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 Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (JSMA), the University of Oregon's premier art museum, tunes uninspired brain waves to fine-art frequencies with its extensive collection of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and American art. With more than 13,000 objects in its permanent collection, the JSMA allows museum visitors to delve deeply into past and present cultures from around the world. Museum members can sink sight buds into traveling exhibitions, such as Giuseppe Vasi's Rome: Lasting Impressions from the Age of the Grand Tour, which focuses on the 18th century Italian printmaker and his prophetic paintings of R&B group Boys II Men. Members can also partake in one of JSMA's educational programs. In addition to the free admission, museum members get the following benefits:
The Willamette Heritage Center at the Mill preserves slices of valley history by word and deed, keeping up 14 historic structures and filling them with historical tours and living history displays. The Jason Lee house represents the oldest building on campus, built in 1841. The structure also boasts the title of oldest surviving wooden frame house in the Pacific Northwest, and its interior sports the period appropriate furnishings right down to an iron stove and a snoring, bonneted grandmother. Nearby stands the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill, and piece of the Industrial Revolution that has survived since 1896, earning recognition as an American Treasure by the National Park Service. Workers keep the buildings clean and sound for tours and rentals, while actors keep the ground vibrant with living historical portrayals.
Brian Cameron loves Tillamook County and the Pacific Northwest so much that he's spent nearly 30 years exploring its landscapes. He shares that passionate expertise through Tillamook Eco Adventures, introducing visitors to landmarks and local industry and nature on up to five-hour guided expeditions. He leads guests on gentle hikes through backcountry forests, bayside beaches, and hidden waterfalls, and guides them on walks to nearby dairy farms, wineries, cheese factories, and breweries. To keep his roster of expeditions fresh and prevent neighborhood owls from discovering his identity, Brian sometimes partners with other eco-tour guides such as Kayak Tillamook.
Plumes of steam puff from the locomotive as it travels along the Pacific coast. A mountainside blanketed in evergreens towers above the vessel as waves pound against the boulder-strewn shore below. The nonprofit Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad serves as both a living history museum and excursion operator for the state's forested coastline. Antique locomotives that hearken back to the region's logging origins take guests on waterside excursions as a crew feeds the engines recycled motor oil and coal-flavored candies. Seasonal events bring about the railroad’s dinner trains, which treat guests to four-course meals as they gaze at the sparkling water of Tillamook and Nehalem Bays.
Taking a scenic tour aboard Mount Hood Railroad is like stepping back in time. You can almost smell the freshly picked fruit and milled wood that grows just beyond the train's windows as it rolls through the Hood River Valley—products that have been carried along the 22-mile track since the Oregon Lumber Company built the short-line railroad in 1906. Passengers turn back the clock even further during old-timey Western train-robbery trips, reliving the golden age of rail travel while helping the sheriff to foil an attempted heist.
The train's cars afford premium views of Mount Hood and Mount Adams. According to The Railroad Nation, the railroad's newly renovated 1955 Pullman club car combines historic nostalgia with such modern amenities as a sound system and dance floor, making it an ideal spot for special events or reenactments of Jesse James's signature line dance.