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.
As strange as it may sound, at Cougar Mountain Zoo, you just might be greeted by a big cat purring. Cougars are among the largest cats capable of true purring, and Cougar Mountain Zoo boasts a distinct subspecies of these overgrown felines, which prowl all over the zoo's award-winning World of Cougars exhibit.
Next to the mountain lions dwell their distant cousins, Bengal tigers, who sprawl out on the green grass or press their noses up to a thick wall of glass separating visitors from the wild animals. Other residents of the zoo include a barrel of endangered lemurs from Madagascar, a crowd of fluffy alpacas, and the country's largest herd of reindeer, who star in the annual Reindeer Festival and deliver presents to all the other animals.
The zoo also boasts a collection of bronze animal statues, a library of wildlife tracks, and a museum that explores not only the world of wildlife, but also the threats they face from human incursion.
Museum Quality Framing’s staff encases cherished photos, artwork, and three-dimensional objects in materials ranging from polished wood to leather. Ready-made photo frames ($10+) clasp snapshots in a wood-and-glass embrace, protecting them from wrinkles, stains, and the scratchy nuzzles of sentimental lumberjacks. Lackluster walls can find colorful companionship in preframed artwork and a vehicle for deep self-reflection in mirrors ($100+). Ensconce valuables in custom framing packages ($69.99+), which can accommodate sports memorabilia, or preserve fine art with archival mats and backing boards. Handcrafted frames add a Renaissance flair to photos, utilizing materials such as 22-karat gold leaf to create one-of-a-kind frames.
The Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum celebrates the thrill and wonder of hydroplane racing, and its the only museum of its kind in the United States. Along with historical books, race programs, trophies, and photos from the last century, its collection of hydroplanes from the past 70 years tells the story of the watery sport. The staff has brought seven famous Gold Cup and Harmsworth winners back to their fully operational states, and will even take members out on the water in one of their historical vessels for a Ride of a Lifetime.
Offering a glimpse back in time, they boast than 200 hours of racing footage dating back to the 1940s and share stories of legendary drivers including Mira Slovak and "Wild" Bill Cantrell, who was famous for solving crimes with the help of his artificially intelligent hydroplane.
However, the museum isn't just about the past. A lineup of regular events invites folks to show off their powerboats and hot rods to fellow enthusiasts, and races bring the excitement of the sport to the present day as boats cut through the waves vying for titles.
When Josh Lawrence joined his father and uncle to work the land the Lawrence family had farmed for nearly a half-century, he wanted the fruits of his labor to be tasted in a glass. So they began Lawrence Vineyards in 2003 with just one block of vines and a single garden gnome for security in the sunny Frenchman Hills bearing the family's name. From there, the planting and production flourished, and today more than a dozen varieties of grapes populate nearly 125 acres of land. For the Lawrences, Gård Vintners was the natural next step, and a host of award-winning wines followed. Today, they invite visitors into their two tasting rooms to sample a variety of wines, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Riesling, and refreshing Rosé with notes of strawberry jam and fresh herbs. Guests may also purchase bottles of their favorite varietal or enjoy glasses of Gard Vintners wine at restaurants throughout the area.