From dry desert to a wet and wild coast, and rustic interior settlements to hip cosmopolitan cities, Oregon has a wide variety of terrain and cultural experiences that will easily make it one of the most memorable American states that you will visit on your trip.
Whether you choose to indulge yourself in bacon-studded donuts in PDX, chase of of the best swells in the Pacific west on the Oregon Coast, or engage in a laundry list of outdoor sports in the numerous mountain towns located inland, the question won’t be if there is anything to do in this state, but what you’ll do in the limited time you’ll have here.
If that isn’t enough, you could always just move here permanently, as countless others have done over the years.
What To Do – Culture & History
Without a doubt, one of the most culturally significant places in all of Oregon is the city of Portland, a center which has drawn young creatives like a magnet over the years. As a result, this city’s food, drink, and arts scene is unlike any other in America, joining places like Austin, Texas in embracing the “weirdness” of its citizenry.
From food carts and trucks hawking unconventional wares to neighborhoods that have served as an urban planning model to other cities looking to make their stagnant parts of town attractive to young hip professionals, Portland deserves several days of solid exploration to appreciate it effectively.
Sitting at the end of one of the best used cart paths heading to America’s western frontier, the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center aims to tell the story of the route that helped populate the Great Plains, the Mountain West, and the Pacific Coast states of the USA.
11,000 square feet of exhibit space and a 150 seat theater will transport you to a time not too long ago where pioneers braved bandits and diseases like dysentery to set up a new life in a wild but beautiful land, while the four miles of trails outside will take you out onto the raggedy path that was the only sign of civilization for hundreds of miles in many places along its length.
Prior to the stream of fortune seekers, dreamers, and pioneers, a pair of adventurers set out to chart a route to the Pacific from America’s westerly fringe at the turn of the 19th century. The Lewis and Clark National Historical Park marks the last winter encampment at Fort Clatsop in one of the most epic journeys in the history of America.
Trained interpreters will recreate how life was 200 years ago, as they reveal how life was for the Corps of Discovery as they battened down the hatches for the winter. With only a short distance to go to to reach the Pacific from here, you can easily head to the end point of their quest at Cape Disappointment, located across the mouth of the Columbia River in neighboring Washington State, thus completing your Lewis and Clark experience.
The Oregon Coast is filled with many picturesque lighthouses, but none are quite as prominent as the Yaquina Head Light near Newport. At 93 feet tall, it is the largest light in the state of Oregon, with its grandeur earning it a place as the stand-in for the Moesko Island Lighthouse in the 2002 cult horror film, The Ring. Tours of this iconic structure are available (except on Wednesdays), and a small visitor’s center contains exhibits on the history of this installation.
What To Do – Modern & Natural Attractions
Formed after a massive eruption 8,000 years ago caused the volcanic cone of Mount Mazama to collapse into a huge caldera, the present day incarnation of this peak led the federal government to protect it as Crater Lake National Park.
With rainfall over the ensuing millennium filling the now dormant volcano to its present depth of 1,943 feet, Crater Lake’s deep blue colour has been a draw for naturalists for generations. While you are permitted to swim in the lake, be forewarned: the lake never exceeds 13 degrees Celsius on even the hottest of summer days, so while it will certainly cool you off, don’t expect to be in the water for long!
Do you get bummed out when the warmth of spring causes the snow cover on some of the sickest mountains in the world to melt away, thus ending the snowsports season? In Oregon, you won’t have this problem, as the 11, 000 foot elevation of Mount Hood ensures massive dumps of snow in the moist Pacific winters that Oregon is famous for.
Once the snowpack finally gets too thin and gnarly to ride on later in the spring and summer, attention then shifts to the twelve glaciers that descend from its lofty heights. Lifts service this area all year round, and act as a way for the most hopeless of snow bums to get their fix without having to hop on a plane to the Southern Hemisphere.
After you have finished having fun in Oregon’s highlands, tune up your car and set out on a road trip along the Oregon Coast, which is a stretch of the Pacific coast that has of of America’s most scenic marine views.
Learn about the animals that call this ecosystem home at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, then see some Sea Lions in their natural environment at the Sea Lion Caves in Florence.
As far as the local geography is concerned, one of the most dramatic sea stacks in the world can be found at Cannon Beach, while many other beaches along US 101 are home to surfers trying to catch the perfect wave in all four seasons of the year.
Finally, learn about one of the most unique planes ever built at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. The Hughes H-4 Hercules, more commonly known as the Spruce Goose is the central attraction in this spacious museum, which also includes a Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress, as well as a water park that your kids will love in the heat of an Oregon summer.