PDX Kids

PDX Kids
Online resource for fun activities, free ideas, and business resources for families in Portland and beyond

Monday, December 14, 2009

Zoo Lights

The Oregon Zoo's Zoolights is a really fun place to take your kids.  The zoo is open at night and some of the animals that are normally lethargic during the day are a little more playful...especially the tigers.  You can take the train around the zoo loop and they even bring out the steam engine for zoolights.  All of the trains are even decorated with Christmas lights.  There are Christmas lights everywhere at the Oregon Zoo for Zoolights!  There are two things to keep in mind if you visit the Zoolights: weather and crowds.

The number of people that go through Zoolights is amazing.  The parking lot fills up and the Zoo offers a shuttle from the Sylvan area over to the zoo.  Trimet is also a great option for getting to the Zoo and avoiding the nightmare of the parking hassle (it will also save the $2 per vehicle parking fee).  The best way to avoid some of these crowds is to show up at 4:15 or 4:30.  The Zoolights officially opens at 5 pm but if you have small children it will take you a while to get out of the car, bundle everybody up, and buy your tickets.  Plus, once you do all of that the immediate need for a bathroom break seems inevitable.

If you decide to ride the train you will definitely want to get there early.  While you are waiting in line the sun will finish its descent and the train ride will still be completely enjoyable and in the dark.  Don't forget that while you are waiting in line for the train you are pretty much standing still which means the cold feels even colder.  Hats, coats and gloves are an absolute must to keep warm.  Scarves and blankets would not be a bad idea, either.

Also, the Zoo sells hot chocolate and coffee but they do not provide lids or straws for their drinks as the lids and straws pose a health risk to the animals.  If you think you might invest in some hot chocolate for your young children (or if you have a drinking problem like I do) you might want to bring your own travel coffee mug to transfer the drink into and avoid some spills.

Our family has been lucky enough to have a Zoo membership so the Zoolights has been free for us.  With this advantage we have even done the Zoolights in two different nights because it was so cold after waiting for the train (riding the steamy was a HUGE priority for us) that our kids were miserable so we left.  There was a different evening that was a little bit warmer so we decided to brave the crowds a second time and had a wonderful time walking around, looking at the animals and enjoying the lights.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cookie Bake Fundraiser

This weekend my neighbor introduced me and my kids to a great event in Portland.  Every year about this time Safeway hosts a fundraiser for Dornbecher's Children's Hospital.  They open up a portion of their facilities off Hwy 224 in Clackamas and provide all of the materials for a cookie bake.  This cookie bake is so popular that some people have been attending for 20 years.  They don't advertise this event because they are already at capacity.  Every penny goes to Dornbecher's which is a very worthy cause.

So here's how it works:

You RSVP for a specific time slot.  Your reservation costs $35 and you get 10 pounds of cookie dough and 1 hour and 45 minutes at a table to roll out and cut your cookies.  Safeway provides cookie trays and after you fill the tray you can label it and they will bake the cookies.  There is plenty of frosting provided and you can then move to a decorating table where you have an unlimited amount of time to decorate your cookies.

There were tons of people there but it was all very organized and efficient.  Santa and Mrs. Claus made an appearance where you could have your picture taken with them for $1.  There was also a cookie contest for the best decorated cookies.  There were many people there who shared a lot of insight with me while we were there but our neighbor's preparation definitely helped make the experience wonderful for our first time there.
I want to share some tips for you in case you go for the first time:
1.  There are no chairs so you could bring a stroller or stepping stools for smaller children.
2.  Bring your own cookie cutters, rolling pins and anything you want to use to decorate the cookies with.  Some people brought stuff to bake into the cookies, others brought stuff to decorate the cookies with afterwards.
3.  We were there for 4 hours and many people brought food and/or drinks to help tide them over.
4.  You can purchase containers with lids for $2 which worked really well for carrying baked cookies.
5.  Expect to get dirty!  We had flour everywhere (the flour fight didn't help our cause but it was definitely worth the battle!).  Aprons or changes of clothes might be worth bringing.  They do sell aprons for the event so you can have you official cookie bake apron with the year printed on it as a souvenir.

 In the end this was a great experience and we donated some of our cookies to different events that our church is hosting so we weren't really stuck with the sugar cookies made from 20 pounds of cookie dough!