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Things to Do in Oregon - page 2

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Powell’s City of Books
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Encompassing an entire city block in downtown Portland, Powell’s City of Books is the world’s largest independent new and used bookstore and a top attraction for book lovers visiting the city. Here you’ll find upwards of a million books, including rare finds, first editions, and autographed copies of bestsellers and little-known titles alike, all under one roof.

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Washington Park
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Washington Park is a sprawling woodland in Southwest Portland, home to the Oregon Zoo, Portland Children’s Museum, and a series of gardens including the International Rose Test Garden, Hoyt Arboretum, and the Portland Japanese Garden. Cycling paths and walking trails wind throughout the park, providing a convenient nature escape.

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Oneonta Gorge
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Narrow Oneonta Canyon, located within the Pacific Northwest’s mighty Columbia River Gorge, contains four massive waterfalls. Due to the wet climate, the Oneonta Gorge walls are covered in ferns, mosses, and lichens—many of which grow only in this specific area. There are few trails, but you can walk along the river at the bottom of the gorge.

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Lan Su Chinese Garden
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Find your zen at downtown Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden, an oasis of Chinese art, design, and architecture. Modeled after the ancient gardens of the Ming Dynasty, the garden has carefully landscaped elements that invite you to relax, reflect, and engage with Chinese culture through tea ceremonies, workshops, and performances.

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Portland Art Museum
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Situated in the tree-lined Park Blocks neighborhood of downtown Portland, Oregon, the Portland Art Museum is known for its large archives of Native American and First Nations artifacts as well as its exemplary collections of art from around the world. Here you’ll find everything from Van Gogh and Monet paintings to calligraphy from pre–Han Dynasty China.

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Historic Columbia River Highway
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Oregon’s Historic Columbia River Highway was the first scenic road in America to be designated as a National Historic Landmark. It is particularly noted for its colorful displays of fall foliage and its many waterfalls year-round.

The route allows for access to the Columbia River Gorge, which cuts more than 4,000 feet deep into the Cascade Mountain Range. Rich in both animal and plant life, the area along the road is home to more than 100 rare species, some that only exist in the gorge. Various hiking trails dotted throughout offer access to otherwise hidden waterfalls and views.

The highway was modeled after the scenic roads of Europe and has been long recognized for its excellence in engineering and design. Most of all the road is a path leading into some of the most beautiful scenery in North America. Outside of its wide vistas and expansive overlooks, hiking, biking, fishing, and sailing are all popular activities to immerse yourself in the surrounding nature.

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Deschutes River
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The Deschutes River is a major waterway running through central Oregon, a tributary of the Columbia River that separates Oregon from Washington. The Deschutes flows through several central Oregon communities, the largest being Bend, where quite a bit of water from the river is used for irrigation. It's also a major recreational waterway, both in the city of Bend and the surrounding area, used for fishing (it's world-famous for fly fishing) and rafting.

Most rivers in the United States flow south, but the Deschutes flows north – along with a few other Columbia River tributaries. At one point, there was a major waterfall on the river, which is where it got its name – Riviere des Chutes is French for River of the Falls. That waterfall is gone now, thanks to The Dalles Dam.

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Hoyt Arboretum
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Portland’s Hoyt Arboretum is home to one of the most varied collections of tree species in the United States. This sprawling nature preserve serves as a research center, but with miles of trails easily accessible to downtown Portland, the arboretum is open to anyone who wants to spend time in nature.

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South Park Blocks
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Park Avenue in downtown Portland has long parks at each end – the largest is at the south end, appropriately called the South Park Blocks.The area runs 12 blocks from SW Jackson St. north to SW Salmon St., and are one block wide along Park Avenue. The street is split into two one-way lanes, with the park filling the block in between. The South Park Blocks make up a central part of Portland State University's campus, and the park is the setting for a popular farmer's market from March through December.

There is a variety of public art on display throughout the park, with a different piece of art on every block. Among the artwork is a 1922 equestrian statue of Theodore Roosevelt, a 1926 statue of Abraham Lincoln, and a 1926 fountain that includes a drinking fountain for dogs.

The South Park Blocks have been a public park since the city was originally drafted in the 1840s-1850s, and the park was the first official greenspace in the new city.

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Oregon Coast
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Stretching more than 350 miles (563 kilometers) along the Pacific Ocean, the Oregon Coast winds from the Columbia River to the California border. Multiple parks and forests grant close encounters with wildlife and ancient redwood groves, while coastal towns, beaches, and lighthouses make perfect pit stops.

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More Things to Do in Oregon

Forest Park

Forest Park

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Portland is often lauded as one of the best cities in America for green spaces, due in no small part to 5,100-acre Forest Park, the largest urban forested area in America. Based on the landscaping advice of the legendary Olmstead Brothers (the design firm behind New York's Central Park), Forest Park was originally proposed as an expansive city park in the late 1800s; however, potential preservation costs and oil speculation kept it from becoming public land until the late 1940s.

Situated in Northwest Portland on the eastern slope of the Tualatin Mountains, the park's towering conifer canopy, basalt rock formations, rushing streams and plentiful wildlife make it a magnet for birdwatchers and nature photographers. 62 species of Coast Range-native mammals can be found here, as well as over 100 different species of birds, including the rare pygmy owl.

With 80 miles of fire roads, trails and paths, Forest Park is also enormously popular with hikers, runners, bikers and equestrians. The longest loop in the park, the 30-mile Wildwood Trail, is linked to various routes along the Columbia River, the Willamette Greenway and both Southeast and Southwest Portland.

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Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum

Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum

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The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center shares space with the Wasco County Historical Museum in The Dalles, Oregon, making it a two-fer on the tourism front.

The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center is the gorge's official interpretive center, with exhibits about the ancient natural events that created the gorge, the wildlife and plants that you'll see when you explore the area, and the cultural history of the Native Americans who once called this area home. There are also trails around the property (some of which are paved and fully accessible) and viewpoints overlooking the river.

There are often temporary exhibits at the museum, as well as special events. A regular presentation on birds of prey with a live raptor show is usually a hit with kids, and there are guided nature walks available.

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Mt. Hood Railroad

Mt. Hood Railroad

For a scenic ride through Northern Oregon with a dash of centuries-old charm, the Mt. Hood Railroad is truly in a league of its own. Situated just outside of Portland, travelers can enjoy a round-trip train adventure to Parkdale, complete with views of vineyards, lush forests, and the unbeatable backdrop of snowy Mt. Hood in the distance.

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Columbia River Maritime Museum

Columbia River Maritime Museum

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Located in Astoria, near the Pacific Ocean and the mouth of the Columbia, the Columbia River Maritime Museum is well-known for its excellent collection of maritime artifacts.

The museum opened in 1963, and was moved into its current home in 1982 as the collection expanded. The purpose-built structure sits – appropriately – right on the waterfront, which means the collection can include ships that are still in the water. A renovation in 2001-2002 expanded the space further, and the museum now includes interactive exhibits.

The collection includes a 1950s lightship (essentially a floating lighthouse), two U.S. Coast Guard motor lifeboats, and the bridge of a World War II warship. There are exhibits about maritime weaponry, clothing, figureheads, and gear. Interactive exhibits give visitors a chance to try their hand at piloting a tugboat and joining a Coast Guard rescue on the Columbia River.

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Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park

At nearly 1,950 feet (594 meters) deep, Oregon’s Crater Lake holds the titles of America’s clearest and deepest lake (and the 9th-deepest in the world). Ringed by towering cliffs, the volcanic lake’s crystalline blue waters make for spectacular photos, whether from lookouts on Rim Drive or from the lake’s surface on a boat cruise.

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Portland Chinatown

Portland Chinatown

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Dating back to the 1880s, downtown Portland's compact Chinatown isn't as big as what you might find in San Francisco or New York. However, it's still worth a visit for its restaurants, bars, photogenic entry gate, and its star attraction, the Lan Su Chinese Garden.

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North Mississippi Avenue

North Mississippi Avenue

North Portland's Mississippi Avenue sits close to the border of Northeast Portland, and shares characteristics with both. Mostly, North Mississippi Avenue is today a hip and funky neighborhood in what was for a long time a forgotten part of the city.

Much of North and Northeast Portland have historically been home to Portland's African American population, but these days Mississippi Avenue is pretty well packed with hipsters. The street has a fantastic array of great restaurants and bars, eclectic shops, and even its own food cart pod.

There's a great (and tiny) music venue, a fabulous ice cream shop, a bar with hammocks instead of chairs on the back patio, and a retro barber shop. There's what one tour guide calls the “Goodwill for old houses,” where renovating Portlanders can get old appliances and house fixtures discarded in someone else's remodel. There's a serious old-fashioned curiosities shop that defies all expectations, a shop that only sells light bulbs, and a few “Portlandia” filming locations along the street, too.

Each July, North Mississippi Avenue is home to the Mississippi Avenue Street Fair, and the area is also host to Second Thursday – the second Thursday of every month, when art galleries open new shows.

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The Grotto

The Grotto

Tucked into a corner of Northeast Portland in a park-like space is a Catholic sanctuary known as “The Grotto.” The official name is the National Sanctuary of Our Sorrowful Mother, and it's a shrine and botanical garden. It covers 62 acres that were purchased by Father Ambrose Mayer in 1923; he intended to build a shrine to the Virgin Mary on the land. The project was even blessed by then-Pope Pius XI in a handwritten letter, and the first mass was held at The Grotto in 1924.

The sanctuary garden includes a church, a meditation hall, and long walking trails. One of the trails allows visitors to stop at each of the Stations of the Cross. One of the most popular annual events at The Grotto is the Festival of Lights during the Christmas season, when the entire park is lit up beautifully and there are concerts and other events.

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Oregon Rail Heritage Center (ORHC)

Oregon Rail Heritage Center (ORHC)

Portland's Oregon Rail Heritage Center (ORHC) pays homage to the days when trains were the primary way in and out of the region.

The Oregon Rail Heritage Center was opened in 2012 on the east side of the Willamette River after the demolition of an historic roundhouse necessitated moving three steam locomotives owned by the city of Portland. The three locomotives are now at the ORHC, which is near the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

Two of the three steam locomotives are operational, and are sometimes used on special train trips in the area. The three were built in 1905, 1938 and 1941. In addition to the steam trains, other pieces in the ORHC collection include vintage rail cars and special seasonal exhibits on Portland's historic rail network.

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Oregon Zoo

Oregon Zoo

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Formerly the Washington Park Zoo, Portland’s Oregon Zoo is the oldest zoo in the western United States. In total there are more than 2,200 animals with 260 species represented, though the stars of the zoo are more often than not the herd of Asian elephants. The youngest elephant was born at the park in 2012, so she’s still toddler size, while the rest impress with their spotted ears and unique personalities. There’s also a very unique California Condors exhibit which showcases the local and endangered birds.

The animal exhibits are easily explored and grouped geographically, ranging from the Great Northwest and Pacific Shoes to the wildlife of Asia and Africa. With specialized gardens and an extensive plant collection, there is a variety of plant life as well. The zoo’s narrow gauge railway connects to the International Rose Test Garden inside Washington Park. The park often holds special events, including the seasonal zoo summer concert series and holiday Zoolights show.

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End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center

End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center

Engage in pioneer activities such as making butter and dipping candles at the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive and Visitor Center. The interactive museum celebrates the conclusion of the pioneers’ long journey from Missouri to Oregon City and recreates what it was like to travel by covered wagon on the Oregon Trail in the 1800s.

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Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum

Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum

The Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum is home to the famous Spruce Goose—a flying boat designed for World War II—plus aircraft from World War II, the Vietnam War-era, and beyond. Visit the Smithsonian-affiliate museum, set in Oregon’s picturesque Willamette Valley, to see more than 150 air and space crafts in three buildings.

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