Giraffe standing outside
A free-ranging giraffe in the drive-through Safari Park at Wildlife Safari.

5 Kid-Friendly Attractions to Check out on a Southern Oregon Road Trip

Be Sure to Add These Stops to Your Itinerary

When people ask us for advice on what to do when visiting Oregon for the first time, some obvious choices come to mind. The Oregon Coast and Highway 101 can easily fill a week. Waterfalls and wineries are plentiful up and down the Willamette Valley.

Portland lives up to its reputation for weirdness, as does its “little sister” Eugene. Between April and October, Crater Lake National Park is worth a visit, whether you arrive by high desert or through the mountainous splendor Northern California has to offer.

A region often overlooked when it comes to making an Oregon vacation itinerary is the state’s southern region — what we would consider south of a line drawn roughly between the towns of Bandon, Roseburg and Chemult. From ziplining to skiing, from birding to rafting, there’s no shortage of year-round destinations in this region.

Typically drier and warmer than what many might anticipate, Southern Oregon is a fantastic option for anyone looking to save money and avoid crowds. Consider these five venues for your own Southern Oregon road trip with family.

Wildlife Safari

From Eugene, Wildlife Safari is barely an hour and a half drive. Once there, you’ll need to drive through the park to see a lot of the animals, which can make it seem like a long time in the car. But the Safari Village is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the summer months and it’s always free! The Village features beautiful gardens, cheetahs, alligators, cougars and more. Young children can enjoy keeper talks throughout the day and a petting zoo.

When you’re ready to get back in the car again, purchase your ticket to drive through the safari park, which takes about an hour and a half. While you’re safely ensconced in your car, you’ll see free-roaming elephants, lions, bears, cheetahs, hippos, giraffes, zebras, rhinos, tigers, yaks (and more!), all kinds of birds such as ostriches and flamingos, and reptiles such as snakes and turtles.

River with trees on either sideExpect to see plenty of wildlife along the Rogue River.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Jet Boats on the Rogue River

Being on a river, especially one designated as “Wild and Scenic” as the Rogue River is, means you’ll likely see bald eagles and osprey, among many other birds and waterfowl, and wildlife such as otters and maybe even bear!

Leave from a few spots along the river, such as Gold Beach, Central Point or Grants Pass. Gold Beach has beautiful coastal scenery and is the gateway to the Wild & Scenic portion of the Rogue River. Jet boats can handle the strong current, so pick your guide and just relax and have fun as the river takes you away.

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Trains sitting near tracksTake a self-guided walking tour among full-size rail cars at the Train Mountain Railroad Museum. Photo Credit: Road Trips for Families

Train Mountain Railroad Museum

Home to one of the longest 7.5-inch gauge miniature hobby railroad tracks in the world, Train Mountain Railroad Museum is a popular attraction located between Crater Lake National Park and Klamath Falls. Comprised of a self-guided walking tour, a railroad-themed gift shop, and Railroad Garden with miniature artifacts, the highlight of the experience is a ride on an open-air passenger car pulled by a 1.5-inch scale miniature locomotive engine.

Open year-round, the best time to ride the rails is during the summer months. Two free tours are available to visitors and are generally available on weekdays during the summer months, one at 10 a.m. and one at 2 p.m. (reservations are recommended; everyone else is first-come, first served).

Trains carry passengers along a network of 22 different divisions, under bridges, through tunnels, and past scale model towns, industries, mines and replicas of frontier railroad history. Train Mountain National Railroad is free; donations are greatly appreciated.

Table and chairs and tent at an exhibitExplore Douglas County’s ecological diversity in the interactive Land of the Umpquas’ exhibit. Photo Credit: Road Trips for Families

Douglas County Museum of Natural and Cultural History

Showcasing the cultural and natural history of Douglas County for the past 50 years, visitors to the Douglas County Museum of Natural and Cultural History in Roseburg may just be surprised by the rich diversity in history, economy, environment and industry. An interactive museum perfect for patrons of all ages and abilities, the experience offers many “hands-on” indoor and outdoor exhibits that encourage interactive learning.

Claiming Oregon’s largest natural history exhibition — The Land of the Umpquas’ — displays tell the story of the Umpqua Tribe from past to present. The museum is open between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is an affordable $8 USD for adults, $2 USD for students (ages 5-17) and free for children 4 and under.

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Three people getting a tour of cavesTake a guided tour of the cave system for a truly unique experience.Photo Credit: Oregon Caves NPS

Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve

Nestled in the heart of the Siskiyou Mountains in Southwest Oregon, Oregon Caves National Monument & Preserve welcomes park visitors into its marble-laden caves from late-March through early-November. The main attraction — three guided cave tours led by park rangers and a three-hour off-cave tour led by trained off-trail cavers — are available to visitors (read the “fine print” requirements for age and height on the park website).

While reservations for a cave tour are not required, they are strongly recommended during peak travel seasons. While the caves are closed for the winter season, park visitors can still enjoy the network of hiking trails, picnic spots and wildlife viewing. Seasonal camping, lodging and dining are also available. If you’re en route to the California Redwoods, the Oregon Caves makes a great stopping off point.

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