The Rice Northwestern Museum of Rocks & Minerals may only be 17 years old, but its residents have been around for a couple million years. And while you won’t find any pet rocks at this museum, you will find one of the best and largest collections of rocks and minerals in the nation. Located about 20-minutes outside of downtown Portland, in Hillsboro, the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks & Minerals features all kinds of Earthly artifacts, from real life meteorites to glow-in-the-dark fluorescent rocks. You’ll be amazed at how easily a museum of rocks will hold your child’s attention…and your own.
When to Go
The museum is open limited days and hours, so be sure to make plans to visit, rather than just drop by. Despite being open to the public in the afternoons only, you can get a group of 10 together and make an appointment for a tour, which they hold in the mornings. Be sure to keep an eye on the website’s calendar and Facebook page as well. If you make your trip on a Saturday, be sure to catch their guided tour which starts at 2:00 pm. This 90 minute tour is a great way to have the expert rock hounds teach your little diggers a thing or two about what they can find in their own backyard.
It will take a solid 20-minutes to get to Hillsboro from Portland, depending on where you live, but it’s pretty much a straight shot on the Northwest Sunset Highway/Highway 26. There are signs along the way as you get closer.
What to Bring
You won’t need much for your visit to the Rice NW Museum, so just pack the usuals for an afternoon out. The facility is large enough to use a stroller, if you’re bringing a little one along. If it’s raining out (because that does happen in Portland every now and again…), and your kids want to explore the grounds or dig in the rock pile in the back for their own precious gem, pack rain coats and boots and an extra set of clothes for in the car.
What to See
Do we have to pick a favorite? Because there are so many exhibits at the Rice Museum that will rock your socks off. If we had to pick our top three for kids, the fluorescent rock exhibit will probably top the list, because glowing rocks are very impressive. The petrified wood gallery is also very cool and it’s likely that you’ll blow your kids’ minds when you tell them that these gorgeous things that look like rocks were actually once trees. And, the meteorite gallery is also in the top three at the Rice Northwest Museum for obvious reasons…they’re space rocks! Don’t miss the rock pile in the back, where you can pick your own rock and see if it’s actually a gem.
Where to Eat
If the weather is nice, bring lunches and a picnic blanket and enjoy eating on the gorgeous lawn. There is also a picnic table you can use. Or, head into Hillsboro, where there are countless family-friendly chain restaurants, such as Noodles and Company (7216 Northeast Cornell Road, Hillsboro) or Burgerville USA (2401 Northeast Cornell Road, Hillsboro).
Admission for adults is $8; children ages 5-17 are $6 and ages four and under are free.
Good to Know
Interestingly enough, even the building itself is a gem – the ranch house, which was built in 1952, was recently listed on the National Historic Registry, so you can double up at the museum – a lesson in rocks and minerals, and a lesson in architecture. That rocks!
Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks & Minerals
26385 Northwest Groveland Drive
Hours: Wednesday – Sunday from 1:00pm – 5:00pm
— Katie Kavulla
photo courtesy of Stag Beetle Power (thanks Laura for the awesome photo!) & Rice NW Museum of Rocks and Minerals facebook page