An Art Museum at the Edge of the Columbia River
The mansion sits on 5,300-acres of south-facing ranch lands and the grounds around the museum is like a desert oasis with lush grass, tall trees, sculpture art and panoramic vistas of the Columbia River.
The museum opened in 1940 and Time Magazine called it “the world’s most isolated art museum.” It’s not as isolated as some others, like Port Lockroy Museum in Antarctica, but it is far removed from any major metropolitan city. Seattle is 223 miles and a little under a 4-hour drive away, and Portland is 100 miles and a 2.5-hour drive.
I think its remoteness is part of the museum’s allure. After you’ve been traveling for miles through golden hills with craggy basaltic columns and suddenly a stately white building appears against a sapphire sky it feels like you’ve been transported into an episode of Downton Abbey.
The key to visiting the museum is to give yourself enough time to wander through all three floors which display 11 permanent exhibits, as well as, special exhibits. We spent over 2-hours there and could have easily spent two more.
Some of the highlights:
- Sam Hill’s collection of artifacts and photos related to his “favorite cause,” the Good Roads Movement.
- The Théâtre de la Mode, which showcases the post-World War II Paris fashion scene with miniature mannequin exhibitions posed on stylish theatre sets.
- American Indian artifacts from various North American tribes.
- Queen Marie of Romania’s collection of royal memorabilia.
Loïe’s, the Museum Café, is on the lower level and has sandwiches, soups, salads, beverages, a kid’s menu, as well as, jaw-dropping views.
The outdoor sculpture area, which is free to explore, is beyond amazing. Shapes and forms twist and turn in the desert landscapes, giving it that extra cool factor. Next to the parking lot, under the trees, are several picnic tables, and while we were there, we were one of a handful enjoying a picnic and the view.
The museum and café are open March 15 through November 15. Museum hours, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; café hours 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission: adults $9, senior $8, children 7-18 $3, family admission $25. They also have several free admission days which are noted on their website. If you plan to wine taste in the area save your museum receipt to receive one free wine tasting at13 wineries, which includes Maryhill Winery and Waving Tree Winery. And, if you go wine tasting before your visit, bring your receipt and get $2 off admission.