Written by | Derek Carlson

29 Fun Things to Do in Oregon: Your Ultimate Guide

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Oregon boasts diverse landscapes that range from lush rainforests to rugged glacier-capped volcanoes to high deserts, making it a must-visit destination for travelers seeking adventure and natural beauty.

We are well into our 2nd decade of living in Oregon and have barely scratched the surface of everything this incredible state offers.

Whether you are looking for action-packed adventure, epic backpacking trips, or some wine-and-dine fun, Oregon has you covered.

Things to do in Oregon

Here are 34 must-do activities to add to your Oregon itinerary

1. Explore Portland’s Food Scene

Pine State Biscuits in Portland, Oregon

When we first moved to Portland in the mid-2000’s the food cart scene was just starting to take off. The combination of cheap rents and cheaper overhead by operating out of a food cart meant that chefs from all walks of life could put forward their unique culinary ideas and move the needle forward for what a foodie town looks like.

This attracted chefs of all walks to Portland and they have since set down roots and created one of the most vibrant culinary scenes in the United States.

Even though we have since moved away from Portland we still love coming back for weekend dining extravaganzas where we hit up our old favorites and try the new spots that have popped up in recent years.

2. Visit the Portland Japanese Garden

The Portland Japanese Garden is tucked away in the west hills just a short walk up from the Rose Test Garden.

Once you step inside the gardens you’re instantly whisked away to another world with tranquil rock gardens, perfectly manicured trees, and meandering trails guiding you through the grounds.

Bring your camera to catch a photo of the cherry blossoms in the spring or the vibrant red Japanese maple trees in the fall.

3. Wander Through Powell’s City of Books

Portland is home to the largest used and new bookstore in the entire world: Powell’s City of Books.

This Pacific Northwest icon is located off of Burnside Ave right in the middle of downtown Portland. Wandering through the never-ending shelves of books followed by grabbing a latte at a windowfront seat in the cafe is one of the most quintessential Oregon experiences there is.

If there is a book that has been on your list but you haven’t been able to find it then this is the spot to look.

Once you’re done exploring the lower areas of the store head upstairs to the rare book room to get a glimpse of some of the collectibles and first-edition books they have for sale.

4. Take in the Views at Multnomah Falls

The Columbia River Gorge is home to more than 90 waterfalls but none are more accessible or beautiful than Multnomah Falls.

Per the U.S. Forest Service, this 620-foot tall waterfall is the most visited natural recreation site in the entire Pacific Northwest with more than 2 million visitors each year.

There is good reason for the popularity of this spot as the views from the parking lot alone are breathtaking.

To truly experience the beauty and power of the falls we recommend hiking up at least to the historic Benson Bridge. But if you’re feeling adventurous you can continue to the top of the falls which makes a 2.4-mile loop.

Note that parking at the falls during the summer months requires a timed entry permit.

5. Go Wine Tasting in Willamette Valley

Willamette valley winery in Oregon

The Willamette Valley, with its rich soils and unique terroirs, produces some of the best wines in the entire world. The region is best known for its world-class pinot noirs that you can sample at the over 700 wineries that call this area home.

McMinnville, Oregon serves as the unofficial home of the Willamette Valley winery industry with 5-star restaurants and boutique hotels ready to host visitors from all over the world.

With that said we prefer tasting out of the towns further north like Yamhill and Carlton as we feel the wineries up there provide a more personal tasting experience.

6. Hike the Columbia River Gorge

Well, now we couldn’t stop with just Multnomah Falls when it comes to visiting the Columbia River Gorge!

While Multnomah Falls may be the star of the show there are dozens of other waterfalls and 100s of miles of trails to explore in this stunning landscape.

We highly recommend hiking up to Angel’s Rest for stunning views of the Gorge or up the Eagle Creek Trail to see more waterfalls at every turn along the way.

7. Revel in the Majesty of Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park is Oregon’s lone national park yet boy-oh-boy is it a good one!

I still remember driving up to the lake for the first time from the north entrance. The road keeps climbing in elevation and you keep expecting to get a glimpse of the lake until finally it absolutely smacks you in the face and you can’t help but immediately pull the car over to immerse yourself in the beauty of this stunningly blue body of water.

Plan for at least a full day at the park to drive around the rim and take in views from different angles.

You can even hike down to the water and fish in the lake as a bonus!

8. Explore a Century-Old Shipwreck at the Oregon Coast

One of our favorite things to do in Oregon is photograph the Peter Iredale shipwreck near Astoria, Oregon

The area around the Columbia River Bar is known as the graveyard of the Pacific due to it being home to 100s of shipwrecks.

Lucky for you one of these shipwrecks is readily accessible on the beaches at Fort Stevens State Park near Astoria, Oregon.

The Peter Iredale ran aground on this beach over 100 years ago and today you can walk through the skeletal remains of this old cargo vessel.

At sunset, the shipwreck makes for one of the best photography opportunities in the entire state. Just watch out for the crowds as the secret is out!

9. Marvel at the Painted Hills

Halfway into your drive to the Painted Hills, you may find yourself wondering how anyone discovered this place within the pure desolation that is Central and Eastern Oregon.

Once you make that last turn onto the dirt road heading into the Painted Hills the colors start to pop on the hillsides and it all starts to make sense.

The Painted Hills are a geologic formation created by volcanic eruptions tens of millions of years ago. The mixture of minerals in the soils creates the vibrant red, yellow, and orange colors that give these hills their name.

Today you can walk along boardwalks and dirt trails to various viewpoints amongst this stunning landscape.

We recommend visiting later in the day as the evening sun makes the colors pop even more.

10. Go Whale Watching in Depoe Bay

The Oregon Coast is well known to be one of the best whale viewing locations in the United States as more than 20,000 gray whales migrate through this area each winter and spring.

We have found ourselves on the coast a few times during migration season and it’s a treat to spend an hour looking out over the ocean for the telltale spouts of whales.

The Oregon State Parks Department has a great brochure on the best whale-watching spots along the coast.

11. Visit the Oregon Zoo

The Oregon Zoo in Portland’s West Hills is a must-visit for us every time we go back to Portland. That is especially so now that we have kids although we visited plenty of times before kids as there is so much cool stuff to do and see.

Some of the highlights for us are the zoo train, visiting during the holiday season for zoo lights, and watching the elephants at the Elephant Lands exhibit.

12. Taste your way Through the Tillamook Cheese Factory

Tasting Oregon cheese at the Tillamook Creamery in Tillamook, Oregon

Tillamook Cheese is perhaps the most well-known food brand in Oregon.

And lucky for us cheese lovers they have parlayed that popularity into a cheesy wonderland at their headquarters out in Tillamook, Oregon.

At the Tillamook Creamery, you can take a tour of the facility, watch as workers produce and package cheese, taste free samples, shop their cheese market, and dine on an array of foods made with their uber-popular cheeses.

While heading out for an early morning cheese tasting may not be everyone’s cup of tea (cheese?) we do recommend getting there early on summer days as this place is super popular!

13. Explore OMSI

OMSI, or the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, has been a mainstay on the Portland waterfront for teaching both kids and adults alike science, history, and how the world works.

This immersive and interactive museum offers hands-on opportunities to learn. The museum features rotating exhibits that captivate the imagination (there is currently a T-Rex on display!) and create curious scientists out of kids who visit.

The laser shows in the planetarium have been a mainstay for years for those looking for an immersive visual experience. We have attended these shows several times and they never disappoint.

Also, make sure to check out the USS Blueback submarine tour!

14. Climb the Cape Kiwanda Sand Dune

Oregon is home to large swaths of sand dunes that should be on anyone’s list of things to do in Oregon!

There are numerous areas of sand dunes to visit stretching up and down the coast but our personal favorite is the GIGANTIC sand dune at Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City.

This sand dune stands tall over the beach and brings out the child in everyone as they climb to the top and run back down.

We prefer this spot over the Sand Dune Recreation Area further to the south as this dune doesn’t allow any ATV traffic which can be loud and dangerous to folks who are looking to walk the dunes.

15. Attend the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Ashland, Oregon is home to one of the most popular festivals in the entire state: the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

Each year thousands of theater fans descend on this sleepy southern Oregon town to take in showings of Shakespeare’s most popular plays.

The festival utilizes three different theaters so each day there can be up to half a dozen different showings to choose from.

16. Go Skiing at Mt. Hood

Mt. Hood, Oregon’s tallest mountain, is home to 5 different ski areas with one offering skiing year-round!

The two most popular ski areas, Timberline and Mt. Hood Meadows offer world-class runs that will thrill any black diamond-level skier.

For beginners or those looking for a slightly more relaxed, and cheaper, experience Mt. Hood Skibowl and the east side Cooper Spur are great options.

If you had to visit just one resort we’d recommend Timberline for the variety of terrain, views, and historic Timberline Lodge.

17. Snowshoe Through a Winter Wonderland in Bend

Swampy Lakes Snowshoe

Bend is a well-known adventure destination and one of our absolute favorite things to do in Bend is to snowshoe to a backcountry warming hut.

These huts are interspersed throughout the backcountry areas west of Bend and can be reached either by nordic ski, snowshoe, or in some cases, snowmobile.

The easiest huts to visit are the Meissner hut, the Swampy Lakes hut, or the Edison hut (note: this hut is closed for the 2024 winter season).

Snowshoeing is a super easy activity even for beginners and there are plenty of places in Bend to rent snowshoes.

18. Try Fly Fishing on the Deschutes River

Fly fishing on the Deschutes River

The Deschutes River is a world-class fishery that runs from its headwaters in the Central Oregon Cascades all the way to the Columbia River.

Along this river, you can fish for rainbow trout, steelhead, bull trout, and whitefish.

Different sections of the river offer different fishing experiences with the upper portions only being open to those willing to hike in while the lower portions may only be accessible by paddling the river.

19. Explore Caves in Central Oregon

Inside of Hidden Forest Cave

Central Oregon is home to 100s of caves that were formed when lava flows from past eruptions left long hollowed-out tubes crisscrossing the area.

The largest and most well-known of these caves is the Lava River cave located between Bend and Sunriver. This cave is over a mile long and is managed by the US Forest Service. Reservations are required and they offer lanterns for rent (highly recommended!).

Other caves in the area that are open to the public include Boyd Cave, Ice Cave, and Hidden Forest Cave. All tours of these are entirely self-guided so come prepared and leave Fido at home to help protect the sensitive ecosystems that live within these environments.

20. Wander through the Portland Saturday Market

The Portland Saturday Market is recognized as the oldest continuously operating outdoor market in the United States. In fact, 2024 is the 50th anniversary of this amazing organization!

When we lived in Portland we loved spending a weekend morning walking through the market to browse the funky art, grab a bite to eat, and just take in the sights down by the riverfront.

The Portland Saturday Market is free to attend and is held March through December. The weather is so dreary in Portland during January and February that even the market has to shut down.

21. Explore the Columbia River Maritime Museum

Columbia Light Ship at the Columbia Maritime Museum

Located in Astoria, Oregon, the Columbia River Maritime Museum celebrates the maritime way of life that made this corner of Oregon famous.

Located just upstream from the infamous Columbia River Bar, also known as the graveyard of the Pacific, the museum walks you through the maritime history and culture of this incredible area as well as the 100s of shipwrecks that dot these coastal waterways.

Museum admission also includes a tour of the lighthouse vessel Columbia which is docked right outside of the museum.

And after you’re done learning about all there is to know at the museum you can hop across the street and order some of Oregon’s best fish and chips out of an old fishing boat at the Bowpicker.

22. Attend the Hood River Fresh Hop Festival

Did you know that Oregon, along with Washington, grows almost all of the hops grown in the United States?

With such easy access to fresh hops and the explosion of popularity of hoppy IPAs, it only makes sense that breweries would start making fresh hop beers. That is beer where the hops are added to the brewing process directly after they are picked.

The Hood River Fresh Hop Fest, which is held in early October, celebrates everything fresh hops in Oregon. Come sample from dozens of fresh hops beers and enjoy one of the best times of the year to visit the Hood River area.

We make a trek out this way every fall to attend fall festivals, pick apples, and enjoy the cooler days of fall.

23. Go Hiking (or Rock Climbing!) at Smith Rock State Park

Hiking at Smith Rock in the morning

Smith Rock State Park is regarded as the birthplace of modern sport climbing. One visit to this incredible park and you’ll see why it became a mecca for climbing in decades past.

The towering basalt cliffs make for stunning views and even more stunning climbing routes.

Trails snake (both figuratively and literally – there are a lot of snakes here) their way along the crooked river and up and over the cliffs above.

If you pay this incredible area a visit in the summer do so early in the day as the canyon floors get HOT by mid-day.

24. Visit the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum

In McMinnville, Oregon you’ll find one of the more unique museums in the State.

I mean, where else can you see the world’s largest wooden plane, a supersonic jet, a stealth bomber, a spaceship, and play in an aviation-themed water park?!?

If you’re planning a visit go ahead and book the entire day as the museum has a way of quickly eating up time with everything there is to see and do.

25. Forage for Oregon’s State Mushroom: the Pacific Golden Chanterelle

Foraging for chanterelles is one of our favorite things to do in Oregon. Pictured is a Pacific Golden Chanterelle found in central Oregon

Fall is foraging season in Oregon with mushrooms leading the way. The most famous of which is the Oregon state mushroom; the Pacific Golden Chanterelle.

These delicious mushrooms pop up on forest floors all over the state after the arrival of autumn rains.

While most mushroom hunters keep their honey holes a secret these mushrooms grow in such huge numbers that they are easily found by even novice foragers.

Come late September you can pick almost any forested trail on the western half of the state and have a good chance, if you keep your eyes peeled for their distinctive golden color, of coming across one.

Just be sure to pack your favorite mushroom identification book or ask a trusted source before you go eating any foraged foods.

26. Visit the Oregon Film Museum

Oregon may not be the film capital of the West Coast (look south to California or north to Vancouver for that) but that doesn’t mean we don’t still have a rich history of films shot in our state.

The Oregon Film Museum in Astoria, Oregon celebrates all things film in Oregon and offers a fun trip down memory lane as you revisit many of the movies from your childhood.

The most famous movie shot in Oregon was, and probably still is, Goonies which was set in Astoria.

The famous Goonies House is located in Astoria and has had a contentious relationship with the locals as visitors make pilgrimages to this unofficial tourist attraction.

27. Attend the Portland Rose Festival

Portland is known as the City of Roses and makes this name come to life each Spring with the Portland Rose Festival.

The festival takes place each June and culminates with the incredible Floral Parade. Floats for the parade are adorned with hundreds of thousands of flowers to create stunning displays that make their way through the city.

Make sure to grab your spot along the parade route early as long-time locals are known to mark off the best spots well in advance.

28. Dig up Fossils in Fossil, Oregon

Fossilized seed found in Fossil, Oregon

It’s only fitting that a town with the name of Fossil, Oregon would be home to one of the only places in the country where you can freely dig up your own prehistoric fossils.

This remote town is located in Eastern Oregon and right behind the town’s school is an ancient fossil bed that has been made open to the public totally free of charge (donations are always welcome though.)

Come equipped with a chisel and hammer and try your luck at digging up leaves, bugs, or even a fish that was preserved in this ancient swampland.

29. Go Beachcombing for Agates or Glass Floats

The Oregon coast is well known for its beachcombing opportunities. From rockhounding to searching for washed-up treasures this stretch of beachline has it all.

Beaches near river outflows tend to be the best spots for searching for famous Oregon agates. These semi-translucent rocks come in a variety of colors and are a prized find. You’ll have the best luck in the cooler months after storms wash the beaches clean and expose new stones.

Another beachcombing opportunity is for glass floats. These small glass balls used to frequently wash up on shore after they were lost by Japanese fishing fleets across the Pacific. Today finding an authentic glass float is pretty rare but Lincoln City has picked up the slack by hiding handmade glass floats up and down their coastline.

You can find more details here on how to search for your own Oregon glass floats.

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