I love exploring Oregon. And I love having company. Getting to explore Oregon with company? Maybe one of my favorite things. When my parents visited over the summer, I took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy a couple of nearby attractions.
The first is literally just down the road in the small town of Winston. Wildlife Safari began in 1972 as a conservation facility and has grown into that and more. The major attraction is the drive-through wild animal park, featuring dozens of species that can be seen from the car.
We saw zebras, giraffes, hippos, bears, and elephants, many of which get to roam completely free throughout their area of the park.
There is a spot to feed some of the animals (buying feed is an additional charge and the vehicular line is even slower than the drive through the rest of the park).
Wildlife Safari is especially known for their cheetah conservation and breeding program.
An adult ticket is $17.99 and kids up to 12 years old are $11.99 per ticket. However, I’ve noticed that there are usually specials available, so you may check out Groupon before you go. In addition to the drive through portion, there is the Safari Village, which houses additional animal displays. There are special events throughout the year, as well. It was a fun way to spend a sunny, summery morning.
The other, super fun, thing that I did with my parents was Hellgate Jetboat Excursions. This was seriously one of the most fun things I have done in a while. We chose to do the dinner tour. With our $66 tickets booked in advance (I would recommend this – our tour was completely full), we arrived at Hellgate’s check-in desk (which not so subtly requires one to walk through a rather large gift shop) and then to the line to get onto the boats.
We started the tour with a lovely, relatively tame, mostly dry trip down the river.
The scenery along the Rogue River was spectacular. We went all the way to Hellgate Canyon, with a few exciting spins and minor splashes thrown in.
We then turned around and stopped by Hellgate’s own restaurant, The Ok Corral, on the river for dinner. Despite the fact that there were almost 300 people present, dinner in the open-air restaurant was delicious and well paced.
The family style dinner included barbecue, salad, and delicious sides. I had preordered the vegetarian option, which was a surprisingly edible vegetarian lasagna.
And let’s not forget the classic Oregon summer dessert – berry crumble.
After dinner, there was time to wander around as the evening began to cool. Relaxed with the content feeling that only comes after dinner with good friends, little did we know what was in store.
The real fun began with the ride back. What had been lively spins on the first part of the tour became wildly fun spins and splashes, sometimes in conjunction with another one of the boats that had everyone soaked and laughing by the time we arrived back in Grants Pass.
There was literally no way to stay dry, even if you tried to use your child as a human shield, not to name names. My mom did her best to hide behind my dad. That too was unsuccessful. We had an absolute blast. As we pulled up to the dock to disembark from the tour, I felt a mix of disappointment that it was over and a strong desire to put on dry clothes. Too bad I hadn’t thought of that beforehand…
If you are looking for a delightful summer activity in southern Oregon I highly recommend Hellgate. They have a number of tours, including one that goes further into the canyon and a brunch tour that probably needs to be a part of my plans next summer.
And with that, another successful weekend with out of town guests was completed.