It doesn’t matter what part of Oregon you’re visiting, you’re bound to find something interesting to explore. If you’re into art and history, there are museums abound; for outdoorsy types, there are waterfalls, lakes, mountains and parks as far as the eye can see.
Love flowers? The state boasts some beautiful gardens. Bibliophile? Portland is home to the largest independent bookstore in the world. Here are 20 must-visit attractions in Oregon.
Located roughly 50 miles east of Portland, Mt. Hood is a must-visit both in winter and summer. Towering at 11,249 ft, the potentially active stratovolcano is the highest mountain in Oregon and one of the loftiest in the country, due to its prominence. In the winter, Mt. Hood Meadows is one of the premier destinations for snow sports in the Pacific Northwest, while in the summer, hikers and campers can explore the Mt. Hood National Forest in all its vibrant beauty.
With a catchphrase like: “The magic is in the hole,” what’s not to love? Novelty doughnuts may be all the rage these days, but Voodoo Doughnut has been doing it for years. 15, to be exact. Though you can find their pink boxes in multiple cities across the U.S. these days (Eugene, Austin, Denver, Los Angeles), Kenneth “Cat Daddy” Pogson and Tres Shannon’s unusual doughnuts originated in Old Town Portland, and the 24-hour operated flagship location is still packed to the gills both day and night, for good reason.
On October 25, 1906, the Peter Iredale ran ashore on the Oregon Coast, en route to the Columbia River. The crew abandoned the four-masted steel barque sailing vessel on Clatsop Spit near Fort Stevens in Warrenton about four miles south of the Columbia River channel. Now, visitors can get up close and personal with the shipwreck at low tide. The ship’s over 100-year-old remains jut out of the sand in Fort Stevens State Park.
In the early 20th century, a small mining company office building began slipping down the hill before its foundation came to rest at an odd angle. The owners claim the structure originally began to slide due to a magnetic force, or “vortex.” They claim this force causes other paranormal phenomena to happen, such as balls rolling uphill and brooms standing on end. Though the vortex theory is just that—a theory—what really happens at the tilted house is a distorted sense of perception, which makes objects appear to change size and do all other kinds of bizarre things. Despite the cause of its perceptive trickery, the Oregon Vortex is the fun, secret treasure of Central Oregon.
Visitors flock to Cannon Beach’s Haystack Rock, but Yachats has a spectacle all its own. Thor’s Well sits on the edge of the Oregon coast. The gaping, “bottomless” sinkhole, also known as the drainpipe of the Pacific, is truly a sight to behold, but do so with caution. The well that seemingly swallows up the sea around it, is actually a hole in the rock that is only around 20 ft deep. Though the best time to view the godly fountain is at high tide or during storms, Thor’s Well can sweep out unsuspecting spectators.
McMinnville’s Aviation & Space Museum is a pilot’s dream. The hall’s displays range from the aeronautic designs of the Wright brothers to a Lockheed SR-71; however, its prized possession is the original Spruce Goose. The massive airplane is built entirely out of wood, due to wartime restrictions on metals, and stands as a symbol of American industry during World War II. With the adjacent Wings & Waves indoor waterpark open year round, this museum provides something for the whole family.
If you’re visiting Bend in the winter, Mt Bachelor is a must-see. The ski area is only 22 miles from downtown, so you’ll be able to get a few runs in before lunch. If you’re not much of a skier but still love the snow, the mountain offers a wide range of activities including snowshoe tours, snowblast tubing, sled dog rides and helicopter tours.
The Columbia River Bar is one of the most dangerous passages in the world, and the first thing you see when you arrive at the Columbia River Maritime Museum is the 44 ft Coast Guard rescue boat in action, suspended over fake waves. The Astoria gallery is the only maritime museum in Oregon, and it tells the legend of “The Graveyard of the Pacific.” Since 1972, the Columbia River Bar has caused approximately 2,000 vessels—including 200 larger ships—to sink, and this nonprofit institution features six galleries and a great hall that shows films of the unapologetic river.
Mount Hood is a pretty unassuming place for a hot springs, and that’s why Robert Bagby didn’t take the time to develop them upon his discovery in the 1800s. The prospector and hunter was mining for gold when he came upon the springs, but due to their remote location he left them as they were. In the 1930s, the first bathhouse was constructed, including large tubs carved out of cedar logs. Visitors can still soak in those tubs today, they just have to be willing to make the trek to find them. Though the journey is less strenuous than it was when the hot springs first opened, it’s still a 1.4 mile hike to get to the hot watery haven.
The High Desert Museum joins regional wildlife and natural resources with art and culture to promote an understanding and appreciation for North America’s high desert history. Through indoor and outdoor exhibits, wildlife habitats and living history demonstrations, the Bend institution strives to help its visitors discover and educate themselves on the majestic natural and cultural heritage of this special part of the world, including immersive looks into the lives of Native Americans, settlers and fur trappers who struggled to survive the harsh climates of the high desert.