It’s the most wonderful time of the year—the sun is out, the flowers are in bloom and gas prices have yet to reach their mid-summer spike. So why not pile in the car for a scenic road trip outside of Portland? These three beautiful, kid-friendly spots offer everything from beaches and parks to museums and trails—and they’re all less than two hours driving time from downtown Portland.

Road Trip #2: Hood River

Driving time from Portland: One hour

Already beloved among windsurfers, agri-tourists and lovers of beer and wine, Hood River also offers an abundance of activities for kids of all ages. Whether you time your visit to coincide with the Hood River County Fair (July 27-30, 2016) or are simply in search of a scenic escape, this intersection of the Cascades and the Columbia River Gorge is an epicenter of outdoor recreation.

Begin your visit at Hood River Waterfront Park, a six-acre expanse with a sandy beach, a tranquil swimming cove, a playground, a climbing wall and picnic areas on the banks of the Columbia River. Bring your bikes along (or rent a few ahead of time at Mountain View Cycles) to explore the Twin Tunnels Trail, a paved and level 4.25-mile stretch of the Historic Columbia River Highway Trail that is closed to motor vehicles. Care to take in one of the most iconic views of Mt. Hood? Head south to Lost Lake to rent kayaks or follow the easy 3.2-mile loop trail around the lakeshore. And on the way back into town, stop by Packer Orchards and Bakery—in a region with 15,000 acres of orchards, Packer's marionberry jam manages to stand out from the rest.

photo: clappstar via flickr</p

What are your favorite short road trips from Portland? Let us know in the comments below!

— Maura O’Brien