Day Tripping Down I-5


I was at our local library and my daughter decided that she wanted to sign up to get her own library card. My knee-jerk reaction was to convince her that my library card was actually her card that I had just been holding for her. In all honesty, the last thing that I wanted to do was voluntarily sign up for something else to be responsible for. However, I am so glad that I swallowed that initial reaction and said, “Yes, let’s go ask the librarian” instead…

As we were filling out the paperwork and learning about all of the benefits of having a library card, I stumbled upon the Cultural Pass to Adventure. The librarian handed me a brochure, and when I opened it and saw the list of local (or short-driving distance away) places we could go to, I was shocked by the options. I almost didn’t believe the librarian when she said that we could get passes (for free!) to go to the locations listed. Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, Outdoors In, the Oregon State Parks, Five Oaks Museum, Wings & Waves Waterpark … and the list goes on! 

We had been planning to do a week-day trip to Salem and this gave me the perfect opportunity to check out new places without straining our monthly budget on entry fees. It can be tricky to commit to trying a new venue or event without knowing if it will be a hit or miss experience with my kids. I followed the instructions to reserve my spot to a few different places and printed out our tickets. I was worried that I had been overzealous in my planning, but I thew caution to the wind and a few days later, with a surplus of food packed, we were on our way. 

Stop #1 –Insomnia Coffee

I realize I am perfectly capable of making my own coffee at home. I am, however, not capable of making a cinnamon cappuccino at home, so I tend to start our road trips here. We love the cozy environment, incredibly friendly baristas and their cinnamon rolls are highly recommended by all members of my family. 

Stop #2 – Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum

While this isn’t located in Salem, I had to check it out when I read about it. The museum is divided into two buildings – one dedicated to the history of aviation and the second to the history of space exploration … hence the name. I very incorrectly assumed that it would be a whole bunch of pictures and maybe a few artifacts, and we could get through the museum in an hour. Instead, we spent the morning wandering through old airplanes, exploring space simulator machines, getting up close and personal with *very* realistic replicas of space suits and exploration vehicles and learning so much. In hindsight, I wish I had made this a day trip all of its own!

Stop #3 – Gilbert House Children’s Museum

We arrived at the Gilbert House, a grouping of beautiful old houses transformed into a hands-on children museum in the heart of Salem. Each room of the house had been converted into its own themed space. The real highlight of this stop was the outdoor playground area. It has two distinct spaces. One is an amazingly sprawling structure that incorporates different bridges and sand pits and levels to run through. The second space was a multi-leveled structure (think castle!) with multiple slides at the different level. Honestly, it was like a real-life vertical version of an enclosed Chutes & Ladders game. Both of my kids were hesitant at first, as were my mama nerves, but once we all explored it together, they played on the structure for over an hour.

Stop #4 – The State House

This stop was purely accidental! I took a wrong turn trying to find stop #5 and ended up driving past the capital building. There was TONS of on-street parking available, so we hopped out of the car and spent a few minutes walking around the building and reading all of the fun “Oregon facts” inlaid in the sidewalk.

Stop#5 – Venti’s Cafe & Basement Bar

A very fun, kid and vegetarian friendly spot for a meal! Both of my kids were super tired by dinner time, so I really appreciated the variety of options on the menu, quick service, and really good food. I didn’t check out the “Basement Bar” portion of the resturant, but I’d definitely like to go back soon! It was the perfect end to a really fun day of road-tripping south. 

All said and done, it was a successful day of exploring other parts of our state, in large thanks to the offerings of the Cultural Pass to Adventure from our local library. Check it out!

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Katie L
Katie is a recent East Coast transplant from Maine, where she was born and raised. While trying to figure out how to create the life they wanted to live, Katie’s husband, David, was presented with a job opportunity in Portland. They decided to go for it and moved across the country with their two young children. Katie has previously worked as an occupational therapist in an early childhood setting, but with the move was presented with the opportunity to stay home with her kids and she took it! It has been an adventure switching to life as a full time stay-at-home mom to her five-year-old daughter and three-year-old son. She spends her days exploring Portland’s playgrounds and coffee shops, looking for new vegetarian restaurants to check out, and trying to remember that slowing down is a good thing. Since arriving in Portland, she has begun making time for all of the things that have caught her interest over the years: yoga, cooking with local foods, experimenting with sustainable lifestyle choices, writing and getting outside in the always beautiful PNW.