Nature: Riverfront Park
Riverfront Park is not wonderful in and of itself, but it acts as a sort of connective tissue between several remarkable experiences, namely the Riverfront Carousel and The Gilbert House Children’s Museum.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile on its own, though. It plays host to kayaking, fishing, and boating. It also offers a beautiful view of the Willamette River. A quaint steamer called The Willamette Queen* chugs along the river’s length and provides a memorable dining experience. A newly built bridge lets you travel from the park to the far end of Minto-Brown, forming a trail loop that runs for miles upon miles.
Kids: Riverfront Carousel
Nevertheless, Riverfront’s greatest delights are for children. The Riverfront Carousel’s horses are individually named, painted, and carved. You could spend hours picking out all the details: carved roses; freehanded illustrations of manor grounds; banners; tasteful pastels as well as sportier flashes of red and navy blue. It’s a spectacle made brief by the fluffy substance of carousels — the time we spend on them never equals the time spent crafting them — but it’s a spectacle nonetheless.
Credit: Dawn, Best of the Northwest
The Gilbert House
Credit: Anna Reed, Statesman Journal
Located near Riverfront’s parking lot, The Gilbert House will absorb your childrens’ attention for hours. Founded in 1989, it’s a museum dedicated to the art of child’s play. Instead of weighing down your kids with lectures or data, it attempts to inspire natural curiosity about the world through hands-on demonstrations and innocent fun.
In a bubble room stocked with blowers and soap, hula hoops soak in suds and wait to be lifted to make a big, bubbly cylinder. Greenscreen rooms introduce children to digital fantasy scapes. A room set up to teach about aerodynamics has tubes of pressurized air and foam noodles. Some exhibits act like gigantic dollhouses: one has life-sized plastic cows and props so that children can re-enact a farmer’s day; another uses those same replicas to learn about veterinary practices.
But the best part has to be the gigantic Erector Set in the Outside Discovery Area.
Credit: Wikpedia Entries, public domain
A tangled weave of sturdy wood and metal grilles, it’s an engineer’s take on what a treehouse can be. It’s perfect for tag, hide-and-seek, or just hanging out.
I myself explored this museum as a tot. From personal experience, I can say that The Gilbert House will make their lives wider, brighter, and better.