6 Toast-Worthy Brunch Spots in Portland

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Long ago, in the time before your children came along, “brunch” was that leisurely weekend meal that happened whenever you finally rolled out of bed. Now that life on the weekends may start a little earlier (and with more gusto pre-coffee), brunch may very well be your second meal of the day. The following are some of our favorite brunch spots with kids around Portland.


photo: mxruben via morguefile


Screen Door
Introduce your belles and beaux to weekend brunch, southern style. From fried chicken and waffles to grits and biscuits, this is fine down-home cooking. Don’t worry – if your little ones prefer more conventional brunch cuisine, they’ve got pancakes, waffles, and so-good-you-have-to-taste-it Brioche Vanilla Bean French toast. There can literally be a line out the door, so either get there early (as in before 9 a.m.) or park someone in line with a book to save your place – they offer free coffee while you wait!

2337 E. Burnside St.
Online: screendoorrestaurant.com


Mother’s Bistro
A brunch at this natural light-flooded, local institution wouldn’t be complete without one (just one, right?!) of its famed Bloody Marys. Because kids get squirrelly sitting at the table, there’s a special little play area with toys and books. For pint-sized appetites, check out the “mini breakfast” that features scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and potatoes.

212 SW Stark St.
Online: mothersbistro.com

Cadillac Cafe

photo: Cadillac Cafe French toast by wikimedia.org via creative commons


Cadillac Café
Even though there’s a full size 1950’s Cadillac in the middle of the restaurant, you’ll never mistake this restaurant as a greasy spoon diner. Cadillac sources its ingredients locally, and prides itself on offering menu items for the whole spectrum of Portlandia. Vegetarian? Gluten Free? They’ve got ya covered! Cadillac offers a full spectrum of breakfast and lunch delights that will delight kids of all ages – breakfast is even served all day. Good luck pulling them away from the car!

1801 NE Broadway St.
Online: cadillaccafepdx.com

Lake Oswego

La Provence
This Lake Oswego landmark boasts one of the most amazing glass bakery cases you will find anywhere with fresh French pastries and cookies galore. Good thing, because a sweet might be just the thing to settle your little ones as they wait for brunch – this popular boite can have a lengthy wait on the weekends, but it’s worth the wai for their omelets, scratch soups and other fresh, local brunch items. The ambience is French chic, but designed for your petit garcon or jeune fille to feel plenty welcome.

16350 Boones Ferry Rd.
Online: provencePDX.com
(Additional locations in Beaverton and on NE Alberta, NE Airport Way and SE Division.)

Cafe Murrayhill

photo: Café Murrayhill by Johnny D. via Yelp


Café Murrayhill
From granola parfaits to malted bacon waffles, fish tacos and a Dungeness crab melt sandwich, Café Murrayhill has a varied and well-priced menu that will delight a wide variety of palattes. The kids’ breakfast menu is available until 3 p.m. and drinks are included – always a plus for the juice-swilling sippers. Situated on a manmade lake, there’s plenty to see out the airy windows. When the weather cooperates, you can take outside to their outdoor dining area.

14500 Murray-Scholls Dr., Suite 103
Online: cafemurrayhill.com


Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar
A martini bar sounds like a place more suited for happy hour than brunch. But that’s exactly what makes this secret find ideal for family brunch. Even though it’s located in busy Bridgeport, it’s not on most families’ radars, so it’s relatively easy to get a table. They have a fab menu and a killer patio — but the real find here is for “special occasion” brunch, those days like Mother’s Day and Easter. Their buffet is giant, but your kids will go uber-crazy for the chocolate fountain. With dippers like mini Rice Krispy treats, cheesecakes, fruit and more, your kids will be so involved you’ll have time to order one more mimosa.

17003 72nd Ave.
Online: twigsbistro.com

We’re always looking for new places for brunch! Let us know where your family likes to toast the weekend!

— Cathie Ericson

Ham It Up: Drama Schools for Little Thespians

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The acting bug can bite early, and if the play’s the thing for your would-be Annie or Oliver, an acting class is the perfect antidote. Acting classes not only offer a creative outlet, but teach valuable lessons in self-confidence, socialization and physical movement. They say that all the world’s a stage, but here are some a little closer to home.


Photo courtesy of NWCT

Northwest Children’s Theater and School
Ages: Four and up

One of the largest theater schools on the west coast, NWCT offers year-round theater classes and camps that are divided both by age and experience level. Skills Classes allow students to develop specific performance techniques from movement to music, while Playlabs offer the chance to rehearse and perform a play. The “First Stage” program is especially designed for the littlest thespians, with classes that feature plenty of puppets, songs, stories, and play-acting.

1819 NW Everett St.
Online: nwcts.org


Photo Courtesy of OCT

Oregon Children’s Theatre
Ages: Four and up

Perfect for both first-time actors and seasoned theater kids, they offer classes and workshops for every age and ability. Fun choices for the little ones include “Page to Stage,” which focuses on bringing a book to life; and “Music and Make Believe,” which includes singing, movement and games.

1939 NE Sandy Blvd.
Online: octc.org

NW Youth Theatre
Ages: First grade and up

This is a little different than most typical theater groups, as they put on full-stage musicals within the “class” period, rehearsing once or twice a week. They take everyone regardless of experience (although they do cap the number of registrations) and everyone gets cast. Coming up is Bye Bye Birdie, with rehearsals beginning in January.

1505 SW Cornelius Pass Rd.
Online: nwyouththeatre.org


Photo courtesy of Lakewood Center for the Arts

Lakewood Center for the Arts
Ages: Four and up

Kids don’t just act out parts that are handed to them; they actually create, design and make their own shows in the class for younger ones. Through games, play, art, music and dance the littlest actors and actresses will create their show to delight their audience members on the last day of class. Older sibs can enjoy a wide range of singing and acting class, including the popular Grimm to Glee, which focuses on TV production.

368 S. State St.
Lake Oswego
Online: lakewood-center.org


Photo courtesy of Spotlight Musical Theatre

Spotlight Musical Theatre
Ages: Four and up

Little Stars classes are 90 minutes of fun for four- to six-year-olds that teach acting, singing and dancing fundamentals — all while embracing the imagination that is so alive in this age group. Each term ends with a demonstration of learning for family and friends.

17979 Stafford Rd.
Online: spotlightmusicaltheatre.com

CYTPhoto courtesy of Johna Shivers

Christian Youth Theater
Ages: Four and up

CYT holds classes at three locations: in North Portland, SW Portland and a new venue in Tualatin. For kids four to seven, check out the beginning musical theater class called Our Gang, which covers a little of each area of musical theater: acting, singing and dancing. Though the word “Christian” is in the title, members stress that the program is more ethics-based than Bible-based, focusing on a different character trait each term.

North Portland, SW Portland, Tualatin
Online: cytportlandvancouver.org

Shaking The Tree
Ages: Five and up

With a smaller schedule of classes than most and a smaller class size (seven to a class), Shaking the Tree has a more intimate feel. The youngest thespians will be exploring Grimm Fairy Tales with a performance on the last day of class.

823 SE Grant St.
Online: shaking-the-tree.com 

Is there a theater school near you that your tiny thespians love? Let us know below!

– Cathie Ericson


OMSI’s Mini Maker Faire Kicks DIY Up a Notch

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Portland’s Mini Maker Faire at OMSI just might be the coolest show (and tell) on the planet. The Faire is a celebration of the Maker movement, aka do it yourselfers willing to share their crazy-cool inventions and art. Portland’s third annual faire this weekend will feature more than 100 local crafters, tinkerers, artists, science clubs, students and educators and plenty of hands-on activities for kids. Read on to find out more, then prepare to be amazed.


Photo credit: OMSI

See It
R2D2: Got a Star Wars fanboy or girl? The R2D2 Builders Club makes replicas of droids from the Star Wars films that are so realistic, they are often used by Lucasfilms for official events, movie premieres and commercials.

Drop Tower Impact Test: Back in college we called this “roof testing.” But Portland State University’s welding research department will be demonstrating methods used to “verify fracture properties” – that sounds a whole lot more research-y for sure.

Lagerbot: This one’s for you, parents! Lagerbot is a beverage dispensing device/and friend that tracks and records who’s drinking from the keg by controlling the flow of the cold tasty beverage. (No more trying to figure out who killed the keg!)

Tesla Coil: Ask your budding scientist what this is, all we know is that it’s going to produce one million-volts of blue corona and arc discharges spanning five to six feet.

Portland Mini Maker Faire 2012 | Gia Goodrich

Photo credit: OMSI

Make It
As cool as it is to look at all of these incredible inventions, we know you want to make things. The Faire’s got some seriously cool stuff for your fab-ricators to get their crafty on.

Tinker Camp: Why buy new stuff when you can transform the old? It’s so Portlandia, right? But it works!  Check out the work areas Tinker Camp has provided where your Builder Bob or Betsy can make creations from all kinds of cool, inexpensive materials.

Maple XO: Still on the “reuse” theme, this company makes jewelry and accessories from recycled skateboards. They will have colorful scraps available for your Skater Boi or Girl to make key chains and magnets.

Mad Science: Two words: Stomp rockets. Your little one can make a DIY stomp rocket and next time you feel a little aggression coming on, send your stomper off to let it fly.

Light Me Up: This interactive light experience mixes flame and LED light. You control the LEDs and flame effects. Just remember, the more energy you add to the system, the more you get back. (Sounds a little like a life lesson, doesn’t it?)

But, wait, there’s more! From mask-making to jewelry to upcycled art projects to chocolate, there’s no end to the goods your little artistes/investigators/creative types can get their hands on at Maker Faire.


Photo credit: OMSI

Bring It
Yep, you’re bringing wipes, a water bottle and a granola bar just in case, though food carts will be on-site, if your kiddos get famished. It’s crowded so a backpack or holding a hand is better than a stroller if that works for your family.

Where: OMSI, 1945 SE Water Ave., 800-955-6674

When: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sept. 13-14th

Cost: $15 adults, $10 youth (3-17) and seniors (63+). Two-day passes are available. Members get $5 off all tickets.

Online: omsi.edu

What are you most looking forward to at the Mini-Maker Faire? Let us know in the Comments section below!

– Cathie Ericson


Hit the Beach! 5 Amazing Lake Tahoe Hot Spots

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Tahoe opening shot

While Lake Tahoe’s snowy winter months pack the charm, a visit during the summertime guarantees even more family fun with postcard-worthy views everywhere you turn. One of our favorite Tahoe summer pastimes? A visit to the beach with the towering Sierras as a picture perfect backdrop. Read on to uncover five of the area’s most beloved beaches (and yes, they all have bathrooms!).

Sand Harbor
This beach is the bomb because: The crystal clear water and the astounding huge rock formations that kids can swim out to and jump from. Parent alert! You’ll want to accompany your little beach babes out to the rocks, so this is not much of a sitting around/getting your tan on type of beach!

Sand hill

Potential beach bummer: Crowds. And not just “Wow, there are a lot of people here.” More like, the parking lot is full and there is not an inch of sand to sit on. But don’t worry, just get there early and you’ll be fine.

Parking: $12 ($2 discount for Nevada residents)

Find It: 2005 Highway 28, Incline Village, Nv 89704

Round Hill Pines
This beach is the bomb because: You’ll enjoy a nice long stretch of sandy beach. Need more entertainment beyond building sand castles? Rent kayaks, jet skis, water bikes and more. Prices range from single kayaks at $20; $30 for a double kayak; stand up paddle boards at $30 an hour; and paddle boats, which are available as four seaters for $35 or two seaters for $23 an hour. Water too cold? There’s a heated pool, behind the parking lot, which is free with your parking. There is no designated kiddie area, but if you have daring swimmers, it’s 8-feet deep.

sand 1

Potential beach bummer: The beach is wide and the sand is hot heading up to get snacks or use the restroom. Just remember your flips!

Parking: $8

Find It: 300 Highway 50, Zephyr Cove, Nv 89448

Zephyr Cove
This beach is the bomb because: You’ll find Zephyr to be a good all-around beach. You can play in the sand, wade into the lake, rent Wave Runners ($115 an hour), pedal boats and kayaks ($25 an hour) and enjoy a full-service restaurant. And just FYI, it’s Nevada so we all know what that means. Yep! Beer on the beach. Maybe just one.

Tahoe beach kids round hill

Potential beach bummer: It can get a little rowdy near the bar — not like spring break rowdy, but it’s not all a family crowd (kinda like back in younger days?). This is probably a beach best enjoyed midweek for a more family vibe.

Parking: $8

Find It: 760 Highway 50, Zephyr Cove, Nv 89448

Meeks Bay
This beach is the bomb because: They have a full complement of rentals for any type of water sport (umbrellas too if you forget yours!) and the bay is nice and calm to try your hand with the SUP (Stand Up Paddle). Head there a little later in the day, and bring food to BBQ for dinner at one of the nice public BBQs.

Tahoe Meeks Bay 2 sSUP

Potential beach bummer: This beach is nested on the west side so it does get shaded earlier in the afternoon than other parts of the lake.

Parking: $10

Find It: 7941 Emerald Bay Road, Tahoma, Ca 96142

Pope Beach
This beach is the bomb because: There is nothing there. Like, no rentals and no food service. (There are bathrooms, hallelujah!). And sometimes that’s a good thing. Just enjoy the beach, kids! A popular draw here is a huge totem pole that the brave can paddle out to, climb up and jump off of. Bonus points for a huge parking lot at this beachy destination.

The Jump resize

Potential beach bummer: Don’t forget your sunscreen, drinks or food, since you’ll be out of luck to purchase them here. Huge, huge beach bummer that would be.

Parking: $7

Find It: Highway 89, South Lake Tahoe (near Camp Richardson)

The bottom line is that you really can’t go wrong with any of Tahoe’s amazing beaches. Make every day an adventure by giving a new beach a try! Did we miss one of your fave Tahoe beaches? Let us know below.

— Cathie Ericson

Photos courtesy of Jennifer Davis and Jill Basch, who along with author Cathie Ericson, all spend a week each summer in Lake Tahoe with their eight children.

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Looking for a day trip that doesn’t take half your day just to get there? Nearby Lake Oswego is chock full of awesome kid-friendly places and activities that will make a staycation become the perfect vacation. Here’s our guide for all the hot spots around the lake.

See Art Around Lake Oswego

Check out this uber cool art piece. This is just one of the many gems around Lake Oswego, so keep reading to see more!

Fuel Up: Chuck's Place

Get your coffee where the locals do – at Chuck’s Place. This shop's motto is “The coffee is serious. Chuck isn’t," which means you know that’s a place you want to hang. It's also known as much for its cookies as its coffee, so don't forget to grab some for later.

(148 SW B Ave., Lake Oswego, Or 97034 | 503-675-7861or chucksplaceonb.com/)

Play At Play Boutique

Burn off that sugar with "mess free" playdate? Check out Play Boutique's open space. Parents have to stay on premise, but you can be as involved as you please while your kids run, crawl and make a mess in an awesome space (aka not your house)! Stay and Play is open Saturday from 10:30am - 6:30pm, and other various times during the week.

(464 First St., Lake Oswego, Or 97034. | 503-6757-529 or playboutique.com/)

Run Around At George Rogers Park

George Rogers Park is a local fave, with an awesome play structure with ample shade on hot days. Their roomy sand box is always populated with a fleet of trucks and cars. And don't forget to bring some bread scraps to feed the ducks and geese as you stroll down the Willamette River shoreline.

(503-675-2549 or ci.oswego.or.us/parksrec/george-rogers-park)

Bike At Foothills Park

Take a break from play structures and head down to Foothills Park.  Budding cyclists will love the cool paved loop that begs for wheels of any kind. Your trekkers will be in full view while you lounge on the huge green space. There’s a little wading stream for cooling off tired feet or holding impromptu leaf races.

(503-675-2549 or ci.oswego.or.us/parksrec/foothills-park)

Stop for Lunch at Lake Oswego Ice Creamery

Take a lunch break at Lake Oswego Ice Creamery. This sweet spot is the place to go for great grilled food  that's fresh and locally made. Their burgers are 100% deliciousness, and if that's not enough, kids are going to love the amazing ice cream treats. Flavors switch seasonally, so you'll never get enough of this cute, old-fashioned eatery.

(37 A Ave., Lake Oswego, Or 97034 | 503-675-7861or lakeoswegoicecreameryandrestaurant.com)

Shop Til You (Almost) Drop

Get your shop on right across the street at The Glass Butterfly, a locally owned fave full of kids’ brands you’ll recognize. Their toys and accessories are offered at great prices, and just a FYI, there's cool stuff for moms too.

(140 A Ave., Lake Oswego, Or 97034  | 503-636-9043 or glassbutterflyoregon.com/)

Then hop on over to Frog Pond Toys, also locally owned, natch, which calls itself “fun, safe and green." Hands-on fun is super encouraged at this toy venue. While your kiddo scurries about in their playland heaven, you’ll can admire the forest ambience and relaxing colors and tones.

(310 North State St, Lake Oswego, Or 97034 | 503-697-3764 or frogpondtoys.com/)

photo: Willamette Trolley via Facebook

All Aboard!

Finish up the day with a ride on the restored Willamette Shore Trolley, which will open this spring (Check website for schedule!). The roundtrip ride is chock full of great scenery and interesting local historical notes.

(211 N State St, Lake Oswego, Or 97034 | 503-697-7436 or oerhs.org/)

Dinner To Go: Nicoletta’s Table and Marketplace

Wait! Don’t leave yet! After your fun-filled day the last thing you want to do is cook! Grab some gourmet Italian to go at Nicoletta’s Table and Marketplace. We think your kids will be partial to Luigi's Mac & Cheese with Smoked Gouda, but there are tons of delish options to go around.

(333 South State St. Suite M, Lake Oswego Or 97034 | 503-699-2927 or nicolettastable.com/)

Did we miss any of your Lake go-tos? Let us know in the comments section below.

— Cathie Ericson

All photos by Cathie Ericson unless indicated otherwise



100 Must-Try Summer Adventures in Portland

7 Easy Day Trips From Portland

Discovered: Portland’s Most Awesome Picnic Spots

8 Things to Do in the NE Alberta Arts Neighborhood

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Want to take a walk on the arty side? The NE Alberta Arts neighborhood, best known for “Last Thursday” festival during the summer months, isn’t just a hipster’s paradise. Flip through the photo gallery to discover where to shop, eat and soak up the general coolness of this neighborhood.

1. Browse through Green Bean Books

This place knows its audience – check out the awesome play area with comfy couches. Many days you’ll find a free craft station tied to an upcoming holiday. Find It:</strong> 1600 NE Alberta St. <em>Photo courtesy of <a target="_blank" href="http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/green-bean-books-portland?select=gp1-0Unv-aDmx5J95FKO9w#yxi2XVp8Ns7KUttwuTaruA">Jennifer G. via Yelp</a></em>fuck

Did we miss one of your fam’s fave spots? Let us know!

— Cathie Ericson

all photos taken by the writer unless otherwise noted. 

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While the turkey is just going in the oven, your kids area already itching to visit the Big Guy in Red. You could always hit the mall, but if you’re looking for more of a one-on-one experience, a Santa brunch is the way to go. Kiddos who need a little warming up time can keep their eye on Santa from across the room while eating, and then enjoy some extended face-time with the head elf himself. Add in breakfast and entertainment and you’ve got a fab morning for the whole family.

santa 2

Breakfast with Santa Benefit Show
More than just a visit with Santa, this breakfast is a full holiday performance by the Billings Dance Center, plus a benefit for The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Kids in the Arts charities to boot! The entire show is fantastic for families and includes a buffet breakfast and photo opportunities with the big guy in red, too. The fundraiser portion offers a silent auction, fundraising games and – yes you are reading this right – a wine wall. What are you waiting for? Tickets go fast, as you can imagine!

Sat., Dec. 21 at 9:00 am and 12:00 pm; $30 per person.
Tiffany Center
1410 SW Morrison

Portland, Or
Online: portlandsbreakfastwithsanta.org

santa 1 mcm

MOMS Club of West Linn Santa Brunch
A perfect Santa Brunch for the 3 to 8 year old crowd, the MOMS Club of West Linn holds this as a fundraiser for Clackamas Women’s Services. Besides the classic Santa photo opp, this brunch also has crafts for little ones, activities, music for dancing, and a great silent auction. A continental breakfast is served along with peppermint milkshakes. Yum! It takes a solid 30 minutes to get to West Linn from Portland Metro, so plan ahead.

Sun., Dec. 15 from 10:30 am to 2:00 pm; $10 in advance when purchased online, $12 at the door. Kids 2 and under are free. 

The Oregon Golf Club
25700 SW Pete’s Mountain Rd
West Linn, Or
Online: momsclubofwestlinn.org

Santa saltys reisize

Salty’s on the Columbia
One of Portland’s best family-friendly spots for brunch any time of year, Salty’s really goes all out for brunch in December. Not only is Santa on hand for photos and visits, but their famous larger-than-life Nutcrackers will also be on display. The menu at Salty’s is both kid and parent friendly, so everyone will be happy – especially when you end the meal taking a dip (your food at least!) in the 4’ cascading chocolate fountain.

Reservations are highly recommended.

Dec. 8, 15th & 22nd Brunch from 9:00 am to 1:30 (Santa on hand 10:30 am to 12:30 pm)

$43 per person (bottomless champagne and mimosas for an additional $10); kids 12 & under only $1.50 per year of age

3839 NE Marine Drive
Portland, Or
Online: saltys.com

Nutcrackers resize

McMenamin’s Breakfast with Santa is so popular that several locations are already sold out! But don’t despair. Reservations are still being accepted at the Grand Lodge, Crystal Ballroom, Hotel Oregon, Old St Francis School and Olympic Club.

Why so popular? Well start with the fact that the kiddos can go up whenever they want – no line, no wait, no other kid going on and on about what he wants…just head up when you’re ready for some quality lap and letter time. And, c’mon, it’s McMenamin’s! You know the food is going to be awesome. The full buffet includes all the breakfast items you can eat – and I hear the hot chocolate and muffins are not to be missed!

Dates, times and addresses are here.Purchase tickets online, rather than calling the individual locations.

Does your family have brunch with Santa? Let us know below!

— Cathie Ericson and Katie Kavulla

photos courtesy of McMenamin’s and Salty’s.

For other activities and events going on in Portland this Christmas season click here!

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We may live in Portland, but the North Pole is a mere hop, skip and jump away. Get into the holiday spirit with a magical journey aboard the Polar Express. Meet Santa and his elves, sing Christmas carols, nosh on fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and wash it all down with a cup of hot chocolate. Here’s our guide to Portland’s Polar Express, a journey for the young and young at heart.

Riding Through a Winter Wonderland
Once aboard, the Polar Express soundtrack will play as you take a short trek up until you reach the North Pole. You’ll be entertained with a reading of the classic book, as dancing chefs serve you that amazing hot chocolate and cookies. You’ll see the glittering lights out the window (but you won’t actually be getting off – not a bad idea to warn your kiddos!).

The big guy himself, will board at the North Pole and come through each and every car, delighting your little ones with photo opportunities and a special gift. We won’t ruin the surprise but we’ll give you one hint: if you can’t hear it, well, get ready for a lump of coal in your stocking! A sing along will send you merrily on your way.


Over the River and Through the Woods
Since the Polar Express is not going to show up in front of your house, you’re going to have to drive your sleigh to the Mt. Hood Railway, located at 110 Railroad Avenue in Hood River. They have recently expanded their parking availability – totally putting them on the nice list! If the main lot is full, head down to the auxiliary lot near the waterfront.


Make Your List, and Check it Twice
Polar Express experts recommend arriving about 45 minutes before your scheduled departure to make sure you have plenty of time to get your “golden ticket” boarding pass and enjoy the excited anticipation in the train depot!

Pack light – you shouldn’t need a stroller and since the trip is only one hour long – and chock full of festive fun — even your wiggliest little elves should be fine. Maybe a water bottle, a favorite snuggly and of course your camera!

And, if you really want authenticity, be sure you and your kids are rocking your most awesome holiday PJ look. (Stripes and feet for the whole family?)


Get your Golden Ticket
The Polar Express takes its first run Nov. 9 and runs every weekend (with some additional holiday days thrown in) through Dec. 29. The most popular times — two weeks leading up and one week after Christmas – are already getting full but there are still plenty of spots available earlier. And really, what could be a more awesome start to your holiday season?

Trains run at 11:30 a.m. and 2, 4:30 and 7 p.m. Times, prices and reservations are available on the website.

Have you been on the Polar Express? Share your favorite memory below.

Written by: Cathie Ericson

Many thanks to Mt. Hood Railroad for sharing these fun photos!