roof! There is an entire fleet of airplanes out on the front lawn.
Driving up to these museums really got us all psyched-up. I got that feeling that we were driving into Disney World, or Kennedy Space Center, or other places that bring that level of excitement. I couldn’t believe how BIG the facility was when driving in and looking around from the parking area. The Aviation and Space Museums are two separate buildings (separated by the parking area). It’s basically two OMSI-sized (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) museums on the same property, AND an additional building for the IMAX Theater. There is an outdoor playground with a nice playstructure. On top of all this, there is an incredible aquatic park right next door called “Evergreen Wings & Waves.”
Our visit started at the Aviation Museum and a tour of the Spruce Goose. The Spruce Goose has an interesting history – the GIGANTIC plane only flew 1 flight for less than two minutes. For 20+ years, a full-time crew was at-the-ready to fly the plane at any moment. Howard Hughes was an eccentric character, and it all plays out in the history of this iconic plane. Visually, it’s stunningly preserved, and the scale is almost impossible to imagine. While touring the plane is an extra fee, I think it’s worth it. We all climbed up into the plane, and my kids got to sit in the cockpit and act like pilot/co-pilot.
After the Aviation Museum, we headed over to the Space Museum, which didn’t disappoint. When you walk in, you’ll notice a catwalk about 20-30 feet up in the air, which runs the length of the building. This was perfect for kids to get a nice view of the entire museum. It’s also a great place to get some nice photos.
The Space Museum has a kid area that is a lot of fun! Sometimes, these “kid areas” are not that great, but this one is definitely worth a stop, especially if your little ones are getting a bit unruly. My kids could have spent an hour in this area alone. It was actually hard to move them along after playing there 10 – 15 minutes. Here are two short film clips of our visit. The first is of the Aviation Museum and the second clip is from the Space Museum.
Caveats: The traffic should be your biggest concern. From Portland, you’ll inevitably get stuck in some traffic winding through Dundee, OR. If you get stuck, you may need to take an unplanned diversion in wine country, which can’t be that bad, right?
Definitely worth the money; however, tickets will set a family (assuming 2 parents, 2 kids) back around $76 depending on whether or not you’ll be watching an IMAX film. If you include food, a trip to the gift shop, and gas from Portland, you’ll probably spend well over $100.
Website: Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum
Distance from Portland: 35 miles, but it will most likely take an hour (at least) to get there. Here is a map from Portland.
Recommended Ages: If you have an infant and older kids, you might want to find childcare for the baby. Infants are too young to enjoy the sights, and you’ll be tied-down by nap requirements, etc. Besides babies, Evergreen is a place for ALL ages. There is something for the entire family. This a place where toddlers, teens, and seniors will all have a great time.
Parental Stress Factor: Fairly low stress. There are many volunteers, plenty of open space, and so many things to do. We made the mistake of not giving ourselves enough time; thus, we were having to shuffle the kids along more than they probably liked.
Physical Difficulty: Mostly handicap accessible and very easy to get around the buildings. The IMAX is fully accessible.
Family Fun Factor: High! This is one of the coolest places we’ve ever visited period. Sure, it’s mainly sight seeing, but the museums are filled with every kind of flying machine you could possibly imagine. Your kids will thank you for this visit!
Pet Friendly: N/A
Weather Considerations: Any weather! This is the perfect adventure for a rainy weekend.
Insider Info: There are two options for food: Spruce Goose Cafe and Cosmos Cafe. We had some snacks at the Spruce Goose and it was good. If you’re planning on eating at the museums, I recommend the Cosmos Cafe in the Space Museum. While I didn’t eat there, the Cosmos has more options for the whole family and is closer to a sit-down restaurant.
If you want to watch the IMAX, make sure to buy it when you’re getting your museum ticket. If you buy it with your museum ticket, you’ll save 40%!
I REALLY wish we would have taken a guided tour throughout both museums. With young children, this would have been practically impossible for us. One way to make this work would be to take turns with the kids or plan a tour during the IMAX movie. If you can make it work, it’s definitely worth it. The guided tours are free, but there is a fee to tour the Spruce Goose.
The Space Museum has a nice carnival/airplane ride, which they offer at no charge! This is a nice way to end the day!
If you want to take a nice side trip, consider checking-out the Tualatin River Wildlife Refuge. It’s about 15 minutes from the Museums right outside Sherwood. It’s also a beautiful facility.
Family Tips: This is not a 1/2 day trip! You’ll need to plan your kids’ naps around a whole day visit. I know we felt a bit rushed with our time, and I feel like I need to go back soon to pick-up where I left-off. I would want to spend at least 4-6 hours at the museum (lunch break included), especially for an admission price of $18 – $20+ per person. Equal time should be spent at both museums – they are equally amazing.
If you want to save some money, bring your own food. There are some nice picnic benches outside the museums near the Chapel. You cannot bring outside food into the museums. I recommend taking a break at the outdoor playground between museums. It can be a bit overwhelming for kids (and adults!). The playground would be a nice diversion, especially around nap time.
If you have an infant or early walker, a stroller is a good idea. That way, if your toddler wants to get out and walk around, it’s easy to get him/her out of the stroller quickly.
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Horsethief Lake State Park on July 10th, 2012
Smith & Bybee Wetlands on February 22nd, 2010
Bonneville Dam on March 15th, 2011