This weekend we have our annual Kidical Mass family bike camping trip and we have a family coming up from Sacramento to join us (Hi Elle!!). When asked about things to see and do in Eugene in her couple of days before the trip I decided I should write a post about it and get other’s input too. So here are some of my suggestions. Add yours in the comments and I’ll work them into the post to use as a reference for others. This will be mostly focused on families wanting to bike around Eugene. Speaking of which, did you catch that article in Bicycle Times a few months ago titled “The Search for Neverland” about a families bike visit in Eugene? Highly recommended.
Here, in no particular order, are some suggestions for places to see and things to do for families visiting Eugene by bike:
If you’re here on the third Saturday of the month you have to join us for Kidical Mass!
Stop by CAT. The Center for Appropriate Transport can be like a toy shop for both adults and kids who like bikes. They have a rideable museum where you can check out various bikes and take them for a spin around the neighborhood and down to the river path. They also have a DIY shop to fine tune your machines. Good place to top off the air and do your ABC Quick Checks…you do know the ABC Quick Check, right?! Just be sure you don’t let the kids run back into the powder coating/welding/machine shop area. ..though the bathroom is back in that direction. Plug the kids into a bike movie and check out all the cool resources.
Explore the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Path system. This is a give me and a must. Here’s a map (pdf). Many of the following places can be found riding along or near the path:
Riverplay & Skinner Butte park. Tons of fun play areas for all different ages. To get away from the kid chaos, cross the street and find a nice little trail to hike through the woods and up to the top of Skinner Butte. Look for the nesting Eagles (generally January-March). You can also ride up the road if you’re feeling really energetic (or electric assisted).
Head upriver to the EWEB fountain. On a hot day a fun little spot to bike right through.
Cross the river on the DeFazio bridge to Alton Baker Park. No play structure there but nice big fields to play in, a duck pond, and even a disc golf course if you or the kids are into that. One fun & educational feature starts here too; A large sphere representing the sun begins a scale model of the solar system that you can explore along the path system. Signs at each stop show where the planets are located.
Go farther upriver to discover the Nearby Nature park host site, the UO Autzen Stadium, and one of the most beautiful narrow, windy sections of the riverbank trail system. This was one of the first off-street bike path sections built in Eugene in the 1970’s. You can pull over in various spots along the way to swim, pick blackberries, or just enjoy the natural area.
If you keep going upriver you’ll eventually get into Springfield, which though it has a reputation as ‘just a mill town’ has several really cool things happening. Come back another time to explore here. For now tool around and find Pre’s Trail, the Canoe Canal path, and the Whilamut Natural Area, then head back downriver.
You can take the East Bank path all the way up to the Owosso Bridge and explore the Delta Ponds area (herons, turtles, ducks, and loads of cool wetland wildlife) before turning back to head upriver again on the West Bank Path.
Stop by Maurie Jacobs Park for a nice little playground near some redwoods. If you want a mainstream movie break, need a Mac store, or just feel the need to feel like your back in Anytown USA you can go across the river to Valley River Center, our downtown killing, parking lot sprawl mall with a great riverfront waste of space. But hey, it’s easy to get to by bike!
Keep rolling upriver to the Owen Rose Garden. Your kids might find it boring or have fun exploring the paths and watching a wedding. It’s a great spot to turn off the path and head up into the Whitaker to find some local brews. Oakshire, Hop Valley, Ninkasi, Sam Bonds, and Falling Sky are all breweries easily accessible in this area.
Falling Sky at Monroe and 8th has a covered outdoor seating area with a small sand box and toys and is probably the most kid friendly of the bunch. Though the Ninkasi courtyard also can be an okay place for kids to be without causing too much turmoil to others. Food at Ninkasi rotates with a food truck though so it’s more hit/miss on options. Falling Sky also has a cool little bike share system and really great covered bike parking.
Okay, so now you’ve explored the Riverbank path system and it’s main highlights. What else?!
Washington-Jefferson Skatepark– Right next to CAT at 1st and Washington this is brand new skatepark is the largest lit and covered skatepark in the US. No two ways about it this place is cool. Get here early in the morning and the kids can have more space to play. It gets packed during the day (and night) but people have also seemed very respectful with allowing kids in to play too. There are some good small hills and spaces for the littles here and plenty for them to watch!
Bounce– The go-to place for days when parent need the kids to get their ya-ya’s out by going crazy on trampolines, tumbling mats, and other fun and crazy tools. Bike racks aren’t covered but there’s a good covered snacking spot along 3rd.
There are a few bike builders in town and one is right off the Fern Ridge Path, has a nice little showroom, and just happens to make the family-friendly cargo bike Haul-a-Day. Stop by to say hi to the folks at Bike Friday and tell them Shane sent you. Full disclosure- Bike Friday does not pay me but I get some sweet gear and they support our Safe Routes to School program (as well as other cool bike non-profits). No need to entertain the kids in the showroom, just throw them on a bike and go for a test ride
On the way to Bike Friday the NAAG (National Academy of Artistic Gymnastics) is another good “bounce” alternative. They have a pretty awesome pirate ship kids can jump off of (into a foam pit). Don’t think there was good bike parking here…need to check into that.
The Science Factory– Made for the bigger kids really (older than 6?) so we don’t have a lot of experience here. It’s no Portland Children’s Museum but it has some good exhibits and is worth a visit, especially the star shows and dome movies. Right in Alton Baker Park near Autzen Stadium. Good bike parking.
Cascades Raptor Center– I’m kind of embarrassed to say our family hasn’t made it here yet, I’ve heard such great things. We really should go. You should too. “Nature center and wildlife hospital specializing in birds of prey. Visit over 60 birds of 33 species.” There is a bit of a climb to get up there.
Amazon Pool– Awesome outdoor pool (so only summertime in Eugene). It gets crowded but lot’s of space for really different levels. From a big sandpit, bubbling water, and one foot wading pool to a big water slide there’s something for everyone. Oh, and the food is the best! Since they changed vendors to Ume Grill there are still hot dogs and pretzels but there are also yummy bento boxes, rice balls, and other healthy and yummy goodies. Check the website or call for recreation swim times; note there are “Parent/Child Swims” where only the kiddie pools are open and a good less busy time for those with smaller kiddos. Park along the railing in the front, or if you want a real inverted-u they are on the east side of the building. Stand-up bike lockers are on the west side.
Other great parks…Monroe park– It’s where our Kidical Mass rides generally leave from and can have a sort of Country Fair feel to it with all the hula-hoops, juggling, public drinking and general alternative lifestyle happenings. Washington Park– With a nice spray play area, the big cheese sculpture, and lots of fun play space this a great neighborhood park.
Some family friendly eateries:
Laughing Planet (Monroe and 8th & Willamette & 29th)- They have plastic dinosaurs that can cause chaos or keep the piece depending on the day. Awesome food for adults and kids. Beer, smoothies, juice, and giant cookies. Descent bike parking at both locations.
Turtles (S. Willamette & 26th)- Right across the street from Arriving by Bike and a small toy section makes it a pretty great stop. Some standard kid food but also a descent variety to it. Not really great bike parking. Usually park across the street at the shop and walk across. Dang that S. Willamette needs bike lanes. Trial run comes in 2015!
Off the Waffle (S. Willamette/25th & Willamette/8th)- Waffles for lunch or dinner. Trust me, these things rock! Fuel up.
Pizza…. How can I pick one? Mezza Luna, Sizzle Pie, Pegasus, Whirled Pies… Okay, Whirled Pies does have happy hour 3-6 with $1 cheese slices that you can top for extra. Pretty good for choosing a pizza just like your kids like (1 cheese and 2 olive for us please). Descent bike parking out front…think they need a bike corral.
Eugene has a load of good bike shops. Each one kind of has it’s focus. Blue Heron servicing the UO crowd with some great retro rides, Hutch’s for the roadie crowd, Life Cycle for the Mountain Bike crew, Paul’s for the all-arounders…of course these are gross stereotypes but generally close enough. As for family bike shops? That would be Arriving by Bike. Hands down the best family bike shop in town. Great family bike options? Check. Friendly non-judgmental staff? Check. Even some women staff? Check. Toy area? Check. Functional and fashionable clothes (that are good on the bike but not necessarily “bike clothes”)? Check. An insane amount of bags, baskets, helmets, lights & gear? Check. Kid reflective vests? Check. Dang this place rocks.
Besides the Riverbank bike path the other main family-friendly connectors are Amazon Path and Pearl/High (N/S), Alder Street (N/S), Monroe/Friendly (N/S), Fern Ridge Path and 15th Ave. (E/W), 12th Ave. (bike boulevard, E/W), 5th Ave. (buffered bike lane, E/W).
If you want to get real transportation wonky and take a tour of some good bike facilities you can follow this google map.
That’s all I have in me for now. Leave your suggestions and comments and I’ll revisit this later to make it even better…