We’re getting to halfway through summer break and I am quickly running out of things for the kids to do. We’re already resorting to holing up in the air-conditioning, and that’s just soooooo un-Pacific Northwest.
The next thing you know I’ll be toting an umbrella in October, sporting a Lakers jersey, and eating apples from New Zealand.
Are you in the same boat? Let’s solve this problem, stat.
Here are four ways to enjoy the outdoors for less this summer! Some of the suggestions include specific spots in the Portland Metro area, I betcha you could find similar places in your area!
Visit your neighborhood splash pad
I love outdoor park water features — they are free to use and don’t require a flotation device. Find a giant list of Splash Pads and Spray Parks in the Portland Metro area here.
Many parks also serve free lunch to children ages 1-18 (no income requirements), so make sure you check out the service times.
Find free lunch locations in Oregon here and Washington here.
Play at a local beach
Kids absolutely love playing in the sand and I often forget that I don’t have to travel to the coast to find it!
There are several sand-spots in the Portland Metro area that are free to visit or only require a $5 parking fee (note some of these parks do not allow swimming or you might determine swimming would be too dangerous for kids):
Sellwood Riverfront Park (SE Portland)
Sauvie Island (N Portland) — note one of the beaches is clothing optional, so, well, don’t accidentally go there if you don’t mean to
George Rogers Park (Lake Oswego)
Blue Lake Park (Fairview) — parking fee
Chinook Landing Marine Park (Fairview) — parking fee; this park is mostly a boat launch, but there is a very nice (and partially shaded) beach area right on the Columbia!
Oxbow Regional Park (Gresham) — parking fee
Dabney State Park (Corbett) — parking fee
Vancouver Lake Regional Park (Vancouver)
Esther Short Park (Vancouver) — metered parking
Salmon Creek Park (Vancouver)
Cottonwood Beach (Washougal)
Obviously, those of you in the Puget Sound area can’t go more than a mile without hitting sand, so you don’t need much of my help to find a nearby beach or lake.
Make sure you have your Summer Sand Toys bag packed and ready to go!
Take in a FREE outdoor movie
Most cities and park systems host family-friendly movies in the evening sometime during the summer. Pop a bag of popcorn, pack up the blankets, and head out right before dusk.
Find a big list of Portland Metro area summer movie locations here.
You can also grab a double-feature at your local drive-in movie. The Portland Metro area still has one — read more about the Newberg 99 Drive-In here.
Use your backyard to it’s fullest
I often send my kids outside and cross my fingers that they will find something to occupy them for hours on end. I just recently realized that having some fun toys and activities to facilitate the fun would be helpful. Here’s how we’ve been enjoying our backyard this summer:
Backyard tent camping — It’s been a sleeping pad, play area, and snack shack for over a week. And then we’ll be able to enjoy the square patch of dead grass for years to come.
Mini-golfing — I purchased an inexpensive set of golf clubs and the boys have been golfing ever since. I did have to set some strict rules surrounding the use of the golf clubs: clubs are to be used exclusively for golfing, NOT digging dirt, sword fights, poking sticks, intimidation devices, or any other physical activity three boys can imagine.
Squirt gun fights — This activity yields 10-15 minutes of fun before someone comes crying that they are wet. The absurdity doesn’t even warrant a comment.
Swinging — We don’t have a play structure in our yard for the big kids, but my husband did install two hooks in the patio beam to hold our communal baby swing. Yes, it’s for babies and toddlers, but all of our kids (up to age 13) can fit in it and you’ll often find a school-aged child reading in it.
Read outdoors! Our kids have been working on completing our local library’s summer reading program booklet, but at this point in the summer, they need a change of scenery to motivate them to keep going. I would love to create an outdoor reading area, but everything I found on Pinterest is super elaborate and permanent, which will NOT work in the Pacific Northwest (although this might work in a pinch).
I’m now inspired to whip something up that is easy to set-up and take-down in case of bad weather and can be reassembled inside the house during the school year.
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Bruce Sussman says
First of all, great tips! Second of all I really love your writing style. Very creative.
Have a great second half of summer,
The link to the list of water parks and fountains is not working. But thank you for the awesome post!
Thanks for the inspiration and great info. The link for local water parks in not working.
Where is the splash pad with the buckets and water gun. Tia.