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Monday, March 4, 2024
March 4, 2024

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A triple scoop of Southwest Washington spring break adventures

These day trips are economical and informative — and they come with ice cream

The Columbian
9 Photos
The massive Bonneville Dam is a national historic landmark.
The massive Bonneville Dam is a national historic landmark. (The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

If rising prices have squeezed your family out of a big adventure over next week’s spring break, why not have a little adventure instead? Here are three ideas for local excursions, each topped off with ice cream.

Uptown Village

Explore Vancouver’s Main Street between 15th Street and Fourth Plain Boulevard, otherwise known as Uptown Village. You can get a dose of local history at the Clark County Historical Museum, 1511 Main St., open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Admission is $3 for youth or $5 for adults, but you can score free tickets through the FVRLibrariesExperience Pass. (Each library card holder can go to fvrl.org to get one free ticket per year for a variety of nearby museums and attractions, including the Pittock Mansion and Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland.)

Wander up Main Street and check out the various antique shops, like Old Glory Antiques & Vintage, 2000 Main St., open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Duck into Anthem Park behind the apartment complex of the same name at 127 W. 25th St. to enjoy the burbling fountain. Then head to Ice Cream Renaissance, 1925 Main St., for a scoop of the seasonal Frozen Faberge. The shop opens at 2 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and noon on weekends.

— Erin Middlewood

Columbia River Gorge

It’s tough, but keep your eyes on the road while exploring the staggering scenery of the Columbia River Gorge. Start with an overview by ascending Beacon Rock, an ancient volcanic vent. Park carefully at Beacon Rock State Park on the south side of state Highway 14 (Discover Pass required, $10; can purchase on site). The historic mile-long switchback trail up the side of the rock is protected, gradual and surprisingly easy. Bring a windbreaker and binoculars.

Retain those binocs for birding and great Gorge views at Hamilton Island, perched behind the town of North Bonneville. Mellow trails and a few benches make for easy walking. Park at the boat launch on Fort Cascades Drive or behind the baseball diamond on Portage Drive. (North Bonneville also offers a free disc golf course.)

Within view is massive Bonneville Dam, a national historic landmark. The Washington visitor complex (free, open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily) offers exhibits about hydropower, salmon and geology. A self-guided tour booklet will steer you to great views of the powerhouse, generators and salmon.

For ice cream, you could veer over the Bridge of the Gods ($3 toll and a tight ride) to Cascade Locks, Ore., and enjoy the retro Eastwind Drive-In (395 Wa Na Pa St.), serving shakes, floats, banana boats and soft-serve waffle cones with optional “flavor bursts,” including one called “blue goo.”

Or, stay in Washington and head for Stevenson, where the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center offers historical, cultural and scientific exhibits (990 S.W. Rock Creek Drive, $10 adults, $6 children; free with Experience Pass). But kids may be more interested in the big locomotive outside.

End your whirlwind Gorge day at The Cabin Drive-Thru (210 Lutheran Church Road, Stevenson) with soft-serve, frozen custard or a signature ice cream, Whirlwind.

— Scott Hewitt

Brush Prairie & Hockinson

If you’re looking for rural pleasures and nature of a tamer sort, visit NatureScaping Wildlife Botanical Gardens, 11000 N.E. 149th St., Brush Prairie, open every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It’s free to enter, and there are no gates or tickets to fuss with — just park in the lot and walk right in. The gardens are a connected collection of small demonstration areas featuring natural, pesticide-free methods for attracting birds and pollinators. Something beautiful is always in bloom, and the gardens are rarely crowded. The flat, dirt paths are easily traversable by foot or by stroller.

Next, take Caples Road up to 159th Street and head east to Hockinson. Look out for the Half Moon Farm sign on your right at 14737 N.E. 159th St. The charming farm store is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and sells many varieties of organic honey as well as sculpted beeswax candles, dried lavender and glass art made by Brenda Calvert, who owns the farm and tends the bees along with her husband, Rob.

Top off the trip by continuing east to Northeast 182nd Avenue, where you’ll find the Hockinson Market, a local landmark since 1928. Get hard-scoop ice cream, milkshakes, floats and sundaes any day of the week from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., or try the pizza (whole or by the slice) and calzone from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. For a little grown-up fun, there’s also a taproom on site selling local beer, cider and wine.

— Monika Spykerman