School’s out for summer, and vacation season is officially in full swing. So as you’re making plans and figuring out the next few months, why not spend a weekend or two in Pendleton?

The gateway to Eastern Oregon boasts fun for the whole family. Kids love splashing around at the Pendleton Aquatic Center and ending the day under stars, watching an outdoor film at one of the city’s well-loved parks; Oregon Trail wagon ruts enthrall visitors today, more than 175 years after the first covered wagon headed west; and a handful of attractions showcase a mix of fun and education on the way into town.

So as you’re making plans for a weekend getaway, here are five fun things to do in—and around—Pendleton this summer.

On the Way: SAGE Center and Bonneville Hatchery

Rainbow trout at the Bonneville Hatchery

Rainbow trout swimming at the Bonneville Hatchery / Photo via Sheila Sund/Flickr

If you’re coming from Portland, you’re facing a three-and-a-half-hour drive—so you’ll want a stop or two along the way to break up the ride. Two attractions along the way offer a glimpse at industries that have long been an essential part of the larger Oregon story.

Some 40 miles east of Portland, Bonneville Hatchery is the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s largest hatchery. Kids can feed rainbow trout in the display pond for just 25 cents, and visitors can gawk at adult white sturgeon, some of which measure more than 10 feet long.

Another two hours east, the SAGE Center in Boardman highlights sustainable agriculture through hands-on exhibits and interactive displays. The museum hosts an exhibit on potato processing, information on modern agriculture, and a look at destinations around the world where the nearby Port of Morrow ships its products.

When the Temperature Rises: Pendleton Aquatic Center

Pendleton Aquatic Center

Between now and September 2, the Pendleton Aquatic Center is a popular go-to attraction for families looking to keep cool.

The aquatic center boasts three pools—one up to 4 feet deep, and two pools up to 6 feet deep—alongside two tower slides (one of which is 250 feet long). And if you don’t feel like paying for concessions, families are free to bring in outside food and drink (but glass containers are not allowed).

The center is open noon to 8 p.m. daily, but circle a few special events on your calendar: Aquatic Pepsi Blast, happening on July 10, includes free entry, prizes, giveaways, and free Pepsi products; later that month, Adult Night (happening on July 27) kicks the kids out for one night only—the fun includes food for purchase, games, music, and a bar presented by Oregon Grain Growers; and the season ends on Sept. 4, when Fido takes over the pool for Wunderlich-Larsen Memorial Doggie Dip Day—chlorine is removed from the pool, and dogs are invited to splash around.

Playing in Pendleton’s Parks

Roy Raley Park

If the kids need to burn off some energy, they’ll have plenty of chances at city parks around Pendleton.

Roy Raley Park, for instance, hosts basketball courts, play equipment, a small climbing rock, pickleball courts (equipment rentals are available from the Pendleton Parks & Recreation office), and other fun attractions. And the expansive Community Park offers a paved walking trail, access to McKay Creek, an 18-hole disc golf course, a dinosaur-themed play area, soccer fields, and more.

The parks are fun at any time of day, but keep an eye out for special events happening throughout the summer. Music in the Park takes place on Wednesday nights between July 24 and August 21 at Roy Raley Park; the fun includes live music, food vendors, and a beer/wine garden for adults. And at Community Park, the Movies in the Park event brings a bit of Hollywood to Pendleton; the outdoor movie night will play “The Sandlot”, “Ralph Breaks the Internet”, “Black Panther”, “Free Willy”, and other family favorites—with giveaways and your favorite concessions available for purchase.

Fun for Kids of All Ages: Children’s Museum of Eastern Oregon

Let your kid’s imagination run wild at the Children’s Museum of Eastern Oregon, located in the heart of downtown Pendleton.

Turn your aspiring chef loose in Big John’s Pizza Kitchen; future rock stars can rehearse for the big stage in the Music Wall; wannabe firefighters can play in the Fire Station; and other exhibits—catering to toddlers and children of all ages—offer fun activities for avid readers, budding builders, and more.

Walking in the Footsteps of Oregon Trail Pioneers

More than 175 years ago, pioneers crossed the plains and scaled the Rocky Mountains on the Oregon Trail—and nearly two centuries later, visitors can still see their wagon ruts at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Park at Blue Mountain Crossing.

The well-preserved tracks sit alongside a forest of Ponderosa pine trees—some of which still bear the scars created by passing wagons in the mid-1800s. A handful of short, accessible paths offer easy access to the trail; interpretive panels showcase regional history; and a cozy picnic area makes it an ideal lunch stop. The park sits roughly 45 miles east of Pendleton, in the heart of the Blue Mountains.

After a night of watching a movie under the stars, a day exploring the Oregon Trail, or an afternoon in the pool, rest your head in one of Pendleton’s many lodgings. We offer a mix of quaint inns, historic hotels, scenic campgrounds, and more—all suited to meet the needs of an active family. Learn more about our lodging options, and book your stay today.