Confession time. I’ve driven past signs for this place more times than I can count, but never really knew what was hiding under my nose the whole time. The Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals is not some dinky, truck-stop attraction—this is a legit, world-class museum (a Smithsonian Affiliate since 2015) that’s only a 25 minute drive from downtown Portland!
The museum, which opened in 1997, is inside a sprawling mid-century ranch-style house that’s been placed on the National Register of Historic Places in Oregon.
The location was the previous home of Richard and Helen Rice whom the museum is named after. Incidentally, the year the museum opened was the same year both Richard and Helen passed away, a fitting transition to usher in their legacy and ensure their extensive collection lives on for countless generations to come.
Both the main floor and the basement of the museum are filled with all things rocks, minerals, fossils, gems, and earth science related. The newest exhibit is called “Destination Moon” which chronicles and explores the country’s road to the moon landing in 1969. The main gallery houses over 4,000 individual specimens that are replenished regularly from the museum’s working collection of over 20,000 artifacts. Here you’ll find a petrified wood collection, a fossil gallery, and the Northwest Gallery of thundereggs (Oregon’s state rock) which features the largest “opal-filled” thunderegg in the world. There’s also the incredibly cool Rainbow Gallery with rocks and minerals that glow when exposed to ultraviolet light!
When you go, time your visit to catch a mini-tour that lasts about 15 minutes and starts at 11:30am and 3:00pm each day. You can also tour the museum on your own, reading about the displays and asking the knowledgeable staff and docents about the exhibits. If you have a larger group you can pre book a private tour for up to 54 people!
They also offer lots of other opportunities within the community for school trips, local rock clubs, even a faceting class (ie. cutting a gemstone). Or, come out to a Mystery Mineral Day where staff members can help you identify any rocks you’ve collected and are curious about.
The setting outside of the museum is just as beautiful as what’s inside. Nestled on 23 wooded acres, you’ll be surrounded by large fir trees where you can explore trails and the gorgeous landscaping, wildflowers and wildlife around you. Although the museum doesn’t sell any food on its grounds, you can bring a picnic to enjoy with your family on the lawn or at an outdoor table while the kids dig through rock piles. There are also several local fruit and produce stands nearby to grab a healthy snack.
Admission is $18 for adults, which can feel a bit steep, but kids five and under are free and kids age six through college only cost $10. You can also get into the museum for a discounted rate of $3 if you show an EBT card along with your ID, and up to four people can take advantage of this deal as part of the Museum for All program.
Members are always free which can cost as little as $30 a year, so if you’re in the area and think you’d come at least two times a year, this is the way to go!
This museum is definitely worth the trip, and you won’t find a larger collection like this in the entire Pacific Northwest. You won’t believe that a museum of this caliber is right here in Oregon!
- Winter (Dec-Mar): Wednesday - Sunday: 10:00am - 4:00pm
- Summer (Apr-Nov): Wednesday - Sunday: 10:00am - 5:00pm
Address: 26385 NW Groveland Dr, Hillsboro
Phone: (503) 647-2418
The Rice Northwest Museum of Rock and Minerals stands as a shining example among the numerous local businesses fostering positive change in Oregon. If you’ve got a favorite spot or business in mind, don’t hesitate to nominate them—they might just be highlighted in an upcoming feature for That Oregon Life. Be sure to stay connected with That Oregon Life on Facebook and Instagram to stay updated on the most remarkable destinations, attractions, and happenings in the Beaver State.