For more than 50 years, the geologists of Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals have invited the world to peruse their collections within a historic, ranch-style home in Hillsboro. But the specimens on display have been around for eons longer than that house has stood. There are cross sections of petrified wood, for instance, with a "Talking Log" exhibit to explain how wood transforms into stone over millions of years. Semi-transparent agate stones tell the tale of the planet's volcanic past with their intricately formed layers, and meteorites bear the pockmarks of their plummets to earth. A room of fluorescent stones glow neon in the dark—a remnant from the prehistoric days before cavemen discovered lava lamps.
Most of these collections are on display indoors, but the museum's outdoor grounds are also a draw. Visitors can wander along a sandstone-tiled path, exploring lush gardens filled with ferns, wildflowers, and rhododendrons. If you walk this path—whether during a spontaneous visit or during an organized event such as the summer festival—you may spot some natural wildlife, such as deer, rabbits, or hummingbirds frenetically sipping from a feeder.
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.
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.
Founded in 1946, the Portland Children’s Museum welcomes more than 300,000 kids ages 10 or younger each year through a number of interactive exhibits and educational activities. Let aspiring Becketts stage their own despairing three-act plays at the Play It Again Theater, or let them mend a puppy’s injured leg in the Pet Hospital. The Twilight Trail takes kids and adults through a mystical forest littered with puppet animals, finally ending at a face painting station, where kids can have their mugs dolled-up to look like their favorite jungle animal or least favorite member of the Canadian Parliament. Special kid-centric activities occur every day, from funky disco dancing at the theater to soothing yoga stretches with a museum educator.
Today’s Groupon lets you live out lumberjackian desires with an evening’s worth of grizzly games and grub at Museum by Moonlight at the World Forestry Center. For $4, you’ll get admission to the 21-and-over, after-hours event, taking place December 10 from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Follow @Groupon_Says on Twitter.