If you’re a homeschool parent looking for the perfect field trips in Oregon or are simply looking for a family day trip, in this post, we share some of our favorite outings that are also educational.
As homeschoolers, we love a good field trip – they count as school days, you don’t have to prep anything (except maybe a picnic lunch), and somehow the kids seem to retain just as much, if not more, in a day at a museum or zoo than they do from hours of instruction.
I’m fully confident it’s because I’m such an awesome teacher that seeing what they’ve learned in person finally brings it all together. At least that’s what I’m gonna keep telling myself… 🤪
Over the last eight and a half years here in the Pacific Northwest, we have visited a TON of great places and wanted to share some of our favorites with you.
So, we put together a two-part series for you with plenty of ideas for your next field trip (or educational family day trip). This first part focuses on some of our favorites in Oregon and part two is all about the cool field trips we’ve experienced in Washington.
OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry)
OMSI is a budding scientist’s dream.
Want to do a science or physics experiment, but don’t want to gather all the supplies or destroy your kitchen? OMSI has you covered.
Does your kid love submarines? You can take a tour of the USS Blueback (featured in The Hunt for Red October) – or even sleep in it overnight! Learn about the galaxy in the Planetarium, watch nature documentaries on the 4-story screen in the theater, ride in a motion simulator, or teach your children about the miracle of life with Beginning the Journey (yup, we totally did that on a whim 😅).
If you want even more, they also have a Homeschool Science Club. We have not attended at this point due to scheduling conflicts, but we have heard great things. You can also check out their school & group programs(and find out if you qualify for an educator discount)here.
Whether you homeschool or not, this is a family day trip that everyone will enjoy!
Note: You can find current information and guidelines here.
If you have a kid who isn’t usually a fan of flowers or gardens, I highly suggest visiting Oregon Garden anyway. Last year, we attended the Homeschool Day (the date changes each year, but it’s typically in September) at Oregon Garden and it kept everyone entertained for the entire day. You can even bring your dog and your own picnic lunch.
There were learning stations on everything from aquatic insects to fire safety and prevention. When we had to leave, the boys were begging to stay. It was the perfect field trip.
Even if you’re not a homeschooler or can’t make it to a homeschool day, the gardens are definitely worth a visit!
Pro Tip: If you’re a local, check your library for passes.
Obviously, we couldn’t include a list of field trips (or day trips) in Oregon without including the Oregon Zoo.
It is hands-down, Garrett’s favorite place for field trips. Truth be told, any zoo is his favorite. He’s always telling us how we need to go to a particular zoo because they have certain animals on exhibit.
Needless to say, our little animal lover was STOKED when he realized he was able to see a caracal.
The zoo always has wonderful opportunities for learning. Sometimes we go and wander, sometimes we look more in-depth at a particular animal, and sometimes we are there for an event. They have tons of classes, camps, field trip opportunities, and even a summer concert series!
Pro Tip: Heading here on a busy weekend or holiday? Don’t drive! Take the MAX to the Washington Park Station and save yourself the 30 minutes of circling… Plus, show your transit ticket and you’ll get a discount on your admission!
Note: You can find admission guidelines and details here.
Bonneville Dam and Fish Hatchery
While technically the Bonneville Dam and Fish Hatchery are two separate locations, they sit right next to each other and are easy to visit on the same day.
The Bonneville Dam is run by the US Army Corps of Engineers, and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife operates the Hatchery. Check the website for tours and educational talks if you would like to include that in your visit (and we think you should!)
We joined in on a quick discussion about the history and construction of the dam, then headed down to the underwater viewing area of the fish ladder.
We were able to see the fish as they passed by, see the counts of different fish species from the prior day, and take a quick peek into the counting room. The boys were amazed to find out that someone sits in the counting room all day for their job. 😉
If you are interested in hydropower, make sure you take time to visit one of the Powerhouses. Before you leave, head up to the rooftop observation deck on the visitor’s center.
You will have excellent views of the Columbia River Gorge. (See below.) As you leave the dam, take a right and stop at the Bonneville Fish Hatchery. Take some time to look around and explore the fish ponds. The Hatchery raises Coho and Chinook salmon.
However, you can also see trout and sturgeon while you’re there. If you wish, you can take the opportunity to grab fish food and feed the trout.
Also, make sure you find Herman the Sturgeon in the Sturgeon Viewing Center. He is over 45 years old and 500 pounds!!
One of our favorite things here was heading to the fish ladder to watch the salmon as they were heading to spawn. If you’re here during spawning season (Sept-Oct) make sure to check it out!
Note: You can find the most up to date information to help you plan your visit here.
Philip Foster Farm
Pull out your calendar right now and pick a date to visit Philip Foster Farm.
Seriously… We’ll wait right here. This is one of the coolest places we’ve visited for an educational day trip in the Portland area.
Talk about bringing history to life!
When you arrive on the farm, you are transported back to Pioneer Days. We were greeted by staff and students in period clothing and the story of Philip Foster and how he came to land in Oregon was shared with us.
After a brief introduction, the children are encouraged to explore the farm. In one of the activities, they have the opportunity to load up a wagon with the supplies they would need for a journey on the Oregon Trail…only everything doesn’t fit so they have to work together to decide what to take and what to leave behind. Each item they leave has consequences ranging from things like hunger, illness, not enough food to feed their animals, etc. Some consequences are worse than others and this was a great activity for them to learn about prioritizing the essentials.
They were also able to try out different tasks such as pressing apple cider with freshly picked apples, sawing their own piece of wood, utilizing a washboard, writing their name with a quill pen, and making their own rope. There was even a blacksmith shop for the kids to observe! You can find out more details for Homeschool Days here.
Note: You can find updated information as it becomes available here.
Northwest Children’s Theater
NWCT is my favorite find for introducing children to theater and the arts. We have attended regularly over the last several years and their lineup of plays is always excellent for kids.
During normal years, they have tickets for regularly scheduled plays on weekends. However, if you’re a homeschooler or teacher, you also have the opportunity to join in on their school matinee series. The rate is generally lower and they also include a Talk-Back where they allow the children to ask questions about the show.
Their programs are engaging and entertaining for children and every single play we have attended has captured the boys’ attention from start to finish.
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Oregon Historical Society
When you’re talking local history, there’s no better place to learn about Oregon than the Oregon Historical Society.
When you visit, take time to browse the exhibits, watch the videos, and play games in the kids’ area to learn more about Oregon’s rich history. Whether you live here or are visiting, this is a great way to introduce Oregon’s origins with your kids. They even had a stage set up where you could dress up and act out a play – the boys loved that part!
Pro Tip: If you happen to live in Multnomah County, your admission is free!
Note: You can find updated information on current policies here.
Tillamook Forest Center
We had an excellent time when we headed to the Tillamook Forest Center.
Inside, you will find an interpretive center rich with details about the Tillamook Burn, forest regrowth, and sustainability.
In particular, the boys enjoy hiking to the top of the fire lookout and practicing watching for fires.
This is also an excellent place to take an outdoor hike. Behind the forest center, you have the option of several trails where you can take a short walk and find a spot to have a picnic by the river or head out on a more strenuous hike. Whatever you choose, you’re sure to enjoy it!
Note: You can find updated information on opening and guidelines here.
Columbia River Maritime Museum
If you want to learn about ship passage along the Columbia River, look no further than the Columbia River Maritime Museum.
You’ll learn what is shipped via the Columbia River Waterway, what happens when a perilous winter storm arises, and can even tour the Lightship Columbia.
They also have several educational classes and offerings that look amazing!
Note: As of August 22, 2021, masks are required for entrance. You can find up-to-date information on current policies here.
Who doesn’t love ice cream?! 😜
Visiting the Tillamook Creamery is the perfect activity for a field trip in Oregon.
You’ll have the opportunity to learn about how dairy milk is processed from the field through the factory to make cheese and ice cream. The Visitor’s Center will teach you all about how they care for the cows, collect the milk, as well as the entire process of making and packaging their products
It is a wonderful field trip that is incredibly educational.
Plus, did I mention you can get ice cream?! And cheese!
Note: Find current guidelines and updates here.
Hoyt Arboretum is located within Washington Park, which is home to many popular Portland attractions such as the Oregon Zoo.
If it’s a busy weekend or holiday, you may want to consider taking the MAX. It will drop you in Washington Park right in front of the zoo. However, if you can’t take the MAX or the walk seems too far from there, there are closer parking lots. Just keep in mind that it can fill up fast.
Hoyt Arboretum has classes and programs available. However, our favorite way to enjoy it is simply hiking the trails. There’s a large network of trails you can explore to your heart’s content with plenty of native trees, bushes, flowers, and more.
On a clear day, you may even be able to catch views of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens! You can just barely make them out in the image below.
Note: Find up-to-date hours and guidelines here.
John grew up going to Fort Stevens – biking the trails, playing hide-and-seek in the bunkers, and camping. Recently, we visited with the goal of completing a quest for our Oregon Coast Quest Book (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, it’s super cool and you should check it out here).
We spent an afternoon exploring and learning how this particular fort was utilized during World War II as well as the Civil War. While you’re there, head inside the bunkers, get up close and personal with cannons, and learn more about the Columbia River.
There are also miles of bike trails, lake access, as well as camping available within the park.
Note: You can find current info and additional details here.
Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm
This is one to put on your calendar for next Spring! Tulips are my favorite flower. I have others that I prefer the smell of, but the beauty of tulips wins for me every time.
Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm holds a Tulip Festival that typically runs from the end of March to the beginning of May. The drive out to the farm is beautiful and, in the tulip beds, you’re greeted by every variety of tulip you can imagine.
It’s a great opportunity to see the diversity of the flowers. During the festival, they also have food vendors, artists, a kids’ play area, and plenty of other activities to keep you busy.
We even got to see a Wooden Shoe Making Demonstration and the boys even got to try their hand at making shoes!
Final Thoughts about Field Trips in Oregon
That sums up a lot of our favorite field trips and day trips in Oregon! So far, that is.
Do you have any favorite field trip destinations in Oregon? We know there are many more in the area and we plan to update the list as we explore the area further, but we always love to hear suggestions from you!
You can find part two of our Educational Field Trip Series all about Field Trips in Washington here.