Oregon Holiday Planning Guide
A land of many faces, Oregon is a state of rugged rocky coastlines and deep forests alongside vibrant cities and small towns packed with award-winning restaurants and trendy shops. With nearly half of its land covered by dense fir, redwood, and pine forests, the state protects varied plant and animal life inside three national parks. In addition to pristine waterfalls, beaches, and lakes perfect for a holiday in nature, Oregon also offers numerous urban tourist attractions. Portland, the state's largest metropolis, is notably home to more breweries than any other city in the world, and its central location makes it an ideal base for day trips to Oregon's emerging wine region and many parks.
Places to Visit in OregonPortland
: As the state's largest city and cultural hub, Portland is a can't-miss stop on your Oregon itinerary. This oddball location features big-city amenities, charming historical streets, laid-back locals, and the largest ratio of microbreweries to people in the country.Oregon Coast
: More than 80 state parks, a host of quaint resorts, and some of the West Coast's most incredible ocean scenery make the Oregon Coast a real gem, where winding rivers cut through deep old-growth forests, emerging onto rocky cliffs and expansive beaches teeming with marine wildlife.Hood River
: Nestled within the stunning Columbia River Gorge, Hood River boasts a charming small-town feel. This city of brick buildings, independent shops, microbreweries, and antique hotels is also one of the country's best windsurfing spots.Newport
: One of the coast's classic fishing towns, laid-back Newport is a relaxing seaside getaway full of gorgeous scenery, an active sport-fishing sector, and an environment packed with vibrant sea life.Bend
: Oregon's sunshine and outdoor capital, Bend offers fantastic accessibility to nearby forests and state parks, hiking, biking, and climbing paths, and an appealing low-rise town center with a host of upscale restaurants.Astoria
: Just across the bridge from Washington state, Astoria first arose as the terminus of Lewis and Clark's famous expedition and a center of the Pacific coast fur trade. Its historical center and appealing surroundings make it a worthy stop on your Oregon trip.Eugene
: The second city of Oregon, Eugene, lies among the green hills of the Willamette Valley. Though the city has a reputation as an artists' enclave and outdoor hotspot, much of its fame comes from the local University of Oregon and its huge involvement with track and field events.Salem
: Built up during the mid-19th century and the years of the California Gold Rush, Oregon's capital is home to a downtown area listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well as a number of state government buildings and a lively student population.Crater Lake National Park
: Crater Lake National Park awes visitors with its stunning mountain scenery, as well as the famed lake itself. Formed by a titanic mountain collapsing in on itself and filling with rainwater, the lake is surrounded by a large network of hiking trails offering excellent viewpoints.
Things to Do in Oregon
Popular Oregon Tourist AttractionsColumbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
: Chock full of waterfalls, rugged cliffs, and bountiful forests, the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area offers opportunities to hike and explore Oregon's impressive natural beauty.Portland Japanese Garden
: Spanning around 2.5 hectares (6 acres), the Portland Japanese Garden showcases an array of both Western and Eastern plants and design features, divided up into five distinct sections.International Rose Test Garden
: More than 7,000 individual rose plants make the International Rose Test Garden explode with color, and also make the park a haven for relaxing days out.Crater Lake National Park
: Crater Lake's 594 m (1,949 ft) depth makes it one of the deepest lakes in the world. This collapsed volcano is famed for its small island, stunning surroundings, and some of the clearest water on the planet.Multnomah Falls
: Cascading down 186 m (611 ft) of mossy cliffs, Multnomah Falls is Oregon's tallest waterfall, and offers plenty of excellent viewpoints and trails nearby.Oregon Coast Aquarium
: Ranked among the world's finest sea life centers, the Oregon Coast Aquarium allows you to marvel at a huge selection of the region's native wildlife in top-notch habitats, and even wander through an underwater tunnel.Oregon Zoo
: Home to 260 animal species, the Oregon Zoo brings you face to face with rare and endangered critters from around the world, roaming free in different themed habitats.Lan Su Chinese Garden
: Yet another of Portland's incredible garden offerings, the Lan Su Chinese Garden features a variety of pavilions packed with orchids, bamboo, ponds, bridges, and shrines, all enclosed within large stone walls.Astoria Column
: Covered in murals depicting important events from state history, the 38 m (125 ft) tall Astoria Column offers a panoramic view over the surrounding landscape and the mouth of the Columbia River.Haystack Rock
: Rising 72 m (235 ft) above the beach, Haystack Rock is replete with tide pools and vibrant sea life and is one of the most iconic coastal attractions in Oregon.
Planning an Oregon Vacation with Kids
Places to Visit in Oregon with KidsPortland
is a fantastic place to start your Oregon family vacation, as it offers a range of solid accommodations, plenty of fun things to do in town, and easy access to just about everywhere else in the state, as well as the fantastic Oregon Coast
. However, while Portland boasts plenty of Oregon's attractions, getting out of the cultural capital is a must. Head down the Pacific shore and take your pick from a range of wonderful, family-friendly resort towns and laid-back seaside cities. Astoria
, at the mouth of the Columbia River, makes a natural starting point. From there, you can continue on down to places like Seaside
, Cannon Beach
, Gearhart, Garibaldi
, and Manzanita
, all of which boast a huge array of activities and plenty of top-notch beaches where the kids can stretch their legs. Any adults tagging along will find plenty to do as well. Farther south, sample the dairy delights of Tillamook
and the surrounding farmland. In the central and eastern regions, consider the longtime family favorites of Hood River
, and Bend
, which all place you within easy reach of tons of resorts, parks, and natural areas that can help you take full advantage of the state's incredible outdoor offerings.
Things to Do in Oregon with Kids
Oregon combines tons of urban attractions with an array of some of the best state and national parks in the country. Stopping by Crater Lake National Park
is sure to impress the younger travelers in your party, as is the equally interesting Smith Rock
. Along the coast, you can more or less take your pick of parks, from Ecola State Park
and Cannon Beach to the more low-key selections of Nehalem Bay State Park
and Hug Point State Park
. Try visiting Tillamook Cheese Factory
to give the kids their fill of tasty samples, pick up some cheese-themed paraphernalia, or chow down on some delicious Tillamook
ice cream. Alternatively, add Tillamook Air Museum
, housed in a gigantic wooden former blimp hangar, to your Oregon itinerary. Oregon is also home to a number of excellent museums that combine interactivity with plenty of outdoor exhibits. Portland's Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
offers the chance to explore a submarine, while High Desert Museum
showcases local wildlife and human history. To learn about the animal kingdom, consider taking the kids to Oregon Zoo
or world-class Oregon Coast Aquarium
, flush with tons of colorful critters.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Oregon
As is the case elsewhere in the United States, cars are king in Oregon, and give you unmatched flexibility when it comes to visiting the state's many attractions, both in town and well off the beaten path. Renting a car for your Oregon trip also means you can avoid shepherding kids onto sometimes-crowded public transport. It's easier on the wallet, too, as bus fares for multiple people can quickly add up. Oregon features a massive array of top-notch campsites and state parks, which make for fantastic family getaways, but be advised that these tent spaces must be reserved in advance and can fill up extremely quickly. Book online (and early) to reserve your spot and avoid disappointment.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Oregon
Cuisine of Oregon
Fresh seafood and local fruits and vegetables are common features on most menus, and many might argue that ending your Oregon vacation without trying some wild-caught Pacific salmon is unacceptable. Portland in particular boasts a range of ethnic foods and cultural specialties from around the world, and most larger cities have a decent array of cuisines from Asia.
Tillamook cheese and dairy products are ubiquitous in Oregon and throughout much of the Pacific Northwest. Though this local company's goods are on sale in grocery stores, Tillamook Cheese Factory
is very much worth a visit. Portland's Voodoo Donuts is an iconic establishment with a round-the-clock line to match, where you can grab all sorts of irreverent and interesting donut combinations, such as maple bars topped with bacon or a donut covered in Froot Loops. Of course, you can always just pick up a delicious regular donut as well. Microbreweries and specialty beers are also wildly popular in Oregon, and brands like Rogue, Deschutes, and Full Sail feature tons of locally crafted blends that are worth a try.Portland
in particular has become known for its huge agglomeration of food carts and food trucks, which cluster in parking lots and groups around town. These small establishments serve up an array of ethnic, local, and fusion food, from Georgian dumplings and Korean burritos to Canadian poutine and gourmet grilled cheese. Though primarily concentrated in Portland, you can also find food trucks in many of the state's larger cities, like Salem
Shopping in Oregon
Oregon features tons of shopping options, ranging from full-size shopping malls and outlet centers to smaller antique stores and independent shops. Portland and its surroundings host plenty of big-name brands and well-known chains on their streets, particularly in the city's Pearl District
. Alternatively, stop by Lloyd Center
, the biggest mall in the state, or head over to the trendy Hawthorne
district to browse a number of quirky antique collections. Portland and many other larger towns in Oregon, such as Hood River
, and Cannon Beach
, also boast weekend or farmers markets selling an array of produce, souvenirs, and other items. Cascade Station Shopping Center or the Rogue Valley Mall are also good options.
For a real treat, make your way to Powell's City of Books
, a can't-miss Oregon attraction in itself. This magnificent bookstore takes up an entire city block, displaying thousands upon thousands of books over multiple floors in different color-coded sections. Harry & David in Medford
, another specialty store, sells all sorts of gourmet food and drink. Shopping while in Oregon can be a little easier on the wallet than elsewhere, thanks to the state's lack of a sales tax.
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Oregon
History of Oregon
After the United States' purchase of the Louisiana Territory from France, the famed Lewis and Clark expedition set off from Missouri in 1804 to explore the new territory, hoping to finally discover the legendary Northwest Passage. They made their way along the Snake and Columbia rivers in present-day eastern Oregon, emerging at the mouth of the Columbia and the Pacific Ocean for the first time in November 1805. You can see where Lewis and Clark spent their first winter on the West Coast by adding the reconstructed Fort Clatsop
, near Astoria, to your Oregon itinerary.
In the following century, thousands of settlers and pioneers made the trek out to the new lands of Oregon Country, establishing a well-trodden route known later as the Oregon Trail. Missionaries, traders, and entrepreneurs all sought to make their fortune out west, establishing many of the area's cities. Astoria was founded in 1811, Salem in 1842, and Portland in 1845, and in 1859 Oregon became the nation's newest state. Industry continued to grow, and the development of railroads in the second half of the 1800s caused exponential population expansion and jumpstarted a number of industrial projects. To learn more about the pioneer era, stop by Oregon Trail Interpretive Center
After the Civil War broke out in 1861, Oregon stayed on the side of the Union, and sent most of its local troops to the east to help aid the war effort. The state's units fought across many East Coast battlefields, including at the Battle of Ball's Bluff in Virginia, where Oregon senator Edward Dickinson Baker fell leading troops in battle. However, things were not all quiet at home, either, as the military remaining in Oregon fought vicious recurring battles with Native American raiders in the eastern part of the state.
As industry continued to grow after the end of the Civil War, Oregon saw the improvement of its local infrastructure and the development of a strong political involvement among its citizens. The introduction of the "Oregon System" of referendums, recalls, and initiatives, in which voters could introduce legislation directly, helped Oregon to establish a rich tradition of citizen involvement in state politics. Bonneville Lock & Dam
, finished in 1937, helped to generate huge amounts of power to fuel the state's ambitious projects. During the first half of the 20th century, engineer Conde McCullough designed and constructed numerous bridges in the state, including Yaquina Bay Bridge
and Lewis and Clark River Bridge. By the latter half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, Oregon, particularly Portland, had grown to become one of the nation's most desirable places to live.
Landscape of Oregon
Bounded to the north by the Columbia River, Oregon is a land of contrasts. Oregon's tremendous coastline varies as you work your way southward, transitioning from huge stretches of open beach backed by mountains and forests to growing sections of rugged cliffs, sea stacks, and natural terraces, including famous Haystack Rock
. Inlets like Tillamook Bay also dot the coastline, and as you move eastward you'll find impressive stands of untouched forest. Inland, the mighty Cascade Mountains stretch the length of Oregon, running from the Canadian border all the way down into California. Smaller mountain ranges, including the Coast Range and Klamath Mountains, feature forested hills and the dips of the Rogue River Valley. Wedged in between the Coast Range and the Cascades lies the Willamette Valley, a fertile river plain home to nearly 70 percent of Oregon's population, and a destination you'll likely pass through during the course of your Oregon trip. East of the mountains, in the southeastern portion of the state, lies the vast "Oregon Outback," a dry expanse of high desert, plateaus, and steppes packed with flat shrublands and low mountains. Farther north, the Columbia Plateau is home to jagged cliffs and rock formations, such as those at Smith Rock State Park
and the John Day
Holidays & Festivals in Oregon
As in the rest of the United States, most major Christian, Western, and national holidays are met with plenty of fanfare in Oregon. If you're sightseeing in Oregon during the New Year, the 4th of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, expect many city streets to be dressed up with decorations and holiday spirit. Portland's
Rose Festival, held in June, offers a riotous selection of activities throughout downtown. A huge fairground and a variety of attractions make the city's waterfront promenade a fun stop, while the Grand Floral Parade, one of the largest of its kind in the country, features tons of colorful floats covered totally in organic material. Farther south, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland
is also a big draw for many on vacation in Oregon; this array of Elizabethan theater performances runs between February and November, and many of the productions are staged in impressive amphitheaters.
Oregon Travel Tips
Climate of Oregon
Along the Pacific Coast, Oregon features a mild marine climate, with plenty of rain keeping all those beautiful forests green and happy. Temperatures usually do not swing to the extremes of hot or cold, so regardless of when you are on vacation in Oregon you won't need to worry much about harsh weather. Moving past the western third of the state, the Coast and Cascade Mountain ranges see larger amounts of precipitation, both rain and snow, throughout the year. However, the two-thirds of Oregon on the other side of the mountains is a different story. Here, the climate shifts to become semi-arid, with vast dry stretches of high desert seeing just a few meager inches of rain each year. Much of the area features hotter temperatures between March and October and significantly colder wintertime temperatures for the period between December and February.
Transportation in Oregon
Oregon features solid public transportation options to help you on your vacation. Portland in particular boasts an efficient network, including a multi-line light rail system serving the city and surrounding metropolitan area. In Portland and many other larger cities, public buses help fill in the gaps. A train service runs from Washington state all the way down to Los Angeles in California, calling at Portland, Salem, Eugene, and more, and can make for an entertaining journey that provides some sightseeing opportunities along the way.
However, cars are still undoubtedly king in the state, and renting a car during your trip is the surest way to have unfettered flexibility and access to the top attractions in Oregon. Oregon is well-served by freeways and highways, including Interstate 5 that runs north-south across the state through Portland and Highway 101 along the coast, so getting to your next destination is usually very quick and efficient. Driving also saves on transport fares, which can quickly add up when traveling with multiple people.