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25 Top-Rated Things to Do in Oregon

Written by Brad Lane
Sep 7, 2022

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Oregon is one of the most fun-filled states in the country. Outdoor adventures, thriving city scenes, and a host of friendly communities are a few reasons for a vacation or long-term move. And with a busy activity calendar, the best time to visit Oregon is as soon as possible.

Crater Lake, Oregon
Crater Lake, Oregon | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Oregon countryside comprises many different landscapes and outdoor activities. The Cascade Mountains stand out with jagged appeal up and down the state's center, and the Pacific Ocean and a rugged coastline define its western border. Nowhere else in the country matches these outdoor playgrounds of Oregon, all shining with a postcard appeal.

But it's not just the outdoors that draws crowds to Oregon. Principal cities like Portland and Salem are well regarded for their arts and culture. And smaller towns like Astoria and Jacksonville also exude a charm that makes it hard to leave at the end of a stay.

Whatever brings you to the Beaver State, make the most of your time here with our list of top things to do in Oregon.

1. Explore Portland's Washington Park

Oregon Zoo, Washington Park
Oregon Zoo, Washington Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Portland is Oregon's largest city and arguably its cultural capital. The city is jam-packed with things to do day and night, inside and outdoors, and throughout the year. However, Washington Park tops the list of places to visit in Portland, thanks to its dense collection of signature city attractions.

Washington Park is home to the Portland International Test Rose Garden, the Oregon Zoo, the Portland Japanese Garden, and the Hoyt Arboretum, among other attractions. These attractions can fill an entire day individually, though their proximity allows for a combination of fun things to do in Portland.

Washington Park is two miles west of downtown. The Tri-Met Blue and Red Lines have a station in Washington Park (the deepest train station in North America).

Read More: Best Places to Stay in Portland

2. Hike a Waterfall Trail in the Columbia River Gorge

Fairy Falls, Columbia River Gorge
Fairy Falls, Columbia River Gorge | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Columbia River Gorge is a spectacular 80-mile-long canyon separating northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington, less than 30 miles from Portland.

The Gorge is a hot spot in the state for adventure travel, catering to activities like hiking and windsurfing. However, it's the dense concentration of waterfalls a short drive from Portland that brings international attention to the "Gorge."

Approximately 90 named waterfalls make a splash in the gorge, mainly on the Oregon side. A few of these waterfalls are world-famous, including Multnomah Falls, spanning two tiers and 620 feet. This stunning display of gravity is along the Historic Columbia River Highway. As of 2022, you need to obtain a Waterfall Corridor Permit to park along the historic highway during summer.

The waterfall selection in the gorge varies wildly. From parking lot plungers to Tunnel Falls far down a cliff-hugging trail, the sheer amount of gorge waterfalls cater to every type of hiker.

Read More: From Portland to Multnomah Falls: Best Ways to Get There

3. Spend the Weekend in Bend

Old Mill District, Bend
Old Mill District, Bend | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Bend is frequently on the radar for travel, and for good reason. The Deschutes River winds through this growing mountain town near the eastern foothills of the Cascade Mountains, at the edge of Oregon's high desert. This location provides abundant sunshine throughout the year and an equal number of days for outdoor activity.

From rock climbing at Smith Rock State Park to bombing down Mt. Bachelor on skis, the outdoor lifestyle defines much of the community. Other notable adventures in and around Bend include scenic byways, waterfall hikes, and geothermal attractions at the Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

And it's not just outdoor adventures in Bend. A few different districts in Bend support thriving ecosystems of upscale shopping, dining, and events. Head to the Old Mill District, about a mile from downtown, for a great taste of this cultural flavor.

Accommodation: Best Resorts near Bend, Oregon

4. Admire the Depths of Crater Lake

Crater Lake National Park
Crater Lake National Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Crater Lake is a signature landscape of Southern Oregon and a must-see for outdoor enthusiasts. The lake is an ancient caldera left by the massive Mount Mazama eruption thousands of years ago. And today, fed only by snowmelt and rainwater, it's the deepest lake in the country.

Staring in awe at the sparkling blue expanse is reason enough to make the trip. And the national park provides several other resources to enjoy a weekend or weeklong stay. An often first place to visit is the Rim Village Visitor Center, on the southwest rim. Here, rangers are happy to help with trip planning, and nearby hiking trails lead right to panoramic views.

Summer is arguably the best time to visit Crater Lake. Every park road is open, and consistent sunshine almost always guarantees a view. However, this is the time of the year when most people visit, making overcrowding the biggest issue. Winter is notoriously long at Crater Lake, with snow typically spanning November into May.

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5. Stroll the Columbia Riverwalk in Astoria

Astoria Riverwalk
Astoria Riverwalk | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Astoria is a charming town in far northwest Oregon, next to the Columbia River, where it meets the Pacific Ocean. The town's waterfront status and hilly neighborhoods are reminiscent of San Francisco – as are its artful and welcoming community. But with a population of under 10,000 residents, Astoria is one of Oregon's most appealing small towns.

One of the first places to head is the Astoria Riverwalk. This rail-to-trail conversion stretches for miles with any easy grade, bounded by the Columbia River and Astoria's downtown district. Alongside great views of the Astoria-Megler Bridge, the trail lends easy access to several other top things to do in Astoria.

Another quintessential stop in town is the Astoria Column. This city landmark sits atop Coxcomb Hill, surrounded by a manicured park. This elevated landscape lends a fantastic view of the Columbia River and the entire town. And the view only gets better by climbing the spiral stairs to the top of the 125-foot column.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Astoria

6. Attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland

Ashland, home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Ashland, home to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

In Southern Oregon and the Rogue Valley, Ashland is the center stage for the world-renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival. This massive production is typically held between February and October, with approximately 700 performances. To say the festival takes over the streets of Ashland is an understatement, and a certain theatrical flair overtakes the town throughout the year.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival primarily takes place across three stages in Ashland. The Allen Elizabethan Theatre is arguably the most authentic, featuring an open-air stage and backdrop that appears straight out of mid-century England. The ambience alone of this unique performance space adds to the drama.

Ashland also provides plenty of things to do between performances. A charming downtown district invites shopping and dining throughout the year, and the nearby Lithia Park ranks high as one of the best city parks in the state.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Ashland

7. Hit the Slopes at Mt. Bachelor

Mt. Bachelor ski resort
Mt. Bachelor ski resort

Oregon's various volcanoes lend to excellent skiing throughout the winter. But Mt. Bachelor stands above the rest of Oregon's ski resorts.

It's the state's largest ski resort, offering a remarkable 4,323 acres, also making it one of the largest ski resorts in the USA. This unprecedented terrain pairs nicely with the fluffy snow that accumulates from Thanksgiving through May.

The adventurous city of Bend is a quick 22-mile drive from Mt. Bachelor, making it a popular base camp. Cascades East Transit offers shuttles throughout the season, with round-trip fares for $10.

Mt. Bachelor isn't the only place to hit the slopes in Oregon. Mount Hood is another notable downhill destination, approximately two hours east of Portland. Five ski areas bless the snowy slopes of this cylindrical mountain, including the popular Mt. Hood Meadows and Timberline Lodge.

Official site: https://www.mtbachelor.com/

8. Stand Beneath Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach
Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach is a famous small town on the Oregon coast. It's a popular tourist destination and one of the closest coastal communities to Portland, accessible with an approximately two-hour drive.

Haystack Rock is Cannon Beach's standout attraction. This impressive sea stack is over 230 feet tall, commanding attention from nearly all sides of the sprawling beach. This photogenic rock sets the tone for a paradisiacal beach getaway. Haystack Rock also provides fantastic tide pooling during spring tide.

Haystack Rock is nearly omnipresent during any Cannon Beach getaway. Other always-present vacation elements include a small-town charm and a bountiful collection of hotels and restaurants.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cannon Beach

9. Go Windsurfing or Kiteboarding in Hood River

Windsurfing in Hood River, Oregon
Windsurfing in Hood River, Oregon

Hood River, 60 miles east of Portland in the Columbia River Gorge, is world-renowned for its windsurfing and kiteboarding. The consistent winds along the adjacent Columbia River make the town a magnet for the sport's enthusiasts.

The wind conditions in Hood River cater to those experienced in the sport. Several local gear shops and guides are happy to show the ropes if it's your first time. Surf lessons in Hood River also include specialty kiteboarding and kitesurfing schools that go beyond basic instruction.

If windsurfing or kiteboarding doesn't sound like a vacation, the rest of Hood River is still well worth a visit. The stunning location in the Columbia River Gorge provides several other activities in and around Hood River to fill a day – including easy access to the Historic Columbia River Highway.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Hood River

10. Hike the Misery Ridge Trail at Smith Rock State Park

Misery Ridge Trail, Smith Rock State Park
Misery Ridge Trail, Smith Rock State Park

Smith Rock is a quintessential state park to put on your Oregon bucket list. It's in the High Desert region of Central Oregon, approximately 30 miles north of Bend.

The park's dramatic landscape is the centerpiece attraction, comprising the Crooked River winding beneath outstanding craggy peaks. And it's an absolute mecca for adventure sports and hiking.

With dozens of hiking routes available, the Misery Ridge Trail is among the most memorable. This high-vantage hike offers stunning views of the Crooked River Valley and a close perspective of the park's signature rock feature, the Monkey Face formation.

Misery Ridge is accessible via a few ways, with most looped options clocking in around four miles with approximately a thousand feet of elevation gain.

It's not just hiking that draws a crowd to Smith Rock; the state park is an absolute mecca for rock climbing. Thousands of bolted routes stream down the rockfaces, catering to a wide range of sport climbing abilities. Proper gear and knowledge are required to rock climb safely.

Read More: Best Hikes near Bend

11. Hit the Turnaround at Seaside

Seaside Turnaround at sunset
Seaside Turnaround at sunset

The charming city of Seaside has a long history of attracting visitors. It's been a vacation destination on the northern Oregon Coast for over a century. And like the 1.5-mile Seaside Promenade or its wide and welcoming beach, many of its original tourism attractions remain the same.

The Seaside Turnaround is among these original attractions in Seaside, with a history dating much further back in the town's legacy. This cul-de-sac at the end of Broadway Street and the downtown district marks the official end of the approximately 4,900-mile Lewis and Clark Trail. A bronze statue of the two explorers overlooking the ocean denotes this historic terminus.

History rings loud at the Seaside Turnaround, though its popularity also has to do with the access it provides. Just a few short steps down from the turnaround is Seaside Beach, one of the largest beaches on the Oregon Coast.

The Seaside Promenade is also just a few steps away, lending quick access to favorite family spots like the Seaside Aquarium.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Seaside

12. Soak in an Oregon Hot Spring

Bagby Hot Springs
Bagby Hot Springs | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

One of the best ways to enjoy the Oregon landscape is soaking in a hot spring. The Beaver State has several geothermal getaways, ranging from primitive pools in the national forest to developed facilities with concrete basins. And while they differ in size, popularity, and ease of access, hot springs in Oregon all offer a deep sense of muscle relaxation.

Primitive hot springs in the national forest are sensitive habitats prone to overcrowding. Be responsible when visiting any hot spring, and leave the landscape better than found. Good practices include packing out trash and abiding by Forest Service regulations.

13. Watch for Whales in Depoe Bay

Depoe Bay
Depoe Bay | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Depoe Bay is a charming small town dubbed the Whale Watching Capital of the Oregon Coast. It's on the Central Coast, and a tall sea cliff bounds its main drag along the 101, offering an auditorium of the ocean.

Visitors often see whale spouts and fins through the summer, when the resident whales return from their winter travels.

And it's not just the downtown vantage point that makes for excellent whale watching. Hiking trails and public access points dot the Depoe Bay coastline. Neighboring spots like Boiler Bay and Rocky Creek also provide panoramic views of the rugged landscape.

Several guiding companies in Depoe Bay guarantee whale sightings, with many departing from the World's Smallest Harbor.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Depoe Bay

Read More: Top-Rated Things to Do in Depoe Bay

14. Tour the State Capitol in Salem

Oregon State Capitol
Oregon State Capitol | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Oregon State Capitol in Salem offers an interesting insight into the state's history, alongside lovely grounds to admire. The white marble exterior and modern design make the building stand out with stately appeal. But it's the golden Oregon Pioneer perched atop the dome that catches the eye.

Visitors are welcome to explore the interior of the State Capitol on their own during regular operating hours. The Capital Gateway History exhibits are on the first floor, showcasing the state's legacy, with engaging and interpretive displays.

On any visit to this Salem landmark, spend some time sightseeing around the grounds of the Capitol, comprising State Capitol State Park. This beautifully landscaped parkland features other memorials and information panels. It also has several scenic sitting benches and photo opportunities.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Salem

15. Take a Dip in Detroit Lake

Detroit Lake
Detroit Lake

Detroit Lake is arguably one of the best recreational lakes in Oregon. This massive mountain reservoir is approximately 60 miles east of Salem within Willamette National Forest. However, Oregon State Parks manages much of the fun as part of Detroit Lake State Park.

Swimming, fishing, and boating are staple activities during the summer. The state park caters to these endeavors with facilities like boat launches, fishing docks, and accessible entry points.

Other everyday activities include hiking, photography, and staying the night at one of the 200-plus campsites.

16. Visit Historic Old Town Florence

Old Town Florence
Old Town Florence | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Florence is primed for an Oregon Coast vacation. It's on the Central Coast, bounded by sand dunes, historic lighthouses, and a surplus of sprawling beaches – giving the town its nickname, "Oregon's Coastal Playground."

Take some time to visit Historic Old Town when exploring Florence. This charming waterfront district occupies either side of the Siuslaw River Bridge on the south side of town. Here, several local restaurants and shops vie for attention, including more than one claiming some of the best seafood dishes on the coast.

Old Town Florence is an excellent place to recharge before exploring the rest of Florence. Other points of interest include spots like Exploding Whale Memorial Park or Darlingtonia State Natural Site, home to the carnivorous Cobra Lily.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Florence

17. Hike the Table Rocks in Medford

Table Rock, Medford
Table Rock, Medford | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Medford is the cultural capital of Southern Oregon and the Rogue River Valley. This charming town of approximately 80,000 residents hosts a healthy combination of cultural attractions and easy outdoor access.

Medford also offers easy access to its charming neighbor, Ashland, home to the renowned Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Head to the iconic Table Rock area for an excellent overview of the area. These mega monoliths jut over 800 feet into the air next to the Rogue River and are easily accessible from town. It's approximately a two-mile hike to the top of either Upper or Lower Table Rock, but it's uphill the entire way.

The view is incredible atop either Table Rock. A scattering of trails weaves across either monolith, leading to the edge. History also seeps throughout the area due to its cultural importance to Indigenous tribes of the region.

This is one of the top things to do in Medford, but try and plan your trip to this special place outside of midday in the summer, when temperatures are soaring.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Medford

18. Drive the Cape Arago Highway in Coos Bay

Cape Arago Lighthouse from Sunset Bay State Park
Cape Arago Lighthouse from Sunset Bay State Park

Coos Bay is a gateway city to Oregon's southern coast. Scenic lighthouses, bridges, and miles of dunes are easily accessible from this historic shipbuilding city. Cape Arago Highway (Highway 540) is one of the first places to visit to experience this "Adventure Coast," accessible with less than a 10-mile drive.

The best stretch of the Cape Arago Highway extends from Charleston to its terminus at Cape Arago State Park. Along this five-mile stretch are two other state parks worth pulling over for: Sunset Bay State Park and Shore Acres State Park. And a visit to all three includes botanic gardens, a photogenic lighthouse, and amazing views of the rugged coastline.

Coos Bay and its neighbor, North Bend, comprise one of the largest population centers on the coast. This population size provides several attractions and resources for a complete ocean vacation. Be sure to take some time at the Cranberry Sweets & More candy factory and gift shop when visiting.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Coos Bay

Read More: Top-Rated Things to Do in Coos Bay

19. Catch some Live Music in Jacksonville

Antique shop in Jacksonville
Antique shop in Jacksonville | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Jacksonville is a small town in Southern Oregon that packs a lot of entertainment. This historic community is approximately five miles west of Medford and was born out of a gold-mining boom in the 1850s. And while there's no more gold coming from underground, the town still has a lot of treasures.

The Britt Music & Arts Festival is the town's signature event, drawing tens of thousands of tourists annually. This summer-long gathering primarily occurs at the beautiful outdoor Britt Festival Pavilion, on the estate of the prominent 19th-century photographer, Peter Brit. Dozens of performances occur throughout the summer.

Jacksonville is also a hot spot for a laid-back vacation. Much of the town is a designated historic district, adding an easy-going charm that encourages a slower pace. Stopping at the several antique shops, local restaurants, and specialty boutiques is among the top things to do on a visit to Jacksonville.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Jacksonville

20. Explore the Shifting Landscape at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

South Jetty, Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
South Jetty, Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Oregon Dunes NRA is in southern Oregon, spanning 40 miles between Coos Bay and Florence. This massive sand-bound landscape is one of the world's largest collections of temperate coastal sand dunes. And it's a very fun place to explore.

The two most common ways to navigate the dunes are hiking or off-highway vehicles (OHVs), such as four-wheelers and motorbikes. Either method of transportation leads through incredible shifting dunes, some topping out at more than 500 feet tall. Seasonal snowy plover restrictions may restrict travel.

Different areas cater to hiking and OHV use, with some spots, like the South Jetty near Florence, catering to both. The Oregon Dunes Visitor Center is in Reedsport, about midway along the dunes, and is an excellent spot to learn more about the shifting environment.

21. Find Hidden Treasure in Lincoln City

D River State Recreation Site, Lincoln City
D River State Recreation Site, Lincoln City | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Lincoln City is a hot spot for beach vacations on the northern Oregon coast. It's dead west of the state capital of Salem, accessible with a 60-mile drive. It's also within a two-hour commute of Portland. Several beach attractions entice visitors to make the drive, including the unique opportunity to find real hidden treasures.

As part of the city's Finders Keepers program, volunteers hide beautiful glass orbs across the city's seven miles of beaches. Whoever finds these handmade decorations gets to take one home. Stumbling across these unique keepsakes increases around special "Drop Dates" throughout the year. Visitors are asked only to take one orb per person.

And if the hidden treasure isn't enough, Lincoln City offers several other things to do on a long weekend. The city comprises what used to be several independent towns, adding today to an eclectic feel, with several community attractions. And with over seven miles of beachfront, there's plenty of room to spread out and claim some space near the ocean.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Lincoln City

22. Enjoy the Outdoors in Eugene

Eugene, Oregon
Eugene, Oregon

Eugene is a bustling mid-sized city in the Willamette Valley of central Oregon. It's home to over 170,000 residents and the University of Oregon. This sizable population and student body lend to several cultural resources throughout the city, including museums, university athletics, and a bustling downtown district.

The outdoors is another highlight of Eugene. The town bathes in the brilliant weather of the Willamette Valley, lending to in-town adventures like rose gardens, arboretums, and the acclaimed Alton Baker Park.

Eugene also abuts Willamette National Forest to the east, offering endless mountain adventures throughout the year.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Eugene

23. Admire the Rugged Coast in Yachats

Yachats
Yachats | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Yachats, pronounced "YAH-hots," is a charming coastal village on Oregon's Central Coast. It's the place to go for an escape from the usual hustle and bustle and a place to enjoy the wild nature of Oregon's coastline.

Yachats itself has a stunning stretch of rocky coastline, where the waves shoot up with a scenic appeal. The village is also south of the impressive Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, with other coastal highlights like Thor's Well and Devils Churn. These swirling acts of nature offer some of the best dynamic coastal landscapes in the state.

Other things to do in Yachats include visiting scenic lighthouses, stylish hotels, and fresh seafood restaurants. Yachats also makes for an excellent basecamp for the surrounding stretch of stunning Oregon coastline.

The coastal village is approximately halfway between Newport and Florence, with several ocean pullovers connecting the two.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Yachats

24. Hike a State-Spanning Trail

Oregon Coast Trail
Oregon Coast Trail | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Oregon has two state-spanning hiking trails for those looking for an extreme outdoor adventure. The Pacific Crest Trail navigates the Cascade Mountains in the middle of the state. And the Oregon Coast Trail traverses the entire open-to-the-public Oregon coastline, also known as the "People's Coast."

The Pacific Crest Trail spans the entire country, passing through California, Oregon, and Washington. The Oregon portion represents 455 miles of the 2,650-mile route. Thru-hikers completing the entire trail may pass through Oregon with a month's worth of hiking. But plan for at least six weeks if you're doing the Oregon portion of the PCT as a stand-alone journey.

The Oregon Coast Trail is shorter at approximately 362 miles long. The route comprises beach walking, headland hiking trails, and some walking along roads and Highway 1. Much of the camping along the way takes place at state parks within hiker/biker sites. Plan for approximately a month to hike the entire Oregon Coast Trail

25. Dive into the Coast in Newport

Nye Beach, Newport
Nye Beach, Newport | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Newport is one of the most charming towns on the Oregon coast, located approximately 45 miles west of Corvallis. It's home to a historic bayfront framed by the beautiful Yaquina Bay Bridge.

The renowned Oregon Coast Aquarium is a big draw to this city of approximately 10,000 residents. But, several other coastal attractions in Newport also beckon for summer vacations.

The historic Nye Beach is where to enjoy the ocean in Newport. This broad and expansive beach features plenty of room for all types of ocean activities. It also abuts a charming shopping and dining district and other cultural attractions like the Newport Visual Arts Center.

Newport is also an excellent jumping-off point for Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, located less than four miles up the road. This incredibly scenic headland and lighthouse live up to their name as an outstanding place to visit and photograph.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Newport

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