The Oregon Garden Resort

Dec 3 2012

When The Oregon Garden Resort invited our family — all 7 of us — to participate in their Santa’s Workshop event last weekend, I was so excited about their faith in our ability not to break everything or cause trauma to their other guests that I said yes. A night away? Yes. A chance to meet Santa? Yes. Someone else to cook breakfast? Um, yes!

I’ll be honest, though, that upon reflection the word “resort” made me nervous. I’ve never been to The Oregon Garden, even though it’s only an hour from Portland, and I didn’t know quite what to expect. At war were my hopes that the resort would be just lovely and soothing and tranquil and yet, somehow, magically family friendly. Even though I can’t accomplish that at home, it’s not too much to ask of Someplace Else, right?

So you’ll understand, I trust, why the Garden’s pristine Frank Lloyd Wright house, and beautiful Moonstone spa, and gorgeous grounds…

and quiet, peaceful nooks…

… totally wigged me out upon arrival. (And also made me long for a wedding do-over like every woman who got married in the puffy-sleeved, pre-Pinterest 90’s. But whatever.)

I mean, no one was peeing someplace they shouldn’t or punching anyone in the privates or anything. And when I saw the cheery fire in the lobby fireplace with the cozy seating area, everything immaculate, I imagined us as the Herdmans and I felt a moment of fear.

I needn’t have worried. Check-in was smooth, even with my children in the lobby, and we arrived swiftly at Santa’s Workshop where we met Prancer the Reindeer who was compulsively licking a fence.

I felt at home immediately… and even more so when we met Sugar Plum, the less-well-known Reindeer, who repeatedly one-upped Prancer by peeing buckets, delighting my children and sparking a lively debate about Santa’s position on Reindeer Gender Discrimination.

Now, I was sure that Santa’s Workshop would be the highlight of our trip. And it was fun; something to mark on the calendar when they do it again next year. But the thing that surprised me the most was how very much we enjoyed the resort and the gardens on their own in the winter. I guess I just supposed the plants would be dormant and everything else would be closed for the season. In retrospect, I have no idea why I thought that. Our part of Oregon is lovely year-round, with mild winters and plenty of outdoor activities.

We were completely enchanted by the Children’s Garden, home to unapologetic Weird Plants…

and unapologetic Weird Creatures.

I don’t want to give away all the secrets of the Children’s Garden. There are dozens of delightful things to discover for yourselves, and it’s obviously designed with active play in mind. But I will say it wasn’t just Prancer and Sugar Plum that made us feel at home…

…that made us laugh and feel understood, you know?

I’ll tell you what. Somehow, they did it. The Oregon Garden Resort was lovely and soothing and tranquil and also magically family friendly which is why they’re now on my Oregon Family Destinations list. If you’re nearby or planning a vacation in Oregon, I highly recommend it.


P.S. What’s the most interesting / weirdest / best thing you ever saw in a garden? The Oregon Garden or otherwise. In Paris, for example, we saw a few fun, entwined statues that made my teenager say, “Um, no, Mom. You do not need to explain that to me.” 😉


Disclaimer: The Oregon Garden Resort provided our family with one night of lodging, breakfast, admission to the gardens, and tickets to Santa’s Workshop. They didn’t request a review, nor did I promise to provide one, but that’s what they’re getting because WOW. The Oregon Garden Resort is not affiliated with this blog. If you book a stay, I get the satisfaction of knowing I pointed you to a cool, fun place, which is rad.

Also: We’ll head to the Oregon Garden Resort again as a family, but first I plan to go back for some one-on-one time with Greg. There are a lot of package options that are remarkably affordable, including, at the time of this writing, a Dinner Escape package for 2: overnight accommodation, dinner entrees, a bottle of wine, admission to The Oregon Garden, and hot buffet breakfast for $115 total, including taxes and fees. That’s my kind of deal.

Also-also: A great, big THANK YOU to The Oregon Garden staff and volunteers (Kathleen, who taught us the Button Button game!) for your good work, your senses of humor, and making Weird Families like ours feel welcome. Wishing you all a magical season.