A visit to the stunning Columbia River Gorge just wouldn’t be complete without visiting at least one of our many unique and entertaining museums. Get a high-level overview of our local museums and some insider tips to visiting so you can perfectly plan your getaway to the Gorge.
Maryhill Museum of Art
The museum’s beginnings date back to 1907 when Samuel Hill purchased 5,300 acres of land with hopes of establishing a Quaker community near the Columbia River. Hill is also responsible for the Columbia River Highway. By 1914, work had begun on his mansion through his building company, Maryhill Land Company.
The name Maryhill comes from the combination of his daughter’s name and the hilly location. Though his dreams of a community were dashed by 1917, a friend of his convinced him to turn the mansion into an art museum and in 1926 it was dedicated by Queen Marie of Romania.
Today, the museum houses an impressive collection that spans many eras of history. You’ll find permanent exhibitions and rotating special exhibits like The Big Painting Show and American Art Pottery from the Fred L. Mitchell Collection. The permanent exhibits include works of Auguste Rodin, Native American pieces, and an outdoor sculpture collection.
For a refreshment break, stop at Loïe’s: The Museum Café for an energizing cup of coffee or sandwich.
Admission is $9 per adult or $8 for older adults aged 65+. The museum is open in the summer from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.
Insider tip: Visit on Wednesday to take advantage of the two-fer admission. Ask for the two-fer Wednesday price and enjoy two-for-one pricing. On other days, keep your tickets and present them at wineries for either discounted wine tasting or even free wine tasting at select wineries!
Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum
The Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum (WAAM) lets you see antique crafts that are still operational with the beautiful backdrop of the Hood River. More than 130 cars, motorcycles, airplanes, and military vehicles are on display at the museum.
The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s days. Admission is $14 per adult and they have an on-site gift shop, lounge, and snack bar.
Insider tip: If you want to get hands-on with the vehicles, visit the second Saturday of the month where they bring the crafts out of the hangar and you could help push or pull the antiques out and get them ready for action!
Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum
The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center & Museum takes you back through time and shares the incredible lives of our distinctive wildlife. Some of the permanent exhibits include, the Ice Age, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Native American culture and basketry, Lewis and Clark cargo, early explorers and the Oregon Trail, and so on. They also have special programs and offerings like the live raptor program and hiking and biking along the Riverfront Trail.
The museum is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day (excluding major holidays) and general admission tickets are only $9.
Insider tip: Bring good walking shoes so you can experience the wonderful trails surrounding the center too. You’ll want to budget about two hours of time just for the museum and an additional hour or two for exploring the trails and lakes near it.
Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum
The Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum honors the history of human interaction with the Gorge, from its first inhabitants, the Cascade Chinook, thousands of years ago to the pioneers that recognized its bounty of timber and fish. Spanning 15,000 years of history, the museum has wonderful indoor and outdoor exhibits as well as a museum gift shop.
The museum is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the exception of New Year’s, Thanksgiving, and Christmas days. Tickets are only $10 or $8 for seniors aged 60+.
Insider tip: The museum logo is the petroglyph “Tsagaglalal.” The real petroglyph is carved into the basalt cliff that overlooks the Columbia River at Columbia Hills State Park. “Tsagaglalal” represents the female chief that watches over the people of this area. You’ll see a replica of “Tsagaglalal” in the museum in the First Peoples exhibit.
Be sure to add some time in your travel plans to visit one of our exceptional museums to learn more about the Columbia River Gorge, its people, and rich history. Then, plan on some relaxation in the present in your luxury cabin!