By Rachael Carnes | Published April 2017

The family that plays together, stays together. Makes sense, right? Lucky for us, there are loads of activities and attractions (both indoor and outdoor, and even free!) around Eugene and Springfield for the whole family to enjoy. Whether your tribe prefers Mozart to mud or roller skating to roses, adventure awaits for families looking to create lasting memories.

Artsy Family

By Rachael Carnes

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Take a stroll through the University of Oregon’s lovely quad outside the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (JSMA), where tikes can run along the zigzag pathways and stop to admire some nifty outdoor sculptures. And when it’s time for a snack, stop by the JSMA’sMarché Museum Café, where kids can tuck into gooey toasted cheese sandwiches and madeleine cookies, and their grown-ups will appreciate fresh field green saladsand tasty soups.

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An art museum might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to entertaining little ones, but these spaces can be enchanting. The JSMA permanent collection includes a variety of Asian art, including an impressive jade pagoda and rich, illustrative prints and sculptures that beckon to the imaginative with their fantastical depictions of dragons and tigers. (Because what kid doesn’t love dragons and tigers?)

The museum offers ongoing classes and camps for kids, and every kid in town should have the chance to check out the beautiful courtyard nestled within the museum’s first floor. Architecturally impressive, with sturdy columns and an ornate gold dome, the courtyard is a quiet refuge any day of the year. (FYI, you and your little one can enjoy it any day, without paying admission.) And with free admission on Family Days throughout the year, the entire museum is accessible to all.

When it comes to getting messy, opportunities abound in Eugene: Check out the Potters Quarter, where budding artists can paint their own dishwasher-safe masterworks. New School Eugene offers drop-in playtimes, workshops, and crafting classes, as well as birthday party packages. Maude Kerns Art Center has a host of offerings for kids, from mentoring programs with professional artists to classes in a variety of media, including ceramics, painting, and collage.

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When it comes to outfitting your young artist with tools and supplies, nothing beats a visit to Oregon Art Supply, a longtime local favorite that features high-quality art materials of all kinds as well as a generous selection of kid-friendly (i.e. non-toxic and washable) essentials.

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For inspiration, try a trip to one of the area’s many art galleries, like Springfield’s Emerald Art Center and Maude Kerns Art Center,or watch kid-approved performances at Upstart Crow,Rose Children’s Theatre, The Shedd, Eugene Ballet Company, or Ballet Fantastique. Any of these excursions can be a fun introduction to the arts, even for the youngest patrons.

Earthy Family

By Amanda Bedortha

Local, local, local. The Earthy Family (some might call the “Eugene” Family) supports all things local and locally made: food, clothes, beauty products, and toys. They also take pride in our area’s abundance of natural beauty and recreational pursuits. If you’re looking to start your day with vegan pancakes and end it in a 92-degree saltwater pool, this itinerary is for you.

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Start your day off right at Morning Glory Café, Eugene’s oldest continually vegetarian and vegan restaurant. The kid’s menu includes eggs and toast, pancakes with blueberry-apple compote, and French toast with pure, organic maple syrup. For lunch, Café Yumm!—with six locations in Eugene/Springfield—serves up tasty rice bowls, sandwiches, and skewers to keep those bellies full for the busy afternoon ahead.

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Earthy families have boundless options when it comes to family fun—just step outside your door! For fun by the water, take the kids to WhittakerCreek (just outside Walton) for camping, river access, and hiking. For fun in town, take the family to the Cascades Raptor Center, a nature center and wildlife hospital with more than 50 birds of prey to view up close and personal. If you’re looking to get active while in nature, toss a disc at one of Lane County’s six disc golf courses. With an on-site pro shop and easy access from the east parking lot at Alton Baker Park, the 18-hole Alton Baker DGC seems to be the most family-friendly.

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If you’re after some locally made beeswax candles, handcrafted soap, hula hoops, or wood teething toys, head to Eugene’s Saturday Market—a much-loved family tradition since 1971. If you and the kiddos need some new duds, Trillium in south Eugene carries locally made, eco-friendly (and super cute) pants, shirts, leggings, and dresses, as well as socks and hats. Need to pick up some milk and eggs on the way home? Sundance Natural Foods is a great resource for responsibly sourced food, including all-organic produce, a wildly popular self-service salad bar, and an entirely vegetarian, mostly vegan deli.

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When it’s time to unwind, take the family to Tamarack Wellness Center. Baby swim and family swim times are available throughout the week so you can soak in the luxurious 92-degree saltwater pool. Out of the water, families can enjoy yoga time together. Gather Together Yoga and Everyday People Yoga offer kids yoga classes to help children develop healthy bodies, flowering hearts, and a calm, focused mind.

Gamer Family

By Amanda Bedortha

If your family bonds over Mario Kartor Dungeons & Dragons, Lane County has a great selection of gaming activities and places to shop. Grab some chicken tenders for lunch at Putters, search for ’mons in the Whit, and end your day with a Magictourney at Addictive Behaviors. It’s time to nerd out—family-style.

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Level Up Arcade opens at noon on weekends (minors are allowed until 9 pm) and offers classic bar food. In between bites, the family can play classic standup arcade and pinball games. Families who work up an appetite at Putters Family Entertainment Center have lots of options to choose from, including a large pizza and salad menu, onion rings, chicken tenders, fish & chips, corn dogs, and more. For a late lunch or dinner, Blairally Vintage Arcade also offers pub grub. From their 32-bit menu, try the Italian Grinder. Kids will love the 8-bit menu with tater tots, onion rings, and chili Frito pie.

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Fans of arcade games (both new and classics) will get a kick out of Level Up Arcade and Blairally Vintage Arcade (both welcome minors until 9 pm). Donkey Kong, Ghostbusterspinball, Ms. Pac-Man, Mortal Kombat II, and Centipedeare ready and waiting. Over at Putters, there is fun for kids of all ages: laser tag, mini golf, bowling, arcade games, and a play structure for the younger set. Pixel Battles, in the Valley River Center, offers stay-and-play gaming options for $8 per hour. The gaming store has PlayStation VR, Xbox, and Wii, with a huge assortment of games to try out.

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If you’re in the market for new games, Eugene and Springfield have a handful of locally owned gaming stores. Funagain Games specializes in board and card games, including Magic: The Gatheringand Scythe. Down at Evolution Gaming, they carry board games, card games, role-playing games, and miniatures. Castle of Games in downtown Springfield is a full-service game and comic book store with popular games like Settlers of Catanand Cards Against Humanity, as well as thousands of comic books.

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Addictive Behaviors hosts a variety of live tournaments, including Magic Standard tournaments and Force of Will. Another great way to unwind with the family is with a stroll around your neighborhood while playing Pokémon GO. Catch Charmanders and Jigglypuffs while getting some exercise and exploring your hood.

Gardening Family

By Rachael Carnes

As spring warms up and the bounty of the Willamette Valley beckons, there are few places better to enjoy the colors, tastes, and smells of what our fertile region has to offer than our area’s many farmers markets.

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The Lane County Farmers Market offers seasonal fresh vegetables and fruit, artisanal food products, and fresh organic meats and dairy on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays in Eugene’s park blocks.

FOOD for Lane County’s garden programs grow fresh, nutritious food for distribution through the organization’s network of partner agencies while also providing opportunities for youth and adults to learn and contribute to their community. The GrassRoots Garden is a 2.5-acre garden behind St. Thomas Episcopal Church that includes a City of Eugene compost demonstration site and a full outdoor kitchen that is open April through November.

After all that community-minded gardening, you might crave a sit-down nosh, and local purveyors are ready for action. Party Downtown uses almost entirely local produce, and kids will enjoy their delightful and adventurous menu (and proximity to Red Wagon Creamery). In Springfield, the Sprout! Regional Food Hub’s 100 Mile Bakery uses local ingredients found within 100 miles, offering savory snacks, breakfast bites, desserts, breads, and full lunch options.

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When it comes to fresh air and sunshine, nothing beats a visit to the Owen Rose Garden. Built in 1951, the lovely garden along the Willamette River in Skinner Butte Park is home to 4,500 roses of over 400 varieties. A quick walk from the fabulous RiverPlay Discovery Village Playground, it makes a great outing.

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Ourarea’s many U-pick berry and wildflower farms offer delectabletastes and shimmering colors of the season. Preserve a pint of jam to enjoy next winter. Inspired to sink a shovel into your own piece of earth? Visit local gardening centers—Down to Earth, Gray’s Garden Center, the farmers markets, or Sprout!—for seedlings and ever-important plant advice.

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Don’t miss the Native Plant Courtyard outside the Museum of Natural and Cultural History on the UO campus, or the many educational experiences offered throughout the season at the Mount Pisgah Arboretum and Dorris Ranch. From birds and butterflies to mushrooms and edibles, inquisitive and interesting guides make the forest come alive for visitors.

Hipster Family

By Kristin Bartus

Hipsters tend to get a lot of ribbing and most people won’t self-identify as one, but here’s the deal: hipsters typically have excellent taste in everything from food to shops to extracurricular interests. Here are some area locales to check out with your family if you secretly aspire to be a hipster (like yours truly).

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The ever-present line makes it clear that Voodoo Doughnut is one of the hippest places in town. Plus, what could be better than kicking off the day with a sweet, sugary treat? You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu, but the cereal-covered Captain my Captain, M&M-dotted Marshall Mathers, and Voodoo Doll are all winners with the kiddies. For lunch, another delicious kid favorite is Sizzle Pie. There’s a wide selection of ginormous pizzas, including vegan ones. And the salads are super tasty, too, especially the Caligula.

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Any day is a good day to introduce your kids to the pleasures of perusing a brick-and-mortar bookstore. J. Michaels Books, in downtown Eugene, is a cozy space with an impressive selection of new and used books for all ages. The children’s section features classics from Beverly Cleary as well as the latest hits on the bestseller list. Another activity that never goes out of style is catching a show at the planetarium, and TheScience Factory will provide fun for all ages with its indoor stargazing on Saturdays and Sundays. Or celebrate the end of the week by checking out some cool creations at the shops and galleries of the Whit during the Last Friday Art Walk.

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The kids will be in heaven during a visit to The Dancing Weasel Toy Store. Not only does the cute shop have cool wooden and recycled plastic toys from Hape, Melissa & Doug, and Green Toys, there’s even a play area full of all sorts of fun stuff in the back. And just try to resist the adorably chic, “Vespa-lookalike” Janod kids motor scooter. The little ones will also appreciate a stop at Will Leather Goods, located in a refurbished box car. Checking out the old train is super fun—and there’s a toy train that chugs around tracks above the wares. Will also sells a colorful array of kids backpacks and donates one to a child in need with every purchase.

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Finally, The Barn Light makes for a warm and comfy end to the day. Youngsters can have hot cocoa while adults partake of kombucha, caffeine, or libations. A foosball table and shuffleboard make it fun for the whole family.

Musical Family

By William Kennedy

The musical family tries to fill every day with song. So for this kind of family, Eugene is an ideal place to put down roots due to our town’s balance between big-city cultural offerings and small-town lifestyle. Of all the arts, Eugene’s eclectic music scene is perhaps the most developed, accessible, and robust, with diverse styles and plenty of opportunitiesfor all ages. Even one of Eugene’s most venerable music venues, WOW Hall, allows minors to attend. Get to know Eugene in the key of family music, and you just might fall in love.

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In the summer months, get a breakfast burrito or pastry from Hideaway Bakery’s Lane County Farmers Market location and be serenaded by street performers playing everything from old-world Parisian-style accordion music to banjo, blues guitar, or even Bach’s cello suites. Occasionally, see a young musician showcasing his or her musical talents. In the evening, head slightly north beyond the town of Coburg to Agrarian Ales. Sit on their beautiful grassy lawn while your kids occupy themselves in the play area. Enjoy pizza and beer (house-made soda for the tykes) while listening to live folk, blues, and rock ‘n’ roll.

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Remember record stores? Well, Eugene still has several great ones. First up, the little blue house on 13th Avenue known as House of Records. There, find CDs, tapes, and, of course, the all-holy vinyl LP. Expose your kids to what you grew up on, or let them show you what new music is all about. Out West 11th, don’t miss Skip’s Records & CD World, a veritable treasure trove of sounds from all eras in all formats. Skip’s will also sell you your young one’s first turntable.And in the winter, head to the Eugene Record Showat The Hilton Eugene, a great place to bond with your child over an amazing selection of rare and collectible music from all eras and of all styles.

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Every Saturday, the Eugene Public Library hosts free Family Music Time. Bring the kiddo down for singing and dancing with a different musician each week! The Shedd Institute’s Magical Moombah Series, happening four Saturdays a year, is musical vaudeville for kids, filled with songs, contests, and skits. There’s no better way to introduce your child to the popular songs and tunes that help make up our shared cultural heritage.

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There’s no better way for the musical family to relax in Eugene than Eugene Symphonyannual Free Concert in the Park. Tickets are free, but they do go quickly. If you’re lucky enough to snag one, explore an instrument “petting zoo” before the music even starts. Next, score a place on the grass with your blanket or lawn chair, and listen to great classical works and popular pieces under the stars with lighthearted, family-friendly interludes. Hear the Star Warsor Monty Pythonthemes as well as the 1812 Overture.

Outdoorsy Family

By Dante Zuniga West

For outdoorsy families, finding the right places to satisfy wild hearts and minds is never too tall an order. Eugene is host to a vibrant community of folks who ascribe to the golden rule of outdoor adventurers: Happiness is most worthwhile when shared. We’ve taken the liberty of sniffing out a few spots for you and your family to visit as you head on down the trail together.

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Outdoorsy families looking to take the night off when it comes to doing dishes can satisfy their primal appetites at Elk Horn Brewery. Aside from the wide range of critters that populate the menu, everything from catfish to elk burgers, the place has enough outdoorsy ambiance to make you feel right at home. With an epic location on the Willamette River, McMenaminsNorth Bank Pub is a great place for families who love to eat outdoors and enjoy nature. Where else in Eugene can your kids dine riverside and order a Nutella and honey sandwich?

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Outdoorsy families live to play outside. For weekend fun that keeps you close to town, check out Northwest Canoe Tour at Alton Baker Park. A family can rent canoes, stand up paddleboards, or kayaks and cruise the canoe canal all day. If you bring fishing rods and time the stocking schedule right, you may even be able to score a fresh rainbow trout for dinner. If this year’s outdoor conditions have the kids a bit less eager to enjoy the wild, head over to Crux Rock Climbing Gym, where you can enjoy 9,000 square feet of climbing walls, 30 rope stations, and three bouldering areas.

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Part of enjoying the outdoors as a family is preparing for your outdoor adventures together. And everyone knows that having the right gear to go along with you is more than half the battle. For the family of archery enthusiasts, look no further than Bowtech. Not only is their pro shop a great place to buy top-notch equipment, their indoor shooting range is big enough for you and the fam to put arrows on target together. When it comes to getting the things you need to enjoy Eugene’s easily accessed waterways, check out Oregon Paddle Sports. It’s a place where you can find great deals on a variety of watercraft and get your family connected with local rafting clubs or classes.

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Relaxation in the great outdoors is something Eugene families can find with ease. For a relaxing soak and scenic beauty, take the family to Belknap Hot Springs, Lodge, and Gardens, just an hour and 10 minutes outside of Eugene proper. In town, families can escape the hustle and bustle of the city with a hike up Mount Pisgah or Spencer Butte. Search for native wildflowers and plants along the way, including camas, salmonberry, and old man’s beard. Pack a picnic lunch to share at the top of the Butte or in Mount Pisgah’s wooded picnic area.

Sporty Family

By Kristin Bartus

 The Sporty Family is obsessed with all things athletic, whether it’s spending the day romping around or cheering on our mighty Ducks. Living in such an ideal outdoorsy town like Eugene makes it easy to find plenty of places for active-minded adventurersto do their thing. From morning till night, there’s always lots of action.

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Hit the ground running with some high-quality, healthy fare at the SeQuential Biofuels Mini-Market. It’s like a gourmet grab-and-go joint with everything from made-to-order organic smoothies and tempeh sandwiches to on-tap kombucha and all-natural jerky. And what kid could resist a Cookie Doughpness Picky Bar? Tasty treats and televised sports abound at Wild Duck Cafe. Begin your meal with a Starting Line Platter appetizer, and finish it off with Mariota’s Milkshake—they are sure to be crowd pleasers.

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If it’s a nice day, pack up the bikes and head out to Springfield for a scenic, four-mile ride along the Middle Fork Path from Clearwater Park to Dorris Ranch. But if it’s rainy, there’s no need to fret. But if it’s rainy, there’s no need to fret. A visit to Skate World is in order. For the most fun on eight wheels, lace up the family and hit the rink, as you skate around to your favorite radio hits. Another great option for kids and grown-ups alike is Get Air. Bounce to your heart’s content on the trampolines or try out the new Ninja Course. 

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Get geared up for your next race or athletic event at Eugene Running Company. The knowledgeable staff will ensure you get the perfect shoe for your needs. Or just pick up a cool shirt or two that’ll mark you as a certified sporty Eugenean. Everyone looking to show off their University of Oregon pride can gear up at The Duck Store. Thanks to a decade of athletic dominance, the store now offers a near-endless amount of green-and-yellow sartorial choices.

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Duck fans will also delight in a little downtime at The University of Oregon Hall of Champions & Hall of Fame. Located in the Casanova Center, the venue is dedicated to trophies and highlights in the history of UO athletics. Or take a little time to unwind at the end of the day with a visit to Skinner Butte. The short hike to the top is doable for even the littlest members of the family, or simply drive. Either way, the view is awe-inspiring, and it’s always fun to play on the big O or listen for the cheers echoing over from Autzen Stadium.

 

Thrifty Family

By Dante Zuniga-West

Thrifty families know it takes skills to pay the bills and finding a way to stretch every dollar to the max is a form of expertise. Part of what makes Eugene a great place to raise kids is how many affordable activities and venues exist to support growing families. From food time to fun time, there are plenty of ways for families to mix it up and make the most of their time without breaking the bank.

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Breakfast on a budget is no problem in Eugene with Brails Restaurant around. This diner-style restaurant has enough variety on the menu to satisfy even the pickiest eater in your family. Serving everything from the classic two-egg breakfast to chicken and waffles, this Eugene staple is a perfect spot to begin your day. When it comes to lunchtime for the penny-wise family, perhaps no local eatery does it better and more affordably than Laughing Planet. Not only can you find healthy food at a great price, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more kid-friendly atmosphere, complete with toy dinosaurs and robots.

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Finding fun frugally is no long shot for families in Eugene. With the advent of spring comes the famed EugeneSaturday Market, filled with exciting kid-friendly performances, music, and face painting. For the art lovers in your family, check out MECCA and take advantage of their family-friendly studio space, open to the public on a pay-what-you-can basis. Oh, and don’t rule out the Eugene Public Library, with its ongoing series of free events for kids, such as their Science in Motion series of hands-on physics experiments or Lego day. The Springfield Public Libraryhosts Tinker Tech Labs, Art & Science Preschool Story Time, and Art Around the World.

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Eugene families looking to score a good deal when it comes to kids’ toys should check out Replay Toys. Not only can you find new previously loved toys, there is a pretty large selection of oldies-but-goodies as well. Everything from the more recent Lego Star Wars catalog to old G.I. Joe action figures make an appearance on the store shelves. For thrifty families with gamers in their midst, check out Edge of the World Games & Comics for bargain-priced videogames spanning all systems and consoles.

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When it comes time for a family to kick back and relax, Eugene has a couple cash-friendly options that are easy on the pocketbook. Located on regular bus lines, not far from downtown Eugene, is the Eugene FamilyYMCA. Don’t have the dividends to score a membership? No worries: two adults plus children can enjoy the Y’s relaxing amenities, such as their two swimming pools, steam room, and sauna, on a day-pass for just 16 bucks. Oh, and don’t forget to check out family day at Onsen Hot Tub Rentals every Sunday, when children under 12 are free; every Monday is four for the price of two day. Onsen sports private hot tub rooms and saunas that can be reserved on an hourly rental basis.