Winter is really dragging its feet in Oregon this year, dumping snow multiple times throughout the state and then teasing us, showing off admirable blue skies and sunshine with temperatures that chill the bones! If you are anything like my family, that itch for springtime is almost unbearable. Tired of hibernating in the dark, most Oregonians are daydreaming and aching for warmer days. Late-winter blues are common as gardeners sigh over their dusty tools, farm store employees watch their entrances with empty anticipation for visitors, outdoor sports courts are lonely or neglected, and the weather is so unpredictable that it is basically a requirement for everyone to leave the house in six different layers. Even with Valentine’s Day not all that far gone, it is still fair to say that most of us could use a generous dose of fun and love–yet that does not mean there is lots of cash to burn either. Here is a compilation of fun activities within Oregon that can largely be done for less than $20, so they are ideal for busting those blues without breaking any budgets!
Wineries, Breweries, and Ciderhouses, Oh My!
One of Oregon’s greatest assets is the wealth of creative people who are passionate about crafting a wide array of natural, unique, and outstanding beverages! Sure, a place that primarily sells alcohol might not be top of the list of family-friendly visits, but it is getting harder and harder to tell why. For example, Deschutes Brewery Tasting Room in Bend offers public tours of their factory to all ages, and Strangeland Vineyards in Dayton encourages you to bring your children and dogs to enjoy a picnic on their patio, reveling in the stunning views of the Willamette Valley. Pelican Brewery just expanded to a new location in Siletz Bay which boasts a fresh fish market and excellent dining, not to mention prime beach access! Salt Creek Cider House near Dallas is another picturesque location perfect for family picnics, orchard walks, and even a local food truck on Saturdays. Almost every craft beverage company in Oregon prides itself on a family-friendly atmosphere with fun and fare for adults and their dependents!
Browse Local Shops
Shopping is often linked with spending lots of money, but this does not have to be the case! While, of course, business owners would love you to make purchases, many smaller shop workers honestly look forward to chatting with their visitors and hearing about the products that interested them during their browsing. This is also a prime way to get the best scoop on nearby eateries or events that your family might not have known about otherwise! While my girls attended ballet class in downtown Salem, it was great to wander the local stores to pass the time. I always enjoy stopping into the Book Bin for used or new reading material and book recommendations, the Freckled Bee for adorable hand-made, hilarious baby wear and gifts, and Capitol Apothecary, among other great shops and eateries within the Reed Opera House, for ample inspiration and the classiest miniature mall experience. Remember while browsing that purchases are always optional–let your eyes, feet, mouth, and heart do more work than your wallet!
Amtrak Day Trip
When you have lived within a single city long enough, you start to feel like you have seen it all, and perhaps the idea of browsing the local shops or plodding through the library might be dull. With Amtrak’s highly reasonable ticket prices, your whole family could quickly explore a brand-new city brimming with new sights, sounds, and activities! Amtrak stations are usually situated in dense, populated areas with easy access to shopping, lodging, or restaurants. The same thing goes for museums and theaters too! All of these can typically be found within a mile walk of the station, so you don’t have to worry about leaving your car behind in your hometown. While the largest cities like Portland, Salem, and Eugene are obviously excellent choices for a wide array of commodities, do not neglect slightly smaller stops like Albany or Klamath Falls. Please note that the train trip itself is an adventure that creates free time for all, providing the ideal chance to try out that new card game abandoned on the shelf!
Safe to say your family is bored or cooped up this time of year–so are tons of other Oregonians, and they are always doing something about it! I feel like I can never recommend enough visits to community specials–which run the gamut from farm stores to auction houses to theater productions to roller derby and much more! Remember that crowded corkboard in the nearby coffeehouse? Or perhaps your caring mother-in-law frequently shares those random special events at the fire depot, police station, and even the waffle house? Give them a try! They’re usually reasonably priced (or free) and run by people who are super thrilled you chose to come. Nowadays, a lot of marketing happens through Facebook and Instagram, so following regional groups of interest or viewing calendars on county websites can cue you into awesome budget events nearby. One of my family’s favorites is grand openings for new small businesses, which often include door prizes, samples, and interesting people to meet. Let us all never underestimate those local farm stores, like EZ Orchards, which are perfect places to pick up cute plants, tasty donuts, or fresh veggies for dinner!
Blaze Those Cold and Muddy Trails
Some of you may not be brave enough to hit the trails quite yet, which is understandable. It’s chilly and muddy, but luckily the rains have come to fill out those magnificent waterfalls, and the wildlife has already started getting active again. Bundle up a bit, pull on those trusty galoshes, carefully aim for ideal windows of clear skies, and you are guaranteed to catch the squirrels scampering, birds singing, deer nibbling, and plants actively soaking up all the stray sunbeams! If you happen to visit a site requiring a day-use fee, that is typically $5 to $10 max. Oregon is a state bursting with natural life, and witnessing the transition from winter into the throws of spring is a boost of joy to the soul. Sometimes taking a mindful walk through the glory of our wilderness is just the refresher you need to make it through the last of these bleak winter days!
Michelle is a married mother of two toddler girls and a house full of pets. As a homegrown Oregonian, she enjoys spending her time on family adventures throughout the PNW to fuel her creative inspiration! Photography, crochet, freehand mandala designs, hiking, and gardening are a few of her hobbies that are highlighted on Instagram @xenonvogue. Each new day is a chance to be present and involved, so Michelle strives to live honoring the knowledge that this too shall pass.