School’s almost out, but —as one of our smart Mom staffers recently put it —learning never stops. Luckily, Oregon has no shortage of interesting venues for your family to discover on your summer road trip.

Wild lessons: The High Desert Museum in Bend gets you up close and personal with the furry and winged residents of the region —bobcat, lynx, porcupine, fox and others (and if you think porcupines aren’t cute, check out the video of Mama Honeysuckle and Baby Q’Will on the HDM website and get back to me.). Watch otter watersports at the Autzen Otter Exhibit, and visit the owls, hawks and eagles at the Donald M. Kerr Birds of Prey Center. The museum also offers various summer camps where kids can learn about things like animal tracks and scat, wildlife environments and how different species play.

Spooky study: According to Gary Speck, author of Ghost Towns: Yesterday and Today, Oregon has more than 600 ghost towns, with high concentrations in the eastern part of the state. These lonely outposts mark former farming and mining communities. “Visiting ghost towns gives a person a chance to touch history where it happened, and not just read a bunch of boring facts out of a book. People that lived in these towns had hopes and dreams like us,” he said. If you plan to visit, Speck recommends that you bring your camera, a map and a sense of curiosity and wonder. (But don’t expect to find a snack restroom on this kind of adventure.) For more information about Oregon’s ghost towns, visit www.traveloregon.com.

Footsteps of the past: You can read Portland’s past like an open book with the folks at Portland Walking Tours. Gary Corbin, Royal Storyteller, recommends the Best of Portland and the Underground Portland tours, opposing sides of the same coin. “Best of Portland being about the good things and the Underground being about the not-so-good things,” he said. Families also enjoy the Beyond Bizarre tour, which uncovers the weird and wacky of downtown Portland, employing ghost stories and ghost detection equipment. A new tour, Roses Gone Wild, starts May 21 and includes history, scandal and gossip at the International Rose Test Garden.

Eastern-Western history: The Kam Wah Chung Museum in John Day illuminates the often forgotten and deep roots of Chinese Americans in Oregon. From 1867 to 1948, the Kam Wah Chung operated as a grocery, Chinese medicine clinic and liquor store for the Chinese miners living in the area. “It also functioned as a temple and joss house, unofficial post office, library, business and interpretive center, contract labor pool, automobile dealership, social club, dormitory, and apothecary shop,” writes Jodi Varon in the Oregon Encyclopedia. A museum since 2008, Kam Wah Chung contains many artifacts and documents of a bygone era and unique culture.

Also check out tours and special activities with the Oregon Historical Society and History Museum, John Day Fossil Beds, and Tamastslikt Cultural Institute.

about author Eileen Garvin

Eileen Garvin lives and writes in Hood River. When she’s not hunched over her keyboard or digging in the garden, you can find her mountain biking, kiteboarding, hiking, skiing or camping somewhere in Oregon.

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These maps and directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, or other events may cause road conditions to differ from the map results. For travel options, weather and road conditions, visit tripcheck.com, call 511 (in Oregon only), 800.977.6368 or 503.588.2941.

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