(Sophia Mick)

Oregon’s Museum Trail

Need a place to take the kids? Here’s a guide to 25 of the state’s best museums.

When the dismissal bells ring throughout the halls of Portland Public Schools on Friday, students will certainly cheer while parents may have more mixed emotions.

Yes, children are a blessing, cherish every moment, blink and you’ll miss it, family first, et cetera. But also: What do we do with these little nuggets until the end of August?

The time for setting phone alarms to register for the choice camps has passed (newbies: It was in March), so now we’re here, with whatever summer schedules we have. Did I register for enough weeks of Trackers? Is my kid still an “otter” or should he advance to the “seal”-level swim lessons? Can we set up a carpool for baseball camp? Welcome to my midnight stress spiral. (Non-breeders, are you jealous yet? I’m sure jealous of you.)

Don’t worry, families! We’ve got you. Well, please don’t drop your kid off in the newsroom. But do read this guide to museums—our first—in which Willamette Week staffers fanned out across the state of Oregon to bring you 25 reports from the educational, the cultured, and the largely air-conditioned halls of learning.

We ventured as far afield as Baker City (distance from Portland: 304 miles) to find the family education destinations that will introduce your offspring to art, science and the Whitman massacre. (It comes up a lot.) Closer to home, we perused the new Portland exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society, which opened just last week, complete with former Mayor Bud Clark’s flasher coat and Darcelle XV’s crown. And we didn’t just hit the brand-name galleries: We stopped by a museum dedicated solely to neon signs, as well as the oddball Portland Puppet Museum, tucked into a row of homes in Sellwood.

Even so, we won’t claim this is a comprehensive list, or the largest a Portland media outlet has compiled. There were some places we couldn’t reach, or learned about too late (sorry, Dufur Living History Museum, we want to see that wheat threshing someday). But we think this is the only guide in which correspondents recently visited the museums, in most cases within the past month, to deliver honest appraisals—including how long the kids will stay engaged before demanding lunch.

So let’s get out there, if not for the kiddos, then for ourselves, to pass some time, learn something, and explore the state. Education is a lifelong process.

There are 76 days until Aug. 27. Stay strong. —Rachel Saslow, Arts & Culture reporter

Oregon’s Museum Trail

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.