As we head into the last few weeks of summer break and start gearing up for the new school year, some antsy feelings can creep up in both children and adults. Many of us have seen our summer trips come and go, camps are wrapping up, stores are full of Back-To-School items. But don't let these last few weeks of freedom slip by in a whirl of school preparation! Take full advantage of our good weather, a more relaxed schedule and our beautiful surroundings. We are HUGE proponents of getting kids outside, whenever possible, both for unscheduled play time and for planned adventures in the outdoors. So, where can you go when you have some spare time and want to head outside? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
*Tualatin Hills Nature Park at 15655 SW Millikan Way, Beaverton, OR 97006. There are several miles of paths for walking, jogging, meandering. Most of the paths are paved and suitable for strollers, bikes and scooters.
*Cooper Mountain Nature Park at 18892 SW Kemmer Rd. Beaverton, OR 97007. Offering a somewhat bigger challenge than the Millikan park, Cooper Mountain is a beautiful spot to hike and explore, with amazing views. You may even get lucky and spot the resident bobcat! These trails are not suitable for bikes, strollers or scooters, so bring good walking shoes and enjoy the scenery. The trailhead has a small play structure and sand pit, as well as a few picnic tables. Visit http://www.thprd.org/ for more information.
*Jackson Bottom Wetlands at 2600 SW Hillsboro Hwy. Hillsboro, Oregon 97113. This is a great wildlife preserve to explore, with easy walking trails. Admission is free, I believe, but with a suggested donation of $2. You and your children may have the opportunity to spot all kinds of animals, from bats and butterflies, to otters and nutria. There is even the occasional elk sighting! Visit http://www.jacksonbottom.org/ for more information.
*Hoyt Arboretum at 4000 Southwest Fairview Boulevard, Portland, OR 97221-2706. With 12 miles of trails, including a one-mile trail suitable for strollers, there is a lot to explore at the arboretum. Check their website to find out what you can see on each section of the trail at different times of the year. Visit http://www.hoytarboretum.org/ for more information.
*Audubon Society at 5151 NW Cornell Rd, Portland, OR 97210. With a nature center and four miles of forested trails, there is a lot to see here. For a bigger adventure, you can access longer trails in Forest Park or even head up to Pittock Mansion. Visit http://audubonportland.org/about for more information.
Do you have time to venture farther? Try these spots:
*Champoeg State park at 7679 Champoeg Rd NE, St Paul, OR 97137. This historical area offers a nice little museum, documenting part of Oregon's history, as well as camping, disc golf and hiking/biking trails. It is an easy drive from Portland for a day's outing. They often offer classes and demonstrations of early pioneer life as well. Visit http://www.champoeg.org/ and http://www.oregonstateparks.org/ for more information.
*Willamette Mission State park in Salem, Exit 263 off I-5. This is a fun spot to explore, on foot or on bikes, and there is even a horse camp on site. The large picnic area in the filbert grove has plenty of room for little ones to run around, and you can collect filberts in the fall. There are paved and unpaved trails that wind throughout the vast park, one of which will take you to the Wheatland Ferry. Pedestrians can take the (very brief) ride across the Willamette and back again for free. In mid-late August, the trails are perfect for blackberry picking, so be sure to bring a bucket or two! Visit http://www.oregonstateparks.org/ for more information.
*A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village at 116 Marion St. NE, Salem, OR 97301. This charming, quirky, low-tech children's museum is housed in the former home of A.C. Gilbert, a fascinating inventor, magician and Olympic athlete! Gilbert is famous for inventing the Erector Set, and the outside play area of the museum features a huge wooden erector set that doubles as a play structure. Families are welcome to bring picnics to the outside area; no food is allowed inside the museum (comprised of three separate houses). The A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village is walking distance to Salem's waterfront area, complete with a footbridge over the river and a carousel. As a bonus, I believe OMSI members get into the museum for free! In fact, we purchased the A.C. Gilbert membership instead of the OMSI membership. It was $20 cheaper and got us into both places! Visit http://acgilbert.org/ for more information.
So go ahead, get on outside and enjoy our last few weeks of summer. Oregon has so much to offer, and you don't have to go far or work hard to find it!