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What to do in Oregon

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7 Things You Must Do if You Visit Oregon

September 27, 2019

Oregon is hands down one of the most beautiful states in all of the country—it’s also one of the most fun ones to visit. It’s nature’s wonderland! It’s beer mecca! It’s foodie’s paradise! And it’s full of history and a funky “Oregon-specific” culture that you really can’t find anywhere else. Oregonians have some serious pride but they also love showing off their ridiculously gorgeous state—just don’t stay, please (kidding...not kidding).

If you ever happen to make a trip to the ninth largest state, nestled in between California and Washington, you’ll want to make sure you do these 7 very necessary things. They’re the very epitome of all things Oregon.


1. Eat Everything

If there is one thing that Oregon is certainly not lacking—it’s delicious food. And it’s everywhere. Whether you’re in the metropolis of Portland or just road tripping around the state, you’ll be sure to find mouthwatering food everywhere you go. Here’s a few tips around the state.

Portland. Where to begin? Portland has so much food you could spend your entire life trying to eat at every restaurant and you couldn’t do it. Whether it’s restaurants owned by Michelin-star chefs like Nomad, or food cart pods scattered around the city offering literally every fare on earth, Portland has it. Have a hankering for sweets? The City of Roses has an abundance of bakeries (with plenty of vegan options like Back to Eden), ice cream shops (Salt & Straw), and donuts (Blue Star) to satisfy your sweet tooth. If we were to try to list every yummy place to eat in Portland, this article would be hours long. Pick your favorite cuisine, do your research, and you’re sure to find one of the best places you’ve ever eaten.

The Coast. In Oregon, it’s not called “the beach,” it’s “the coast” and it’s one of the most magical places on earth. Just a two-hour drive from Portland, or anywhere else along the I-5 corridor, and you’ll reach the coastline which is scattered with adorable little towns all along the way offering great eats. In Astoria? Be sure to grab a crab melt at the unassuming fish market called NW Wild Products. Cannon Beach? Indulge at The Wayfarer. Newport? Eat some fresh oyster shooters at their local oyster farms. And since you’re driving up and down the coast, if it’s in season, stop at one of the many marinas offering fresh Dungeness crab.

Elsewhere in the state. You might not realize it, but Oregon is huge. We could stay on the food topic for a while. But here’s a few other fun places to eat elsewhere around the state. In Hood River, grab a piece of wood fired pizza at Double Mountain Brewery. Make a pit stop in Medford at the Buttercloud Bakery for the best greasy spoon experience ever. And if you’re in Bend, the McKay Cottage Restaurant is where it’s at for a delicious breakfast.

Things to do in Oregon: Food
Photo credit: Daderot / Wikimedia

2. Be Active

Oregonians love being active. Whether it’s hiking, cycling, rock climbing, or hitting the slopes—it’s all at your fingertips. Each corner of the state offers something for the fitness and health enthusiast. Rent bikes and cruise around town. Put on your hiking boots and climb one of the plethora of mountains that Oregon has around the state. Scale a giant rock like Smith Rock in Central Oregon. Ski or snowboard down a volcano at Mt. Hood or Mt. Bachelor. Windsurf or kiteboard in the Columbia River Gorge. Or catch serious waves while ocean surfing at Short Sands. Seriously—name an outdoor physical activity and Oregon has it. Take advantage while you’re visiting.

Be Active in Oregon
Photo credit: Zachd1_618 / flickr

3. Quench Your Thirst

If drinking adult beverages is something you like to do while on vacation, then Oregon is pretty much going to be your personal heaven. Between the breweries, vineyards, distilleries, and dive bars, your liver might need a vacation from your vacation. The entire state of Oregon has nearly 300 breweries, with over 100 of those located in the Portland metro area. Wineries and vineyards? You’ll find about 725 of them. If hard liquor is your thing, you can scope out around 70 different ones. And if you’re just looking to post up at a dive bar with a drink of your choice, a great jukebox, and some pinball machines—Portland is in the top 10 list for “Most Bars per Capita” at 13.3 bars per 100,000 households.

Drinking in Oregon
Photo credit: Evan Dvorkin / Unsplash

4. Explore and Wander

If there’s ever a state to just drive, hike, or bike and get lost, it’s Oregon. Within the bigger cities like Portland, Eugene, and Bend, you can find neighborhoods lined with cute shops, restaurants, and galleries. Portland is broken up into quadrants (with a random 5th ‘quadrant’ thrown in for good measure), and each one has a multitude of different neighborhoods and communities with its own personality and vibe. Shoppers, art collectors, and people watchers, rejoice!

If you’re looking to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city life, all you need to do is drive about 20 minutes and you’ll be surrounded by nature. Oregon has some of the most incredible and diverse natural landscapes in all of America. To the far west, you have the Pacific Ocean. The Hwy 101 hugs the entire coastline, so you can drive from the sand dunes in the south all the way to the tree-lined cliffs that drop off into the waves in the north. Camp in one of Oregon’s 255 state parks scattered throughout the state. Go hiking through the Columbia Gorge and feel the mist of the dozens of waterfalls that are lined along the cliff sides. Or head out to the less-popular Eastern Oregon desert and take in the beauty of the Painted Hills or dip into some hot springs.

Wherever you find yourself in Oregon, you’ll be sure to find something that takes you by surprise.

Wander in Oregon
Photo credit: Pam Riches / Unsplash

5. Watch Live Music

Being a sort of “younger sibling” of Seattle, Portland has a rich history of music and music culture, specifically in the alternative and grunge world. But aside from the heyday of the 90s, Portland, and the entire state of Oregon, have come a long way when it comes to music and music venues.

If you’re in Portland, Florence, or Ashland, you’ll always be sure to find a venue, cafe, or bar with a live band every night. Catch a show at the classic Crystal Ballroom in Portland, take in some rays while listening to music at the outdoor Les Schwab Amphitheater in Bend, or sip on some vino while watching jazz at one of the many vineyards in Yamhill County. The options are truly endless for some good tunes.

Music in Oregon
Photo credit: ActionVance / Unsplash

6. Get Your Coffee Fix

The “coffee hipster” might be one of Oregon’s biggest stereotypes, but that’s for good reason. In Portland alone there is one coffee shop for every 2,322 people and a majority of them are independently owned, like the popular Coava Coffee Roasters (but don’t worry, there are plenty of Starbucks). But the coffee craze isn’t limited to the city. You’ll find stand-alone coffee shacks off the side of the highway all across the state and quaint coffee shops in every town. So, no matter if you’re into a coffee prepared with a Chemex, a French press, a vacuum pot, or just a regular old coffee pot, Oregon has you covered on all facets.

Coffee in Oregon
Photo credit: Alesia Kazantceva / Unsplash

7. Catch a Festival

Oregon loves festivals! No matter what season it is, there’s a festival happening and it’s guaranteed to be fun. If you make it to Oregon in the spring, you’ll most definitely want to see the insanely vibrant colors at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival in Woodburn. The summer provides an endless supply of festivals but some of the most popular include the Oregon Brewers Festival (so much craft beer!), the Waterfront Blues Festival, and the Portland Rose Festival.

In the crisp and gorgeous fall months, be sure to experience the decades-old Mount Angel Oktoberfest (technically in mid-September) or the Northwest Food and Wine Festival. And if you haven’t gotten your wine fix yet, combo some wine tastings with some fresh seafood at the Newport Seafood and Wine Festival held in February.

Festivals in Oregon
Photo credit: Zach Copley / flickr 

While we can’t name everything there is to do during a visit Oregon, this is an excellent place to start. Happy exploring!

Written by Ashley Brewer for Knockaround.

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