WHY VISIT OREGON
Oregon doesn’t have to try hard: it has one of the hippest cities on the planet, snow-tipped volcanoes, a phenomenal coastline, and more breweries per capita than any other US state.
Portland (aka ‘Beervana’) practically invented hip and might as well have invented beer too. While other cities are just cottoning on to this microbrewery malarkey, Portland has been blending wheaty concoctions since the 1980s. With more breweries than any other city on Earth, plus tasting rooms, brew ‘n’ view cinemas, and cracking beer festivals, you’re never likely to be without a hoppy ale in hand.
But don’t forget about Portland’s awesome live music scene, 600-plus food trucks, and its saucy side – The Heathman Hotel was the setting for some, ahem, energetic episodes in Fifty Shades of Grey.
Drag yourself away from the bar to discover Oregon’s extraordinary scenery. Wild Pacific beaches stretch along 584km (363 miles) of coastline, where you can scramble over grass-flecked dunes, poke around rockpools teeming with sea stars, spot puffins perched on sea stacks, or listen out for barking sea lions. In winter, migrating grey whales journey down the coast on their way to Baja California.
Head inland and take a road trip along the Historic Columbia River Highway, kite-surf at Hood River, tuck into homemade apple pie, sip the region’s stellar wine, or ride Mt Hood, home to the only year-round skiing on the continent.
If there’s time, continue south through the Cascade Mountains and hike to the water’s edge at Crater Lake, the deepest in the USA. East of the Cascades, snap an unforgettable sunset at the Painted Hills, named for their kaleidoscopic layers of reds, ochres and blacks. And then try leaving Oregon – it’s hard to do.
WHAT TO SEE IN OREGON
- Portland: ‘Keep Portland Weird’ is the unofficial slogan of this overtly progressive, eco-conscious, and very enchanting city. Few other cities in the US are as green and quirky as Portland, Oregon’s biggest city. From its hip neighborhoods overflowing with a superb culinary and artistic scene to the abundance of nature right on the doorstep, visitors often find they don’t need to leave the city limits. Try the craft beers of the Pearl District, walk miles of trails in Forest Park, and explore the funky boutiques in Hawthorne. Few visitors are disappointed with Portlandia.
- Bend: holding down the eastern slopes of the Cascades, where conditions are high and dry, is the cool outdoorsy town of Bend. It doesn’t rain much here, making conditions ideal for biking, hiking, kayaking, and most other outdoor activities. The fairly large town itself is very accessible and laid-back, with winter skiing next door on Mount Bachelor and summer festivals every weekend. The rock climbing nearby at Smith Rock is one of America’s premier destinations. Bend is also a major hub for craft breweries, so prepare to be impressed by the ales.
- Oregon Coast: it’s ruggedly beautiful, refreshingly underpopulated, and easily one of America’s most stunning natural attractions. The Oregon Coast isn’t the place you go for sunbathing and swimming in the sea (it’s too cold). It’s a place to become inspired, awed, and love-struck. Haystack rocks, dramatic headlands, pretty coves, and loads of marine wildlife create a truly adventurous environment. There are giant sand dunes to play on and charming little towns strung along the coast like Bandon, Newport, and Florence providing lodging, food, and urban fun.
- Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area: one of North America’s mightiest rivers is the Columbia. It forms the border between Oregon and Washington, dropping up to 1,200 feet thanks to millions of years of glacial run-off. The highway that runs from Portland to Idaho parallels the river, featuring huge waterfalls every few miles and plenty of spots to hop out for a hike up the slopes for panoramic views down the Gorge. There are also some fantastic little towns along the Columbia River such as Hood River and The Dalles.
- Willamette Valley: this amazing valley runs for 150 miles between the coastal mountain range and the towering Cascades. It enjoys a rare temperate microclimate buffered from weather extremes, making the entire valley ideal for growing things. The rich soil encouraged early settlers to farm, and today the Willamette Valley is legendary for both its fresh produce and its wine. There are dozens of excellent wineries to tour, most of the state’s larger cities like Corvallis and Eugene, and a wonderful grassroots atmosphere that encourages small farms, dairies, cheese makers, and craft brewers to thrive.
- Oregon Cascades: the Cascades is the long mountain range that divides Oregon into two very distinct zones. Postcard-worthy volcanic peaks sprout from the dense evergreen forests every few miles, creating one of America’s most unique mountain environments. With few towns actually in the Cascades, the main attraction here is outdoor recreation. In winter, skiing and snowmobiling are unbeatable. Summer opens up the alpine valleys to hiking, camping, and mountain biking, while the crystal-clear rivers create some of the country’s finest whitewater kayaking and rafting. The volcanic evidence is everywhere, from Crater Lake (North America’s deepest) to the lava fields of Newberry and McKenzie Pass.
- Ashland: anchoring the southern end of Oregon is the sophisticated and beautiful city of Ashland. It’s one of the coolest small art towns in the country, hosting an annual Shakespeare Festival that is a world-class event. Its downtown is littered with art galleries, neat cafés, and fun bars all centered around the lovely Lithia Park. Within minutes you can drive out of town and into the uncrowded Siskiyou Mountains with their hiking, biking, and boating adventures.
WHEN TO GO TO OREGON
The best period to visit Oregon is from July to September.
The Pacific Ocean and the mighty Cascade mountain range influence Oregon’s climate considerably.
Oregon’s west coast
The weather is generally mild and wet on the west coast. Portland, Oregon’s largest city, has a temperate oceanic climate and sees cloudy skies and light drizzles from November to March. The best time to visit Portland, Oregon is from June to September when the weather is at its best – pleasantly warm, dry, and with plenty of sunshine. In June, the average high is 23°C (73°F) while the average low is 12°C (54°F).
On the east of the Cascade Range, this part of Oregon has dry summer and snowy winter. Bend, the largest city in Central Oregon, enjoys a predominately dry climate with over 300 sunny days a year, very low humidity and cool nights. Winters are snowy, making it an ideal winter sports location.
The southwest region
Bordering California, the Rogue Valley has a Mediterranean climate with drier and sunnier winters and hotter summers.
Light cotton and linens during the summer months. Rainwear and heavyweight clothing are suggested for the winter months.
WHAT TO DO IN OREGON
Wine taste your way through the Columbia River Gorge
Napa Valley might be America’s most famous wine region. Yet for pure scenery alongside world-class wines, nothing tops the Columbia River Gorge. Roll east down I-84 out of Portland and you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by green granite mountains flanking the deep blue river. Every few miles pull off the road and into the expanse of rolling vineyards with views of the water. Stave and Stone is like a little slice of Mendoza with rows of grapes leading into the foothills of Mt. Hood. Further along, the Mt. Hood Winery looks almost carved out of an evergreen forest along the Columbia River. The best part of wine tasting here is that most of the names are fairly unknown, so you’ll almost always find a pleasant surprise somewhere along the way.
Following is a list of typical festivals and celebrations of Oregon.
- Oregon Shakespeare Festival: the little arts town of Ashland hosts one of America’s top Shakespeare festivals each year from February through November. A professional repertory performs around 11 different plays during the season, including a few by Shakespeare himself of course. The main venue, an outdoor authentic theater in the round, is a highlight of the performances as well. Special lectures, tours of the theater, and other events keep Ashland in a theatrical mood all summer long.
- Portland International Film Festival: this non-competitive movie festival in Oregon attracts around 100 films from 30 countries every year. Screenings take place in the NW Film Center and several other nice venues around Portland over the course of a week in February. As the focus of this festival primarily films from outside the US, it’s a great chance to see some creative work being done in other cultures.
- Portland Rose Festival: Portland’s big summer festival is actually an umbrella for dozens of different events spread over the months of May and June. Flowers certainly play a role, especially in the big event known as the Grand Floral Parade. Other highlights include the Starlight Parade, Waterfront Village, and Rose Festival Court. This is a great time to be in Portland.
- Oregon Brewer’s Fest: Oregon is known as one of the leading lights in America’s craft beer movement, and for four days every July the city of Portland invites the best and brightest from around the state to show off their skills. The McCall Waterfront Park transforms into a giant outdoor carnival with beer tasting at its core. More than 70 breweries attend, backed up by loads of great food and live music in the most perfect outdoor setting one could imagine for sampling hundreds of beers.
- Bend Fall Festival: fall in Bend is one of the most magical seasons in this mountain town. Every October they throw one last party before the winter sets in at the lovely outdoor amphitheater park. The festival covers all kinds of events, from craft beer tastings to a craft marketplace. Loads of kid activities make this a prime event for families, but there is also gourmet food to sample live bands and even green building workshops.
- Northwest Food & Wine Festival: you can experience the bounty of Oregon’s coast, valley farms, and vineyards in one convenient spot every November in Portland’s Memorial Coliseum. Gourmet dishes from 50 restaurants around the state and wines from most of Oregon’s wineries are offered up to the public. Chefs and vintners are on hand to answer questions, and many products are for sale. Live music fills the background.
HOW TO REACH AND TRAVEL THROUGH OREGON
Portland’s public transportation network is a thing of beauty, so visitors who don’t plan to leave Oregon’s largest city probably don’t need a rental car. But that would be a shame because Mount Hood is just an hour away and Cannon Beach is just 90 minutes to the southwest. A rental car is the only real way to experience the natural beauty of Oregon, from its coast and valleys to the Cascades and eastern desert. Driving around the state is easy thanks to excellent interstate highways and painfully scenic rural roads. Interstate 5 runs right up the western side of the state, while the beautiful Route 101 hugs the coast.
Taxis are great to hop around in Portland if you don’t want to bike, walk or use the TriMet system of trams, trains, and buses.
One of the most memorable ways to reach Oregon is by train. Amtrak’s Coast Starlight line runs right up the Pacific Coast from San Diego, California to Seattle, Washington. The train runs daily, stopping at several towns along the Oregon western region as well as downtown Portland’s Union Station. The train is very comfortable, though fares are no cheaper than a regional flight. Amtrak’s other major line, the Empire Builder, runs east from Portland through Minneapolis and onto Chicago. It’s also a wonderful journey.
Greyhound buses are even more flexible than the train, stopping at all of Oregon’s larger towns. These buses connect with a vast nationwide web of travel routes, though any trip longer than a few hours will be tedious and uncomfortable. But you can’t beat the cheap fares on Greyhound.
Main airports are:
GENERAL INFORMATION ON OREGON
health tips & vaccination: none
local currency: US Dollar
local time zone: GMT-8,-7 (-7,-6)
electricity: type A and type B (120V – 60 Hz)
WHAT TO DO IN OREGON
Typical food in Oregon
Souvenirs from Oregon