May 27, 2009 by Robin Beckett
By Sara Bristol
This vacation is all about the destination — and the journey. An extremely family-friendly city, Portland has enough crowd pleasers to fill a long weekend or a week — and keep you coming back for more.
The drive from Yakima takes just over three hours. It’s an easy, beautiful trip through the Columbia River Gorge with multiple opportunities to stop and take in the scenery or enjoy a new adventure. (Detour ideas listed below.)
Getting there, it’s been said, is half the fun. With this transportation-oriented itinerary, the fun is all about the journey:
Portland’s public transit system is among the nation’s best. Of course, you’re not worried about commuting, so consider this: Kids love trains. Portland has light rail, modern streetcars and a vintage trolley — as well as an aerial tram.
Riding TriMet buses, trains and streetcars is free in the downtown area known as Fareless Square, which extends to the Rose Quarter entertainment epicenter and Lloyd Center shopping mall (with an indoor ice rink). A TriMet day pass, if you’re planning to ride into other zones, is $4.75.
But there are other perks: Ride the MAX to the Oregon Zoo and you’ll actually save $1 on admission, as well as $2 on parking. Put your savings toward a ticket on the zoo train; one route stops at the Japanese Garden, where you can take a short walk to the world-famous (and free) International Rose Test Garden. See? Everything’s coming up roses.
But why stop now? Portland offers more transportation options to explore: Hop a bus over to the hands-on Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), where you can tour the Navy’s last non-nuclear, fast-attack submarine, the USS Blueback.
In summer, Willamette Jet Boat excursions depart several times a day from the OMSI dock. Kids and grandparents alike will get a thrill from the fast-paced open boat excursions as that pass under Portland’s bridges and explore Willamette Falls.
Of course, Portland is a pedestrian and bike-friendly city, too. It would be a shame to visit Bridgetown without taking a walk through Tom McCall Waterfront Park. On a warm day, tots love to romp in the Salmon Street Springs fountain. Toward the park’s north end, bicyclists and pedestrians can cross the lower deck of the Steel Bridge to the Eastbank Esplanade, a 1.5-mile urban greenway that leads back to OMSI.
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), open daily; 1945 SE Water Ave.; omsi.edu; 503-797-6674. Admission: $11 adults, $9 ages 3-13; $2 parking. Separate fees for OMNIMAX theater, planetarium, laser light shows, submarine tours and motion simulator. Transit: TriMet bus.
Oregon Zoo, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily through Labor Day; Washington Park, 4001 SW Canyon Road; oregonzoo.org; 503-226-1561. Admission: $9.75 adult, $6.75 ages 3-11; $2 parking. Train rides: $3.50/$5. Chimpanzee Challenge Maze: $2. Summer Concert Series requires special tickets. Transit: MAX & TriMet bus.
Portland Aerial Tram, 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays; runs from the South Waterfront up to Oregon Health & Science University; portlandtram.org. Fare: $4 round trip, ages 6 and under free. Strollers permitted. Transit: Streetcar.
TriMet, the Portland metro-area’s public transit system operates MAX Light Rail, Portland Streetcar and bus service. Schedules, fares and route information: trimet.org.
Vintage Trolley, runs every 30 minutes 12-6:30 p.m. Sundays between Lloyd Center and SW 11th Avenue in downtown Portland; trimet.org/streetcar. Free; donations accepted.
Willamette Jet Boat, multiple departures daily through Sept. 28; departs from OMSI; willamettejet.com; 888/538-2628. Fare for two-hour scenic excursion: $33 adult, $21 children 4-11; one-hour bridge tour slightly less. Transit: TriMet bus.
ROAD TRIP DETOURS
Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler, Cascade Locks, Ore.; portlandspirit.com; 800-224-3901. Fare for two-hour excursion cruise: $28 adult, $18 child; brunch, lunch and dinner cruises available.
Multnomah Falls, second-highest waterfall in the U.S.; visitor center open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; Interstate 84 Exit 31 (left lane); multnomahfallslodge.com; 503-695-2372. Free parking and viewing. Gift shop, restaurant and ice cream cart at the day lodge. To see the falls from the top, a 1.2-mile trail climbs approximately 600 feet; not suitable for strollers.
Mount Hood Railroad, Hood River, Ore.; mthoodrr.com; 800-872-4661. Fare for two-hour excursion: $25 adult, $15 children 2-12; four-hour excursions, special trains and dinner trains also available. Day Out With Thomas: Trains depart on the hour, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. June 19-22 and 26-28.
Vista House, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily; vistahouse.com; 503-695-2230. Free admission; visitor center and gift shop. Take I-84 to exit 22 and follow the signs four miles to Vista House and Crown Point State Park.
May 27, 2009 by Robin Beckett
If you know a little Thomas fan, here’s some really “useful” info: Kids can meet Sir Topham Hatt and take a ride with Thomas the Tank Engine during upcoming “Day Out With Thomas” events at Snoqualmie’s Northwest Railway Museum and the Mount Hood Railroad in Hood River, Ore.
Both railroads make regular excursion runs throughout the year, but during these special events, they’ll offer additional entertainment and activities aimed at young Thomas fans:
• Mount Hood Railroad | June 19-22 and 26-28 in Hood River, Ore., 42 miles west of Biggs Junction on Interstate 84. Drive time from Yakima is two hours. Trains depart on the hour, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets are $14-$16; advance purchase is strongly recommended. For more information, call the railroad at 800-872-4661, or visit mthoodrr.com.
• Northwest Railway Museum | July 10-12 and 17-19 in Snoqualmie, three miles off I-90 at North Bend. Drive time from Yakima is just shy of two hours. Trains depart every 45 minutes, 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. Tickets are $18; advance purchase is strongly recommended. For more information, call the museum at 425-888-3030, or visit trainmuseum.org.
Don’t you love thinking about baby names?
The Seattle Times reported yesterday that Washington’s most popular baby names in 2008 were Ethan and Olivia. Really? I’m always a little surprised by these lists, which never seem to reflect the kids I know (many of whom rhyme with Aiden). Seems like half the girls I know are named Emma (the other half are Emily). Elizabeth is popular, too.
Nobody calls their girls Janet or Linda anymore, but I’ve been surprised by how many “mature” names I’ve heard recently for boys: Arthur, Bruce and Oscar come to mind. Personally, I wouldn’t name a baby anything that ever stood aside the word “grouch.” Parenting is hard enough as it is, you know?
But who am I to judge? When I was pregnant with my first child, my sister-in-law with six warned me to be careful what we name the baby: “They become who you name them,” she said. We ignored her and named our son Max. That is not a synonym for “quiet and obedient.” But we love him just the same.
Which makes me wonder, as Shakespeare’s Juliet once did, whether “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” And I suppose it would.
But I’m still glad my name’s not Mildred.
May 12, 2009 by Robin Beckett
By Kurt Tyrrell
For the Yakima Herald-Republic
Spring is here, which means many families are preparing to enjoy the outdoors on their bikes. Before you head out, there is a little work to be done.
It begins with finding the bikes in the garage, and rearranging “stuff” so you can wheel them out. That’s the hard part. Next, be sure to check tire pressure, patch any mysterious holes, and maybe add a little lubricant to the chains.
Then make sure the brakes work, and that seats are properly adjusted to the ever-growing children.
Check, check and check! You’re ready to roll, right?
Not quite. There is one other thing that needs to be checked for every rider, and that is the bike helmet. Adults and kids alike need to have them, and if your little one is like most, last year’s helmet may no longer fit.
May is Helmet Safety Month, making spring the perfect time to ensure that all of your loved ones (including yourself) will be safe as you wheel about. Since no one ever plans to have an accident, it’s important to teach children — and to model — that helmets must be worn each and every time a person rides a bike, or any wheeled toy.
Sometimes children mistakenly believe that they don’t need to wear helmets when they’re riding near home, yet 53 percent of vehicle-related bike deaths to children happen on minor roads and residential streets.
It’s unfortunate, but each year approx-imately 135 children die from bicycle-related injuries, and another 267,000 nonfatal bicycle injuries occur. Helmets can reduce the risk of severe brain injuries by 88 percent; however, only 15 percent to 25 percent of children 14 and under usually wear them.
It’s a parent’s responsibility to instill the importance of wearing a helmet every time a child rides. In our house, if you don’t want to wear it, you don’t get to go.
Safe Kids Yakima County suggests you follow these simple tips for making sure that your biking adventures roll along smoothly:
* Make sure the helmet fits and your child knows how to put it on correctly. A helmet should sit on top of the head in a level position, and should not rock forward and backward or side to side. The helmet straps must always be buckled, but not too tightly. Safe Kids recommends the “Eyes, Ears and Mouth” test:
EYES: Position the helmet on your head. Look up and you should see the bottom rim of the helmet. The rim should be one to two finger-widths above the eyebrows.
EARS: Make sure the straps of the helmet form a “V” under your ears when buckled. The strap should be snug, but comfortable.
MOUTH: Open your mouth as wide as you can. Do you feel the helmet hug your head? If not, tighten those straps and make sure the buckle is flat against your skin.
* Make sure the bike is the right size for the child. There should be about one inch of clearance between the bike frame and the child’s groin when the child’s feet are flat on the ground. Also, make sure the bike is in good repair — reflectors are secure, brakes work properly, gears shift smoothly, and tires are tightly secured and properly inflated.
* Check for the CPSC label. A helmet should be labeled to indicate that it meets the standards set by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
* Remember, bike helmets are for biking. Kids should not wear bike helmets on the playground (where the straps can get caught on equipment and cause injury) or for activities that require specialized helmets (such as skiing or football).
* Model and teach proper bicyclist behavior. Ride on the right side of the road, with traffic, not against it. Stay as far to the right as possible. Use appropriate hand signals and respect traffic signals, stopping at all stop signs and stop lights. Children should not ride without supervision until they have demonstrated that they always follow the rules.
* When in doubt, get help. The sales staff at any bicycle shop or outdoor recreation store should be able to provide expert advice on fitting and adjusting bikes and helmets.
OK. Bikes tuned up? Check! Seats all adjusted? Check! Everyone have a bike helmet on? Check!
Now you’re ready to head out and explore our wonderful Yakima Valley. Happy cycling!
Memorial Hospital’s Community Education Department located at 2506 W. Nob Hill Blvd. sells bike helmets at a reduced price of $10. With the purchase of a helmet, you will receive a free personal fitting.
* Kurt Tyrrell is the Passport to Health program Coordinator for Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital and a member of Safe Kids Yakima County. He is a Certified Health Education Specialist and a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician. His column is produced in cooperation with Safe Kids Yakima County, a local consortium of organizations, agencies and individuals actively promoting child safety.