An Oregon Family Vacation

When I moved away from Wisconsin in June of 2014, my dad started to secretly save a little money here and there in hopes of getting enough so he and my mom could one day come visit me in Oregon. Recently, my dad surprised my mom with the news of what he had been doing and that he finally had gathered enough money for them to take the trip. Thrilled with the exciting news, together they called to let me know.

Seeing as my parents hadn’t been on a real vacation in forever and not knowing when, or even if, they would ever be able to visit again, I felt I needed to plan a trip of a lifetime. Having not seen them in a year and a half, I was eagerly looking forward to their visit. A few days after their call, I booked their flights online and started planning an epic itinerary for a proper Pacific Northwest adventure, keeping in mind their mobility limitations. There are so many wonderful places and things to do here that it was hard to fit everything I wanted to show them into a 10 day trip. 

A month or so later, I was picking them up from the airport and the very next day, our whirlwind of an adventure began. Since my company picnic fell on the first day of the trip, I decided to take them to my office and give them a tour before we went to the picnic and I introduced them to my coworkers. After the picnic, I took them for a drive over the St. Johns Bridge before stopping for a beer at Saraveza. I had made dinner reservations at Portland City Grill so they could take in an epic view of the city while the sun set. When we were done, we went home, watched a movie and then went to bed.

Jellyfish tank at LeChon

The next morning, my mom and I walked a couple of blocks down the street to the Portland Saturday Market where my mom purchased several items and I scored a couple new stickers for my car bumper. We then walked back to my apartment to join my dad and have lunch at the Dockside Saloon & Restaurant before visiting the International Rose Test Garden. Once we had our fill of roses, we drove to the South Waterfront to ride the aerial tram up to OHSU and then back down again. I’m a bit afraid of heights but surprisingly, it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. After finishing the ride, we stopped at LeChon for a cocktail while we watched jellyfish float around a giant tank behind the bar. We had dinner reservations at Huber’s Cafe but stopped in to check out Kell’s Irish Pub beforehand. Once at Huber’s, we enjoyed the table side preparation of Spanish coffee before ordering dinner and enjoying our meals.  Once we had our fill, we returned back to my apartment to call it a day.

Oregon Coast Scenic Railway

We awoke the next morning and began a four day road trip along the Oregon coast. Our first stop was at Ecola State Park for a quick stroll on Indian Beach followed immediately with a stop in Cannon Beach so my mom could pick up some warmer clothes, more appropriate for the cooler coastal temperatures. We then drove south to Garibaldi where we boarded the Oregon Coast Scenic Railway train and rode that to Rockaway Beach, where we had a quick layover and then headed back to Garibaldi. Cole was surprisingly not so happy with the train ride but did much better on the way back from Rockaway Beach than he did on the way there. Once we deboarded the train, we grabbed a late lunch at the Upstairs Bar & Grill in Netarts Bay before making our way to our hotel room at the Inn at Wecoma in Lincoln City.

Anemone at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

In the morning, we continued south along the coast, stopping quickly at Boiler Bay where we spotted some whales and then Devil’s Punchbowl where we were greeted by super friendly squirrels. We dropped Cole off at Animal House doggy daycare before heading to the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport. There we saw all sorts of anemones, jellyfish, fish, otters, seals and birds. We grabbed lunch afterward at Georgie’s Beachside Grill before picking Cole up from daycare and continuing south. We stopped to stretch our legs and check out the gift shop at the Fireside Motel in Yachats. Afterward, we took a short stroll to the beach to catch some of the infamous wave action in that area. We continued south, stopping for a couple cocktails at the Loft Restaurant in Bandon before going to Coquille Point to watch the sunset. After the sun went down, we continued south to our hotel room at Inn of the Beachcomber in Gold Beach.

Rock hunting in Gold Beach

Originally we had planned to stay at the motel for one night but decided since we got in so late and it was such a nice room with an ocean view, balcony and fireplace, we would stay another night. So in the morning, instead of packing up to hit the road again, we went into town, had lunch at the Port Hole Cafe and then stopped in the gift shop across the way. We then drove south to California to visit the Stout Grove Redwoods, part of the Jedediah Smith State Park. On the way back to the hotel, we picked up some food from the deli at Fred Meyer and had dinner on our balcony before heading down to the beach to do some rock hunting and watch the sunset while seals played in the surf.

Drive through Wildlife Safari

The next morning, we began our drive back to Portland. We stopped to pick up some gifts at Myrtlewood Gifts before going to Cape Blanco State Park to visit the lighthouse and enjoy the beautiful view. We decided to go to the drive through Wildlife Safari on the way home. There we saw all sorts of animals: emu’s, giraffes, bears, zebras, deer and more. We purchased a feed cup to feed the deer who were more than happy to stick their heads right in my car windows for a snack. Afterward, we grabbed a quick dinner at Sonic and then finished our drive back to Portland.

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

Since the next day was predicting rain, and having just done a bunch of driving, we decided to stick around Portland and enjoy a Portland Spirit Lunch Cruise. Afterward, we stopped at Billy Ray’s Neighborhood Bar for a drink, then went to the Made in Oregon store in the Lloyd Center Mall before exploring the exhibits at OMSI. When we were done there, we stopped at Fred Meyer to pick up some supplies to make a really nice dinner at home. We enjoyed steaks, sautéed mushrooms, twice baked potatoes and roasted asparagus while we watched a couple of movies in the living room, sipping on Old Fashions. It felt very much like being at home, in Wisconsin. 

A tad foggy but still beautiful in Paradise on Mt. Rainier

The next day, we packed up the car again and hit the road. Our first stop was at the Johnston Ridge Observatory on Mt. St. Helens where we watched a 20 minute film about life after the eruption in 1980 before continuing on the road, stopping for lunch at Harry’s Place in Toledo. After we finished lunch, we got back on the road and headed to Mt. Rainier National Park. We drove up the curving road to Paradise, shrouded in fog which obscured the view. We did spend some serious cash in their gift store and walked away with many items, my favorite of which is the clothing we got — all different but all branded with Mt. Rainier. Luckily, as we continued east in the park, the fog dissipated a bit and we were able to see some spectacular views. We stopped for dinner at 1885 Bar and Grill in Naches and then drove through the dark, star-filled sky night to our hotel room at the Three Rivers Inn in Wasco.

Painted Hills

The next morning, we piled in the car again and headed out for the Painted Hills. This drive, as desolate as it is, is always beautiful. We made a couple of stops for photos along the way including the giant windmill farm and also enjoyed a bathroom break at a rest stop next to the John Day River where we enjoyed the quiet, the sun and a watching a couple fishing on the river bank. We then drove some more and finally arrived at the Painted Hills for more pictures, exploring and just enjoying the beauty of the landscape. When we were done there, we started to head back to Portland, stopping for a late lunch/early dinner at the Horseshoe Saloon in Prineville before enjoying the scenic drive through the Willamette National Forest. Once home, we watched a two movies before calling it a night. 

View from Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood

The next day was our last full day together. We woke up in the late morning and drove through the Columbia River Gorge, stopping to take in the view at Chanticleer Point before visiting Latourell Falls. After a long wait in a long line of cars, we finally were able to see Multnomah Falls before getting back on the road and heading up to Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. Once at Timberline, we ordered Old Fashions and lunch at the Ram’s Head Restaurant and enjoyed the view from our table right next to the window where we could see everything for miles and miles around. After we had finished lunch, we left the restaurant to check out the gift shop before heading back to Portland. On the way home, we stopped for gas and were pleasantly surprised by seeing a naked-neck chicken hanging out in the parking lot. Once home, we relaxed by watching our last movie, my favorite of all time, Forest Gump.

Very early the next morning, I dropped my parents off at the airport, wished them safe travels and then headed to work to begin the long process of trying to catch up after being out on vacation. All in all, we drove 1,859 miles over 10 days. Coincidentally, 1859 is the year in which Oregon became a state. It was a very long week and even though I felt like I could sleep for a year when all was said and done, it was great to see my parents and show them the Pacific Northwest, firsthand. I hope I did the area justice while creating some memories with my family I will always cherish.

To view more of my photography, please visit:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s