You could spend your entire life in Oregon and never run out of new places to explore. The state is like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book of endless possibilities. There are vineyards, sandy ocean beaches, dazzling cities, dense forests, mountains and deserts all within a few hours' drive. To really make the most of your visit, however, you’ll want to immerse yourself in one destination at a time.
Here’s our guide to the best places to visit in the Beaver State.
First Portland for its food scene, green spaces and culture
Despite a population of more than 650,000 people, the city of Portland is full of trees, parks and open spaces. The Columbia and Willamette Rivers move through the city like glittering highways, combining beautiful vistas with recreational activities like kayaking, fishing and boating beneath the city skyline. Don't forget to bring your appetite because the food scene in Portland is also legendary.
Base yourself at the lovely Porter Portland Hotel and you’ll be able to walk to popular attractions like the riverwalk at Tom McCall Waterfront Park and Keller Auditorium, where you can take in everything from concerts to Broadway plays. And don’t miss the opportunity to wander the aisles at the largest used and new bookstore in the world, Powell’s City of Books (it takes up an entire city block).
Beer culture runs as strong as the mighty Columbia River in Portland so grab yourself a pint (or two) at one of the city’s many breweries. Oregon’s first brewpub, McMenamins, has locations scattered in renovated historic buildings throughout the city.
Portland is also famous for its vibrant food cart scene, featuring almost every type of cuisine alongside upscale restaurants like Tusk, where Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors meet the fresh ingredients of the Pacific Northwest. For dessert, you’ll be so blown away by the decadent non-dairy “ice cream” flavor combinations at Little Chickpea that plans for a repeat trip will begin immediately.
River rafting and theatre lovers head to Ashland
Ashland is probably most famous for being host to the Tony award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Since its founding in 1935, the festival has grown to a nearly year-round event encompassing Shakespeare, modern classics and new works in state-of-the-art theaters and pop-up venues throughout town.
Lest you think Ashland is just for theater lovers, however, let us remind you that this is Oregon, and the outdoor recreation is just as much of a draw as the theaters. The Upper Klamath and Rogue River are some of the most premier rafting destinations in the country.
If you stay at the beautiful and historic Ashland Springs Hotel, you’ll be right downtown where you can explore charming downtown Ashland and you walk to theaters, shops, restaurants and the walking trails at the lush 93-acre Lithia Park.
Hit the beaches or spot puffins on the Oregon coast
The Oregon coast is rugged, unspoiled, and thankfully, the state is committed to keeping all of the beaches open to the public.
The most iconic landmark is Haystack Rock, an awe-inspiring 235 ft sea stack stretching toward the sky just off the coast of Cannon Beach. It’s a beautiful backdrop for photos, but more importantly, it’s an excellent place for nature watching, especially when the Tufted Puffins are there between April and early September.
Cannon Beach is also home to Stephanie Inn, located right on the beach with stellar views of Haystack Rock. It’s arguably the finest hotel on the Oregon Coast. If you aren’t spending the night, at least stop by for a meal because the restaurant is a worthy destination in itself.
Discover Astoria's maritime history and cinematic streetscapes
The city of Astoria is where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. You can easily spend a day doing nothing but watch cruise ships and barges as they pull in from the Pacific.
The town itself is full of old-time charm with colorful Victorian-era houses, a trolley rolling along the riverfront and docks where fishing boats unload their catch at the end of the day.
If you think Astoria looks familiar, it’s probably because the town was made famous in movies like Kindergarten Cop and The Goonies. You can learn all about it at the Oregon Film Museum, located in the historic building that served as the jailhouse in The Goonies.
Other must-stops include the Columbia River Maritime Museum and the Astoria Column, an almost 100-year old tower perched on a bluff over town covered in art depicting the area’s history. You’ll have to walk up 164 steps to get to the top but the jaw-dropping vistas of the area are worth it.
If you’re staying overnight, or even longer, the Cannery Pier Hotel and Spa is built right over the Columbia River and the rooms are as beautiful as the views.
For wine tasting and foraged foods get to Willamette Valley Wine Country
Willamette Valley Wine Country is 150-miles long and 60 miles wide. The over 700 different wineries guarantee numerous trips to Oregon Wine Country and different experiences each time.
Forest Grove is less than an hour’s drive from Portland, but the lush vineyards and farmland in the area make you feel like you’re world’s away from the city. Standout tasting rooms here include David Hill Vineyard and Winery, located in a farmhouse more than a century-old and Sake One, one of the only sake distilleries in the U.S.
Some of the best tasting rooms in Oregon are in the area in and around the tiny town of Dayton, where you’ll find gorgeous views and fantastic wine Adelsheim Vineyard, a leader in sustainable wine or the unique underground wine cave experience at Archery Summit.
Dayton is also home to the Joel Palmer House, one of the finest restaurants in Oregon, specializing in dishes based on locally foraged truffles and mushrooms.
For a truly unforgettable experience, book one of the refurbished retro trailers at The Vintages Trailer Resort, where funky aesthetics combine with luxury amenities.
Mt. Hood National Forest is the spot for hiking and skiing
Mt. Hood National Forest contains over a million acres of scenic forests, streams, lakes and, of course, Mount Hood, the tallest mountain in Oregon. In the snowy season, there are more than 32 slopes for skiing and snowboarding, but it’s an incredible destination year-round for hiking and climbing, too.
You’ll love staying at the historic Timberline Lodge. The building served as the exterior for The Overlook Hotel in The Shining, but there’s nothing spooky about the spectacular views of Mt. Hood or the gorgeous rustic interior.
Be sure to soak in the vistas from the Magic Mile SkyRide to a viewpoint 7,000 ft-high on Mt. Hood in the warmer months.
No matter what time of year you visit, the natural beauty of the area is something you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life.
Dramatic surf and buried treasures await at Lincoln City
You don’t have to travel to California or Hawaii to catch a killer wave. Lincoln City is at your service with swells reaching up to 40-feet off of Nelscott Reef. If you didn’t bring your surfboard, you can rent one at Safari Town Surf Shop. They also offer lessons if you’re new to the sport.
After a morning of surfing, be sure to spend some time watching the artists at work at Lincoln City Glass Center. They’ll even help you make and design your own masterpiece.
Keep your eyes peeled for colorful hand-blown bulbs on a trip to the beach. Every year, more than 3,000 glass trinkets are hidden on the beach for visitors to keep.
Rent a home from Oregon Beach Vacations for that homey feeling (full kitchens) while not being too far from the beach.
Visit old-growth forests at Crater Lake National Park
Imagine the bluest blue you’ve ever seen. Now imagine something even bluer. This is the color of Crater Lake, where the waters are so sparkling and beautiful they put sapphires to shame.
Formed when a peak collapsed during a volcanic eruption 7,700 years ago, it’s the country's deepest lake and one of the most pristine.
The lake is hugged by cliffs 2,000 ft high and there’s a small island in the middle. Whether you hike down to the waters or just take a peek from an overlook, it’s hard to lay your eyes on Crater Lake without it leaving a lasting impression.
Crater Lake National Park is Oregon’s only national park and full of spectacular hiking trails, scenic roads, viewpoints, old-growth forests and fascinating visitors centers.
Crater Lake Lodge is over 100 years old and filled with history and breathtaking views of the water. Typically open from May through October, it’s also a great place to grab a drink or a meal if you’re visiting the park for the day.
The best year-round outdoor recreation is found at Bend
Bend combines the cultural amenities of a large city like Portland with some of the best outdoor recreation in the country.
Seriously, there’s almost nothing you can’t do here. In winter, visitors flock to the area to ski Mount Bachelor or snowshoe Edison Butte Sno Park.
In summer, the Deschutes River is bustling with inter-tubes, rafters, anglers and kayakers. And those are just the above-ground activities. Bend is home to a system of below ground lava tubes formed by ancient volcanoes so caving is also a popular activity here.
The high desert climate is sunnier and drier than cities like Portland, to the west of the mountain, which makes outdoor dining here a must. Many of the restaurants have outdoor patios where you can sit in the sun and fire pits where you can warm yourself on cooler days.
Bend is particularly well-known for its breweries and distilleries, so save time for a trip to the Crater Lake Spirits Distillery Tasting Room and their next door neighbor, the Deschutes Brewery and Public House.
Later, spend the afternoon checking out the murals and public art as you meander through the boutiques downtown.
Make the most of your Bend experience with a stay at Brasada Ranch, a resort with fantastic views outside of town.
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