History books aren’t exactly page turners for most young minds. Fortunately, Portland is home to historical sites that bring the past to life, and before your little sponges know it, they are learning! From wringing out laundry on a 19th century farm to staring down the cannon barrel at a reconstructed fort, these four interactive destinations, located in and around Portland, are so fun that your budding historians won’t want to leave. Read on to learn more.
Wringing Laundry, photo: Carrie Uffindell
Phillip Foster Farm
Playing a crucial role in our state’s history, this farm helped fund, build and operate the Barlow Raod (an alternative to the deadly Columbia River route) so that thousands of covered wagons could safely make their way into the Willamette Valley between 1848 and 1865. Now you can experience a taste of 19th century life while exploring the grounds and buildings, including a c. 1860 barn. Kids will love trying their hand at chores like grinding corn, building a log cabin out of life-size Lincoln logs, packing a wagon with supplies and scrubbing laundry with a washboard.
Pro tip: There’s no food available for purchase at the farm’s small store, so be sure to pack your own snacks and/or a picnic lunch if needed. Picnic tables and restrooms are located on the grounds. The farm also has special events including a Family History Day, so keep an eye on their website for more info.
Cost: $5/person; $20/family
Hours: Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.-4 p.m. from June 21-Aug. 30.
Open Sat. 11 a.m.-4 p.m., May 1-June 21 and Sept. 1-Oct. 31.
29912 SE Hwy 211
Eagle Creek, Or
Making a Candle, photo: Carrie Uffindell
End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center and Historic Site
Stretching 1200 square feet between three massive white wagon sculptures, the center explores the Oregon Trail’s history through the lives of the pioneers and natives who experienced it and is loaded with hands-on activities and exhibits. Play with 19th century replica toys, dress in pioneer garb, make a beeswax candle, fill a prairie schooner wagon bed full of supplies and more. There’s also an entertaining 30-minute, all-ages appropriate film that draws on letters, diaries, actor portrayals and music to recreate life on the Trail.
Pro tip: The grounds are open to the public and continue the trail experience with a pioneer garden, replica buildings and interpretive signs. Picnic tables and restrooms are onsite. Check online to learn about special events.
Cost: $13/adults; $9/seniors; $9/teens; $7/kids. Entrance to the grounds and visitors center is free.
Hours: Mon.-Sat, 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sun. 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
1726 Washington St.,
Oregon City, Or
Cannons at Fort Vancouver, photo: Carrie Uffindell
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
One of the Northwest’s most famous archaeological sites, Fort Vancouver is home to a reconstructed British fur trading fort, a c. 1850s Hudson Bay Company village, a historic U.S. Army Post and one of the oldest continuously operating airfields. Self-tour the reconstructed fort and its garden, which regularly offers rotating demonstrations that include blacksmithing and interpretive talks. If time permits, be sure to explore the rest of the grounds including the military barracks and Pearson Field and Air Museum.
Pro tip: The site is 366 acres, so if you’ve never been before, swing by the visitor center first to pick up a map. For ages 6 to 12, there’s a Junior Ranger booklet, filled with puzzles and activities. The only food service onsite is The Grant House restaurant, located in a historic house in Officers Row. Picnic tables and restrooms are available throughout the grounds. This year is the National Park Service centennial, so expect lots of special events this summer.
Cost: $5/ages 16 and older for admission to the reconstructed fort; the rest of the park is free.
Hours: Tues.-Sat., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Grounds are open daily from dawn until dusk.
1501 E Evergreen Blvd
At the Discovery Museum, photo: Carrie Uffindell
The World Forestry Center Discovery Museum
Get hands on with historical and modern day forestry practices in the Pacific Northwest and beyond at this two-story, 20,000-square-foot museum. Outside, climb into the cab of Peggy the Train, a 42-ton logging steam locomotive that worked the forests of Oregon and Washington for over 40 years. Inside, virtually raft the Clackamas River, practice planting trees, count the rings on an enormous 10-foot slab cut from a 635-year-old Douglas Fir, operate a Timberjack Harvester Simulator, test your smoke jumping skills and more.
Pro tip: Keep your eyes open for the museum’s five-million-year-old petrified stump on display outside. Food isn’t available onsite, so bring your own snacks and/or lunch. Look online for information on special events, which are offered regularly.
Cost: $7/adult; $6/seniors; $5/kids; free for children 3 and under
Hours: Daily, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
4033 SW Canyon Rd., Or
Where do you love to get hands-on with history in Portland? Tell us in the comments below!
— Carrie Uffindell