Visit Oregon Museums for Family Fun

By Erika Weisensee, Oregon Writer

McMinnville’s Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum may have lost its bid for one of NASA’s space shuttle orbiters, but it is still a great museum. Oregon is blessed with many outstanding museums, large and small. Most offer regular new exhibits, interpretive programs and hands-on learning opportunities. With exhibits for people of all ages, museums make fun day trips for the whole family. Here are some of my favorite Oregon museums:

OMSI (Portland, – OMSI has so many exhibits you simply can’t see it all in one day.  In addition to hundreds of interactive exhibits, highlights include an OMNIMAX Dome Theater, a planetarium, a toddler science park, a large café and a submarine. Current traveling exhibits include Lost Egypt: Ancient Secrets, Modern Science, and Design Zone, an interactive exhibit for those interested in how videogame developers, music producers and other creative engineers do what they do.

Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum (McMinnville, Known by aviation enthusiasts as the home of Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose, the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum boasts a large collection of aircraft and aviation artifacts. The museum also has an IMAX 3D theater on site and will soon open a water park. While the museum will not be getting one of four retiring NASA shuttle orbiters, it will be receiving many other NASA relics.

Oregon Historical Society (Portland, – The Oregon Historical Society offers permanent exhibits covering all aspects of our state’s history, from the Oregon Trail to the emergence of Oregon industries. Traveling exhibits provide glimpses of more specialized subjects.  For instance, upcoming exhibits include: Soccer City: The Portland Timbers and the NASL Years, 1875 – 1982, and Pedal to the Metal: An Exhibit of Oregon’s Motorsports.

The Columbia River Maritime Museum (Astoria, – The oldest city west of the Rockies is home to a terrific maritime museum. Shipwrecks, the Salmon industry, and the Coast Guard’s work at the treacherous Columbia River Bar are among the many exhibits. Technologically enhanced displays educate visitors in all things nautical. Astoria is celebrating its bicentennial this year. Visit to learn about upcoming events.

The High Desert Museum (Bend, – This Central Oregon museum has outstanding indoor exhibits, but that is only the beginning of the experience. Visitors will also enjoy living history exhibits, where they can talk with and learn from characters who depict what life was like on the High Desert a century ago. The museum also has an array of wildlife exhibits featuring birds of prey, otters, wild cats and more.  Allow plenty of time to see both the indoor and the outdoor exhibits.


Erika Weisensee is a writing mom and a native Oregonian.


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