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.
Philip Foster was one of the few Americans who could say they helped establish one of the United States. As one of Oregon's earliest pioneers, Foster was instrumental in settling travelers during the mid- to late-19th Century. He helped build and operate Barlow Road, and even directed travelers into Willamette Valley by guiding covered wagons and waving a candle for landing airplanes on foggy nights. Foster's farm and home in Eagle Creek also played a major role in the area's history. Today, visitors can explore the property's house, store, barn, and outbuildings, all while soaking up historical facts from guides in period clothing. Guests can also stop by the farm for annual events, including a Dutch oven cook-off, garden parties, and other seasonal festivities.
A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village is a hands-on children's museum spread across three historical houses that reside in Riverfront Park. It is named after A.C. Gilbert, a Salem native, toy magnate, and inventor of the Erector Set. True to a life spent creating educational and scientific toys, his namesake museum provides a place for kids to interact with exhibits that encourage play and provoke thought. From a giant model of an animal cell to a faux paleontological dig full of ancient bones to musical instruments like a South American rainwheel, the museum's stations encompass a number of scientific and cultural disciplines?though little ones might only interpret each activity as fun. Furthermore, youth can heal stuffed animals in the Village Vet Room or scale a 52-foot edifice that is one of the world's largest Erector Set towers, boasting three slides and a maze.
Mariner Square delights children and adults, tourists and locals alike with a seaside getaway to three different, otherworldly attractions. Nestled on a causeway on Newport's bayfront, visitors can marvel at marine life at the Oregon Undersea Gardens, wander through a forest of lifelike celebrity sculptures at The Wax Works, or learn little-known, bizarre facts at Ripley's Believe It or Not!