Samuel Hill was undoubtedly a visionary in his own right, but having friends in high places didn't hurt him any. In 1907 he purchased 5,300 acres along the Columbia River to establish a Quaker farming community and found the Maryhill Land Company, named after his daughter. Seven years later he set to work building a mansion on the hill overlooking the river. But then his company folded and the mansion was without purpose. Enter friend number one: Parisian dance pioneer Loïe Fuller. She advised him to transform the cavernous building into an art museum. Throughout the next several years, he filled its halls with pieces from around the world, supplemented by works from Loïe's artist friends—including Auguste Rodin. And to further demonstrate his web of camaraderie, another friend of Hill's, Queen Marie of Romania, contributed Orthodox art and icons from her homeland. In 1926, the Queen dedicated the mansion as the Maryhill Museum of Art to a crowd of more than 2,000 onlookers.
And yet the museum wasn't finished. When Hill died in 1931, the museum's board of trustees stepped in to helm the completion of the project. On May 13, 1940, on what would've been Hill's 83rd birthday, they opened the museum to the public. In the years immediately following, Hill collaborator and arts patron Alma de Bretteville Spreckels fortified the museum's already-impressive collection with works of art loaned and gifted from her own home.
Today Maryhill overlooks the same vista, plus a sculpture garden, displaying its diverse collection of art from around the world. In addition to 80 original pieces by Rodin, including The Thinker, paintings by other European and American artists, and the Théâtre de la Mode French fashion exhibition, the museum's halls display Native American works from prehistoric times to the modern age. It also caters to younger minds with an activity room filled with games and child-friendly activity guides that make art accessible to kids so that parents don't have to carve Starry Night into their grilled cheese sandwiches.
Situated on a 54-acre plot of land near the Columbia River, Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Wasco County Historical Museum chronicles thousands of years of the area?s natural and cultural history. The 48,200-square-foot facility?which received an American Institute of Architects Honor Award?features interactive and multimedia exhibits that let guests study everything from the volcanic activity and floods that created the gorge to its wildlife. Guests can stand in the shadow of a life-size, 13-foot mammoth in the Ice Age exhibit or hide from its intimidating tusks under a canvas tent modeled after the one used by Lewis and Clark.
As the official interpretive center of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic area, the center celebrates the area?s indigenous flora and fauna while working to preserve them. Five acres of indigenous plants host turtles, ducks, geese, songbirds, and other native wildlife, on which guests spy as they stroll through the nature walk. At the raptor exhibit, visitors can come face-to-beak with various birds of prey, including a bald eagle, a great horned owl, and a red-tailed hawk. The Discovery Center and Museum hosts frequent educational programs and tour groups that detail ways to protect the area?s biodiversity without having to marry a tree.
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.
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.