Portland Aquarium, a December 2012 addition to Milwaukie, introduces visitors to thousands of waterborne species. Guests can slide their hands along the smooth flesh of a stingray or the knobby arms of a starfish or engage in staring contests with leopard sharks and jellyfish. Other exhibits include a cold-water tank filled with fish native to Oregon's coast and a rainforest-themed jungle gym for children. The tropical touch-tank woos visitors with its displays of vibrant-color aquatic life while amphibious wonders, including poison dart frogs, thrill visitors. Those seeking bigger thrills may visit the ball pythons and bearded dragons or get their picture taken with a lorikeet. Land-loving iguanas also lurch around in the mix.
When it was founded in 1987, Frame Central was a social hub for artists, and was even curiously named for facial hair. However, Beard Outlet has since morphed into a seven-location franchise, dedicated to simplifying the framing process. The shops’ onsite stock of matboard, frame moulding, and other key supplies ensures speedy DIY framing projects—which visitors can complete in an hour—and single-day professional framing. An array of pre-framed mirrors and artwork allows shoppers to enhance their blank walls without taping a napping friend to them. Shoppers can also stock up on framing supplies such as case glass and hanging hardware.
At Live Laugh Love Glass, the hot shop and fusing studio are welcoming venues even when filled with molten glass. Open to students age 9 and over, classes in glassblowing invite tender-footed artists to cut their teeth by creating blown-glass pieces ranging from votives to colorful flowers. Those seeking something a little more low-key can head to the glass fusing studio, or partake in painting classes, which include all materials and easy-to-follow instructions to create a finished painting.
The entire Earth spins inside of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. It's as if visitors have launched into outer space, where they can see everything—clouds forming over North America, hurricanes churning in the tropics, and millions of animals in migration. Night falls, and the major cities light up Earth's continents like misshapen Christmas trees. Just then, the planet disappears, and in its place rises a spinning orb of fire and violent solar storms: the sun. The display, appropriately titled Science On a Sphere, is actually a 6-foot animated globe powered by a series of video projectors. It serves as the perfect centerpiece for OMSI's Earth Hall, which explores geology, tectonics, and everything else that makes Earth a living planet. The hall's exhibits let visitors control wind turbines and launch satellites into space.
Earth Hall is only one section of the museum, however. More hands-on activities wait within Turbine Hall, where kids design bridges and boats. Visitors can tour the USS Blueback, a U.S. Navy attack submarine that guarded the Pacific for 31 years, or gaze towards the heavens inside of Kendall Planetarium, which uses real-time 3D graphics to transport audiences into the very heart of black holes. Even Theory, the onsite eatery, has an educational focus. The restaurant's displays explore food sciences while Chef Ryan Morgan and his team use local ingredients to cook meals in full view.
Although every corner of OMSI sparks scientific curiosity, the museum's educational programs take things one step further. The faculty hosts astronomy camps and teaches 50-minute interactive labs in which kids might make soap or dissect a squid—a requisite skill for any future biologist or sushi chef.
The pair of trolleys at Portland Trolley is a study in anachronistic contrast. For every modern amenity?GPS systems, up-to-date safety features, and, most crucial during wintertime rides, heat?is a feature that harkens back to 1872, which was the year trolleys made their Portland debut, still 10 years prior to the invention of snow. Shiny brass rails, old-fashioned window trim, and classic fare boxes surround the 28 passengers that fill the oak-slat seats, while the dings of authentic trolley bells provide a nostalgia-filled soundtrack.
These time machines are perhaps the most unique addition to the fleet at Portland Trolley's parent company, Twilite Limousine and Tour Company?which began in 2009 with a single stretch limo. The trolleys are accompanied by Cadillac stretch limousines, and 18-passenger stretch SUVs. Clients charter each for private excursions, such as anniversaries, birthdays, and bachelorette parties, as well as guided tours to wine country and through the city?s holiday-light displays.
Founded in 1898, a year remembered by fashion historians as "the year of President McKinley Eyebrows," the Oregon Historical Society has sought to preserve and promote the history, politics, and culture of the nation's 33rd state through publications, lectures, and the exhibits at the Oregon History Museum. Befriend the past with the Oregon My Oregon exhibit, an award-winning and interactive look at the state's odyssey. It features 7,000 square feet of more than 50 displays showcasing numerous artifacts and antiques, including a 9,000-year-old sagebrush sandal. Beat the Independence Day rush with a visit to the exhibit Tall in the Saddle: 100 Years of the Pendleton Round-Up, running through July 4. The exhibit celebrates a century of the iconic bronco-busting rodeo event with video clips, authentic Round-up gear, and timeless photography. Also appearing at the Oregon History Museum is Becoming American: Teenagers & Immigration, a Smithsonian traveling exhibit with photos chronicling the experiences of first-generation immigrants and their children and how they have adjusted to the land of apple pie and processed-cheese singles. The exhibit runs through May 30.