What Should We Do This Year?

Oona Baker - Portland
January 24, 2012

The blank slate of 2012 is before us, and many families have a schedule waiting to be overtaken with sports practices, camping trips, or an abundance of play dates and preschool co-op days. It's easy to overlook the simple but special places and events in our city. With a mindful commitment to spending more moments savoring your family, it's a perfect time to pause and plan small outings that are full of laughter, learning, and discovering the nooks and crannies of the Northwest. Whether you prefer to picnic among the park blocks tourist style, or splash in a fountain with four friends tagging along, Portland offers a never-ending opportunity for family adventure. We've done the legwork for you, so pack up a simple lunch and explore the city, or hop in the car and visit the shoreline that is waiting a mere hour or so away. Fill up your year with some of these excursions, and you can stow snapshots of quality family time into the memory books.

Feed your mind (and your family)

Living in an area rich with an abundance of seasonal produce, it's easy to make a move, small or large, to buying locally sourced foods. You don't necessarily have to switch over your whole grocery basket, but there are tons of little ways to implement healthy changes, and make it a family excursion. Visit the PSU Farmer's Market on a bustling Saturday morning and gather some wild mushrooms for a cooking experiment. Boogie to some local bands or let your junior chef test out their culinary skills at a market cooking class. The PSU market opens March 17, 2012, but check for a year-round farmer's market in your neighborhood to bring the farm directly to your table. Not quite ready to host a flock of chickens in your backyard? Visit Zenger Farm and join the Eastside Egg Coop to spend some time with feathered friends and bring the freshest yolks possible to your breakfast table. Also check out their beekeeping classes or family cooking workshops.

One berry, two berry, pick me a blueberry

One of the most amazing natural resources in the Portland metro area is the little island in the city: Sauvie Island. Hitch your bikes to the roof rack, pick a favorite kite to climb the sky, or pile up some buckets for a riverside mud pie. The island has tons of U-Pick farms with room to roam. Savvy tip: call ahead to see which crops are ready for picking and make sure to buy a permit from one of the grocery stores on the island. For more outdoor activity: consider a canoe or kayak trip or a quiet bird-watching excursion. You can even get to the island by bus!

Act like you own the beach

Most Portlanders know that the summertime at the beach can be jam packed with sun-starved people, but the best time to take in the seaside can be when the weather is at its foulest. Reserve a beach house in the off-season to save big and have the wind-swept coastline all to yourself. Maybe you'll be the lucky one to find a glass beach float?  How about riding a riverfront trolley or imagining where the Goonies roamed in Astoria. Or maybe you'll have the most fun cozying up inside having a board game marathon while the weather outside is frightful.

Play tourist in your own town

Search out the city highlights of Portland, visitor-style. Take advantage of a last minute hotel bargain and spend the night downtown. Peruse the aisles at Powells for a few hours, wander through an exhibit at the Portland Art Museum (look for stunning Rothko and Greek/Roman sculpture exhibitions this year), or snap some silly family pictures at the Ace Hotel photo booth. Why not tour the city by pedi-cab or get a bird's eye view via tram? Collapse for a while at a midday movie at the Mission Theater (parents can get their local brew on while the kids munch on pizza) or splash in a fountain for a break from the summer heat. Savvy tip: Hit Director's Park in late afternoon to avoid the crowds and bring some shades, it's bright!)

Eat your brunch on a bridge

We're usually busy telling children to stay out of the street, but this unique element of the Portland Bridge Festival encourages families to bring a picnic breakfast and plunk themselves down in the middle of the Hawthorne bridge. Closed to vehicles, it's a perfect change of pace when the busy crossing is reinvented as a grassy park, complete with picnic tables and croquet.

Put a bird on it

Celebrate all the things that keep Portland weird by embracing the quirky offerings of our fair city. The summertime is packed with wacky fests and neighborhood fairs. Geek out with some retro science fiction at an evening of Trek in the Park, or watch some eccentric cycling fun at the Cirque du Cycling. Bust out your trikes, bike trailers, and scooters for a safe way to travel the streets during Sunday Parkways. Keep your eyes open during your travels and you just might catch a glimpse of Carrie and Fred filming Portlandia.

Stay busy in any season

Why not teach little ones important survival skills and get close to nature with a NW Trackers camp? Spend some time getting loud at the School of Rock or hook up the whole family and climb a wall. Visit SCRAP in Northeast Portland and gather some materials to make enchanted scenery, or buy some vintage costumes by the pound) for a theatrical production that will get rave reviews. Take a Mommy and Me dance class and tap your heart out or learn to refashion wood scraps from the Rebuilding Center into a family heirloom, together.

Lions and tigers, and roses of all varieties

Visit Washington Park for a few hours or spend a whole day marveling at the foliage in any season. (For older kids, read the mystical locally set novel Wildwood first and watch the story's secret world comes alive.) Sniff hundreds of blooms at the Rose Garden, enjoy an outdoor theater production, or get Zen at the Japanese Garden. Let your wild things run wild at the Children's Playground and then hop on the train and travel straight to the zoo. Commune with the birds and the beasts (Look for special animal enrichment programs in conjunction with most holidays, there's nothing quite like watching a bear unwrap a treat!) or watch a concert on the lawn. Savvy tip: Snap up these tickets as soon as they're available, summer shows sell out amazingly fast.

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