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The 20 Best Things to Do in Oregon for First Timers

Washington Park Portland

Known for its stunning landscapes, Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest. Along with its bustling cities that have many cultural, historic, and fun attractions, this state’s landscape includes forests, beaches, farms, and mountains. This means that people who visit Oregon often want to spend time in areas of natural beauty enjoying outdoor pursuits. With so many things to see and do in this state, it is difficult to decide which activities and attractions to include in your itinerary. To help you plan your visit to this fantastic part of the United States, the following are the 20 best things to do in Oregon for first-timers.

20. Anthony Lakes

If your idea of a great time is enjoying outdoor pursuits, then one of the top destinations in Oregon is Anthony Lakes, says Vacation Idea. This is a ski area and mountain resort that is close to Baker City and the Blue Mountains in the Elkhorn Range. It is known for its powdery-fine snow and its stunning scenery. In addition to skiing, people who visit Anthony Lakes also enjoy the hiking trails. It is important to note that although entry to Anthony Lakes and accessing the hiking trails is free, you will pay a fee for many other activities.

19. Columbia Maritime Museum

Columbia has a rich maritime history, and this is an interesting element of the state’s history to learn more about during your visit. One of the best places to visit if this is a subject that interests you is the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria. The focus of the museum is the history, landscape, and wildlife of the Columbia River Bar, which is one of the most dangerous river passages in the world. Since 1972, the bar has caused more than two thousand shipwrecks. The exhibits in the museum relate to the U.S. Coast Guard and the pilots of the Columbia River. An interesting feature of the museum is the IMAX theater.

18. Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum

You will find the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville. This museum was founded by Oregon native and Airforce Lieutenant Michael King-Smith. The main function of the museum is to preserve the history of air and space flight. Another focus is on educating the public on these subjects. There are some amazing exhibitions in this museum, including a collection of World War II aircraft, a B-17 bomber, an SR-71 Blackbird, and a Titan missile. However, one of the most interesting exhibits is the cargo hold of the original Spruce Goose, which was built by aviator and industrialist Howard Hughes. Visitors to the attraction can tour the Oregon Aviation Hall of Honor, and learn about airplanes, helicopters, and rockets.

17. Lan Su Chinese Garden

Built by the Chinese artisans, the Lan Su Chinese Garden is designed to reflect the traditional Chinese style of blending nature with art. It is one of the most tranquil attractions you can visit in this state as you will feel as though you are connecting with nature as you walk through the beautifully landscaped gardens and paths. Throughout the year, there is a range of events, classes, and activities that showcase Chinese culture and art

16. Oregon Coast Aquarium

If you are visiting Oregon as a family, one of the top family attractions in the state is Oregon Coast Aquarium, says Vacation Idea. The purpose of this attraction is to educate the public about the wildlife and nature of the Oregon coast. Visitors can learn about the conservation efforts in the area while also getting up close to some of the native sea life, such as sea lions, seals, seabirds, and sea otters. Exhibits in this attraction highlight the different natural habitats along the coastline, and there are some interactive elements to the displays. It is also possible to scuba dive in a large aquarium for an additional fee.

15. Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

An attraction that has something for people of all ages is the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Five galleries contain more than 200 exhibits. The topics covered include agriculture, energy, the ocean, robotics, and space. There are also eight laboratories where visitors can enjoy learning experiences through hands-on activities. Another feature of the museum is a large movie theater that shows both documentaries and blockbuster movies. Throughout the year, this attraction hosts many demonstrations, festivals, events, and temporary exhibitions.

14. Portland Japanese Garden

Portland Japanese Garden is one of the most stunning outdoor spaces in an urban setting in Oregon. It is an oasis of trees, flowers, bonsai, streams, and ornamental bridges. According to Time Out, the garden has undergone a huge expansion that was designed by Kengo Kuma, the architect responsible for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium. Throughout the garden, there are exhibitions of traditional Japanese art. Visitors can enjoy a Japanese-style afternoon tea in the Unami Café.

13. Portland Art Museum

If Portland is one of the destinations you intend to visit during your stay in Oregon, then one of the top attractions to visit in this city is the Portland Art Museum. Founded in 1892, this is the oldest museum along the West Coast of the United States and the seventh oldest in the whole of the United States. There are more than 50 thousand objects displayed in the galleries that reflect the history of art from ancient times to the current day. This museum is particularly well known for its permanent exhibitions of the art of the native peoples of North America, graphic arts, and English silver. It also boasts many temporary exhibitions. The Portland Art Museum is used as a venue to host a range of events throughout the year.

12. Willamette National Forest

An expansive park that covers more than 1.7 million acres, Willamette National Forest is located along the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains. Within the forest, there are several volcanoes, rivers, hot springs, and mountains. The most popular activity is to simply spend time on the hiking trails. However, there are some other attractions in the forest. These include Salt Creek Falls, the Three Sisters Wilderness, and the Dee Wright Observatory.

11. Oregon Coast Trail

Those who are fans of walking and spending time outdoors should set aside some time to walk at least some parts of the Oregon Coast Trail. This hiking trail stretches along 360 miles of the Oregon coastline, beginning at the mouth of the Columbia River. It connects many significant landmarks and highlights the natural beauty of the coast of Oregon. Although the trail predominantly sticks to the coast, there are some optional diversions into forested headlands.

10. Silver Falls State Park, Sublimity

To see some of the most impressive waterfalls in Oregon, head to Silver Falls State Park in Sublimity. The park system is home to the Trail of Ten Falls, which is a hiking path that tours the waterfalls of the area. The largest waterfall among them is South Falls, which many people regard as the most impressive waterfall in Oregon.

9. Smith Rock State Park, Terrebonne

Climbers from all around the world flock to Smith Rock State Park as it is a well-known climbing destination. It is also a fantastic area for hiking biking, birdwatching, and photography. Crooked River runs through the park, and you can get excellent views of the river from Misery Ridge at Smith Rock.

8. Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, Brookings

A 12-mile linear park, Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor is located between Brookings and Gold Beach. If you want to admire the best coastal views in Oregon during your visit to the state, then this is the section of the coast you should visit. In addition to the beaches, you will also see Arch Rock and Indian Sands. There are many interesting rock formations to admire along the way. It is worth taking your camera along with you to capture some of the picturesque views.

7. Hood River

Hood River is a scenic city that sits on the banks of the Columbia River. It is a popular destination for people who enjoy outdoor pursuits. Some of the best activities include kiteboarding, windsurfing, hiking, camping, and biking. However, there are plenty of other things to do for those who do not want to spend time outdoors. Hood River has great restaurants, live music venues, lots of shops, excellent hotels, and a range of cultural activities.

6. Bend

One of the best places to visit for some outdoor adventures is Bend, which sits almost in the center of Oregon. This central location also makes it the ideal base for exploring the rest of the state. Bend has a varied landscape that includes volcanoes, dry plains, and national forests. Some popular activities in Bend include rafting down the Deschutes River, skiing at Mount Bachelor Ski Area, and rock-climbing at Smith Rock. In this city, you can also visit the High Desert Museum and Newberry Volcanic Monument.

5. Mount Hood National Forest

Mount Hood is the highest mountain in Oregon at 11,239 feet, so it is one of the most remarkable natural landmarks in the state. Hikes can enjoy views as they walk the Mount Hood Scenic Loop, and skiers can have some fun on the downhill slopes of Mount Hood Skibowl. Other features of the forest include waterfalls, hot springs, and the historic town of Government Camp. This is a free activity, so it is a great option for those visiting the area on a budget.

4. Washington Park, Portland

If you visit no other city park during your visit to Oregon, you should set aside some time to visit Washington Park in Portland. Not only is this park a wonderful urban space in which you can relax in pretty surroundings, but it is also home to some of the top attractions in Portland. Some of these include Oregon Zoo, the International Rose Test Garden, and Portland Children’s Museum. Furthermore, there are multiple hiking trails to explore. There is no cost to spend time in the park, but you will need to buy tickets for the other attractions that you will find there.

3. Cannon Beach

Located along the northern coast of Oregon is Cannon Beach, which is one of the top beaches to visit in the state, Not only is this a beautiful stretch of sand, but it is lined with impressive jagged coastal rocks, including Haystack Rock. Sitting alongside the beach is a village of the same name that boasts excellent hotels, outstanding restaurants, and boutique shops.

2. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

Sitting on the boundary line between Oregon and Washington is the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, which follows the Columbia River through the Cascade Range. This natural attraction is known for its spectacular waterfalls and its breathtaking views. The most notable waterfall in this area is Multnomah Falls as this is the tallest waterfall in Oregon. Within this park, there are multiple hiking and biking trails. There are camping facilities for people who want to stay overnight.

1. Crater Lake National Park

According to Planetware, the best things to do in Oregon is to visit Crater National Park. Located in the Cascade Mountains of southwestern Oregon, this park is described as having a landscape like nowhere else in the world. Mount Mazama is an extinct volcano surrounded by lava cliffs, some of which stand at 2,000 feet. These sit around a deep blue lake. Visitors can enjoy various activities at this location, depending on the time of year they visit. Some of these include hiking, skiing, backpacking, and mountain biking. There are campsites within the park for those who want to spend a couple of days of their vacation there.

Dana Hanson

Written by Dana Hanson

Dana has extensive professional writing experience including technical and report writing, informational articles, persuasive articles, contrast and comparison, grant applications, and advertisement. She also enjoys creative writing, content writing on nearly any topic (particularly business and lifestyle), because as a lifelong learner, she loves to do research and possess a high skill level in this area. Her academic degrees include AA social Sci/BA English/MEd Adult Ed & Community & Human Resource Development and ABD in PhD studies in Indust & Org Psychology.

Read more posts by Dana Hanson

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