Our Visit to OMSI, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Those of you who have read our USA Road Trip Holiday Diaries will know that we visited the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, or OMSI as it is known, while we were in Portland. This had been recommended to us and was on our Portland Bucket List. In this post I’ms haring with you our visit to OMSI as well as some useful information should you plan a visit there yourself.Our Visit to OMSI

The day after we arrived in Portland we decided to head there. I was quite excited as I had found out they had a Pompeii Exhibition on at the time of our visit to OMSI. BattleDad is a huge fan of Roman History and we’d love to visit Pompeii at some stage so to see the exhibition was an unexpected bonus. Our only reservation for our visit to OMSI was whether BattleKid would enjoy it. We need not have worried.

OMSI was founded in 1944 and was originally located in Washington Park at the site of the Portland Children’s Museum. However, as visitor number grew, and exhibitions got bigger, a new location was found for it on the east bank of the Willamette River.

The OMSI building is huge and houses no less than 3 auditoriums, a planetarium and numerous exhibition halls. They also have a submarine exhibit in the form of USS Blueback which was used for the film The Hunt for Red October before being towed to its current location at the pier adjacent to the main OMSI building.

Exhibition halls include the Featured Hall for special touring exhibits and the Turbine hall with exhibits for engineering, physics, chemistry and space travel. There is also the Life Sciences Hall which is all about biology, and includes talks and demonstrations with live animals. The Earth Science Hall features geology-oriented exhibits with two specialised laboratories. The Planetarium holds astronomy and laser light shows. And there is the Science Playground which we spent the most time in.

We arrived shortly after 9.30am after driving from our hotel and once we’d bought our tickets for the Pompeii Exhibition (including museum admission) and planetarium tickets, we made our way to the café for a quick cuppa and bite to eat. There I had my very first peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which was quite nice.

After we had eaten, we made our way upstairs to explore the exhibitions halls. As soon as we entered this area, BattleKid made a beeline for some giant cubes and dived right in. He and I had great fun at a giant pinball machine which was designed to educate children about food groups. Although he was too young to understand these, he still had fun trying to whack the balls!

Our Visit to OMSI - BattleKid falling into soft bricks
Giants soft cubes!
Our Visit to OMSI - BattleKid playing with the food pinball machine
Fun with the pinball machine

There were exhibits about recycling and garbage, exhibits about animals where we saw a Dire Wolf skeleton and saw live animals, and my personal favourite, an exhibit about fluorescent materials. This brought me back to my science background.

Our Visit to OMSI - Fluorescent Minerals at OMSI
Fluorescent Minerals
Our Visit to OMSI - A Dire Wolf skeleton
A Dire Wolf Skeleton

Next, we moved onto the Science Playground. And BattleKid had a whale of a time in the Science Playground. This area has been designed for families with newborn to children of six years of age. Fully enclosed and designed so that children are visible and secure at all times, it encourages children to discover through play and imagination. It has various experimental stations including

  • a stimulating infant area
  • a giant sandbox
  • a water area
  • a reading area and
  • a physical sciences area.

First stop was the water area of course. Only, we hadn’t quite planned for the wet floor. We had to take BattleKid’s shoes off as we entered but forgot to take his socks off. Wet feet were the result for spending so much time having splashy fun in the water area. It also meant he couldn’t really go into the giant sandbox as his feet were still wet and I didn’t fancy trying to get sand off his feet!

Our Visit to OMSI - BattleKid having fun with the water area at omsi
Fun in the water area

Next BattleKid had fun at the physical sciences area and was playing with other children, putting balls through holes and down ramps.

Our Visit to OMSI - BattleKid playing at the physical sciences area
Fun at the ball wall

We moved into one of the rooms off the main one and he and I did a fun game with magnetic balls in a maze. I ended finishing it when he got bored!Our Visit to OMSI - BattleMum helping BattleKid with a magnetic game

As were we getting close to our 12pm time for the astronomy show in the planetarium, we had to drag BattleKid away from the Science Playground. This was the first time BattleDad had been in a planetarium and he and I enjoyed it. It was great being shown some of the star constellations we can see above our house in Portugal, although I couldn’t tell you their names, apart from the Plough now. BattleKid got a bit restless before the end but stuck it out thankfully.Our Visit to OMSI - BattleKid pretending to be an astronaut at omsi

After the stars show we made our way to the Pompeii Exhibition. They allowed entry at timed intervals, which was to allow them to show the short video at the start of the exhibition. This gave some background about Vesuvius and Pompeii and the build up to that fateful night in 79AD.

Once you had watched the video, you were let into one of the main exhibition halls which featured artefacts from Pompeii including urns, gladiator clothing and weapons, mosaics and frescoes. Between this hall and a second one, there were over 200 artefacts on loan from the Naples National Archaeological Museum.Our Visit to OMSI - One of the Pompeii displays at omsi Our Visit to OMSI - Roman vases from Pompeii at omsi

It was amazing to see how well preserved some of the items were and the level of detail in them, particularly metalworks such as jewellery and coins. After the main hall, we were led upstairs where there was another short video. However, it was advised that it was unsuitable for young children and we were allowed to skip this video and were let into the next exhibition hall by a member of staff. #

The video we didn’t see was a 4D one in which you could experience the fury of Vesuvius in an immersive theatre with vivid sights, sounds and shaking ground. I think it was very helpful of OMSI to allow families with younger children to skip this part.

The last room of the exhibition had more artefacts and also body casts of people from Pompeii. It was a sobering place, especially seeing the body casts of children. We didn’t stay long in this room with BattleKid.Our Visit to OMSI - The Pompeii Exhibition was at omsi during our visit

Before we finished our visit to OMSI we visited the gift shop which is well stocked, and BattleKid got a little space ship souvenir with his name on it for his room. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to OMSI and highly recommend it. Had we known how good the Science Playground was going to be we might have booked a later showing in the planetarium and let BattleKid enjoy it even more. I am so glad it was recommended to us and made it onto our Portland Bucket List.

Visitor information for OMSI

  • There is a large car park adjacent to the OMSI building with a charge of $5. WE were there early on a Wednesday morning in September and there was plenty of parking.
  • OMSI is served by public transport. The OMSI/SE Water Ave Station connects to the MAX, bus and Portland Streetcar lines.
  • The museum is open from 9.30 to 5.30 Tuesday to Sunday. It is closed on Mondays.
  • The café is open from 8.30 to 5.30 Sunday, Tuesday-Thursday and from 8.30 to 8.00 on Friday and Saturdays.
  • Submarine tours are from 9.50 to 4.30 and you can even do sleep overs!
  • Entry to the museum costs $14.50 for an adult and $9.75 for a child (3-13 years).
  • Entry to the submarine costs $6.75. For the Empirical Theatre, which we didn’t go to, an adult costs $7-8.50 and a child is $6-6.50. Entry to the Planetarium costs between $5.75 and $7.50.
  • The Pompeii Exhibition ended in October. To see up-and-coming events, please visit the Events page of the OMSI website.

Our Visit to OMSI

We can highly recommend visiting OMSI if you are ever in Portland, Oregon. There is plenty to see and do for children and adults alike. Children will particularly like the Science Playground, so give yourself plenty of time in there.

Cath x

*Prices are correct at the time of writing.

**We were not asked to write this review.Our Visit to OMSI

Our Visit to OMSI

Apartment in Astoria – New York AirBnB Review

Last September, the Battle Family finally visited New York for the first time. I had originally booked an apartment in Lower Manhattan via AirBnB but just two months before we were due to fly out, our host got in touch to say the booking was cancelled as they no longer had the apartment. Cue panic. We needed to secure somewhere and fast. I went back onto AirBnB and scoured ‘Book Now’ places to find us somewhere, and reasonably priced, and stumbled upon a fabulous apartment in Astoria.

apartment in astoria - review of a new york airbnbNow, Astoria wasn’t our first choice of areas to stay in. We had ideally wanted to be on Manhattan itself but with so little time before we travelled, the available apartments were silly money. I read the reviews of this apartment in Astoria and decided they were good enough for us. We booked it immediately and, although it was a little over budget, we were at least guaranteed our booking. Lesson learned. Always go for the ‘Book Now’ option, not the ‘Contact Host’ option.

We flew to New York on September 18th and although we arrived before the check in time, our host Jada allowed us to drop our bags off. She went through the building and apartment rules before we took our keys and headed straight for Times Square. I’ve written all about our New York holiday, but thought I’d let you know what our apartment in Astoria was like.


New York CityPASS

We booked a 2-bedroom apartment, mainly so that I could sleep with BattleKid as he had only just moved into a big bed. It also let me escape my husband’s snoring!

Located in Astoria on Astoria Boulevard, this modern 2 bedroom apartment will sleep up to ten people. Initial thoughts were it was a very clean, modern apartment, well decorated and would set a New Yorker back a fair few pennies to buy it!

You enter a lovely little hallway which leads into the open-plan living room, dining room and kitchen. The living room is comfortable, although only had one sofa which would seat three people. Additional people would have to use the dining chairs, although you couldn’t be spending a lot of time in the apartment. The living room also had air conditioning and cable TV.

apartment in astoria - review of a new york airbnb
The living room and kitchen – spot BattleKid

The kitchen was well equipped, with everything you’d need for a city break. There was even a kettle, which Jada said previous guests had insisted she get. We’d have been happy boiling water for our tea on the hob.

There are two bedrooms in this apartment in Astoria. The main bedroom had a queen size bed with a sofa beside it. We made this up as a bed and pushed it beside the queen bed for BattleKid. The main bedroom had a small built in wardrobe and gorgeous floor to ceiling windows which lead to a balcony. You could see the Manhattan skyline from the balcony.

apartment in astoria - review of a new york airbnb
Two bedrooms and a lovely bathroom

The second bedroom had not one, not two, but three queen beds, with an additional queen air bed in the huge walk-in wardrobe. The three beds were configured in a bunk-bed type style and I’d never come across anything like it before, but was brilliant. This bedroom also had floor to ceiling windows and a balcony on which to view the Manhattan skyline.

The bathroom was modern and had a huge shower. There was also a cupboard with a washing machine and dryer, handy if staying longer than a few days. You also have access to a lovely roof terrace for viewing the Manhattan skyline!

The apartment in Astoria was also well located near an underground station with a direct line to Times Square. That ride takes less than 20 minutes. There are bars, shops and diners nearby for food and drinks, and plenty of take-aways around which will deliver to your door via apps such as Seamless or Yelp Eat 24. My personal favourite was the Starbucks on the corner of Astoria Boulevard and 21st Street.

As for our host, Jada, she was lovely. She was very welcoming and accommodating. As we’d arrived early, as mentioned, she let us drop our bags off and collect the keys before we headed to Times Square. When we got back she had kindly put our bags in a wardrobe and hung up our coats! When one fire alarm kept beeping all night (the battery was going), causing BattleKid and I to take solace in BattleDad’s room, she responded to my message very quickly and helped us sort it out. Jada was a lovely host.

Overall, the apartment in Astoria turned out to be the perfect location for us. Getting to and from JFK airport was easy via Uber, and was less than a 30-minute ride. With a terrorist attack which occurred in Jersey the day before we arrived, we were happier staying outside of Manhattan. Although not completely child-friendly in terms of some glass tables, the AirBnB apartment in Astoria was brilliant for us and I’d highly recommend it should Jada list it again as available.*

Our stay cost us £213 per night. This is quite expensive but as we were let down so close to our trip, it was the least costly option short of staying in a hotel room. And hotel rooms are not an option for us. They are a last resort for us or booked out of necessity! Here’s a tour of our apartment in Astoria.

As an area to stay when visiting New York, I’d never considered Astoria but would definitely stay there again as its location for both Manhattan and JFK airport was ideal.

Have you visited New York, and if so, are there other areas we should consider for our next visit?

And if you are planning a visit to New York with your kids, why not check out my post about 5 Things to Do in New York with a Toddler in Tow and the Manhattan Top 10 with Kids by Our Globetrotters. And if they don’t convince you to visit New York, then check out the amazing pictures in Sorry About the Mess’ Winter in New York post.

Cath x

*The listing for this apartment is no longer on AirBnB at the time of writing this review.

**I was not asked to write this review.

To remain fully transparent, this post contains two affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking through the link I will receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps support my blog. Thank you.

apartment in astoria - review of a new york airbnb apartment in astoria - review of a new york airbnb


New York CityPASS

Our Visit to Oregon Zoo – Review and Tips

While we were in Portland at the end of our USA road trip holiday, we were kindly given complimentary entry to Oregon Zoo in order to review it. During our research on things to do in Portland with kids, a visit to Oregon Zoo came highly recommended so we were thrilled to be invited to review the zoo during our trip. We arrived in smoky Portland on the Tuesday afternoon and had decided to do our visit to Oregon Zoo on the Thursday. So, after breakfast in our hotel, we drove along I-26 from Hillsboro, where we were staying, to Oregon Zoo, which is in Washington Park. It was easy to get to and there was plenty of parking, despite what I had read online.Our visit to Oregon Zoo - blog post header

We arrived before their opening time of 9.30am to collect our tickets and the gates opened just as I exited reception. As you enter the zoo initially you pass through the Entry Plaza where there is the main gift shop, a restaurant and where you can get your photo taken. our visit to oregon zoo - entry ticketsWe decided to go clockwise around the zoo and the first area we visited was the Great NorthWest. Boy, were we blown away by this zone. Set among the trees and forest, this area is simply stunning and houses animals and birds that can be found across the Great North West of the North American Continent. Many of these we wouldn’t have seen in other zoos we have visited.our visit to oregon zoo - Great Northwest Zone of Oregon Zoo our visit to oregon zoo - Great Northwest Zone of Oregon Zoo

It was absolutely beautiful among the trees and waterfall, almost peaceful. We saw gorgeous Black Bears, beautiful Bobcats and the symbol of North America, the Bald Eagles. These are majestic looking birds and an easily recognisable bird.our visit to oregon zoo - black bears From there, we carried on and saw River Otters that were very playful and BattleKid was quite taken by them. We didn’t manage to spot any beavers, I think they were hiding on us. Next up were the Cougars and BattleDad absolutely loved these cats. There were two that we could see and they were beautiful creatures.our visit to oregon zoo - playful otters our visit to oregon zoo - Cougars in Oregon Zoo

From the cougars, we passed by the Petting Farm where we saw a few goats but the gates were locked so we couldn’t go in and pet them. It was a shame as I am quite fond of goats and always enjoy meeting them like at the Small Breeds Farm in Kington.

Just passed the farm and barn is the Carousel. Having been on one in Missoula just a few days before, BattleKid was most definitely not going to let us pass this without at least one ride. So I joined him. We were very lucky as the lady had just opened the carousel at 10.30am so along with one other boy, we were first on.

After our ride, we continued our visit to Oregon Zoo by visiting Nora, the Polar Bear. She was in a very playful mood, sticking her head into an orange bin. We were very lucky to see her as we later discovered she was being moved to a zoo in Utah the following week to be paired up with a male polar bear.our visit to oregon zoo - Nora the Polar Bear

Next, we visited the Primate Forest before going to see the Lions and my personal favourite, the Cheetahs, in the Predators of the Serengeti area. We also came across an animal we had never heard of, let alone seen before; the Caracals. These medium-sized cats are native to Africa, the Middle East and parts of Central Asia and were beautiful looking creatures. BattleKid also had great fun at the meerkats!

our visit to oregon zoo - BattleKid pretending to be a lion
RAWR

our visit to oregon zoo - my favourites, the cheetahs

After the Predators of the Serengeti, we walked past the rhinos and hippos and BattleKid was fascinated by the hippos as they were making a lot of noise! Off Rainforest Plaza, we saw the giraffes, which we always enjoy, before we decided to stop for some refreshments at the Coffee Crossing in the Discovery Zone. The price for a tea, coffee, 1 cake, 1 cookie and some crisps (or chips as they are called in the USA) was only $14, which I think is reasonable.our visit to oregon zoo - Giraffes

We enjoyed our pit stop and afterwards, BattleKid had fun in the playground next to the café, even making friends with a little girl. It was good to let him stretch his legs and burn off some energy after the mammoth hours and miles he had just done in the car.our visit to oregon zoo - discovery Zone palytime

While we were enjoying a break, BattleKid also spotted the zoo train. Before we went on the train we finished off visiting the rest of the animals which included BattleKid’s favourites, the penguins, and the seals which seemed to be playing with BattleKid at the glass. They would swim away, turn back, swim directly towards him and turn at the last minute. He found this all very funny.our visit to oregon zoo - Laughing at the Penguins our visit to oregon zoo - Seals playing with BattleKid

Satisfied we had seen everything we wanted to during our visit to Oregon Zoo, it was time to take the train, or Spencer as BattleKid called him (from Thomas the Tank Engine). The train meanders through parts of the zoo including the Great Northwest and the Elephants Lands, which we had visited after our ride on the carousel. It was a lovely way to end our visit to Oregon Zoo.

our visit to oregon zoo - waiting for the zoo train
Patiently awaiting “Spencer”
our visit to oregon zoo - BattleKid wearing an explorers hat
Our little explorer

As we passed through Entry Plaza on our way out, we stopped by the gift shop to buy a magnet (something we always do on our travels) and got BattleKid a small toy. Overall, we absolutely loved our visit to Oregon Zoo. It was a great way to spend some time together as a family outside of the car. Dare I say it, BattleDad and I think Oregon Zoo tops even Chester Zoo which has been our firm favourite since our visit last year!

Facts about Oregon Zoo

  • Oregon Zoo was formerly known as the Washington Park Zoo, mainly due to its location.
  • It is set among 64 acres and houses no less than 1955 animals from 232 species.
  • Founded in 1888, it is the oldest North America zoo west of the Mississippi.
  • It’s exhibits include the African Rainforest, Savannah and Predators of the Serengeti, as well as Elephant Lands, Amazon Flooded Forest, Bears, Condors of the Columbia and the Great Northwest (our favourite).
  • Oregon Zoo has species survival plans for 21 endangered or threatened species and has successful breeding programs for the California Condors, Asian Elephants and African Lions. 

Things we discovered during our visit to Oregon Zoo for you to consider if visiting the zoo

  • The zoo opens daily in peak season from 9.30am to typically 5.30pm. During off peak season, the zoo closes at 4.30pm.
  • Oregon Zoo is not as big as some we’ve been to but there are plenty of areas and zones to explore so a stroller/buggy would be advisable for young kids.
  • There is a zoo train and carousel (additional costs for these). We went on both and enjoyed them, although the train more so than the carousel.
  • Oregon Zoo has 4 main restaurants/cafes, serving drinks and food which varies from snacks and cakes to full meals. As mentioned we had two hot drinks, a cake, cookie and crisps/chips and the total was $14, which was reasonable compared to other zoos we have visited. There are also smaller drinks huts around, mainly during the summer and on busy weekend.
  • Picnic areas are available.
  • There is a big gift shop at the entrance.
  • Toilets are dotted all over the zoo. We were actually surprised by how many, certainly more than some other zoos I won’t mention.
  • Information signs are really good and animal signs are informative. For kids, there is a zoo key available from the admissions kiosks which unlock secrets of the zoo, costing $2.50. We didn’t get one but they would be brilliant for older kids.
  • There are a few play areas around the zoo and we tried two of them at the primate area and discovery zone. BattleKid enjoyed both.
  • Parking is available beside the Zoo and Children’s Museum and is payable. It costs $1.60 per hour or a maximum of $4 in off peak season and $6.40 during peak season. We arrived at 9.20am on a Thursday morning after the summer and there was plenty of parking but I’ve heard it gets very busy during the summer so arrive early!
  • Baby changing facilities are available around the zoo.
  • The zoo is fully accessible and wheelchairs, strollers/buggies and electric scooters are available for hire.

Oregon Zoo prices**:

March 1st to September 30th:       Ad £14.95            Child £9.95

October 1st to February 28th:        Ad £9.95               Child £4.95

Child prices are for children aged between 3 and 11 years of age. Children aged 2 and under are free. There are discounts available for senior citizens (65 and over) and military personnel. Discounts may also be available, check the Oregon Zoo website for details. Tickets are available for purchase online.

our visit to oregon zoo - facebook post

 

I am so glad we had the opportunity to visit Oregon Zoo. We were especially blown away by the Great Northwest zone and had the chance to see many animals we wouldn’t normally see in European zoos. Oregon Zoo is easily doable in one day and children of any ages will thoroughly enjoy it. I highly recommend you visit it if visiting Portland.

Cath x

*We were kindly given complimentary entry to Oregon Zoo for the purpose of this review. However, as always, these are my own honest thought and opinions.

**Prices correct at the time of writing this post.

our visit to oregon zoo - pinterest pin our visit to oregon zoo - twitter post

Portland to Yellowstone and Back Again – A Two-week Itinerary

Many of you who read the blog and follow us on Instagram will know we have just returned from an epic two-week USA road trip in which we went from Portland to Yellowstone and back again. It was 11 months in the planning, from Portland to Yellowstone, and came around rather quickly after we moved to Portugal. Before we knew it, we were getting ready to go.

I have so much to write up about our trip. From amazingly beautiful Yellowstone, to smoky Montana, to hip and trendy Portland, we packed in a lot over our two weeks. I’ve had some people ask me about our itinerary so I thought I should get cracking with it. So, in the first of a few (ok, maybe many) posts about our wonderful trip, here is what our itinerary for our two-week trip looks like from Portland to Yellowstone and back again, with 36 hours in London.

portland to yellowstone

Portugal to London – Thursday, 1000 miles, 2 hours 30 minutes

When we booked our flights to Portland from Heathrow last October, we were still well and truly living in Wales. Delta Airways had just opened their new (and the only) direct route from Heathrow to Portland, in association with Virgin Atlantic. This made a huge difference to how our trip was going to work out. When we had previously looked into the trip, we would have had at least one, if not two stop-overs. With a toddler in tow, this would not have been ideal. But a direct flight most definitely was.

That said, once we moved to Portugal, we needed to book flights to and from the UK to connect with our Portland flight. The only airline flying to Heathrow from Faro around the weekend of our trip was British Airways. We flew to Heathrow on the Thursday evening (there were no other flights before our Portland one), two days before our flight to Portland. This flight was just under two and a half hours. Following this, we had 36 hours in London and we had a great day in London. More on that to come.

portland to yellowstone - kid on luggage in airport
Starting our epic trip

London to Portland – Saturday, 4897 miles, 10 hours

Our flight from Heathrow to Portland with Delta Airways left London at 12.30pm and was scheduled to be 10 hours 55 minutes, arriving at 3.15pm local time. We actually arrived ahead of schedule at 2.30pm. This is the longest flight we have done with our son to date and it was us adults who were getting bored long before he was.

Portland, Oregon to Richland, Washington – Saturday, 227 miles, 3 hours

Our first destination on our road trip was going to be Yellowstone but to drive there in one trip would have involved between 762 and 829 miles, and a minimum of 12 to 13 hours driving, without stops, depending on the route we decided to take. You can either go over the top of the Nez Perce Clearwater National Forest or around the bottom of the Sawtooth National Forest. We had a look on Google Maps and saw nice roads around the Nez Perce route, so opted for that.

But with our son in tow, we decided to break up the driving by stopping at a town called Richland, in Washington state, for an overnight stay before driving the rest of the way to Island Park close to Yellowstone. So, after picking up our Hertz car for the two-weeks, hubby drove us to Richland via I-84 and the very beautiful Columbia Gorge Creek.

Richland, Washington to Island Park, Idaho – Sunday, 607 miles, 12 hours

From Richland we made our way to our AirBnB accommodation in Island Park, Idaho, located 30 minutes from the West Yellowstone entrance. We had looked into staying within Yellowstone itself but this proved to be outside our budget.

Leaving our hotel at 6am, our route took us along some stunning scenery past Coeur D’Alene, along I-90, until we turned off onto US-287. From there we met up with I-20, just south of West Yellowstone and it was a short hop to Island Park where our log cabin was located. This was a long haul and we stopped four times along the way, twice to fill up with gas (as the Americans would say), once to stretch our legs, and once in Missoula for lunch. It took us a total of 12 hours to drive the 607 miles. Our drive from Santander to Tavira, when we moved to Portugal, was good practice for this trip.

Yellowstone – Sunday evening to Friday morning

We spent 5 nights in our AirBnB wood cabin and toured Yellowstone National Park over four days. Although we didn’t get to see absolutely everything, we came away from our visit thoroughly content with what we did see. Our son did not complain once during the trip, as you have a lot of driving around the park to do. We got to see some stunning natural wonders along with quite a few of the animal inhabitants of Yellowstone. I cannot recommend Yellowstone National Park enough.

my sunday photo - gibbon falls in yellowstone national park
Gibbon Falls, Yellowstone National Park

Island Park, Idaho to Lolo, Montana – Friday, 280 miles, 4 hours 30 minutes

Leaving our AirBnB accommodation in Island Park at 9.30am, we took I-20 to US-287. We stopped once to fill up and use the toilet and, taking I-90, we arrived at Missoula, Montana, the main town beside Lolo at 2pm. Since we arrived early and before our check-in time for our next AirBnb, we stopped for lunch at a great Five Guys in Missoula.

This drive back was not as clear as the drive towards Island Park. We later discovered that a lot of Montana’s forests were on fire and the smoke we drove through was pretty awful, reducing visibility quite a bit.

Lolo and Missoula, Montana – Friday evening to Monday morning

We spent 3 nights in Lolo, the next town over from Missoula. Our plans were to visit Lolo National Forest while we were there but unfortunately those plans went by the wayside as there were wild fires across Lolo National Forest, along with many of the other forests in Montana. So, instead, we discovered some other delights close to Lolo like the National Bison Range, the Garden of 1000 Buddhas, and Missoula town itself.

portland to yellowstone - smoky skies in Montana
The incredible smoky skies in Montana

Lolo, Montana to Richland, Washington – Monday, 350 miles, 6 hours

As we made our way back towards Portland, we had another overnight stay in Richland planned. Leaving our AirBnB accommodation in Lolo by 9.30am, we travelled back along I-90, through 350 miles of smoke haze, which had various degrees of visbility, until we arrived in Richland at 4pm, local time. We had crossed a time zone when we left Montana.

We filled up just once on this trip and stopped once for lunch in a town called Spokane. I drove the first 230 miles, while hubby did the last 120 miles. We passed Coeur D’Alene again but could barely see this beautiful lake due to the smoke haze.

Richland, Washington to Portland, Oregon – Tuesday, 227 miles, 5 hours 30 minutes

We left our hotel in Richland at 9.30am but didn’t arrive at our accommodation in Portland until 3pm. The reason for this was the forest around Multnomah Falls and along the Columbia Gorge Creek had gone up in flames on the Sunday, and as a result, I-84 was closed. This meant we were diverted around Mount Hood, adding a couple of hours onto our journey.

Our intent was to visit Multnomah Falls on our way to Portland as I really wanted to photograph it, but that never happened. We filled up once on this trip and stopped for lunch off Highway 35 for lunch. Our final long leg of driving had come to an end.

Portland, Oregon – Tuesday afternoon to Saturday afternoon

We spent four nights in Portland and thoroughly enjoyed our break from driving. We visited a few places where our son could relax and enjoy himself like Oregon Zoo and the Children’s Museum. It was nice to have a chance to relax after an epic 11 days, 3000 miles and 60+ hours in the car. We did a little shopping, ate good food and got ourselves ready for our return trip to Portugal via London.

portland to yellowstone - trendy Portland building right out of Grimm
Hip and trendy Portland

Portland, Oregon to London Heathrow – Saturday, 4914 miles, 8 hours 42 minutes

As always, on the return trip from America, we had a good tailwind, so our original flight time of 9 hours 55 minutes was a lot quicker and we got to Heathrow ahead of schedule. I managed a few hours’ sleep, along with our son, but hubby never manages more than a few minutes on planes. It was a pretty uneventful flight.

London to Portugal – Sunday, 1000 miles, 2 hours 15 minutes

We had a few hours to kill in Heathrow between flights, so once we got rid of our bags we had lunch and did a little shopping before our flight to Faro was called. Unfortunately, we were delayed by almost 2 hours as they couldn’t get a passenger with a broken leg off the aircraft. Not what we wanted at the end of our holiday, all we wanted was to get home to our beds.

portland to yellowstone

So, there you have it, our full itinerary for our recent USA road trip from Portugal to London, to Portland to Yellowstone, and back again. We covered a lot of miles, both in the car and by plane, and we’d do it all again. That said, if we were to do it all again, the only thing we would change would be the time of year we go.

Due to wild fires in many of the forests in the Pacific North West, we didn’t get to visit Lolo National Park or Multnomah Falls. We also drove through 600 miles of smoke haze from Montana all the way to Portland and had it until our very last day in Portland itself. We’d perhaps choose to go earlier in the summer before it gets hot, and dry, enough for wild fires. Other than that, we wouldn’t change a thing.

Have you done an epic road trip similar to this? I’d love to hear all about it!

Cath x

portland to yellowstone portland to yellowstone

Our Visit to Portland – Planning Part 2 of Our USA Road Trip

As part of our epic USA road trip this year, we are taking in the wonderful city of Portland. It might seem like an unusual city to some but BattleDad and I have wanted to make a visit to Portland ever since we started watching the TV series Grimm. It always looked very chic and like it could be a cool place to visit. I’ve written about our wish to visit Portland and we’re finally doing it. But planning our visit to Portland has been no meant feat I can tell you.

visit to portland
Portland by Night – Picture Source

Oregon is also somewhere I have wanted to visit to see autumn colours. While most people will visit Maine or New England to see autumn colours, Oregon is also somewhere to visit for this time of year. We may or may not see much in the way of autumn colours as we are visiting at the very start of September but you never know.

Our USA road trip starts in Portland but we don’t stop there. Firstly, we head to a place called Richland for an overnight stay before we spend a whole day driving to start part one of our trip: our visit to Yellowstone. After exploring Yellowstone for a few days, we make our way to Missoula for 3 days before heading back to Richland via part of the Dalles Shamrock Route. After another overnight stay, we head to our final destination of our USA road trip, Portland. There we will have 4 days to take in part of Route 101, the Pacific Coast Highway as well as discover and explore Portland and the surrounding areas.

Once again, I turned to the travel Facebook Groups I am a member of and asked for peoples advice on what to see and do in Portland, particularly with a 3 year old in tow. And boy did they come up trumps.

Recommendations for Our Visit to Portland

Portland Children’s Museum – This museum is dedicated to children and is located in Washington Park, near the Oregon Zoo. It is the 6th oldest children’s museum in the world. The Portland Children’s Museum is not a typical museum, opting to spend time investing in familiar materials to craft priceless opportunities for children to learn through play, rather than in precious objects. The exhibitions, workshops and objects on display are designed to be fun and bring about both creative and cooperative play in children. Reading some review on TripAdvisor, it seems it is designed with younger children in mind, which is perfect to us. So, I think a visit to this Children’s Museum is high on our list of things to do during our visit to Portland.

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry – This museum is one of America’s leading science centres and is a big attraction in Portland. Their mission is to Inspire curiosity through engaging science learning experiences, foster experimentation and the exchange of ideas, and stimulate informed action.  I have a feeling the Orgeon Museum of Science and Industry is going to be a lot like Techniquest, which I’ve brought BattleKid to, and will be enjoyed by both him and us adults. Another one for the to do list during our visit to Portland, particularly since they currently have a Pompeii Exhibition taking place.

Oregon Zoo – Also located in Washington Park near the Children’s Museum, this 64-acre zoo boasts nearly 2000 animals and over 200 species, and is also the oldest North America zoo west of the Mississippi. Exhibits include African Rainforest, African Savannah, Predators of the Serengeti, Amazon Flooded Forest and Condors of Columbia, to name but a few. I think no visit to Portland with a toddler in tow would be complete without adding the Oregon Zoo to your to do list. And it is most definitely on ours. With it being located beside both the Children’s Museum and the Hoyt Arboretum (see below) and with a light rail link to the Portland Japanese Gardens (see below), I think we’ll combine a visit to the zoo with these other attractions too.

Portland Japanese Gardens – Another attraction situated in Washington Park, these traditional Japanese gardens occupy 9 acres and is composed of eight garden spaces and a cultural village. With waterfalls, ponds, bonsai gardens and traditional plants, I think this is going to be a lovely place to visit for some quiet time after a hectic few weeks. As it is located at the opposite end to the Oregon Zoo and Children’s Museum we might make the Portland Japanese Garden our last stop during our visit to Washington Park. And I am secretly hoping some acers have vibrant leaves for me to photograph.

International Rose Test Garden – Another Portland attraction located in Washington Park, this garden is located near the Japanese Gardens. Occupying 4.5 acres, these gardens come into their own between April and October with different species in bloom at different times. The International Rose Test Garden has over 7000 plants of approximately 550 species. Who knew there were that many species of rose plants! If we get time we will pop in for a look after the Japanese Gardens and, if we do, I’ll be sniffing them to my heart’s content.

Hoyt Arboretum – Also located in Washington Park, this 189-acre arboretum hosts approximately 6000 individual trees and over 2000 species of shrub from around the world. Hoyt Arboretum boats 12 miles of trails, two of which are wheelchairs accessible, a visitor’s centre, indoor classroom, a picnic shelter and meadow. Although recommended as somewhere we should go during our visit to Portland, I am not sure if we will manage to squeeze this in.

Parks – As well as Washington Park, two other parks were suggested as somewhere we might like to visit. They were Forest Park and Mount Tabor Park. Forest Park is located in the west of Portland, while Mount Tabor Park, a dormant volcanic vent, is located in Southeast Portland. Again, I am not sure if we’ll have to time to visit these two parks during our visit to Portland.

Multnomah Falls – A waterfall located on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls is one highlight I am not going to miss, come rain or shine. When we started thinking about visiting Portland many years ago, these falls were something I stumbled across and that was it, we had to go. From pictures I’ve seen they look spectacular. They are also located only 35 minutes’ drive from where we are staying in Portland.

visit to Portland
Multnomah Falls – Picture Source

Other Recommendations for Our Visit to Portland

Eateries – These have included places for the best donuts which include Voodoo Doughnuts and Blue Star Donuts. For great coffee (BattleDad, not me) we have been recommended a place called Stumptown Coffee Roasters. For BattleKid, the best ice cream place recommended to us was Salt and Straw Ice Cream near to a good shopping area. That’s me sorted! For breakfast, I stumbled across as place called Slappy Cakes, a place where you make your very own pancakes on a griddle at your table. It’s then up to you what you have with it. Only a 20-minute drive from our Portland accommodation, I think we’ll be having breakfast there! And for all-round good food, we’ve been recommended a place called Mother’s Bistro and Bar but have been told to get there early! This is always a good sign so that might be a good place for dinner.

Powell’s City of Books – The world’s largest independent book store, they have a very good children’s section and are located in Downtown Portland. I think we might find a nice book or two in there for BattleKid and plan to combine a trip there with some general shopping.

Resources Recommended for Our Visit to Portland

Two websites were recommended to me for our visit to Portland and I’ve found them both very helpful so far.

Cascadia Kids – A blog dedicated to travel with kids in the British Columbia, Oregon and Washington States of Canada and America, respectively, this has given me some very useful information. One particular post I enjoyed and gave me inspiration was Portland in a Day: 12 hours of fun. Through reading this post I discovered just how much of our Portland wish-list was located in Washington Park and in what order we might want to consider doing them.

Redtri – Another blog dedicated to inspiring parents to do fun things with their kids and they have a section on Portland. They have posts with days out ideas as well as a calendar of events on for families. I haven’t consulted this website too much but may do so closer to the time.

If I thought the Yellowstone leg of our USA road-trip was going to be jam-packed, Portland looks just as bad. As mentioned we want to take one day to drive part of Highway 101, the Pacific Coast Highway so it only really leaves us two and a half days to do things in and around Portland. I also want to do a bit of shopping and visit the Disney store to see if I can pick up one or two things in preparation for our visit to Disneyland Paris in December, and I might even get a few things exclusive to the states.

So, our visit to Portland is going to be busy. I mentioned all these great things to my mum and she said, “Are you going to have any part of the holiday that is just a holiday?”. I saw her point, and thankfully we haven’t planned anything to do during our few days in Missoula and Lolo, so I think that will be the real holiday part of our USA road-trip.

To summaries, our Portland Bucket List looks a bit like this.our visit to portland

Whether we get it all done remains to be see but we’ll definitely do our best to pack in as much as possible.

Cath x

our visit to portland our visit to portland