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Hood River – Outdoor Playland
January 2, 2008  |  Hood River, Skiing and Tubing
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What’s to Love: What’s not to love? Hood River is my favorite small town outside Portland. For the outdoor enthusiast, there are a myriad of options: windsurfing, kiteboarding, mountain biking, road biking, kayaking, downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, sledding, mountaineering, hiking, etc. To detail all of the activities is a book in-of-itself. Many of my favorite outdoor activities are right outside town including the incredible ridge hike, “Cooper Spur” and mountain biking the spectacular Surveyor’s Ridge – not to mention all the amazing hikes in the Columbia River Gorge. The fun never seems to end in Hood River. This town is not just a world-class outdoor destination, there are some excellent restaurants, great cheap eats, and unique, independent retail shops.

One of my favorite things about Hood River is the close-proximity to Mt. Hood. It’s certainly possible to windsurf, mountain bike, and backcountry ski all in the same day! Of course, there are MANY options for mountaineering right in your backyard. Do you want to learn how to climb Mt. Hood, cross glaciers, travel with a roped-team, self-arrest, use an ice axe, etc.? Give the folks at Timberline Mountain Guides a call. I’ve taken their basic snow travel course – it was comprehensive, exhausting, and a lot of fun!

Traveling south toward Mt. Hood brings you through many of the orchards that have made Hood River famous for pears, apples, and other assorted fruits. Many of these tasty treats can be found at your local New Seasons Market in Portland. However, if you want them straight from the orchard without a middle-man, head over to one of our favorites: Rasmussen Farm. Rasmussen is an absolute must during the fall season! They create a display that has to be “seen to believed,” – it’s one that will keep you coming back to the farm year after year.

If your a hiking family, I highly recommend the 3.8 (round trip) hike into the gorgeous Tamanawas Falls. This is a challenging hike with several uphill sections – it’s filled with tree roots and rocks at some points. It’s not a good hike for a jogging stroller! You’ll definitely need a backpack-type carrier for smaller children. This is a great hike when your kids are getting bored with shorter hikes.

Finally, if you’re thinking about introducing your kids to skiing and/or snowboarding, the Cooper Spur Mountain Resort is probably your best bet. It’s within 30 minutes of downtown Hood River, and has a smaller, less-intimidating ski hill that is ideal for beginners. Despite being a smaller destination, the resort has plenty of lodging options for the whole family. There is also an area for tubing and cross-country skiing. If you’re looking for a bit more excitement, continue south another 15 minutes to Mt. Hood Meadows, which is one of my favorite skiing destinations, and I’ve skied all over Colorado. Mt. Hood Meadows is a great little ski area!

Caveats: I’m no fan of Wal-Mart, and I have seen first-hand how it can adversely affect independent businesses in small, downtown areas. Despite the presence of Wal-Mart, Hood River has maintained an independent spirit in its retail sector of downtown.

Freight trains often roar by beneath town – it is a distraction to this rather tranquil destination. My biggest problem with downtown is the parking. I don’t mind having to pay, and indeed, it is very reasonable. However, I’m rather spoiled in Portland with the credit-card payment stations. In Hood River, you’d better have some change with you if you want to park near downtown. Or, you’ll be walking quite a distance after you park.

UPDATE (2/28/10)!  Finally!  Hood River now has credit card pay stations for parking on Oak Street, which is the main-drag through downtown.  However, you’ll still need change to park on side streets connecting back to Oak Street.  Hey…it’s progress!

If you plan on staying in or near town, the lodging options are limited, and you’ll be surprised by how expensive the hotels are in this little town.

Website: Hood River Chamber of Commerce

Distance from Portland: Hood River is a smooth-sailing, 60-70 mile drive from Portland proper. You’ll be able to drive 65 mph most of the way. It’s a beautiful drive through the Gorge -watch out for high winds!

Recommended Ages: All ages. Small kids will love the toy store G. Willikers. There are also some trendy clothing stores for young adults and fashionable older adults. This is not the best town to entertain teens.

Parental Stress Factor: Low Stress! This town is all about having a good time. You’ll only experience high stress if you forget your change for parking, and/or you’re staying in the Hood River Inn with kids who might damage the room.

Physical Difficulty: Low to Medium – For some, getting around Hood River is not the easiest activity. Some of the streets are quite steep, and access to several restaurants can be a hike. Biking in and around town isn’t recommended on a cruiser bike. You’ll definitely need plenty of gears to climb up above town.

Family Fun Factor: Medium/High – Older kids and teen agers are not going to be thrilled by the social scene in Hood River. Cold and rainy weather has definitely been a factor in a trip that did not go as well as expected.

Pet Friendly: Yes! Hood River remains a pretty friendly town for dogs. I have seen dogs in shops, as long as they were on a leash and well behaved.

Weather Considerations: Hood River is a year round destination. There is always something to do outside no matter what the season. However, my favorite time of the year in Hood River is Autumn. Check with local shops concerning conditions for outdoor sports.

Insider Info: Don’t forget change for the parking meters!Check-out some of the great shops including G. Williker’s Toy Shoppe, Flow Yoga Studio, Discovery Bikes, the Carhart Store, and Andrew’s Pizza.There is also a great little ice cream spot on the west side of town – north side of the street.

Take time to bring the kids down to the river to watch the windsurfing and kiteboarding.Kids (adults too!) will be amazed by the amount of air that the kiteboarders get when hitting a good wave.Also, the speed of windsurfers tacking across the Columbia is a sight to behold.There are also some picnic benches for a lunch or snack.

Family Tips: For families with small children, I do not recommend the Hood River Hotel. It’s a beautiful, vintage hotel, but it is not a kid-friendly place, especially if you have infants and toddlers.It may work fine for older kids, but the creaking, old beds kept my son awake most of the night.The rooms are just plain dangerous for young children.I was so scared my son would topple an antique lamp or break a mirror.The rooms are also very small and very expensive.If you need to stay in a hotel, I would opt for the Best Western: Hood River Inn. Save the Hood River Hotel for a romantic getaway with your spouse and/or significant other.

Full Sail Brewing CompanyIf you’re looking for more than pizza, Portland Family Adventures recommends the Full Sail Brewing Company (tasting room and pub), which makes incredible beer and provides a comfortable environment for hungry families. While waiting for a table, no doubt you’ll see the many awards the Brewery has won over the years. While there are many choices on tap, my personal favorite is the Session Lager. The hamburgers were excellent and there is a full menu to suit everyone in the family.

Hood River is definitely where you’ll want to stay if you’re headed up to ski at Mt. Hood. Unless of course, you can afford to stay at Timberline Lodge. Most of the hotels give discounted lift tickets for most of the ski areas.If you’re just visiting for the day, it’s not a bad idea to take highway 35 around Mt. Hood.This provides a complete circumnavigation of Mt. Hood, and the views are spectacular.

Technorati Tags: Hood River, mountaineering, hiking, biking, snowshoe, skiing, Mt. Hood, outdoor playland, outdoor fun for kids, mountain biking, wind surfing, Columbia River Gorge, kite boarding

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Tamanawas Falls on November 18th, 2007
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Timberline Lodge on December 12th, 2007
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White River Sno-Park (West) on January 30th, 2014
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