You’ve got the better part of three and a quarter days to feel like you’re on vacation this weekend, and we have two mini road trips in mind for you – two zoos, two aquariums, an ocean, a bay, 560 miles (minimum) and about 10 hours in the car – to go with a lot of memories! There are many ways to spend this weekend right, and for a lot of you who have been cooped up for far too long, some fresh air and bonding time might be just right.
Between Newport, Oregon, and Tacoma, Washington, there are well over 500 (going on 600) miles to travel, but you’ll have a lot of fun along the way and plenty of stops for photo ops, bathroom breaks, and the occasional local stop for eats.
First, you should know I’m not sending you out of state for anything. Current Oregon Zoo members get half-price tickets at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium – that’s a great “buy one get one half price” promotion not many people are aware of, and this one even has two count them two aquariums on the property. Keep in mind that if you plan to bring guests, they will need to pay full price even if your membership includes them. This discount is for named members on the account only. Make sure you get your tickets in advance, they are available online for all, but if you are looking for the discount, you’ll need to call the Point Defiance Zoo and get more information on applying it to your tickets.
So pack up the car, the kids, and the snacks on Saturday morning and hit the freeway. It’s supposed to be 70 and sunny in Tacoma on Saturday, so dress accordingly. If you haven’t been to Point Defiance in the past, it’s a pretty neat experience and unique compared to the Oregon Zoo. The park overlooks Commencement Bay and has free parking, which is a big bonus, and the zoo has many animals you won’t find at the Oregon Zoo. That’s not a knock on our beloved local Zoo; it’s just the truth – different Zoos often mean different animals. You’ll still see most of the furry creatures you’ve come to love visiting, but there will be others beyond that, some you may not have seen if you haven’t ventured to a Zoo outside Oregon. There are two aquariums, both with different sea creatures to behold. Neither has quite the same awesome factor of Newport’s sea tunnels, but they are neat in their own way.
After you enjoy the Zoo, hop back in the car and head over to Point Ruston for amazing views and a great open-air shopping center with lots of dining options. If you plan the drive back south correctly, you can stop by Stadium High School to see where many scenes featured in the movie “10 Things I Hate About You” were filmed, and close by is the residence of the Stratford family. If you haven’t seen the movie in a while, or your kids never have, you might be surprised to find that it’s currently streaming on Disney+, so you can always watch it Friday night, so your kids have some idea what you’re going on about (just kidding, our kids will never understand us).
When you wake up Sunday morning, the local weather will be sunny and warm (80!), so you might consider staying in town for the day, but you’ll have Monday for that. Instead, get tickets to the Oregon Aquarium online (tickets must be purchased in advance), pack up the car, the kids, and the snacks, and get back on the open road. Make sure you pack lightweight jackets and pants as the weather at the beach will be about 20 degrees cooler. Load up your favorite beach-themed songs on Spotify or iTunes and crack the windows. Head down the coastline to Newport, and check out the fully operational Aquarium. The tunnels are always a great sight for kids and adults of all ages, and their outdoor areas are great spots to learn more about your favorite land mammals that know how to swim.
After the aquarium, head over to Ripley’s Believe It Or Not for some really amazing but obscure exhibits. Tickets can be purchased online in advance but are also sold at the main entrance if you prefer. You can experience the museum on its own, or you can also wander the waxworks as well, which features lifesize wax statues of some of your favorite movie and TV characters as well as celebrities and the elusive Bigfoot.
When you complete the tour of Ripley’s, it’s time to check out some local dining options. If you think you’re done playing tourist for the day, head over to the Chowder Bowl for some on the beach classic beach seafood options, served in a funky seaside diner that looks like and feels like eating at grandma’s house.
If you are up for a little more wandering, you can head up to Lincoln City and get some shopping done at the outlets, and when you’re ready for dinner, take a very short two-minute drive to J’s Fish and Chips, which serves up similar fare to the Chowder Bowl, and is a local favorite.
When you’ve had your fill of beach eats, it is time to hit the road back home, and whoever is driving is the only one who has to stay awake – that’s the rule. We didn’t make them, and we don’t break them.
On Monday, you’ll have the chance to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country by giving their lives while protecting our freedoms. This is different from Armed Forces Day or Veterans Day. You can, of course, thank any active or veteran servicemen and women for their contributions any time you like (and are always encouraged to do so), but this day is specifically for us to give thanks and honor those who have lost their lives in combat while serving America.
After a weekend of mini road trips and memories, a day spent with your family and closest friends while honoring those who have helped protect our freedoms before you officially kick off the summer is just what the doctor ordered. While this week’s weather may have made you wonder if sunny days are really going to happen, this weekend will make you believe again.
Have a great weekend and good luck making all those memories.
Casey Mabbott is a husband and parent first, and also an experienced and dedicated writer and researcher. Born and raised in the Portland area, when Casey is not spending time with his family gallivanting around Portland and the surrounding areas, he genuinely enjoys helping people (especially families) find the “hidden gems” in the Pacific Northwest. In today’s world of lightning fast information at our fingertips, it’s truly a wonder to stumble across a place, an experience, or an activity you’ve never heard of.