The season is changing but don't bring the kids indoors yet! The Eugene, Cascades & Coast region is robust with autumn activities for all ages. Here are some of the best things to do with the family this fall:
Leafy Family Hikes
Crunch through the colorful autumn leaves at the region's many parks, playgrounds and along family-friendly hiking paths.
In Eugene - Springfield, the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Path System features level paved paths looping around the Willamette River. Bike bridges make shorter loops possible. Watch ducks, picnic or romp at the many playgrounds.
The Row River Trail in Cottage Grove encircles Dorena Reservoir and showcases six covered bridges. Sixteen miles (26 km) of the Row River Trail are designated-family friendly with easy terrain, marked road crossings and pathways buffered from traffic.
The North Fork Trail in Westfir originates near a historic covered bridge with a pedestrian walkway (so the kids can run back and forth across the bridge without traffic worries) and then plunges into beautiful forest alongside the river. With easy parking and restroom facilities, this is a great destination for a playgroup, scout troop or weekend family outing.
Visit with Nature's Friends
Before wildlife and domestic animals bed down for winter, trek to neighborhood farms, parks and wetlands. Delta Ponds is a great spot to observe birds and water creatures.
Get a bird's eye view of eagles, hawks, falcons, ospreys and other amazing raptors at the Cascades Raptor Center.
Visit alpacas, sheep and cows and feed goats! Aragon Alpacas has a gift shop full of fleecy sweaters, hats and teddy bears. Detering Orchard sells goat feed and Northern Lights Christmas Tree Farm offers tractor tours during their special events — see the cows, turkeys and goats.
The Willamette Fish Hatchery in Oakridge features pools of trout and white sturgeon. Spring Chinook salmon and summer steelhead are also reared here seasonally. Along with interpretive signage there is a nine-hole miniature golf course explaining the salmon life cycle, a viewing area of game birds, a museum and picnic area.
On the Oregon Coast the sea lions lounge in their coastal cave. Take an elevator down into its dank and dark depths for a unique look at their habitat. C&M Stables offers corral rides for little riders, and older children can ride with their parents out into the dunes.
Under Cover Romps
Bring the fun indoors! Ride the 1930s carousel inside Roaring Rapids Pizza Company in Springfield. Or hang out in the mall play area at Valley River Center. Wandering museums is a great rainy day activity. Young children will love the imaginative play and quiet spaces at the Adventure! Children's Museum at Valley River Center or the tot spot at the Eugene Science Center. In fact, the science center is great for a wide range of ages including adults!
Eugene has many gyms that offer climbing and bouncing. Defy Eugene is a popular spot for kids to burn off energy. Drop in and ride the rails, bowls and decks of the largest covered skate park in the country. WJ Skatepark + Urban Plaza is located in Washington Jefferson Park.
Popular Fall Family Events
Northern Lights Christmas Tree Farm kicks off the season with its Harvest Days with pumpkin patch visits, animal viewing, vendors and live music. Explore a corn maze and climb on the hay bales. Look ahead to December when the farm re-opens for cutting your own Christmas trees!
Pumpkin pickers will also be interested in Deterings Orchard with its many kid-friendly activities from cider pressing to feeding the goats. And Walt's Wild Wagon Ride and pumpkin chuckin' at Johnson Farms is a great fit as kids get older. They also have a haunted house made of hay bales (parental discretion advised).
Other memorable family-friendly events for the kids include Nearby Nature's "Haunted Hike" — this is best for toddlers and younger elementry school children. Walk along a jack-o-lantern lit path, clutching parent hands and stopping to hear the woodland stories from costumed moths, owls and frogs. Nature and science-based, this gentle, educational stroll is a lot of fun. As your child gets older, choose later and darker time slots to keep the mood engaging.
The next level up is Willamalane's "Haunted Hayride" at Dorris Ranch. Still geared for younger children with crafts and activities during pre-boarding, this fun family event can be a little spookier. Pile onto a tractor-pulled hay wagon and roll through the filbert orchards to see vignettes from dance routines like "Thriller" to classic haunts or modern day characters.
Another event not to miss is the "Mushroom Festival" at Mount Pisgah. Educational and fun, explore the fascinating world of mushrooms, listen to live music, check out the scarecrow competition and munch on delicious food (the mushroom soups are most popular!).