Whether you consider it more of a hidden gem or a secret treasure, everyone who visits this museum agrees that it rocks.
Tucked away about a half hour’s drive from downtown Portland, where the suburbs give way quiet farmlands, is the wonderful little Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals.
Built by Richard and Helen Rice in 1952 as both their dream house and a place to house their personal collection of rocks and minerals, this unassuming structure could easily be mistaken for an ordinary home at first glance. On closer inspection, it quickly becomes clear why this building is on National Registry of Historic Places, as the Rices personally selected every stone and tree involved in its construction.
The museum displays a wide variety of wonderfully presented rocks and minerals over the two stories of the main house, gardens, and a separate Northwest Gallery featuring minerals found locally. Although some claim that the highlight of the museum tour is the Rices’ personal collection housed in the basement, the exhibits include everything from a hands-on meteor display to a lab grown giant silicon crystal to a vault of gold nuggets.
A great way to brighten up any grey northwestern day is a visit to the “Rainbow Room” where a specially built ultraviolet light system makes the rocks on display glow and fluoresce in a dizzying array of colors. Children who visit the museum are encouraged to dig through a giant pile of rocks outside to find their own souvenirs, although visitors are politely encouraged not to wash off their new treasures in the restroom sink.
Know Before You Go
Discounted admission is available for seniors, children, and students.
The weekdays can sometimes be busy as they host a number of visiting school groups.