150 Best Things to Do in Oregon: Nature, Arts, Events, & More!

Best things to do in Oregon blog cover image.  Text overlaying image of Sparks Lake at sunrise.

The Pacific Northwest has a well-deserved reputation for its natural beauty, but exploring the pristine nature is only one of many incredible things to do in Oregon.

Foodies flock in droves for the world-class vineyards & wineries, breweries, and distilleries, while visitors of all ages are lured here by a variety of diverse and eccentric festivals.

Oregon is among the top 5 destinations in the United States for travelers of all varieties. With landscapes as diverse as the 1000s of breweries it boasts, you will never run out of places to see and things to do here.

Before you begin: We know your interests are unique to you and there are a LOT of diverse things to do in Oregon. We recommend you begin by browsing the Table of Contents or by going to the first section titled, “How to Use this Guide”, to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the possibilities!

Disclosure: In order to keep providing you with free content, this post likely contains affiliate links. If you make a booking or purchase through one of these links we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. So a HUGE thank you to you if you click one of these links 🙂

Things to do in Oregon Overview

Discover the top attractions and best things to do in Oregon including scenic destinations, popular food stops, world-class vineyards, family-friend activities, and more.

With over 130 things to do in Oregon listed, this guide can feel a little overwhelming if you attempt to read it start to finish like a novel. Instead, begin with the table of contents above or by clicking the category below that interests you most to jump directly to that section.

Visit the Seven Wonders of Oregon

If time is short and you want to see the best nature the state has to offer, the seven wonders of Oregon are a great place to start!

The seven wonders of Oregon are:

  1. Crater Lake
  2. The Oregon Coast
  3. Mt. Hood
  4. The Columbia River Gorge
  5. The Painted Hills
  6. The Wallowas
  7. Smith Rock

In 2014, Travel Oregon launched the 7 Wonders of Oregon campaign. This was a play off of the famous “Seven Natural Wonders of the World” and included scenic wonders statewide.

While the iconic sites they chose are certainly some of the best in Oregon, there are plenty of other places arguably deserving a spot! Read more about which they chose and what gems they missed in our 7 Wonders of Oregon ultimate guide.

Best Outdoor Things to do in Oregon

Photographing the Milky Way over the ocean from Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor is one of the best things to do in Oregon for photographers.
Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor is a premier destination for night photographers and nature lovers.

The state of Oregon is best known for its greenery, wild nature, and varied landscapes. It is home to the most waterfalls in the US and also boasts expansive wilderness, a volcanic legacy, photogenic alpine lakes, roaring rivers, and the Cascade Mountains. In other words, any Pacific Northwest itinerary should include plenty of time in nature.

Because there are simply so many incredible outdoor things to do in Oregon, they have been broken down into Top 10 lists by region for easier perusal. A quick breakdown of the regions are as follow:

  • Oregon Coast: Anything along Hwy 101 on the Pacific Coast from California to Washington.
  • Northern Oregon: Destinations near the I-5 freeway and north of Eugene.
  • Southern Oregon: Destinations near the I-5 freeway and south of Eugene.
  • Central Oregon: Destinations in the center of the state, mostly surrounding the city of Bend.
  • Eastern Oregon: Destinations in the remote eastern section of the state, spanning north to south.

Top 10 outdoor things to do: Oregon Coast

For landscape photographers and ocean lovers, the Oregon Coast is the best part of a visit to Oregon. While you should not expect the warm, golden sand beaches that you will find in California, you will instead discover some of the wildest, savage seascapes found anywhere in the world. And that is not hyperbole!

The coastline in Oregon features an astounding collection of rock stacks, sea caves, wildlife, and much more. These unique natural features create scenery unlike any other that is sure to have your camera firing at all times.

Other Oregon Coast Guides
Southern Oregon Coast Photography Locations
Top 10 Best Places to Visit on the Oregon Coast

The Complete Guide to Thor’s Well

1. Thor’s Well and Cape Perpetua

Long exposure sunset photography at Thors Well is the best thing to do in Oregon for landscape photographers.
Thor’s Wells is a spectacular place to see on the Central Oregon coast.

Perhaps the most incredible natural feature you will experience in the state is the hole in the ocean known as Thor’s Well. This is actually a sea cave with a partially-collapsed ceiling, but at high tide, it appears as if someone pulled the plug and the entire Pacific Ocean is draining into it.

Thor’s Well is certainly the most impressive sight, but there is far more to see in Cape Perpetua. If time permits. stay in the nearby town of Yachats to allow ample time for exploring other features like Devil’s Churn, exceptional tide pools, and the beautiful seaside forest.

Be aware that visiting Thor’s Well can be a fun but dangerous experience! To ensure a safe and successful visit, make sure you first read our complete guide to Thor’s Well.

2. Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor

Early morning golden hour light spills into the strange seascape at Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor.
Early morning golden hour light spills into the strange seascape at Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor.

An 11-mile expanse of unspeakable beauty, the Samuel H Boardman corridor is the best stretch of coastline you will photograph anywhere in the world. Along this coastal drive, you will encounter an unending collection of incredible archways, seastacks, and savage shoreline. It is also an incredible place to see and photograph the Milky Way in the summer.

If you are planning a visit or want more proof, load our photography guide to the Southern Oregon Coast in another browser before moving on.

3. Bandon

The towering seastacks of Bandon bathe in evening light.
The towering sea stacks of Bandon bathe in the evening light.

The city of Bandon will also make a well-deserved appearance in our list of the best cities to visit in Oregon. This charming beach town is popular for everyone from families to golfers to photographers, and even foodies looking for the freshest seafood.

Beyond its cultural allure, outdoor, nature, and ocean lovers will admire the incredible sea stacks that line the very-walkable shores. Among these, a large formation aptly named Wizard’s Cap stands out as the most iconic and photogenic of the lot.

While this is the most noteworthy feature, the Devil’s Kitchen further down is also worth a visit at sunset for anyone with an interest in photography.

4. Pistol River

Stargazing is one of the best things to do in Oregon as seen in this photo of the Pistol River trailing off toward distant seastacks as the Milky Way descends into the haze.
The Pistol River trails off toward distant sea stacks as the Milky Way descends into the haze.

Just north of Samuel H. Boardman is a small but amazing stretch of beach where the Pistol River meets the Pacific Ocean. What makes this such a special place to visit in Oregon is the large, otherworldly boulders stacked up on the otherwise flat shoreline.

There is not much in the way of amenities nor will you find Pistol River on very many lists of the best things to do in Oregon, but this too is one of the reasons to visit! Having the place to yourself with only the company of stars is an amazing way to end a day.

5. Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach

Sunset drone photo of Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach in Northern Oregon.
Haystack Rock is a favorite feature on Cannon Beach for photographers in Northern Oregon.

Perhaps the most recognized and iconic natural feature on the Oregon Coast is Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach. However, it slips to the #5 spot on this list as its popularity is due mostly to the close proximity to Portland.

It is a must-see place for anyone looking for a quick day trip to the beach from the city, particularly in the summer. You also have the option to book a northern Oregon coast day tour from Portland if you prefer a guided tour. With that said, it is not quite as visually impressive as other coastal destinations in Central and Southern Oregon.

6. Devil’s Punchbowl in Otter Rock

A view from above the Devil's Punchbowl in Otter Rock.
A view from above the Devil’s Punchbowl in Otter Rock.

The appropriately-named Devil’s Punchbowl is a massive collapsed sea cave just outside the coastal town of Otter Rock. During low tides, visitors can walk into the punchbowl! However, be very mindful of the tides as getting out quickly is impossible.

This is a favorite feature for travelers on an Oregon coast road trip as almost no hike is required and it is unlike anything you will see anywhere else in the US!

7. Heceta Head Lighthouse

Comet Neowise above Heceta Head Lighthouse.
Comet Neowise above Heceta Head Lighthouse

Heceta Head is as picturesque a lighthouse as you will ever find! It is set high onto a cliff just south of the town of Yachats and keeps guard over one of the prettiest beaches in the region. You can even spend the night in one of six rooms in the Light Keeper’s Cottage here.

While beautiful anytime, this is known as a particularly great scene for sunset photography most times of the year. Photographers will usually be gathered at one of the many roadside pull-offs along the hill to watch as the sun sinks down just behind the lighthouse, creating an incredible composition.

8. Cape Arago & Shore Acres

Sunset at Cape Arago Lighthouse in Shore Acres along the Oregon Coast.
Sunset at Cape Arago Lighthouse.

Cape Arago Lighthouse is somewhat a hidden gem on the Oregon coast. While the lighthouse is no longer publicly accessible or active, it still stands tall and proud and makes for a great photo.

Nearby is Shore Acres State Park. It may not seem like much but the high tide puts on quite a show! When the winter king tides arrive at the Oregon coast, visitors swarm this popular destination to witness massive waves explode against the rocky cliffs.

The best time to visit Shore Acres is typically at the beginning of November, December, and January which welcomes the winter king tides.

9. Harris Beach State Park

Golden Hour at Lone Ranch in Harris Beach State Park on the Oregon Coast
Golden Hour at Harris Beach.

Just south of Samuel H. Boardman in the city of Brookings is the family-friendly state park and campground of Harris Beach. This small park can be thought of as a teaser for what is to come further up the coast, offering a sample of smaller but picturesque sea stacks, tide pools, and sandy beaches.

In the summer, Harris Beach is particularly appealing as one of the few places on the Oregon coast to set down a towel and enjoy a day on the beach.

Its close proximity to the city of Brookings and local campground makes it a particularly fun and easy destination for families.

10. Oregon Sand Dunes

Drone photography of the Oregon Sand Dunes on the Oregon Coast
An aerial view of the Oregon Sand Dunes near Florence.

Locals love the Oregon Sand Dunes of Florence as a destination for most things with an engine. The soft, forgiving sand is a fun place to hit the throttle on an ATV or dirt bike and catch a bit of air.

Meanwhile, vacationers and families come to enjoy the softest sand along the Oregon Coast.

It is, unfortunately, not quite as impressive for photography, but there are plenty of fun hikes and outings for those that find themselves nearby or are exploring the entire coast as part of an Oregon road trip.

Top 10 outdoor things to do: Southern Oregon

Most of you visiting Oregon will be arriving in Portland and perhaps even staying mostly local. The good news is that there is plenty to see up north, the bad news is that Southern Oregon may be the prettier region for outdoor activities.

Southern Oregon is home to the state’s only National Park, as well as a wide variety of beautiful lakes, waterfalls, hot springs, and incredible night skies.

Below are the top 10 places to see and things to do in Southern Oregon for nature lovers. If you skipped to this section or are wondering why coastal locations are not included, those have been covered in the Oregon Coast section above.

While SoOr has the best coastline anywhere in North America by some measures, this section focuses on the inland-region. In particular, those destinations that are in closer proximity to the I-5 interstate.

Other Southern Oregon Guides
Southern Oregon Photography Locations
Waterfalls in Southern Oregon
Southern Oregon Coast: Discover the Best Photo Spots

1. Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park is on every things to do in Oregon list.  This photo shows a view of the caldera of Crater Lake from high above.
A view of the caldera of Crater Lake from high above.

Crater Lake National Park is the crown jewel of Oregon in most locals’ eyes. As the only National Park in the state, it is easily the most popular outdoor thing to do in Southern Oregon. It is also at the top of the list of the 7 Wonders of Oregon.

Be aware that this already-small park gets even “smaller” in the winter as the North Entrance closes entirely and vehicles are limited to just one small section on the South Rim.

That said, Crater Lake is absolutely gorgeous with fresh snow! Winter guests should consider renting or buying a pair of snowshoes as exploring in the snow is one of the most fun activities you can do during your time in Oregon.

Summer visitors will have access to the entire rim drive. Along the way, you will discover a variety of beautiful overlooks and angles and can even get down to the water’s edge!

2. Toketee Falls

Toketee Falls is the most popular place to see in Umpqua National Forest in Southern Oregon.
Sophie gazes out at Toketee Falls.

In a region with so many incredible waterfalls, it should be difficult to pick a favorite. However, Toketee Falls is easily the best and most popular waterfall in Southern Oregon.

At first glance, it almost looks like the North Umpqua River has carved a path through ancient fossilized trees. In fact, the rock that Toketee Falls flows through is columnar basalt. 

Access to the bottom is easily possible requiring a very short but steep walk. However, there is no official trail and accessing the base is somewhat controversial.

Read more about that and visiting the falls in our complete guide and itinerary for exploring the Southern Oregon Waterfalls.

3. Oregon Caves National Monument

Oregon Caves National Monument

Located outside of Cave Junction in a remote part of Southern Oregon, the Oregon Caves National Monument is a 4,554-acre park that protects an underground wonderland.

Spelunkers will discover a world of stalactites, stalagmites, and other natural phenomena that have taken eons to create drop by drop.

If you have never explored a cave system before, put this one high on your list of places to see in Oregon.

4. Umpqua Hot Springs

A young girl soaks in the Umpqua Hot Springs.
Enjoying a soak in natural hot springs is one of the best things to do in Oregon!

Imagine sitting in an elevated, naturally-heated rock tub deep in the forest while overlooking a flowing river shrouded in fog… this magical experience is what awaits you at Umpqua Hot Springs!

A short, one-mile hike through the woods delivers you to an open expanse where several pools cascade down the hillside. Each tub is slightly cooler than the one before, meaning you can “Goldilocks” your way around until you find one that is “just right.”

If you consider yourself more modest, be warned that like most natural hot springs, this site is clothing optional!

5. Wildlife Images

Get your wildlife photography fix at Wildlife Images in Southern Oregon.
Get your wildlife photography fix at Wildlife Images in Southern Oregon.

Wildlife Images is an animal rescue and rehabilitation facility located in the woods of Southern Oregon just off the freeway north of Grants Pass. It is an ethically-responsible non-profit corporation that rehabilitates and re-releases over 95% of the animals it receives, most of which have been harmed by human causes.

Those that are rescued and unfit for re-release become “educational ambassadors” at the facility. Volunteers tell the cautionary stories of how the animal arrived at the facility to guests while providing them an enjoyable quality of life filled with enrichments.

If you cannot tell, this is a place close to our hearts. We have volunteered as photographers at Wildlife Images for many years and it is a place we go frequently with our young nieces and nephews and take out-of-town guests as well! It is one of the best things to do with kids in Oregon!

6. Willow Lake

Sunrise from Willow Lake in Southern Oregon.
Sunrise from Willow Lake in Southern Oregon.

Willow Lake is one of the hidden gems of Southern Oregon. It is located at the base of the mighty Mt Mcloughlin (formerly known as Mt Pitt) and comes together to form a scene out of a daydream.

This small lake is somewhat popular for camping and water activities such as paddle boarding and kayaking. But is equally enjoyable for anyone with a camera.

It is one of the best things to do in Oregon for anyone with an interest in landscape photography, particularly at sunrise and at night.

7. Watson Falls

One of the best waterfalls in Oregon, Watson Falls is the second tallest in the state.
One of the best waterfalls in Oregon, Watson Falls is the second tallest in the state.

At 293 feet, Watson Falls is the tallest waterfall in Southern Oregon and among the most beautiful. You will find it along the North Umpqua Highway connecting Crater Lake and Roseburg. This scenic byway also offers several other waterfalls, but none quite compare to Watson Falls.

If time allows for a visit to this region, there are a plethora of additional waterfalls and features to discover nearby. We have included the ideal road trip itinerary with photos and extensive information on each stop in our Southern Oregon Waterfalls Guide.

8. Fish Lake

Neowise Comet over Mt Mcloughlin, photographed from Fish Lake in Oregon

Fish Lake is another scenic lake at the base of Mt Mcloughlin. Much like Willow Lake (#6), visitors also come for the unbeatable views and water activities. It is a popular getaway for fishing, boating, and vacations.

If you are just someone who likes to see beautiful places and perhaps photograph them, this is an understated destination.

9. Mt Ashland

Skiing down Mt Ashland is one of the top things to do in Oregon.
Mt. Ashland is a winter playground and gorgeous year-round.

A mountain playground any time of year, Mt Ashland is a premier destination in Southern Oregon. It is one of the best places to visit in Oregon during the winter months for sledding, snowboarding, and skiing. In the summer months, hikers and cyclists come to enjoy the beautiful nature trails and mountain views.

The mountain is located near the California border, just south of the vibrant and eclectic city of Ashland (one of the Top 10 cities to visit in Oregon!)

Also in Ashland is the beautiful Lithia Park, a collection of hot springs, and one of the best scenes for foodies and art lovers in all of Oregon.

10. Table Rock

The Table Rock plateau rising from the mist at sunrise.
The Table Rock plateau rising from the mist at sunrise.

The geological feature known as Table Rock is a large plateau visible from the I-5 freeway near Central Point. It is a popular destination for local hikers and photographers with unbeatable views of the Rogue Valley.

At the base of Table Rock are the world-famous Oregon pear orchards. During the spring season, these produce a brilliant white pear blossom that makes for an amazing photo-op.

Top 10 outdoor things to do: Northern Oregon

The majority of first-time visitors to Oregon will begin their adventure in Northern Oregon as the Portland Airport (PDX) is by far the main point of entry. As a result, the outdoor destinations in this region tend to be much busier than those you will find throughout the rest of the state.

Fortunately, even if you only have enough time for this section of the state will find plenty of beautiful nature.

All of the Top 10 things to do in Northern Oregon list can be visited in a short day trip from Portland.

1. Multnomah Falls

Long exposure photo of Multnomah Falls, considered the best thing to do in Oregon.
Multnomah Falls in all her majesty.

If you have ever seen a picture of an Oregon waterfall, chances are you have seen Multnomah Falls. At 620 feet, this is the tallest waterfall in the state of Oregon. However, it is not just its size that creates its grandeur, but the incredible scenery that surrounds it.

If you only make time for one outdoor adventure on a trip to Portland, make sure it includes Multnomah Falls. It is only a half-hour drive from the city and is nestled into the beautiful Columbia River Gorge… More to come on that!

2. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Chasing waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge is one of the most popular things to do in Oregon.
Every Oregon things to do itinerary should make time for chasing waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge.

While Multnomah Falls is the star of the show, there are a plethora of other stunning waterfalls and general idyllic scenery spread throughout 80 miles along the Columbia River Gorge. In fact, the gorge has the highest density of waterfalls in North America. Don’t miss the beautiful Horsetail Falls and Ponytail Falls!

A day trip through the region is the most popular thing to do in Northern Oregon due to the amount you can see in such a short span. There is also no better demonstration of the distinct brand of beauty of the Pacific Northwest than the CRG. This reputation was officially cemented in the Travel Oregon 7 Wonders of Oregon list.

Unfortunately, much of the region was burned in a man-made wildfire in 2017 that caused numerous closures. If you are planning a visit, be sure to read up on current closures and limitations first.

There are also a host of guided tours to Columbia River Gorge available. These range from full-day trips including wine and Mt Hood to half-day waterfall tours and even private scenic flights!

3. Silver Falls State Park

Autumn colors decorate Silver Falls State Park.
Autumn colors decorate Silver Falls State Park.

Perhaps the best state park in all of Oregon, Silver Falls is a collection of 10 waterfalls located along one trail known appropriately as “The Trail of Ten Falls.”

It is an amazing place to get away from the city and get a fresh breath of air as it is located less than an hour from Portland. Consider taking a wine and waterfalls tour, exploring the falls in the morning and vineyards in the afternoon.

If you are planning a visit, queue up our comprehensive guide to The Trail of Ten Falls and Silver Falls State Park. Here you’ll find more photos and learn everything you need to know about the hike!

4. Lost Lake

Sunrise at Mt Hood from high above Lost Lake in Northern Oregon.
Sunrise at Mt Hood from high above Lost Lake in Northern Oregon.

Nestled away at the base of Mt Hood is the dreamlike Lost Lake. This idyllic lagoon is a favorite getaway for campers, water enthusiasts, photographers, and those that just need a day (or night!) in the wilderness.

Lost Lake is only about 70 miles away from Portland. The final stretch is very slow going, particularly in the winter.

Once you have arrived, you will discover a resort and campground tucked into the forest with a view of Mt Hood that is guaranteed to take your breath away.

5. Portland Japanese Garden

The famous maple tree of the Portland Japanese Garden featuring its fall colors.
The famous maple tree of the Portland Japanese Garden featuring its fall colors.

The Portland Japanese Garden is often credited as the most authentic and genuine Japanese garden outside of Asia. It is located in the West Hills of Portland, providing sanctuary for those looking to feel removed from the bustle of the city without the time to leave it.

The grounds are meticulously groomed and feature a tearoom, meandering streams, walking trails, and amazing views of Mt Hood.

There is one particular Japanese maple tree that gets brilliant fall colors and has become a Portland bucket-list item for every landscape photographer.

6. Ramona Falls

Photograph of Ramona Falls in Northern Oregon.
Ramona Falls is one of many beautiful waterfalls in the region.

You’ll need your hiking boots for this one, but it will be worth every step! Ramona Falls is a “weeping wall” of sorts, meaning the waterfall is less of a plunge and more of a slow crawl down the rock face. This unusual descent and its large size make for a unique and spectacular display that sets it apart from many of Oregon’s best waterfalls.

Enjoying Ramona Falls requires a 7-mile roundtrip hike as well as a 1 hour and 15-minute drive from the city. The hike makes for a perfect day trip from Portland if you are an outdoor lover looking for things to do near Portland that do not require reservations or careful planning.

7. Oneonta Gorge

Afternoon light spills into Oneonta Gorge in Northern Oregon.
Afternoon light spills into Oneonta Gorge in Northern Oregon.

After a lengthy closure following the 2017 wildfire that burned much of the Columbia River Gorge, Oneonta Gorge was finally re-opened… Only to close again due to a landslide. While the trail is technically closed, hiking is still legal as this is not an official trail. However, it is also not maintained.

Rather than a simple walking trail, the hike into Oneonta Gorge requires some wading, scrambling, and general Tomb Raider-like maneuvers to reach. When you eventually arrive at your destination, you will find yourself immersed in lush greenery with a slender, picturesque waterfall to reward you for the effort.

Be aware that the Oneonta Trailhead is a gateway to many popular waterfall hikes, so you need to study up prior to arriving to ensure you understand what is involved and how to get there.

8. Pittock Mansion

Mt Hood Bathes in the glow of sunset from Pittock Mansion viewpoint.
Mt Hood Bathes in the glow of sunset from Pittock Mansion viewpoint.

This one had to be included because it is just such a popular and amazing place to enjoy sunrise. Located in the elevated West Hills of Portland, the view from Pittock Mansion rivals any overlook you will find in any major city.

In the distance, Mt Hood rises tall keeping watch over the city below. This is an especially great location to watch the sun rise behind the mountain, or for sunset when Mt Hood bathes in the alpine glow.

9. Abiqua Falls

The scene at Abiqua Falls is one of pure Pacific Northwest beauty.
The scene at Abiqua Falls is one of pure Pacific Northwest beauty.

Located near Silverton and the aforementioned Silver Falls State Park is another incredible waterfall called Abiqua Falls. The total drive from Portland is just a little over an hour and about 50 miles.

Upon arrival at the trailhead, the total hike is less than one mile roundtrip.

Abiqua Falls is one of the best waterfalls in Northern Oregon. However, it does not merit a trip of its own if you are on vacation in Oregon with limited time. With that said, it is a great item to add to your itinerary when coupled with a visit to Silver Falls State Park!

10. Vista House at Crown Point

Sunset bathes the Columbia River Gorge and Vista House in a strange pink glow  from Crown Point.
Sunset bathes the Columbia River Gorge and Vista House in a strange pink glow from Crown Point.

If you are looking for an idyllic view that encapsulates the majesty of the Columbia River Gorge, consider starting or ending your day at the Vista House at Crown Point.

After driving up in elevation, you will arrive at a stunning overlook down into the gorge. It is particularly noteworthy for sunrise as the sun comes up over the distant mountains. However, sunset can also be beautiful for capturing the last light on the scene and for the alpine glow.

If you would like to feature the Vista House in your photo (as above), drive past the parking area 2 miles to the Portland Womens Forum. Ample parking is available and no hike is required.

Honorable Mention: Rowena Crest

We had to include this as an outdoor thing to do in Oregon because it is just so popular for photographers. While not exactly an impressive site or experience, the perfect road bend makes for a stunning photo. It is especially popular for astrophotographers (night photography) as the Milky Way rises perfectly in-line with the scene for much of the year.

If you are already planning on driving through the Columbia River Gorge on your Oregon visit, you may as well add a stop at Rowena Crest.

Top 10 outdoor things to do: Central Oregon

Most visitors and locals alike agree that Central Oregon is the most beautiful part of a particularly beautiful state. The mountains, wilderness, and volcanic legacy of the region lend themselves to a diverse and striking landscape that nature lovers are unable to forget.

The major city in Central Oregon is Bend, which is a destination unto itself. This vibrant city is host to the best breweries and distilleries in the state. Plus, it is the gateway to countless incredible hikes and vistas.

Below are our top 10 things to do in Central Oregon for hikers, adventurers, and outdoor enthusiasts.

1. Painted Hills (John Day Fossil Beds National Monument)

Scattered light spills across the Painted Hills of Oregon.
Scattered light spills across the Painted Hills of Oregon.

The John Day Fossil Beds National Monument has three distinct regions or “units”; Painted Hills, Sheep Rock, and Clarno. Of these, the most visually stimulating and road trip-worthy by far is the incredible Painted Hills of Oregon.

You will discover these colorful, ancient reminders of a time long past about 2 hours away from the city of Bend near Mitchell, Oregon. The park contains a small collection of hiking trails and rolling hills of colorful striations. It is considered one of the official seven wonders of Oregon.

We have created this comprehensive guide to the Painted Hills of Oregon for anyone planning a visit that is worth reading and bookmarking prior to your journey.

2. Smith Rock State Park

Fiery sunset from Smith Rock State Park in Oregon.
A skyfire sunset from the backside of Smith Rock.

Arguably the best state park in all of Oregon (contending only with Silver Falls State Park in Northern Oregon), Smith Rock State Park is a mountainous playground for rock climbers, hikers, and landscape photographers.

Rising straight out of the earth are the sheer cliffs of Smith Rock. They are framed poetically by the Crooked River which snakes and meanders around the vertical rock.

The entire savage scene is incredibly photogenic but often hard to fit into a frame. The view above was taken from the Misery Ridge Trail, widely considered the best hike in Smith Rock State Park.

3. Cascade Lakes Loop

Sparks Lake at sunrise is a place to visit in Oregon for any nature lover.
Sparks Lake at sunrise on a particularly incredible morning in Central Oregon.

Central Oregon is known for pristine wilderness flush with alpine lakes, waterfalls, and abundant greenery. The Cascade Lakes Loop is a scenic drive near Sunriver and Bend that delivers travelers to a bevy of beautiful lakes, each seemingly more beautiful than the last.

Some of the Cascade Lakes will require lengthy hikes and even overnight camping. However, most can be seen with little-to-no walking from the parking area. It is also a popular spot for kayaking. Consider a kayaking tour if you don’t have your own equipment.

Among the best are Todd Lake, Devil’s Lake, and my personal favorite (seen above), Sparks Lake.

4. Tamolitch Blue Pool

Swimming in the Tamolitch Blue Pool has been a bucket list thing to do in Oregon since being revealed to the world.
Swimming in the Tamolitch Blue Pool is like swimming in paradise.

Tamolitch Blue Pool was once a hidden gem known only to the locals. A viral video brought it to the public eye about a decade ago.

Ever since, its unspeakable beauty has become public knowledge and swimming in the blue pools of Oregon is now on every Pacific Northwest bucket list.

You will discover Tamolitch on the McKenzie Hwy northwest of Bend. The hike in is about 2 miles which will deliver you more than ready to dive into the blue water for which it is known.

Expect plenty of people to be around, especially in summer months, and get there early while parking is available.

5. Proxy Falls

Long exposure photography featuring Proxy Falls of Central Oregon.
Proxy Falls in Central Oregon.

Most Oregonians would agree that Proxy Falls is the prettiest waterfall in Central Oregon. This massive, stair-stepped cascade is tucked into the Willamette Forest along the McKenzie Highway west of Bend.

It is maintained by the National Park Service (NPS) and therefore requires a fee for parking and access (or you can display the annual interagency pass.) The hike to Proxy Falls is only 1.6 miles roundtrip and is well worth every step. This might be the most quintessentially PNW waterfall in terms of setting and aesthetic.

It’s worth noting that winter access to Proxy Falls is not possible.

6. “Unnamed Lake” at Broken Top Mountain

Night photo of the milky way over Broken Top Mountain from Unnamed Lake near Bend, OR.
A Summer Milky Way sets over Broken Top Mountain from Unnamed Lake.

There are a handful of mountains in Central Oregon that adventurous hikers can explore, but the vision awaiting them near the top of Broken Top Mountain is widely considered the best of them all.

Getting to Unnamed Lake is challenging. Expect either a very long hike (of which there are 2-3 options available) or a difficult 4WD road followed by a more reasonable 2 mile hike. If you wish to attempt it, I recommend doing more research first decide on the best option for you.

7. Newberry Caldera National Volcanic Monument

Drone photo featuring Newberry Caldera National Monument from the sky
The view of the Newberry Caldera from the sky provides a unique perspective of the landscape.

All that remains of the once-mighty Newberry Volcano is a large caldera. Where black ash once gripped the landscape, a lush green indentation beside deep blue and emerald pools now remains.

For anyone with an interest in the volcanic history of Central Oregon, there is no more beautiful and interesting place to witness it than Newberry Caldera National Monument.

Be aware that this park is broken into separate regions, but the most interesting is near Newberry Volcano and Paulina Peak. Beyond the picturesque lakes, there are also hot springs, lava flows, and some amazing campsites nearby.

8. Tumalo Falls

An old photo of Tumalo Falls from the most popular viewpoint.
An old photo of Tumalo Falls from the most popular viewpoint.

Located half an hour from Bend is an impressive 93-foot waterfall that you will likely see on plenty of Oregon memorabilia. Tumalo Falls is among the top 5 best waterfalls in Oregon by most people’s estimations. But there is far more to this recreation area than just the one waterfall!

Don’t be one of the many tourists who justs arrive at Tumalo Falls, snaps a picture, and turns around. Instead, plan for a nice day trip and hike the 6.5 mile Tumalo Creek loop. Along the way, you will discover an additional 10-20 falls (depending on water levels).

9. The Cove Palisades State Park

The Cove Palisades State Park is set amongst a forest of juniper and ancient lava flows.

In many respects, it could be thought of as a sample platter for everything nature lovers would find fascinating about Central Oregon. From pristine lakes to hardened lava and impossibly dark night skies, this park encapsulates the beauty of the region.

This destination is popular year-round for different seasonal activities. It is especially popular in the summer when the weather is fair and the conditions for camping are pleasant.

10. Sahalie Falls / Koosah Falls

Koosah Falls surrounded by the greenery for which the PNW is known.
Koosah Falls surrounded by the greenery for which the PNW is known.

We bundled these two falls as they are discovered off of the same short trail and both are quite spectacular. They are most easily accessible during the summer months when the McKenzie Hwy and Willamette Forest are free of snow.

The easiest way to see these falls is to park at the Waterfalls Loop Trailhead which can be easily found on Google Maps. From the trailhead, it is a well-marked 2.6 mile family-friendly loop.

Be aware that there are some partial closures in this region from wildfires in August of 2021 which may impact accessibility.

Sahalie Falls as seen from the base.
Sahalie Falls as seen from the base.

Top 5 outdoor things to do: Eastern Oregon

The remote region of Eastern Oregon is the least-populated section of the state. It is not as renown for its natural beauty as most of the state. However, there are some treasures tucked away.

All of the best places to see in Eastern Oregon are very remote and require extensive planning to visit. If you are a nature lover who prefers things to do in Oregon that are off the beaten path, you may find these little treasures the most interesting.

1. Wallowa Mountains

The Wallowa Mountains are one of the official Seven Wonders of Oregon.
The Wallowa Mountains are one of the official Seven Wonders of Oregon.

The most famous thing to do in Eastern Oregon is hiking around the Wallowa Mountains. Though controversial in its distinction, the Wallows are considered one of the official seven Wonders of Oregon and are colloquially known as “The Alps of Oregon.”

Of the many lakes and vistas available in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest wherein the mountain range is usually visited, Glacier Lake is heralded as the most photogenic.

2. Alvord Desert

Campsite set up in the Alvord Desert Salt Flats of Eastern Oregon.
Behold the open, seemingly endless expanse of the Alvord Desert.
Image courtesy of Wandering Wheatleys.

In the far corner of the state lives a starkly different landscape to what you will find anywhere else in Oregon. The Alvord Desert and salt flats are an open expanse at the base of Steens Mountain which attracts night photographers and motor enthusiasts.

A visit to the Alvord Desert requires a massive time commitment for anyone who does not intend on continuing their journey onward to Southern Idaho or Northern Nevada. It is also extremely remote with limited services, so prepare accordingly prior to visiting.

3. Owyhee Canyonlands

A hidden gem in Eastern Oregon, the Owhyee Canyonlands are a beautiful getaway.
A hidden gem in Eastern Oregon, the Owhyee Canyonlands are a beautiful getaway.

The Owyhee Canyonlands are a vast array of bounding hills carefully dissected by rivers, wind, and natural erosion. The results are a striking landscape in the most remote part of Oregon that very few every experience.

This remoteness makes it an appealing thing to do in Oregon for extreme hikers but comes with the need for extra care. Services are extremely limited in Southeastern Oregon so you will need to be well-prepared for any contingency. Do not expect cell service in most of the region, nor roadside facilities.

4. Steens Mountain

Photography featuring the snow-capped Steens Mountain of remote Southeast Oregon.
The snow-capped Steens Mountain of remote Southeast Oregon.

Steens Mountain butts against the Alvord Desert, with the two working together to combine for an impressive landscape. Due to the remote location, only the most determined photographers and hikers experience its stark, wild beauty.

5. Pillars of Rome

The Pillars of Rome standing tall amidst the arid Southeast Oregon landscape.
The Pillars of Rome stand tall amidst the arid Southeast Oregon landscape.

The Pillars of Rome are an odd assortment of vertical rock that reflect sunlight in different and interesting ways throughout the day.

This has become an increasingly popular spot for landscape photographers. However, there is some controversy for visiting as the rock formations appear to be accessible only via private property. If you are planning a visit, you may wish to do further research regarding the most recent rules for access.

Top 10 Indoor Things to do in Oregon

While the natural beauty of the state is what draws many visitors, the Pacific Northwest encounters plenty of rainy days! Below are the ten best things to do in Oregon indoors for those times when the weather won’t cooperate.

1. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) (Portland)

Aerial view of OMSI next to the Willamette River in Portland.
OMSI is one of the top attractions in Oregon.
Photo courtesy of OMSI.

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) is one of the most popular things to do indoors in Oregon, particularly for kids and teens.

Escape the rain in Portland and explore this interactive museum while learning about science and technology with hands-on experiments. It is fun for children and adults alike.

In addition to a number of permanent and temporary exhibits, you will find daily submarine tours, the Kendall Planetarium, and documentaries and movies at their Empirical Theater.

2. Powell’s Books (Portland)

Powell’s Books is an iconic part of the city and is the largest independent bookstore in the world. Occupying an entire city block, Powell’s Book houses approximately one million books within nine color-coded rooms and over 3,500 different sections, as well as a cafe! You can easily spend a rainy afternoon perusing the store.

3. Watch a Portland Trail Blazers Game at Moda Center (Portland)

For a locals’ experience, join the crowds and cheer on the Portland Trail Blazers at the Moda Center. They have the sixth-largest stadium in the NBA and one of the loudest so it’s an experience to be remembered!

4. Oregon Coast Aquarium (Newport)

One of the best indoor things to do in Oregon is to visit Earle the southern sea otter at Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport.
Earle the southern sea otter.
Photo courtesy of Oregon Coast Aquarium.

Come face to face with an array of aquatic species at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. This marine education facility is home to over 250 species including seabirds, marine mammals, fish, and invertebrates, primarily native to the Oregon coast.

One of the most recent residents is Earle the southern sea otter pup. He was rescued in May 2021 and was unfortunately unable to be released so has found a forever home at Oregon Coast Aquarium.

5. Living Room Theaters (Portland)

Enjoy the cinema with a whole new level of comfort at Living Room Theaters. They combine the movie theater with a restaurant so you can order food and drinks to enjoy in the theater while watching the newest releases and independent films.

6. Tillamook Creamery (Tillamook)

Inside Tillamook Creamery - one of the top attractions in Oregon.
Tillamook Creamery is a great indoor attraction in Oregon.
Photo courtesy of Tillamook Creamery by Carly Diaz.

If you’re visiting the coast, be sure to stop by Tillamook Creamery. Take a tour of the Tillamook factory and learn all about how they make their famous cheese and ice cream.

This is a fun and tasty way to share an educational and interactive day indoors as a couple or family alike.

7. Oaks Park Roller Skating (Portland)

Home to the largest skating rink in the country, and the largest west of the Mississippi, Oaks Park Roller Rink is the perfect indoor activity for a rainy day! They have regular open skate sessions throughout the week.

8. Splash! at Lively Park (Springfield)

Open year-round, this Splash! indoor water park features a wave pool, kiddie pool, water slides, six-lane lap pool, outdoor sun deck, and an adult spa.

9. Axe Throwing

The lumberjack culture is alive and well in Oregon! For a unique experience, head inside and try your hand at axe throwing!

Oregon Axe has indoor venues in Salem and Springfield, with locations coming soon to Portland and Klamath Falls, while Portland Axe Throwing already offers sessions in the city

10. Barcades

Ground Kontrol barcade in Portland Oregon
Barcades are a fun way to escape the rain!
Image courtesy of Ground Kontrol.

For a quirky bar experience, try one of these “barcades”, incorporating classic arcade video games with fully stocked bars!

Best Things to do in Oregon with Kids

1. The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) (Portland)

As well as being one of the best things to do indoors in Oregon, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) is also perfect for families. Fun for adults and kids alike, escape the rain in Portland and explore this interactive museum, learning about fun science and technology experiments.

In addition to a number of permanent and temporary exhibits, you will find daily submarine tours, the Kendall Planetarium, and documentaries and movies at their Empirical Theater.

2. Wildlife Images

Wildlife Images is an animal rescue and rehabilitation facility located in the woods of Southern Oregon just off the freeway north of Grants Pass. It is an ethically-responsible non-profit corporation that rehabilitates and re-releases over 95% of the animals it receives, most of which having been harmed by human causes.

Those that are rescued and unfit for re-release become “educational ambassadors” at the facility. Volunteers tell their cautionary stories to guests and provide an enjoyable quality of life filled with enrichments.

If you cannot tell, this is a place close to our hearts. We have volunteered as photographers at Wildlife Images for many years and it is a place we go frequently with our young nieces and nephews, and take out-of-town guests as well! It is one of the best things to do with kids in Oregon!

3. Sea Lion Caves

Since 1932, Sea Lion Caves has been a privately owned wildlife preserve and bird sanctuary.

Located north of Florence on the rugged Oregon coast, Sea Lions Cave is the largest sea cave in America and home to a vast number of wild sea lions. Travel down 208 feet by elevator to reach the cave and spot sea lions in their natural habitat.

While the cave is the year-round home to Steller sea lions, as the animals here are wild, there can be times when they are not present. During the winter months, you may find hundreds of sea lions in the cave. However, when spring arrives the sea lions typically move out to the rock ledges in front of the cave to birth and raise their young.

Regardless of the time of year, Sea Lion Caves is a wonderful place to visit for kids of all ages.

4. Wildlife Safari

Located in Winston, Wildlife Safari is a non-profit wildlife park that takes you on a journey through Africa, North America, and Asia. It is the only drive-through animal park in Oregon allowing you to go on safari in the comfort of your own vehicle.

Keep your eyes peeled for the elephants, lions, cheetahs, and tigers, as well as many other animals that roam through the wide-open spaces within the 615-acre park.

Be sure to also stop at Safari Village which is completely free to visit! Here you’ll find more animal exhibits, keeper talks throughout the day, a children’s petting zoo, and more.

5. High Desert Museum

Just south of Bend, the High Desert Museum is a must-see for families.

Explore the natural world and culture of the High Desert through a diverse mix of indoor and outdoor exhibits, comprised of nearly 29,000 artifacts and over 100 animals.

There are plenty of things to see and do for kids (and adults) of all ages with up close native wildlife encounters, living-history demonstrations, and hands-on displays.

6. Oregon Zoo

Founded in 1988, Oregon Zoo is the oldest zoo west of the Mississippi and continues to be a world leader in animal welfare and conservation.

It is home to over 2,600 animals from more than 230 different species across 64 acres of land. Discover some of the world’s most fascinating animals, from tiny stick insects to mighty polar bears.

7. Enchanted Forest

Ideal for the younger family members, Enchanted Forest is a quirky theme park inspired by classic fairy tales.

The park has a fascinating history. It was handcrafted almost entirely by one man, Roger Tofte, upon the realization that there was little for family’s to do in the area.

Roger opened the Enchanted Forest in 1971. Roger and his family still own the park and have added many new rides over the years. It has become a fixed family favorite in the region.

This attraction is open seasonally during the warmer months and often only at weekends, so it’s worth checking their website for up-to-date opening hours.

8. Oregon Vortex

The Oregon Vortex is perhaps one of the strangest places in the world! Tucked away in Southern Oregon near Gold Hill, this bizarre attraction has been baffling people for years with its mysteries.

Since the 1930s, visitors have been drawn in by the inexplicable illusions that occur here, including reports of bottles rolling uphill, people’s heights changing before their eyes, and brooms standing on end.

The Oregon Vortex is one of those places you have to see for yourself to understand the magic.

9. Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls on a Oregon summer day.
Multnomah Falls on a Oregon summer day.

If you’re looking for a family day out in nature, then a visit to Multnomah Falls and Columbia River Gorge is a must!

At 620 feet, it is the tallest waterfall in the state of Oregon. However, it is not just its size that creates its grandeur, but the incredible scenery that surrounds it.

The waterfall itself is only a short walk from the parking lot, making it perfect for little legs. Or if you’re looking for a bigger adventure, continue on through Columbia River Gorge where you’ll find many other hikes and waterfalls.

10. Silver Falls State Park

Autumn leaves at Silver Falls State Park.
Autumn leaves at Silver Falls State Park.

While Silver Falls State Park may not contain the tallest waterfall, it is home to some of the best waterfalls in Oregon.

As the name suggests, along the Trail of Ten Falls you can witness ten impressive waterfalls. Although the 8-mile hike to all ten waterfalls may be too much for some younger family members, two of the most impressive waterfalls (South Falls and North Falls) require minimal walking.

There are also many options for shorter hikes through the park, as well as a play area and swimming area.

Bonus: The Oregon Coast

A family strolls across a forest of sea stacks along the beach at Bandon in Southern Oregon.
A family strolls across a forest of sea stacks along the beach at Bandon in Southern Oregon.

Heading to the beach is always a favorite activity for families and the Oregon coast is one of the most spectacular coastlines in the world.

Whether you want to relax on a sandy beach, build sandcastles, explore tide pools and caves, hike the coast, or watch for whales, you’ll find plenty to do all along the coast.

Top 10 Festivals and Events in Oregon

The Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Northern Oregon at sunrise.
The Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Northern Oregon at sunrise.

Oregon has a host of festivals and events throughout the state year-round. These annual gatherings encompass all manner of Oregon culture. You’re sure to find a festival to celebrate anything you happen to be into!

While there are more than we could possibly include in this post, below is a quick list of the top 10 festivals and events in Oregon.

  1. Portland Rose Festival (Portland): Including three big parades, carnival, treasure hunt and several side events, this festival has been taking place annually since 1907 and draws over one million visitors each year.
  2. Britt Music & Arts Festival (Jacksonville): This non-profit performing arts festival has been attracting high-profile and local acts in music for decades.
  3. Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Ashland): Rather than a single event, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival is a series of performances from April through to October including classic Shakespeare productions as well as new works.
  4. World Naked Bike Ride (Portland): Around 10,000 nude cyclists take to the city streets each year, officially as a protest against pollution-based transport and for cyclist safety.
  5. Pendleton Round Up (Pendleton): Considered the best rodeo in Oregon, this event embraces Oregon’s western culture with a week-long celebration of western heritage that includes parades, concerts, a night pageant, and more.
  6. Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival (Woodburn): From mid-March to the beginning of May each year you can explore rows upon rows of colorful tulips across 40-acres.
  7. Oregon Country Fair (Veneta): The iconic country fair is a three-day celebration of art and music that takes place each July.
  8. Oregon Brewer’s Festival (Portland): Each July, Oregon’s biggest and best celebration of craft beers showcases the best brews the state has to offer, with over 100 different drinks on tap in every style imaginable!
  9. Waterfront Blues Festival (Portland): Doubling as Portland’s primary fourth of July celebration, the waterfront comes alive for five days of live music, dancing, cruises and fireworks.
  10. Northwest String Summit (North Plains): An Oregon Americana and Bluegrass music festival, held inside the beautiful woodland of Horning’s Hideout in North Plains each July.

Best Things to do in Oregon for Foodies

Top 10 Oregon Eats

Voodoo Doughnuts dozen pack in Portland Oregon
Pick up a doughnut (or dozen!) at the iconic Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland.

You will discover countless incredible eateries throughout “the Beaver State”. However, there are a few bucket list places in Oregon for foodies that should be on your radar.

While you can discover food from all over the world in Oregon and there is no shortage of excellent restaurants, we have tried to list the places that are iconic and uniquely Oregon.

  1. Voodoo Doughnuts (Portland): Unique flavors, such as maple bacon donuts, has created a cult-like following for this Portland based donut shop.
  2. Salt & Straw Ice Cream (Portland): Disocver a variety of crazy limited-edition flavors of handmade ice cream using local ingredients.
  3. Willamette Valley Pie Company (Salem): Marionberries were created at Oregon State Univeristy by crossing two types of blackberries. Each year the Willamette Valley Pie Company process around 12 million pounds of berries to make three kinds of marionberry pie!
  4. McMenamins (Statewide): The family-owned chain of brew-pubs can be found throughout Oregon, many of which are in restored historical properties. Don’t miss their Tater Tots (fun fact – Tater Tots were created in Oregon!).
  5. Local Ocean Seafood (Newport): No trip to the Oregon coast is complete without seafood, and there’s no better place for it than Local Ocean Seafood. The dockside grill and fish market offers fresh, sustainably caught, seasonal seafood.
  6. Tony’s Crab Shack (Bandon): Heading further south along the coast, don’t miss trying Dungeness Crab at Tony’s Crab Shack.
  7. Bowpicker Fish & Chips (Astoria): Served from a boat, this food stand on the northern Oregon coast is renowned for its exceptional fish and chips.
  8. Tillamook Creamery (Tillamook): The Tillamook Creamery produces more than 170,000 pounds of cheese each day. You can visit the factory and try the cheese, or pick it up in any local supermarket! They also have great ice cream.
  9. Moonstruck Chocolate (Portland): Made with ethically sourced chocolate and fresh local ingredients, these handcrafted chocolates are a must in Portland. You can also order them on Amazon too.
  10. McKay Cottage (Bend): Tucked away in a historical 1916 bunglalow and voted “Best Breakfast in Bend” every year since 2010, McKay Cottage is a bucket list destination for brunch.

Top 10 Breweries in Oregon

Enjoying a flight at a local Oregon brewery.

Oregon ranks on the Top 5 list for beer lovers by almost any metric. The state is known for producing some of the best IPAs in the world, which makes sense as the PNW is home to Cascadian hops which are revered globally.

Along with each brewery listed, you will find the beer(s) for which the brewery is most well-known.

Trying to decide the best is a highly subjective thing, but this list of the best breweries in Oregon are based on ratings and popular opinion.

  1. Crux Fermentation Project (Bend)- Flagship Beers: Crux IPA.
  2. Deschutes Brewery (Bend)- Flagship Beers: Black Butte Porter, Mirror Pond Pale Ale.
  3. 10 Barrel Brewing (Bend)- Flagship Beers: Apocalypse IPA, Crush Sours.
  4. Rogue Ales (Newport)- Flagship Beers: Dead Guy Ale, local collabs.
  5. Caldera Brewery (Ashland)- Flagship Beers: Lawn Mower Lager, Ashland Amber.
  6. Ninkasi Brewing (Eugene)Flagship Beers: Total Domination IPA, Oatis Oatmeal Stout, Dawn of the Red IPA.
  7. Hop Valley Brewing Co (Eugene)Flagship Beers: Citrus Mistress IPA, Bubble Stash IPA.
  8. Full Sail Brewing Co (Hood River)Flagship Beers: Hood River IPA, Amber Ale, Session Premium Lager.
  9. Breakside Brewery (Portland)Flagship Beers: Wanderlust IPA, Breakside IPA.
  10. Boneyard Brewing (Bend)Flagship Beers: RPM IPA, Hop Venom IPA.

Top 15 Wineries in Oregon

As with the breweries, a list of the best wineries in Oregon is somewhat subjective. These are the top-rated wineries from across the state.

  1. Bells Up Winery (Newberg)
  2. Bergström Wines (Dundee)
  3. HillCrest Vineyard (Rosebury)
  4. Wooldridge Creek Winery (Grants Pass)
  5. Bella Vida Winery (Dundee)
  6. Irvine & Roberts Vineyard (Ashland)
  7. De Ponte Cellars (Dayton)
  8. Grizzly Peak Winery (Ashland)
  9. Honeywood Winery (Salem)
  10. Weisinger Family Winery (Ashland)
  11. Elk Cove Vineyards (Gaston)
  12. Utopia Vineyard and Winery (Newburg)
  13. Lenne Vineyard (Yamhill)
  14. Chehalem Winery (Newberg)
  15. Domaine Drouhin Wines (Dayton)
Oregon is renowned for its vineyards and pinot noirs.

Oregon has established international recognition for its wine, with over 1000 vineyards encompassing an enormous 98,466 square miles (255,026 km2). There are two designated wine-growing regions found entirely within the state; the Willamette Valley AVA and Southern Oregon AVA.

Oregon is particularly renowned for its pinot noir and pinot gris.

Top 15 Cities to Visit in Oregon

It is tough to rank the best cities in Oregon as there are so many different metrics by which to base the decision. However, the following 15 are worthy of visiting and experiencing if you are nearby or have the time and interest to do so.

1. Bend

Bend is a mini-metropolis packed with incredible food, drink, nightlife, and is surrounded by unspeakable beauty. It is fastest-growing major city in recent years and widely considered the best place to visit in Oregon,

2. Portland

Night photo of the Portland Oregon sign welcoming visitors to downtown PDX.
The iconic Portland sign welcomes locals and visitors alike to downtown PDX.

Portland is the largest and most famous city in Oregon, but it is also the most colorful. While diversity in arts and culture are lacking throughout much of the state, Portland is the place you will find it most readily.

3. Ashland

The city of Ashland is an eclectic mix of progressive college students and retired well-to-do hippies. The result is a fun and funky city with a thriving art scene and an emphasis on all things “craft.”

4. Joseph

Located at the base of the Wallowa mountains, Joseph has become a destination in recent years for tourists and homebuyers alike who want to live in a remote mountain town without sacrificing ammenities. It might just be the prettiest city in Oregon.

5. Jacksonville

Historic Jacksonville outside of Medford is truly a city lost in time.
Historic Jacksonville outside of Medford is truly a city lost in time.

A small town lost in time, Jacksonville is home to little more than a few local cafes, multiple saloons (yes, SALOONS), authentic bed and breakfasts, and some fantastic restaurants. The historic look and feel has been kept intact while simultaneously ensuring services have kept up with the modern era.

6. Astoria

Astoria is a port city on the Northern Oregon coast and borders the state of Washington. It is among the most popular tourist destinations. It provides visitors a bit of storied history while also having that quintessential “beach town” feel, complete with the quirky gift shops and ocean aroma.

7. Bandon

The seastacks at Bandon beach make it a particularly unique place to visit.
The seastacks at Bandon beach make it a particularly unique place to visit.

Popular for golfers and families primarily, Bandon is the best Southern Oregon coastal city that is yet to be fully discovered. Crime rates are nearly non-existent, walkability is exceptional, and there is something for every variety of visitor or local to enjoy. Oh, and it just so happens to be situated on one of the most photogenic stretches of beach in all of Oregon!

8. Hood River

Mount Hood at sunset from Hood River Oregon

Hood River was what Joseph currently is. That is, a small town tucked against a gorgeous mountain with just the right amount of buzz. As Portland continued to grow and sprawl expanded, many have discovered Hood River. Subsequently, it has transformed this quaint town on the edge of Mt Hood into a busy little hive of activity that continues to excite first-time visitors and future-residents alike.

9. Sisters

This piece of folksy art shows a lucky pioneer enjoying the views from Sisters, Oregon.
This piece of folksy art shows a lucky pioneer enjoying the views from Sisters, Oregon.

The city of Sisters could be considered the “little-sister city” of Bend. Located less than an hour away in the right direction, Sisters is located amidst mountain ranges in seemingly every direction. The city is clean, beautiful, and quiet. That last word (quiet) is what makes it either much better or much worse than Bend, depending on how much of a pulse and things to do you require.

10. Brookings

The Milky Way as seen from a sea cave near Brookings, Oregon.
The Milky Way as seen from a sea cave near Brookings, Oregon.

The city of Brookings itself isn’t the most spectacular. But it is an amazing getaway on the Southern Oregon coast and the nearest city to the California border. There are some great local eats (shout out to Superfly), a few fun taverns, and all the amenities one might require. The real appeal, however, is the proximity to Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor – the best stretch of coastline for landscape photography anywhere in North America.

11. Salem

Salem is the capital of Oregon, which is pretty much the only reason it is getting a spot on the top 15 cities to visit in Oregon list. It’s a fine city to live in or visit, but those with no interest in seeing the capital building or politics in general will likely be waving to Salem from the car window as they continue along the I5.

12. Eugene

Home of the University of Oregon Ducks, birthplace of Nike, and hometown of Simpsons creator Matt Groening, Eugene is a champion city for liberals. It could be thought of as Portland-light in many ways, though it certainly has its own vibe. 20-somethings visiting Oregon will particularly enjoy the student-oriented discounts and festivities throughout the city.

13. Newport

Another charming coastal town, Newport gets its reputation by being everything you imagine a coastal town to be. It features rows of souvenir shops and seafood restaurants, a picturesque lighthouse (Yaquina Head Lighthouse), and is home to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. And, of course, it hosts the annual seafood festival as well… because that is what a great coastal town does.

14. Silverton

Girl in front of a waterfall at Silver Falls State Park in Silverton.
Silver Falls State Park draws visitors to Silverton, but the town has its own charm.

A charming little town just outside of Salem, Silverton is the gateway to the incredible Silver Falls State Park and Abiqua Falls. It is not necessarily worth the trip alone, but it is a great place to spend a night and grab a pint after exploring all of the nearby waterfalls.

15. Yachats

High viewpoint of Cape Perpetua outside of Yachats.
A view of the Cape Perpetua coastline outside of Yachats.

Holding down the final spot on the best places to visit in Oregon in the cities category is another coastal town. Yachats is the gateway to Cape Perpetua and an incredible coastline that features Thor’s Well, Devil’s Churn, and Cook’s Chasm.

Top 7 Unique Places to Stay in Oregon

There are plenty of places to stay throughout Oregon, from budget options to five-star hotels. However, we love finding places that also offer a unique experience.

The lodgings below are some of the most unique places to stay in Oregon, offering more than just a place to stay.

  1. Crater Lake Lodge (Crater Lake): Open seasonally during the summer and set in Oregon’s only National Park, Crater Lake lodge offers spectacular views of the lake.
  2. Heceta Head Lighthouse (Yachats): The Heceta Head Lighthouse and Light Keeper’s home were both built in 1894 and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Immerse yourself in history and spend the night in one of six rooms in the Light Keeper’s Cottage, then wake to a decadent 7-course breakfast.
  3. Out’n’About Treehouse Treesort (Cave Junction): Fulfill a childhood dream and stay in one of the 17 treehouses at this treesort.
  4. Green Ridge Lookout: For a more rustic experience, stay in Deschutes National Forest in a 20-foot tall fire lookout built in the 1960s. While you won’t have power or water, you will have unmatched views of Mt. Jefferson and the Metolius River basin.
  5. Oregon Garden Resort (Silverton): Enjoy a tranquil getaway with sweeping views of the 80-acre Oregon Garden botanical gardens. In addition to free entry to the gardens, your stay also includes complimentary breakfast and regular live music.
  6. Timberline Lodge (Government Camp): Sat at the base of Mt. Hood, the historic Timberline Lodge was built in 1937 and is famous for appearing in the classic film The Shinging as the exterior of the Overlook Hotel. It offers rustic lodging and year-round skiing.
  7. The Vintages Trailer Resort (Dayton): Stay in one of 35 vintage trailers for the ultimate glamping experience.

Other Oregon & Regional Guides

Twilight on the Oregon Coast with a crescent moon.

As must be clear by now, there are too many things to do in Oregon for one guide to list them all with much detail. Below are some of the other travel guides for Oregon and the nearby regions of Northern California and Washington.

If you are planning on visiting any of these other locations, you will discover far more in-depth descriptions and information for planning in these guides.

Oregon Guides

Northern California Guides

Washington & PNW Guides

Things to Do in Oregon FAQs

What is the number 1 attraction in Oregon?

There are seven “Wonders of Oregon” with Multnomah Falls in the Columbia River Gorge being the most visited attraction in Oregon at 2 million yearly visitors. Crater Lake National Park is the most famous destination but receives only 750k visitors each year.

The other wonders are the Oregon Coast, Smith Rock, Painted Hills, Wallowa Mountains, , and Mt Hood.

What can couples do in Oregon?

Popular activities for couples and romantic getaways in Oregon include hiking one of the many incredible trails, wine tasting at some of the states world-renown vineyards, staying at Crater Lake Lodge, exploring the coast, or hitting the slopes at one of many of Oregon’s famous ski resorts.

What is the prettiest part of Oregon?

The Seven Wonders of Oregon were declared as the prettiest parts of Oregon. These include the Columbia River Gorge, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon Coast, Wallowa Mountains, Painted Hills, Smith Rock, and Mt Hood Wilderness.

What is Oregon famous for?

Oregon is most famous for its pristine nature, clean air, and outdoor activities. In addition, it is considered one of the premier craft beer scenes and is home to the world’s best pinot noirs.

What is the nicest city in Oregon?

Bend is generally considered the nicest and most livable city in Oregon due to a thriving craft scene and stunning natural beauty. However, it is also among the least diverse and most expensive cities in the state.

Final Thoughts on Things to do in Oregon

If you have read all the way to this point, you are among the most-informed people who will visit Oregon! As you have learned, there are more places to see and things to do in Oregon than someone could experience in a lifetime… and I say this as someone who is from here!

As with any list of this sort, we understand that “best” is a subjective word and that you may not agree on the order or feel worthy places were omitted. We love constructive feedback and welcome it in the comments as long as it is provided respectfully.

Likewise, it is nice to know we have helped in some way. If you found this guide useful in planning your Oregon vacation, please share this guide with others and let us know in the comments below!

Enjoyed this guide to the best things to do in Oregon? Pin it! 🙂

Because sharing is caring…

2 thoughts on “150 Best Things to Do in Oregon: Nature, Arts, Events, & More!”

  1. My son and family live in Beaverton, Oregon and we are visiting this summer. We’ve planned a trip through the Gorge, Mt. Hood, Silver Falls State Park, West Cascades, Sisters, Bend and a week in Sunriver, followed by Willamette Valley Vineyards on our way back to SC. I have been following you and you’ve been extremely helpful for our planning on our trip. My husband and son are both photographers and your shots have gotten us all excited about our upcoming trip. Thank you for all of your beautiful photos that we use as inspiration, for your suggestions and guide! Can’t wait!


Leave a Comment