Soup’s On! 6 Great Spots to Get Your Fix

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With school starting and fall inching closer, it’s about time to pull out those extra blankets and rain jackets. Celebrate the changing seasons with a big bowl of steaming soup! With so many ways to simmer, stir, scoop and slurp, soup is something every member of your crew can enjoy. And no one can argue with a nice hunk of buttered bread or a grilled cheese on the side! Find your favorite bowl at one of these great places around Portland—but leave some in the pot for the rest of us! Read on for more!

Savor Soup House

<span style="font-weight:400;">A downtown cart slinging made-from-scratch soups and sandwiches, this one is sure to fend off the chills. Try the classic staple tomato with fennel and orange, or catch a rotating list of goodies like Pozole, Curried Red Lentil, or New England Clam Chowdah. There’s always gluten free and vegan options, including gluten free bread. Add a grilled cheese sandwich to your cup o’ soup by going classic or building your own from the Grilled Cheese Bar! Your kids already know how delicious dunking a grilled cheese into tomato soup is, and Savor is here to deliver. A cup of soup is $4, and a bowl is $6.50. Simple grilled cheese starts at $5.</span> <span style="font-weight:400;">1003 SW Alder St.</span> <span style="font-weight:400;">Portland, OR</span> <span style="font-weight:400;">503.548.7652</span> <span style="font-weight:400;">Online:</span><a target="_blank" href=""><span style="font-weight:400;"></span></a>fuck

What’s your favorite soup to slurp? Tell us in the comments below!


Nine No-Cost Holiday Happenings Near Portland

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It’s always easy to find ways to spend money during the holiday season, but here are some ideas for those looking to cultivate a little festive spirit without dropping any cash. Theater lovers, cocoa connoisseurs and competitive caroler—there’s something for everyone in our area’s eclectic array of holiday happenings. You might even stumble across Mr. and Mrs. Claus along the way.


Photo: Annette Benedetti

Lighting of Maddax WoodsIf the traffic on Peacock Lane or the fees for other holiday light shows have you hesitating, here’s an alternative option in West Linn. Follow the lighted holiday trail through the woods to the viewing platform on the Willamette River.
Dec. 1- 31
4:30-9 p.m.
5785 River St., West Linn

Milwaukie’s Umbrella Parade
The Umbrella Parade takes place from the Adams Street Connector down to City Hall with Milwaukie’s High School Band leading the way. Festivities and treats are available for all at City Hall, where the tree lighting will occur. Don’t forget to go all out on those umbrellas, as prizes will be awarded in several categories. Santa makes an appearance and cookies and cocoa will be also be provided. Please park in downtown Milwaukie on the street or utilize the public parking lot located across Main Street from City Hall, which is between Jackson and Harrison St.
Dec. 3
3:45 p.m. (parade), 5 p.m. (tree lighting)
The parade will convene at the Adams Street Connector next to the Main St. Light Rail platform.

Free activities are available from start to finish at this event, put on by the Sellwood-Westmoreland Business Alliance, including live music and theater performances, a free family holiday movie, rides on a double-decker bus and photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus. For those who are itching to get an early start on gift-buying, local businesses will also be offering discounts on merchandise and the charity-minded can participate in the toy drive by dropping unwrapped toys and children’s clothing at various drop-boxes along the event route. All donations go directly to the Rafael House of Portland, assisting domestic violence survivors.
Dec. 3
10 a.m.- 5 p.m.
SE 13th Ave. and Bybee to Tacoma Ave. (see website for participating businesses)

Holiday Performance by Olympian Skater Brian Boitano
Boitano, who won the gold medal in figure skating at the 1988 Winter Olympics, will be skating to “Silent Night” at the Lloyd Center rink in this free performance. Fans can also enter a contest online or at the Lloyd Center customer service kiosk to be one of 20 who will have the opportunity for a meet and greet experience with the Olympian.
Dec 3
11 a.m.
953 Lloyd Center


photo: USAGHumphries via Flickr

The Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition
While you’ll have to provide your own figgy pudding, the competitive caroling is free at Pioneer Square’s 3rd Annual Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition, and there will be plenty of it as various groups will be belting out their best holiday favorites to earn your loudest cheers. Audience participation determines the winners in this fun, family event.
Dec. 9
5:30-7:30 p.m.
701 SW Sixth Ave.

26th Annual Tuba Christmas Concert
More cowbell? How about “more tuba!” That’s what you’ll get at this Portland holiday mainstay as nearly 300 tubas play popular holiday tunes in a group sing-along like no other.
Dec. 10
1:30-3 p.m.
701 SW 6th Ave.

Crafty Wonderland Holiday Art and Craft Market
It’s like Etsy throwing a party in your neighborhood! Crafty Wonderland features over 250 vendors selling handmade goods from the bizarre to the beautiful. Admission is free, but you may want to bring along some extra cash for that unexpected, perfect gift you’ll want to pick up for that special someone on your list.
Dec. 10 and 11
11 a.m.-6 p.m.
777 NE MLK Jr. Blvd.

Milwaukie Winter Solstice and Christmas Ships Viewing
Milwaukie drops another holiday favorite at the Milwaukie Riverfront Park where solstice revelers can enjoy a bonfire, hot cocoa, carolers and holiday pie as they take in a great view of the Christmas Ship Fleet. Park in downtown Milwaukie and access the park via the Harrison Street and McLoughlin Boulevard crossing.
Dec. 17
4:30-8 p.m.
Milwaukie Riverfront Park
Whale Watching
If the silver bells of the city are getting to be a bit much, why not head out for a more natural holiday experience at the Oregon Coast? They may not carol for you, but the whales of the Pacific Northwest will certainly inspire some wonder. Whale Week begins just two days after Christmas with viewpoints up and down the Oregon Coast.
Dec. 27-Dec. 31
Various locations on the Oregon Coast


What’s your favorite free thing to do with your kids? Tell us in the comments below!
—Ty Adams

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There’s an ancient activity that can tap into your kids’ Neanderthal skill set, provide some useful knowledge and yield some nutritional dishes. Humans have been foraging for wild plants since the dawn of our species, and while modern living has removed many of us from the practice, the good news is that Portlanders are blessed with a terrain and climate that produces an abundance of wild edibles year-round as well as a passionate and committed community of knowledgeable foragers eager to guide us. Local herbalist and entrepreneur Karina Brown of Astralux helped us put together this beginner’s guide to urban foraging with children. Read on for tips and tricks from the pros.

picking wild berries

Photo: Heather Sunderland via flickr

Before You Go
Foraging as a family can help us find the secret wild spaces in our city and reconnect us and our tiny tribe with the earth and its calming patterns and pace. Parents might be surprised at how well their normally jet-propelled screen junkies can settle in and focus when diving into the task of picking (and mostly eating) row after row of blackberries.

It’s understandable that safety is the first thought of many parents when contemplating their first foraging trip, but the experts tell us that as long as everyone in the family follows the “golden rule” of foraging, it should be approached with excitement and encouragement rather than fear. The rule is: never eat any wild plant unless you’re 100 percent sure that you know what it is. Beginners are also encouraged to verify every wild plant with a more experienced forager and kids should only forage with adults when starting out.

Unless you plan to stick to only foraging a handful of very easy to identify wild plants, it’s a very good idea to get a field guide or two that you can bring along on your expeditions. There are many options, but one recommended book, Edible Wild Plants, Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate, comes from Portland botanist John Kallas who has been researching wild edibles since 1970. Kallas also runs a website dedicated to wild food and offers regular classes and field trips.

Finding Quality Spots
If you have a yard, it’s a great place to start your family foraging practice, and you might be surprised to discover wild edibles that have been right under your nose. When sourcing other spots in your neighborhood or beyond, keep in mind a few basic rules about etiquette as well as pesticides and other contaminants.

  1. Always verify that the area is public property and not being treated with pesticides before you pick, and it’s also a good idea to stay away from roadsides where plants are slathered in vehicle exhaust or even heavily trafficked trails where dogs will be frequently lifting their legs.
  2. When it comes to bushes or trees hanging from private property into a public space, it’s probably better to double check with owners if you’re planning to pick more than a handful.

Now, for those excited about finding new foraging grounds, rather than trying to name all the wild thickets and publicly accessible fruit trees in Portland, we’d direct newbies to a very cool web-based, nonprofit project called Falling Fruit, a crowd-sourced, interactive map of foraging locations worldwide.

There are currently over 13,000 sites listed in the greater Portland area. Live near Fernhill park in Northeast? The site describes the location of two enormous chestnut trees there. Heading to Forest Park? How about a stop off at the apple, cherry or one of several pear trees on public property along NW Thurman Street? There are likely hundreds of options within a few miles of where you live.

What’s In Season?
The growing cycle of plants generally dictates the type of harvest that’s available in each season. In early spring, with all the energy focused on new growth and heading toward the sun, the harvest will be leafy greens, from dandelion leaves to chickweed and nettles (for the well-gloved). Summer is berry time, with raspberries leading the way and yielding to wild strawberry, blackberry, huckleberry, salal, salmonberry and thimbleberry, to name a few.

Fall will often offer a second helping of greens or the edible seed pods they’ve helped produce, as well as early edible roots, many nut trees (if squirrels don’t beat you to them), larger fruiting bodies of pears and apples, and mushrooms. In winter, as leaves and seeds fall, plants return their energy to their roots, when savvy foragers can dig for wild onion, wapato and cat tail among other edible and medicinal roots.

With so many options, it can be overwhelming for beginning foragers, so (in addition to the blackberries that are blowing up) here are four common and easy-to-identify wild edibles that are either ready for the picking right now, as well as a few ideas on preparation:

girl in dandelions

Photo: Cathy Stanley-Erickson via flickr

Dandelion (Taraxacum) – Let’s begin with a classic, and one that almost every kid knows. From its floating seeds to its weird, milky sap and oh-so-pop-able flower head, everything about the dandelion seems designed just for kids, but it also happens to have some impressive nutritional properties. One cup of raw dandelion greens contains 535% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin K and 112% of vitamin A. While some folks battle it out with dandelions in their yards, why not turn the invasion into an opportunity to get your wee foragers started? Dandelion does have a prolific mimic, catsear (Hypochaeris), that is considered edible but much less appealing in our opinion. To distinguish between the two, note that dandelions have hairless leaves and are always limited to one flower per stem, while catsear is hairy with multiple flowers per stem.

Preparation: Though some varieties are less bitter and suitable for use raw in salads, if you’re aiming for kid consumption, one of our favorite preparations is to saute tender, early leaves with butter, bacon, a splash of balsamic vinegar and a dash of maple syrup/honey. The flowers can be used to make tasty wine, though make sure to only use the yellow flowering parts.



Photo: Fluffymuppet via flickr

Chickweed (Stellaria media) – a small, white flowering annual plant that’s two to five inches tall and almost always an early visitor to Portland gardens. It’s lush and bright green with star-shaped flowers, and the seed pods that develop later are fun for kids because they launch spring-shaped seeds when touched. Distinguish common chickweed from any look-alikes by finding a single line of hairs running vertically up the stalk in a spiral. The tops of this plant can be trimmed and it will continually grow.

Preparation: The flowers and leaves are great to eat raw and make a unique garnish or addition to salads.

common mallow

Photo: pawpaw67 via flickr

Common Mallow / Cheeseplant (Malva neglecta) – A summer and winter annual or biennial with a deep tap root, hairy, kidney shaped leaves, low spreading stems growing four to 20-inches high, and five-petal flowers that range from white to pink or lilac. The fruits are round and look like a small wrapped wheel of cheese. All parts of the plant are edible, although the fruit is the easiest to prepare and probably the most palatable for beginners.

Preparation: The leaves can be eaten raw but the hair can be a put-off for some. It can be a neat party trick to add the flowers or cheese-shaped fruit to salads and the fruit makes a good substitute for capers. Leaves are a good thickener and have been used well in gumbo recipes. If you want to go next level, the mallow roots can be cooked, releasing a thick fluid when boiled that can be beaten to make a meringue or substitute for egg whites.

wood sorrel

Photo: Toshiyuki IMAI via flickr

Sorrel (Oxalis stricta) – The leaves look just like clover shamrocks though they’re often larger, and is also distinguished by its yellow flowers and height up to 15 inches. While this one shouldn’t be consumed in large quantities because too much oxalic acid can inhibit calcium absorption, you’d probably have to force yourself to do that anyway due to the sour taste. It is loaded with vitamin C, prevalent on most nature hikes in the area and has thirst-quenching properties.

Preparation: The leaves, flowers and immature green seed pods are all edible (and sour) and are well-used as a garnish, soup/sauce ingredient or as a similar drink to lemonade when sweetened with honey or maple syrup.

Do you have some family foraging experiences, tips or spots you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!

— Ty Adams

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When it comes to musical stylings, you and your tiny troubadours might not agree on much, but if there’s any genre that can bridge the gap between generations, bluegrass is definitely a strong contender. The pop of a banjo, a blazing fiddle and the sunny sounds of a mandolin – we can’t prove it, but we’d venture to guess that the hippie shake was actually invented by the first toddler to ever hear that combination. If you tend to agree, and think that bluegrass, newgrass, jamgrass or any other grassy musical offshoots might create some harmony in your fam (see what we did there?), you owe it to yourself to check out the 15th Annual Northwest String Summit (NWSS) coming to Horning’s Hideout July 14-17, 2016.


photo: Spady Photography via Northwest String Summit

For those who haven’t been, Horning’s Hideout is a magical, forested venue complete with an amphitheater, large fishing pond, disc golf course, shower facilities, established campsites and roaming peacocks (yes, real, live peacocks) just beyond the west hills of Portland near the town of North Plains. The location makes for an easy 45-minute drive from downtown, the festival features many family-friendly services and activities, kids under 10 get in free with discounts for ages 11-15, and passes are available for one, two, three or four days (subject to availability). In our book, all of this makes it a great option for everyone from new parents looking to dip their toes back into the music festival scene to veteran, festie-going families with tweens or teens.

We spoke with NWSS co-founder and promoter Skye McDonald to put together an insider’s guide, so read on for all the details.


Don’t like packing? Stumble into an inheritance? Tired of reading already? Then you may want to skip right to the NWSS Campsite and Gear Rental Program and be done with it. This will allow you to arrive at an already prepared campsite featuring tent(s), cots, camp chairs, a lantern, one bag of ice per day, optional sleeping bags and pillows and access to a community kitchen. Packages range from $499 for two adults up to $949 for four adults.

For everyone else, essentially, if you pack like you’re going camping for a few days, you should be good on the basics. Sans the adult beverages, of course, you’ll not be allowed to bring them in from outside (cars will be inspected at the gate!) although they will be available for purchase in permitted areas. Other prohibitions include recreational drugs of any kind, fireworks, weapons, dogs and campfires/candles.

All other outside food and sealed drinks are allowed, although the NWSS will also feature free water filling stations and food vendors catering to every possible dietary preference and restriction at nearly all hours, so bring cash/credit and it’s likely that you won’t have to go foraging for nuts and berries even if you forget the cooler in the driveway. Safe camping stoves are permitted, although cooking may be constrained to special areas if hot, dry weather persists.

The crew at NWSS has taken the time to compile a list of planning tips and other specific info for families. Check it out here.


photo: Spady Photography via Northwest String Summit


A $25 parking fee will apply for all vehicles, and as with most festivals, arriving on the early side is recommended if possible. If a quieter setting is your preference, let the parking attendants know you’d like to head to the family parking and family camping area, which is just off to the left (west) of the peacock gate. In addition to a major expansion of the overall festival footprint, the family camping area has been expanded this year, and sites in the most remote areas will be quieter but also a longer walk to the stages. However, kids activities and events will also be provided in the family camping area.

Leaving and returning to the NWSS is permitted, but if you know you’ll be doing so, let the parking attendants know in order to find a parking spot that will make it easier. Make sure the parking pass is visible or you’ll be required to pay the parking fee every time you leave and come back.

Veteran Advice

• To help easily find your car/tent in a sea of cars/tents, bring a few flags/balloons or some other easily visible markers that can be hung up high.

• Put a wrist band on your young’un with your name and phone number in case they get lost or separated from you. Cell service is very spotty, however, so contact event staff immediately to initiate the NWSS lost-child protocol. The facility will be locked down until your child is found. Bringing a pair of two-way radios and strapping one to a belt or other secure piece of clothing is another way to go.

• The hideout grounds are large and the festival footprint has expanded four-fold this year and will require a lot of walking, so a stroller or wagon can come in handy if for kids under six.

• In order to locate your party in the inevitable festival crowds, it might not be a bad idea to bring an inflatable animal such as one of these from Amazon. It can be a real help to hold up and wave around when someone is looking for you in the sea of humanity.

Northwest String Summit 3

photo: Spady Photography via Northwest String Summit

For Your Listening Pleasure

You know it’s a parent-friendly music festival when the music starts at 8:30 a.m. every day, which for many parents is still a solid three hours after being gently prodded from sleep with a finger in your nose or a knee to your groin. While just about any of the bands in the 2016 lineup are likely to appeal to your budding bluegrass fans, there are a few acts that are special just for them. In addition to local favorites like Red Yarn (the puppet wielding, folk song troubadour) who plays Saturday and Sunday at 8:30 a.m. on the Cascadia Stage, and the MarchFourth! marching band playing Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on the Main Stage, we’re highlighting a couple potential new favorites for small ones and their grown-ups.

One Grass, Two Grass
3 p.m. on Thursday, July 14 at the Further Bus
Traditional bluegrass with fun, uptempo songs and unique takes on classics like “Stuck in the Middle”.

8:30 to 9:30 a.m. on Fri., July 15 at the Cascadia Stage
Diverse genres with science-based songs, fun subjects and catchy lyrics. “Who, who, who, who … who wants to learn about owls?”

Ben Sollee
12:30 p.m. on Sun., July 17 at the Main Stage
A genre-bending cellist who mixes classical artistry with bluegrass, folk, pop and R&B.

For the 15th Anniversary, the headlining bands and other big acts include several “heavy hitters” in the jam grass scene including Yonder Mountain String Band (Friday and Saturday at 10pm on the Main Stage), Greensky Bluegrass (Thursday and Saturday at 8 p.m. on the Main Stage), Railroad Earth (Friday at 7:40 p.m. on the Main Stage), and Leftover Salmon (Friday at 1:15 a.m. at the Kinfolk Revival Tent and Saturday at 5:45 p.m. on the Main Stage).

Northwest String Summit 4

photo: Spady Photography via Northwest String Summit

The Skinny

When: July 14-17, 2016
Where: Horning’s Hideout at 21277 NW Brunswick Canyon Road, North Plains, Oregon. Click here for a map.
Time: Gates open at 12 p.m. on Thurs. and close 12 p.m. on Mon.
How much: Current prices range from $70 for a Sunday-only ticket to $225 for a four-day pass.


Have you gone to NWSS with kids? Tell us about your experience below!

– Ty Adams

Just Opened: Portland Pastimes

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If the concept of looking only with your eyes is not in your kids’ repertoire, you’ve found your home in Portland Pastimes, the newest toy store in town. You’ll soon be exploring, testing and playing the latest games and toys right alongside your little crew. Read on to get the scoop on this Hollywood District’s latest addition.

Portland Pastimes Dave Hillisphoto: Ty Adams

Past Pastimes
Dave Hillis, a local dad and former hacky sack (aka footbag) professional owns and operates the store with his wife, Christi, and other family members. (Yes, hacky sack professionals do exist, and who better to operate a toy store than someone who once made a living doing something that most people do for fun?) And if that doesn’t make him qualified enough, how about growing up in a toy store? Hillis, whose parents have owned hobby shop Mountain Pastimes in Nevada City, Ca since he was 12, definitely fits the bill.

Portland Pastimes Dave Hillis wPhotophoto: Ty Adams

Yes, Please Touch
Now in his 40’s, Hillis is drawing on his childhood experience and his parents’ guidance to position Portland Pastimes as not just a toy store, but a community hub and knowledge center for family entertainment. It’s a place to hang out, which Hillis encourages customers to do, whether that’s sitting down for some vintage video games or testing out the latest and greatest.

IMG_2933photo: Ty Adams

What’s In Store
In addition to an excellent selection of board and card games, you’ll find gag gifts and jokes, puzzles, educational games, classic wooden toys, magic sets, kites and high quality skateboards, to name a few. Watch the website for future in-store demos and events and kid-rated toy reviews.

Portland Pastimes
1925 NE 42nd Ave., Ste. B
Portland Or 

Hours: Mon-Fri, 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Sat., 9 a.m.–6 p.m. and Sun., 10 a.m.–5 p.m.

Have you checked out this amazing new store yet? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

–Ty Adams

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Maybe you remember it from that zoology course in college or maybe because the Octonauts are on near constant-loop in your Netflix cue, but in the watery world of seahorses, it’s the dads that give birth to babies and carry them around. The strange and wonderful creatures (seahorses and dads) were the inspiration for one of Portland’s newest kid-friendly boutique stores, Seahorses – a place for modern dads and their kids.

seahorses front

photo: Seahorses by Ty Adams

Owner Don Hudson credits searching for the perfect diaper bag sites the opening of his store as one of the motivating factors in founding the city’s first daddy-slanted gathering place and retailer of apparel, toys, books, carriers and other kid accoutrements. That perfect diaper bag that Hudson settled on? It’s the Daddy & Co. Slide Messenger Bag, available at Seahorses, of course. demonstrating the Doona

photo: Owner Don Hudson by Ty Adams

They also carry shaving supplies, Kevlar jeans, white pine furniture and Leatherman multi-tools, all carefully curated to appeal to the testosterone-enriched parents among us. The shop also offers non dude-centric items such as locally-made Serendipity dresses, which are adjustable so they can grow with little ones as they age. Other cool products include a full line of Thule strollers and carriers, Potette potty seats and the Doona infant car seat ($500) that easily converts into a stroller. There’s also a heavy helping of Melissa and Doug products, such as reusable sticker books and water-based, reusable coloring pads ($5).

seahorses Z testing

photo:  Ty Adams

And for those who happen to have literal minded toddlers who ask 37 times on the way to the shop if there will be seahorses, the answer is “no” on real seahorses and “yes” on toys. There’s always at least one of the store’s namesake toys available.

The focus is to offer high quality items that are durable and will get a lot of use, as well as those that are innovative and fun. Because he estimates he has used 95 percent of the products personally, this former stay-at-home dad feels very confident in the collection. The focus on quality doesn’t eliminate affordable options, with many products available in the $5.00 range.

seahorses front to back

photo: Ty Adams

In addition to the selling of helpful products, Seahorses offers community gathering space at the back of the store, including a “fenced in” toddler play area surrounded by a wooden bar (for coffee, tea and water), and behind a rolling door, another room available for gatherings.

Hudson and Wolverton are keen to see the space used in both a casual and more organized way as the community sees fit, and the store is already offering “Jam Sessions” every Thursday at 12:30 p.m. for musically oriented parents who want to dust off the old guitar (or other instrument) and rock out. A story time is also in the offing and professional kid-friendly musicians and other artists will be making appearances. Be sure to keep an eye on Facebook for dates.

Seahorses Boutique
4029 SE Hawthorne Blvd.

Any other great finds you’ve made at Seahorses or other fun stores around town? Tell us about it in the comments below!

— Ty Adams



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A canoe or kayaking adventure might sound like an adventure too big, but with all the waterways around us, it’s easier than you think. Blow little minds with undulating water fun at these five Portland spots. They offer a variety of options, from rentals, lessons, events and even multi-day canoe trips. Go forth and find the perfect stream for an unforgettable day.

Tandem Canoe Portland

photo: Dark Dwarf via Flickr

Alder Creek Kayak and Canoe
Alder Creek, located along the Port of Portland harbor at the east tip of Tomahawk Island, offers a variety of options at its Hayden Island location, from two-hour to weekly rentals to private lessons to youth programs for kids 10-14 years old. While you’re there you can row out along the challenging Columbia River, or opt for the more placid waters of the Tualatin River at Alder Creek’s boathouse at Brown’s Ferry Park in Tualatin. Alder Creek also rents canoes at its Southeast Portland boathouse, on SE Water Street, near OMSI and just steps from the Willamette River.

Optimal times for canoeing this summer are in the mornings when the weather is cool and there’s not a lot of canoe and kayak “traffic.” Before heading there, pack a lunch, a camera and a hat. What’s good about canoes — especially for parents — is you can toss your camping gear, two kids and dog inside and not be cramped like you would be in a kayak.  A two-hour canoe rental costs $30 or an all-day rental $60. Call to reserve a canoe before you get there, especially on hot, sunny days.

If you’d rather discover canoeing with an experienced guide, the Learn to Canoe classes are a 2-for-1 value at $59: You can explore Tomahawk Island (at the tip of Hayden Island) and pick up basic canoe rowing skills. Alder Creek also donates and loans canoes/kayaks for special events for the Tualatin Riverkeepers and Portland Audubon Society.

200 NE Tomahawk Island Dr.

Canoe Portland 1

photo: Kathy and Sam via Flickr

Portland Kayak Company
Don’t be fooled by their company name. Portland Kayak Co. is about canoes, too! The Willamette River access is just behind its shop on Macadam Avenue, but you’ll need a roof rack to transport your family canoe. Here you can find classes and multi-day kids and teen camps on the Willamette River for kids as young as 10. They also offer private lessons with canoes as well as rentals and tours. Rentals are $20 per hour for two; all-day rental is $85 if you want to load up the canoe and take the family to Bybee Lake, Vancouver Lake or a lake on Mt. Hood.
The store offers guided trips to Ross Island.

6600 SW Macadam Ave.

Tualatin Riverkeepers

photo: Tualatin Riverkeepers

Tualatin Riverkeepers
Families floating down the Tualatin River — one of the most family friendly waters in the state — can spot osprey, hawks and herons. Tualatin Riverkeepers offers canoe classes, tours, rentals and adventures at the Cook Park boat launch on the Tualatin River in Tigard.  From July 3 through September, canoes and kayaks are available for four-hour rentals for $30. To make it more affordable for repeat customers, the Riverkeepers have offered a membership deal. TRK members receive one free rental and $10 off each additional rental. Memberships start at $35.

Tualatin Riverkeepers hosts a Family Day Paddle on Aug. 16 at 1 p.m. Check out their website for Autumn River Paddle Trip and free rental River Cleanup Days too. The group also offers private Spanish-speaking guided canoe trips.

11675 SW Hazelbrook Rd.

Canoe Xing Portland

photo: Jason McHuff via Flickr

Willamette Riverkeeper
Connecting families to the true Willamette River is the goal of Portland-based Willamette Riverkeeper’s River Discovery Program. The nonprofit group has its own fleet of canoes and offers camps where families can learn about the river habitats and water environment. From May to October, WRK hosts monthly River Discovery paddling adventures up and down the mainstem Willamette River, its tributaries and sloughs. The trips are offered free of charge but donations are gratefully accepted.

WRK’s signature trip, Paddle Oregon celebrates its 15th year with an Aug. 17-21 trip. Cost of the journey is $749 for adults; $699 for youth 17 or younger. Registration includes food, baggage shuttle, safety paddlers, camping accommodations, showers, T-shirts and more. In the fall, keep an eye out for Willamette Riverkeeper’s Our Great Willamette Cleanup on Sun., Oct. 4.

1515 SE Water St. # 102

Columbia Slough Canoe 1

photo: Columbia Slough by Katrinket via flickr

Columbia Slough Watershed Council
7040 NE 47th Ave.

While they don’t offer regular canoe rentals, the Columbia Slough Watershed Council does host an annual group paddle Regatta, this year on Aug. 2nd from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Multnomah County Drainage District at 1880 NE Elrod Drive. The suggested donation is $8 and boats are provided, although participants can bring their own. No one will be turned away.

The CSWC also hosts regular, nature-based events at local parks and provides local schools with free field programs and classes.

Where do you take your kids when you want to float under the clouds in a canoe? Tell us in the Comments!

—Ty Adams

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Impress your mini-me with a midday dining experience that goes beyond chicken nuggets and coloring mats. Get gourmet with grilled cheese, cook up your own pancake storm or relax in fancy bistro that has a play area. There’s even a spacious restaurant that offers free pasta to hangry, waiting foodies under 12. Scroll down to find out what makes these 6 eateries an ideal Portland lunch spot with the kids below.

mothers bistro

photo: Bistro side of Mother’s, courtesy Sandee T. via Yelp

Mother’s Bistro and Bar
For us, just going downtown with a toddler qualifies as a rare and adventurous experience, and Mother’s is a cozy yet tasteful enclave that can add delicious food to the equation. Servers are known to be patient and easy with kids and the lunch menu (served 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday) offers a nice mix of recognizable comfort food with a special twist, like pierogies or the Mac and Cheese Du Jour, along side a bit more daring fare such as the fried calamari or liver and onions. Entrees run $9 to $13. As with most every popular restaurant in Portland, be advised that coming during weekend brunch hours is asking for an almost certain, minimum 30-minute wait. Oh, and they also have a play area, just in case.

212 SW Stark St

laurelhurst cafe

photo: Laurelhurst Cafe via Yelp

Laurelhurst Cafe
At last check, the Laurelhurst Cafe remains one of those rare spots that serves tasty weekend brunch without an ever-present line ala Portlandia‘s Brunch Village sketch. So if you happen to feel brunchy, or if you just want a lunch date on a weekend with a low risk of a long wait, consider adding this place to your deliberations. They offer a substantial kid’s menu and a solid line-up of classic Portland scrambles starting at $9.75 and breakfast sandwiches starting at $4. If you’re going straight lunch, they offer more small plates and sandwich options than you can shake a carrot stick at. Lunch prices range from $3 small plates up to $10 burgers. Hours are weekdays 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and weekends 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

4611 E. Burnside St.

slappy cakes

photo: Slappy Cakes by Claire and Amy A. via Yelp

Slappy Cakes
Of course you can get pancakes all day in Portland, and of course you can create them yourselves, right at your table. That’s the Slappy Cakes “wish you’d thought of it” concept and it’s quickly become a popular, Brunch Village sort of place. The forecast for a long wait on weekends is close to 100 percent, but if you’re willing to brave the lines or able to hit them up for lunch on a weekday, Slappy Cakes provides that great combination of fascinating toddler entertainment and functional, enjoyable adult activity. You and your date can choose from several different batters (including vegan/gluten free), a bunch of sweet or savory fixin’s and toppings, and then go to town with griddle artwork. There are also non-pancake menu options for party poopers or those with diet restrictions. Obviously, the temptation to go sweet and fatty is probably irresistable for most wee ones, so keep that in mind if you’re making health calculations. Slappy Cakes is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and weekends from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

4246 SE Belmont St.

all hail kale veggie grill

photo: Veggie Grill, courtesy Lid C. via Yelp

Veggie Grill
Are we leaning heavily on the old standbys of classic kid cuisine for this list? Yes, but here’s our nod to parents attempting to broaden their tiny diner’s palate or just fighting the good fight of keeping it healthy all the time — or maybe you’ve got the next Upton Sinclair on your hands. Whatever your reasons, if you’d like to keep it vegetarian, the Veggie Grill offers up a nice combination of no-frills fresh vegan and vegetarian fare, as well as hearty faux meat options that might appeal more to little ones who are normally carnivorous. Snacks run $4 and up and entrees and sandwiches start at $8.50. The Beaverton location is open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. The downtown Portland location opens at 10 a.m. weekdays and 10:30 a.m. on weekends.

3435 SW Cedar Hills Blvd.

508 SW Taylor St.


grilled cheese grill

photo: The Grilled Cheese Grill, courtesy Caron S. via Yelp

Grilled Cheese Grill
If they could create their own utopian society, for most toddlers, it would probably include the regular consumption of grilled cheese sandwiches inside a brightly painted school bus. If you’re ready to fulfill that grand vision, Portland is here for you with the Grilled Cheese Grill. One of the early NePo food cart pioneers, this place has reached nearly institutional status. They start with the basics like the Kindergartner, melted cheddar or American cheese on your choice of bread ($4.50) and amp it up with more decadent adult options like the Hot Brie on sourdough with roasted red peppers, tomato and spicy mustard. They also offer kid-sized portions starting at $2.50. They are open 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday to Thursday, close at 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, and close at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday and Monday.

1027 NE Alberta St.


mac at pause

photo: Pause by Joe D. via Yelp

If you’re looking for a wallet-friendly spot that doesn’t tend to get crowded, Pause may be your joint. With a spacious interior filled with comfy booths and a good sized patio, we’ve never had to wait for a seat. And then there’s the free pasta for kids under 12. While elbow noodles with butter might not be YOUR idea of special lunch date food, this is like filet mignon for some of the smalls, and it can really come in handy to avoid any “hangry” episodes whilst you wait. We certainly appreciate the management’s olive branch to families by making it free, and try to repay them by maintaining reasonable decibel levels. Should your lunch buddy decide to go with a more sophisticated order, there’s a kids menu with most of the usual suspects starting at $4, as well as a regular menu that trends toward the heavier, meatier side, but also some reasonably priced salad and veggie options. Entrees range from $8 to $14 and Pause is open Monday through Saturday, 11:30 am to 1:00 a.m. They open at noon on Sunday and close at midnight.

5101 N. Interstate Ave.

 What’s your favorite lunch spot? Let us know in the Comments section below.

—Ty Adams

15 Signs the Holidays Have Arrived in Portland

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Portland during the holidays. The following are sure signs the festive season is making its way toward us like gangbusters. Click through our album to see them all.


<p style="text-align:left;"><strong>The white stag's nose glows red. </strong></p> <p style="text-align:left;"><em>photo: White Stag Sign by <a target="_blank" href="; target="_blank">Go Ray Family</a> via creative commons</em></p> fuck
  • Credit: Go Ray Family via Creative Commons


What’s a definitive Portland sign the holidays have arrived? Tell us what we missed in the Comments below.

–Ty Adams

Hidden Gem: The North Coast Water Trails

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Most visitors to Oregon’s North Coast focus their attention in one direction: west. And while the ocean beaches, coves and tide pools definitely deserve the love, there are 800 miles of hidden treasures waiting for little water bugs and their families who cast their gaze just a bit to the east. There, you’ll find the Tillamook County Water Trails — creeks, rivers, marshes, lakes and bays that make up the five, wildlife-filled estuaries of Tillamook County.

Garibaldi Trip 2014 067

photo: Paddling Cape Meares Lake with a child-seat insert by Ty Adams

You’ll have the chance to commune with nature, learn the unique human history of the area and get up close and personal with many kinds of critters, including harbor seals, otters, beavers, elk, and over 150 species of birds.

What’s more, because the ocean hogs the limelight, the secrets of the rivers, lakes and bays are mostly known only to locals, so visiting paddlers on these waterways can often find quite a bit of solitude even when the beaches are crowded. And the fall and winter weather can often be much milder than you’d expect.

Before You Go
When planning your trip, we recommend that you check in with the Tillamook Estuaries Partnership (TEP). This non-profit organization is one of the leaders behind the recent community push to publicize the water trails of the five estuaries. They have already published wonderfully detailed, waterproof guidebooks for four estuaries; the Nehalem Watershed, Tillamook Bay Watershed, Nestucca Bay Watershed and Sand Lake Watershed, and they’re planning to create a similar guidebook for the Netarts Bay Watershed by 2016. The TEP makes the guidebooks available online and can provide hard copies upon request by mail or in-person at their offices in Garibaldi.

For utter newbies and those without canoes or kayaks, a guided tour is the way to go. We went with Kayak Tillamook, LLC, which specializes in the waters of Tillamook County, though Columbia River Kayaking is an outfit that specializes in the Lower Columbia River but also advertises limited tours in the Tillamook area. Our guide, Marcus Hinze, the principal executive at Kayak Tillamook, was extremely passionate about the craft and knowledgeable about the area. While Kayak Tillamook can’t take children under 16 on their regularly scheduled tours, families with young children can book a private tour starting at $69.


photo: pixabay via flickr

Kayaks can be rented at Wheeler Marina Rentals, but if you’re not going with a guide, you’ll definitely want to get a tide table, available at local markets or online. Even if your family has the right watercraft and are experienced paddlers, unless you’ll be sticking to an enclosed lake unaffected by tides, Marcus stressed the importance of knowing the tides and understanding the nature of paddling in tide affected waters.

“Most people think that the tide just goes up and down, but [on the inland waterways], it’s a river coming in, and a river going out,” he said. “It’s a lot more complicated than just finding a place to launch.”

People who paddle the bays and rivers without an understanding of the tides could end up beached in mud, paddling against a strong current, or in the worst-case scenarios, pulled out to sea by an outgoing tide or dumped into frigid water by a strainer or other obstacle.  Safety checklists are available in the TEP guidebooks and a free safety course is available via the Oregon State Marine Board website.

As long as families are safe and geared properly for inclement weather, Marcus said that paddlers shouldn’t be afraid of setting out in the fall, winter or spring. In fact, he added that each season offers some distinct advantages over summer trips. “We’re right under the Pacific Flyway, so in the fall and spring,  you’ll get to see all kinds of migrating waterfowl that you don’t get to see in the summer,” he said. “And the light in the winter is the best for photographs. Because the dusk and dawn are closer together in the winter, that’s when we see all the wildlife activity. I love winter paddling, I really do.”

On our late-October trip, even though we drove through monsoon-like conditions with lightning and thunder on the way to the put-in, when we arrived, the clouds suddenly cleared and the rain stopped, making for a clear, sun-speckled cruise. That’s not uncommon, Marcus said.

“On our trips, we make the final decision to go or stay at the launch site, five minutes before [the planned launch time],” he said. “No matter what the forecast is, we ask customers to show up at the launch. Ninety-five percent of the time, we end up going out. It’s actually rare to cancel a trip, even in the winter.”

Garibaldi House Family Suite

photo: The Garibaldi House via Yelp

While a day trip from Portland is certainly a do-able prospect, for those who want to make a weekend of it, there are plenty of accommodations close to many of the waterway launch sites. Kayak Tillamook recommends the Garibaldi House, where we stayed, which provides a 10% discount to KT customers. Garibaldi House owner/chef Gene Tish is also extremely knowledgeable about the history of the area, and quick to share information.

Other well-reviewed lodgings near to the waterway ports include Three Arch Inn of Oceanside, Sea Haven Motel of Rockaway Beach, the Old Wheeler Hotel of Wheeler and the Craftsman Bed and Breakfast of Pacific City.

Garibaldi Trip 2014 099

photo: Marcus Hinz of Kayak Tillamook points out Bayocean Spit by Ty Adams

5 Great Launch Spots for Families

Cape Meares Lake
This freshwater lake is easy to overlook as just another inlet of Tillamook Bay, but it’s actually a body of water unto itself, with a unique ecosystem and history. It’s also a perfect place to start for those unfamiliar with tide affected waterways or those with toddlers who might not tolerate long stints out on the water. It was our chosen location for a first paddle, and turned out to be a great introduction for a two-year-old.

“One of the things I love about this lake is that the ocean is just on the other side of the spit,” Marcus said. “So you can hear the waves but stay in a protected environment.”

In addition to hundreds of waterfowl, the lake features an enormous beaver dam as well as access to the Bayocean Spit, which makes for a nice picnic spot and comes with a “tale of the lost city of Bayocean” as Marcus puts it.

The launch for Cape Meares Lake is located on Bayocean Drive, just before the town of Cape Meares.


photo: Dock at Lake Lytle, courtesy Kayak Tillamook

Lake Lytle
Lake Lytle (and adjoining Crescent Lake), in the town of Rockaway Beach is also a recommended launch for unseasoned families new to the sport, those with very young seafarers or those who are going the rental route. Though not quite as secluded as Cape Meares Lake, being directly off Highway 101, it’s extremely easy access and one of the few spots that gives you the option of disembarking, grabbing a hot meal or a drink and then continuing to  paddle. And there are still secluded portions of the two lakes that make for great bird watching, and the lakes are well stocked if fishing is of interest.

Access the Lake Lytle boat launch by turning right on NE 12th St. off of 101.


Nehalem River

photo: Nehalem Bay kayak tour, courtesy of Kayak Tillamook

Nehalem City Docks to Wheeler
This is another water trail that blends a combination of the urban and the natural, but because of the potential for fast changing tidal and wind conditions, it’s recommended only for those with paddling experience and a knowledge of tidal conditions. For most of the water trails, the best rule of thumb is to leave two hours before high tide and spend no more than four hours on the water. While the direct route is only 1.5 miles, you can circumnavigate and explore a variety of nearby islands if you want to see more of the area. The Nehalem City Dock launch site can be reached in downtown Nehalem, following H Street off of Highway 101.

Hoquarton Forest

photo: Exploring the Hoquarton Forest near Tillamook, courtesy of Kayak Tillamook

Carnahan Park to Hoquarton Slough
Although the Carnahan Park boat launch is located just west of downtown Tillamook, you’ll never guess it once you’re in the water. The park launch places you in the Trask River, which is calm flatwater at this location. Though it is affected by tidal flows, there are much fewer hazards here than most of the other water trails. Follow the Trask out of town toward the bay, then take a right at the Dougherty Slough, and again at the Hoquarton Slough to take a short, 1.5 mile jaunt back to the north side of town where the Hoquarton Slough boat ramp makes for an easy exit. Though be aware that the ramp can be muddy and slick at low tide. This launch point would be a good one for learning the tides and taking progressively longer jaunts further toward the bay as your skills and knowledge improve.


 photo: Aerial view of the Nestucca River and Pacific City, courtesy of Kayak Tillamook

Bixby County to Three Rivers
If Pacific City is your North Coast hamlet of choice, there are plenty of paddling options, though some paddling experience is recommended for all of them. This run on the Nestucca River, from the Bixby County boat ramp to the Three Rivers take out, is not so strongly tide affected, but it does have moving water with some small riffles, and you’ll definitely be sharing the water with anglers from fall through winter. To access the Bixby County boat ramp, headed south on Highway 101, take a left (east) on Blaine Road in the town of Beaver. Turn right on Bixby Road and follow 1.3 miles to the dead end launch site.

Have you discovered the hidden jewel of the North Coast Water Trails or know of another good family paddling spot? Tell us about it in the Comments below.

–Ty Adams