Things to do in Oregon

Things to do in  Oregon

Rivers deep, mountains high

If you enjoy hiking through majestic forests, wandering through rose-filled gardens, or spending long afternoons sampling great wine, you'll surely find plenty to love in Oregon. The Pacific Northwest state is well-known for its unapologetically quirky city of Portland, celebrated for its excellent dining scene and bike-friendly neighborhoods. However, some of the best things to do in Oregon involve getting away from the urban areas, where you can explore snow-capped mountains, arid high deserts, waterfall-filled forests, and nearly 400 miles of beautiful coastline.

Top 15 attractions in Oregon

Columbia River Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge, one of the great natural treasures of the Pacific Northwest with its many dramatic waterfalls, channels the mighty Columbia River through the Cascade Range to the Pacific Ocean, marking much of the border between Oregon and Washington. The gorge figures in early United States history, as it was here that the Lewis and Clark expedition completed its final stretch in 1805. Today the area is popular with hikers, windsurfers, and wine lovers.More

Latourell Falls

One of 90 waterfalls along Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge, Latourell Falls are the closest to Portland. Plunging from a height of 249 feet (76 meters, the waterfalls offer dramatic scenery and photo opportunities, while a hiking trail makes it easy to get up close and personal.More

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in Oregon at 620 feet (189 meters) and one of the state’s top natural landmarks. The falls are made up of two waterfalls fed from Larch Mountain and are recognizable for their setting tucked into sheer rock faces. The cascades are made more fairytale-like by the Benson Bridge, which spans the top of the lower falls and provides great photo ops.More

Willamette Valley

A short jaunt southwest from downtown Portland, the Willamette Valley is known by wine lovers worldwide for its delectable pinot noirs, often produced in small batches. This picturesque region is also dotted with tasting rooms and is a popular spot for wine-tasting excursions from Portland.More

Mt. Hood

A short drive from Portland, Oregon, majestic Mt. Hood stands at 11,249 feet (3,429 meters), making it Oregon's highest peak and one of the highest mountains in the Pacific Northwest. The dormant volcano often has steam rising from its fumaroles, adding to the serenity of the surrounding vista. Many hikers summit the mountain for views of the Cascade Mountains and the valleys and cities below.More

Oregon Coast

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.More

Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)

Designed for science fans of all ages, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) features five separate halls, eight hands-on science labs, a real submarine, an OmniMax giant-screen theater, and a planetarium. The museum is a science playground, with 200-plus interactive exhibits covering subjects such as climate change, chemistry, the human body, and technology.More

Portland Steel Bridge

With more than a dozen bridges spanning the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, Portland is certainly a city of bridges. However, there’s one that stands out; Portland's Steel Bridge is the only telescoping, double-decker truss bridge ever built. You can ride the light rail across, admire its expanse on a cruise, or just stroll along the century-old landmark.More

Pioneer Square

Sometimes called Portland's living room, Pioneer Square lives up to its reputation as a place that's welcoming to all. Though not the most scenic spot in the city, this centrally-located urban hub is surrounded by shops and eateries, and offers easy access to Downtown Portland attractions, whether you're walking or taking public transit.More

Newberry National Volcanic Monument

Located in the Deschutes National Forest, the Newberry National Volcanic Monument sprawls across 54,000 scenic acres in the high plains of Central Oregon. This natural wonder was once the site of the Newberry Volcano, which erupted over 75,000 years ago (and is still seismically active). It’s now filled with lakes, lava tubes, and geographical patterns, and visitors come to the area for hiking, camping, fishing, winter sports, and more.More

Powell’s City of Books

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.More

Wahkeena Falls

Situated on the Oregon side of the scenic Columbia River Gorge, Wahkeena Falls cascades 242 feet (74 meters) in tiers through lush green forest. It’s one of the most popular waterfalls in the area, not only because of its beauty, but also because getting to it requires only a very short hike.More

Portland Pearl District

Portland’s Pearl District lives up to its evocative title. The small neighborhood in the heart of downtown is packed with local finds, from avant-garde art galleries to craft breweries to fine dining, with many establishments housed in renovated warehouse spaces. Plus, a bike- and pedestrian-friendly trail along the Willamette River accents the Pearl’s waterfront location.More

International Rose Test Garden

Free, outdoors, and centrally located, the International Rose Test Garden is an easy addition to your Portland vacation. Take time to smell some of the 10,000 roses representing 650 species when you stroll through the active test garden, located in Portland’s popular Washington Park.More

Bend Old Mill District

Sitting along the picturesque Deschutes River in central Oregon, Bend's Old Mill District offers some of the city’s best restaurants, stores, art galleries, and event spaces. Once home to a large lumber company, the area now draws visitors with its numerous walking paths lining the river, outdoor cafes, and an outdoor amphitheater for concerts, seasonal festivals, and other events.More

Top activities in Oregon

Half-Day Columbia River Gorge and Waterfall Hiking Tour
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Mt Hood Day Trip from Portland to Multnomah Falls and Hood River
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Columbia River Gorge Waterfalls Tour from Portland, OR
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Full-Day Mt Hood Waterfall Tour with Lunch and Wine Tasting
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Portland, Oregon City Tour!

Portland, Oregon City Tour!

Private Portland Waterfall Air Tour for Three
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Discover Portland Half-Day Small-Group City Tour
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Beautiful Columbia River Gorge Air Tour
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Private Mount Hood and Columbia River Gorge Air Tour
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Oregon Coast Day Trip: Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock
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Northern Oregon Coast Day Trip to Cannon Beach Area
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All about Oregon

When to visit

The weather in Oregon is far from predictable, but much of the state is at its most pleasant in summer, particularly in July and August, when the chances of rain are relatively low (by Oregon standards) and the weather is sunny and warm. However, summer is also wildfire season in Oregon, so it’s wise to be prepared for the possibility of smoky skies well into September.

Getting around

While Oregon does have some train and long-distance bus service options, the best way to get around the massive state is by car, particularly if you want to get out and experience the great outdoors. If you don’t want to drive, there are plenty of tour options available that will take you out to the Oregon coast, the Columbia River Gorge, or the Willamette Valley wine country. Most depart from Portland.

Traveler tips

Oregon has many hot springs, and while there are a few developed hot springs resorts in the Willamette Valley, there are many located out in the forest that only charge a nominal fee for parking and maintenance. Some of the most popular include Bagby Hot Springs near Estacada (currently closed, but set to reopen in 2023), Terwilliger (aka Cougar) Hot Springs east of Eugene, and Umpqua Hot Springs in the southern part of the state.

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People Also Ask

What is Oregon known for?

Oregon is known for its dramatic landscapes, from the rugged Columbia River Gorge and forest-flanked Oregon Coast, to the snowcapped Cascade Mountains and the arid High Desert of central Oregon. It’s also celebrated for its numerous wine-growing regions that produce fantastic pinots, rieslings, and chardonnays.

What is the number one tourist attraction in Oregon?

While there’s no one single attraction that draws tourists to Oregon, its biggest city, Portland, gets more visitors than anywhere else in the state. Other major attractions include Crater Lake National Park, the Columbia River Gorge, the Willamette Valley wine country, and the Oregon Coast.

How many days should I spend in Oregon?

Oregon is fairly large and spread out, so it’s best to spend at least a week in the state if you want to check out key attractions such as Portland, the Oregon Coast, and Crater Lake National Park. Renting a car is the easiest way to get around.

What is the coolest thing about Oregon?

The coolest thing about Oregon is its sheer natural diversity; its varied ecosystems are within just a few hours’ drive of one another. Here you’ll find hundreds of miles of craggy coastline, ancient forests dotted with waterfalls, massive expanses of arid desert, snowcapped mountains, and gorgeous bodies of water—including the famous Crater Lake.

What is the most visited city in Oregon?

Portland is the most visited city in Oregon, and the state’s largest city, offering a world-renowned dining scene and a wide variety of parks and gardens. It also makes a fantastic base for visiting nearby attractions such as the Columbia River Gorge and Oregon Coast.

What is the prettiest part of Oregon?

Most of Oregon is beautiful, so it’s hard to pinpoint what the prettiest part may be, but the Oregon Coast—with its windswept coasts, pristine beaches, and rocky cliffs—is a close contender. Other stunners include the forested Columbia River Gorge and the blue-hued Crater Lake.

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