Oregon is full of incredible places to discover and adventures to be had. Explore the mountains, hike to waterfalls, relax in hot springs, visit the wineries, enjoy the quirky city of Portland, drive through the deserts, and so much more! There are endless ways to experience the beauty of the Beaver State.
When we plan a vacation to a new destination, part of our process is to find out what other people recommend. This bucket list of things to do in Oregon is a compilation of recommended activities from others who live in or have visited the state. Thank you to everyone who shared a favorite place to see or thing to do in Oregon.
Use this list of 27 fun and adventurous vacation ideas to help you plan your trip to Oregon.
PORTLAND AND SURROUNDING AREAS
- OMSI: Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
- Tilikum Crossing Bridge
- Portland Brewery Tours
- Food Trucks and Donuts
- Multnomah Falls
- Columbia River Gorge Area
- Mt. Hood
- Wineries in Willamette Valley
- Willamette Valley Bikeways
- Bagby Hot Springs
CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN OREGON
- Oregon Country Fair
- Smith Rock State Park
- Cycle the Central Oregon Deserts
- Painted Hills
- Rogue River Rafting
- Crater Lake National Park
- Alvord Desert
27 COOL THINGS TO ADD TO YOUR OREGON BUCKET LIST
1. OMSI, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Portland
The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, or OMSI, in Portland is one place that should be on your Oregon bucket list, particularly if you are visiting Portland with kids.
Founded in 1944 and originally located in Washington Park, it is a huge museum that has 3 auditoriums, a planetarium, numerous exhibition halls and something that surprised me, a submarine. The USS Blueback was used for filming the film, The Hunt for Red October, and has its home on the pier beside OMSI. You can join a tour of the submarine, or if you fancy it, you can even do a sleep-over in the submarine.
OMSI has many auditoriums including the Turbine Hall, dedicated to engineering and physics, chemistry and space travel. There is a Life Sciences Hall and a Science Playground, dedicated to the younger members of the family. As we were visiting with our young son, it was here we spent most of our time.
The planetarium holds astronomy shows and you might be lucky to visit when there is a travelling exhibition. We caught the end of a Pompeii Exhibition, much to my husband’s delight as he loves Roman History.
OMSI is located on Water Avenue and while there is a car park, it is paid-parking unless you are a member. The museum is closed on Mondays and open from 9.30am to 5.30pm Tuesday to Sunday. It costs $14.50 per adult for general admission and $9.75 for youths between 3 and 13 years of age. A submarine visit and tour costs extra, as do visits to the planetarium and the empirical theatre. It is a great place to visit while in Portland and we highly recommend you put it on your Oregon bucket list.
2. Tilikum Crossing Bridge
Seeing the Tilikum Crossing bridge at night is an Oregon attraction you can’t miss!
There are 178 LED lights aesthetically placed on 40 bridge cables. The lights change colors based on the Willamette River: the water temperature determines the color and the river’s speed controls the pace the colors change and move across the bridge.
3. Portland Brewery Tours
The ultimate Oregon bucket list item for any beer lover is a brewery and brewpub tour. Luckily, you don’t have to venture too far to sample the scrumptious selection of Oregon beers as there are many right in the center of Portland.
The “City of Roses” is also a haven for craft beer enthusiasts with over 117 breweries operated in the Portland Metro Area. You can join various kinds of microbrewery, brewery, and brewpub tours through local tour operators or your accommodation provider. When visiting Portland for 2 days, I enjoyed a free brewery tour through Northwest Portland Hostel & Guesthouse, where I was staying.
Alternatively, why not go on a DIY brewery tour? Websites like Oregon Craft Beer provide a state map where you can find the closest brewing companies and taprooms to you.
Chantell, Adoration 4 Adventure
4. Food Trucks & Doughtnuts
Food Trucks: They are really more permanent kiosks set up in vacant lots throughout downtown. At each location there are dozens of options. When traveling with kids, this makes it easy to find food to please the picky eaters, and offer more adventurous and local fare for the rest of us.
Voodoo Doughnut: A trip to the famous Voodoo Doughnuts is a must. Traveling with kids? The younger kids won’t understand the innuendos – and the older ones will laugh at them with you. Be patient since you could wait in line 20 to 30 minutes.
5. Multnomah Falls
Multnomah Falls is a magnificent waterfall just 30 minutes outside Portland. It’s an easy 5-minute walk from the parking area to the base of the falls.
For an even closer view, walk a few hundred feet up the paved trail to Benson Bridge. Standing on the bridge you’ll have a perfect view of the top tier and can look down at the bottom tier of the waterfall.
Visiting Mulnomah Falls should be on your Oregon bucket list for sure!
6. Columbia River Gorge Area
The Columbia River Gorge area is one of the best places to visit in Oregon, and the perfect nature day trip from Portland. Forming much of the border between Oregon and Washington, the Columbia River is the mightiest river in the Western U.S. Over several thousands of years, it’s carved its way through the towering Cascade Mountains, creating a magnificent gorge. Now, flanked by sheer cliffs and covered by dense forests, this area is a paradise for waterfall lovers.
On the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge is the Historic Columbia River Highway, a spectacular drive that’s only 25 minutes from downtown Portland. On the way, you’ll pass through lush old-growth forest and panoramic viewpoints, but the real highlight is the countless waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge. The star of the show is two-tiered Multnomah Falls, one of the most (and easiest) photographed waterfalls in Oregon. There are, however, many quieter and no less scenic waterfalls here. My favorites are Latourell Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, Dry Creek Falls and Starvation Creek Falls.
If you’re after views of the Columbia River Gorge, you should stop at the Portland Women’s Forum State Scenic Viewpoint and Vista House or hike up to Angel’s Rest.
The Historic Columbia River Highway is 100% free to visit. There are various parking lots along the way, both small and large, offering easy access to the Gorge’s network of hiking trails. Please note that since the 2017 Eagle Creek fire, that area of the Columbia River Gorge is permanently closed. I recommend doing this fantastic drive on a weekday—weekends are ridiculously crowded all year long.
7. Mt. Hood Territory
The fun starts in Oregon’s Mt. Hood Territory. Located just outside of Portland, this area contains loads of outdoor adventures. The Territory fulfills several bucket list adventures with traveling with a multigenerational family.
Our home base was a secluded Mt. Hood Vacation Rentals lodge on five private acres – with our back deck providing a scenic view of Mt. Hood’s perpetually snowy peak.
My grandkids love animals, so we included a visit to Marquam Hill Ranch on 18 acres in Molalla and home to more than 80 alpacas. We learned first-hand about the alpacas’ curious personalities and how soft is their fur. Visit the website for the latest admissions costs – look for discounted deals available at Groupon.
We stopped at Rosse Posse Elk ranch to learn about elk. The toddler in our group experienced her first petting zoo. She giggled as the pig followed her. Tours are by appointment only.
We also rented our first pontoon boat at Get & Go Promontory Marina. Originating in a series of lakes near the crest of the Cascade Mountains, the Clackamas flows 80 miles northwest and empties into the Willamette River at Oregon City.
The Mt. Hood Territory offers a variety of fun Oregon attractions for the whole family!
Diana, Traveling in Heels (Photo Credit: Tom Pitts)
8. Wineries in Willamette Valley, Oregon
Love Pinot Noir? Don’t miss the opportunity to visit wineries in Oregon’s Willamette Valley (widely becoming recognized as the best region for Pinot Noir in the United States). Though the main focus of the Willamette Valley is Pinot Noir there is also a focus on Chardonnay and Pinot Gris and quite a few wineries also make excellent Riesling and Pinot Blanc (with a smattering of other grapes here and there in very small quantities).
The wineries in Oregon are still mostly independently owned and ’boutique’ as far as production size. 70% of Oregon Wineries produce 5000 cases or fewer per year. This means that when you visit Oregon’s wine country you will get to support independently owned wineries and often, you’ll even meet the owner or the winemaker while visiting.
Tip: Mcminnville is a charming wine country town (think Healdsburg 20 years ago) and a great base for visiting wineries in the Willamette Valley. There are many wineries located in and around Mcminnville and you will be only 15 minutes from the renowned Dundee Hills wineries.
Brooke, A Different Kind of Travel
9. Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway
In 2009, Oregon became the first state in the nation to create a Scenic Bikeway program. Today, the 17 designated cycling routes highlight the best Oregon has to offer from the seat of a bicycle.
ach bikeway is nominated by locals and then developed by a statewide team of professionals and advocates. The 134-mile Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway, the original Scenic Bikeway, winds along Oregon’s fertile fields of towering hops, rows of vineyards, and hazelnut groves, showcasing the bounty of one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world.
Riders follow along the river of the same name, starting in Champoeg State Park (just a day’s ride from Portland) and ending at Armitage County Park just outside of Eugene. The many wineries dotting the route beckon a break from the saddle to sample the world-class Pinot Noir while the restaurants and brewpubs tempt hungry bellies with delectable foods and beer straight from the farm.
With few climbs and plentiful accommodation options, the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway is great a fun bucket list activity for beginners and experienced cyclists alike.
Jen, Long Haul Trekkers
10. Bagby Hot Springs
Our favorite thing to do with kids in the Portland, Oregon area is hiking to Bagby Hot Springs. Enjoy the beautiful 2 hour drive from Portland as it winds through the mountains.
To reach the springs you hike 1 mile in the woods that’s full of green trees, green ground cover, and green moss. We were lucky to hike the trail when fairies were visiting the area. They had glitter-bombed tree stumps which made the entire experience so magical.
Once you reach the hot springs there are changing shacks and bathtubs ready to fill with piped water from the hot springs. The water is so hot you have to add buckets of cold water from a different spring. It was fun to bathe in the middle of the woods!
I recommend you bring a change of clothing if you don’t want to hike a mile back in a wet swim suit.
11. Oregon Country Fair
For just three days each year, Oregon is home to one of the most magical and unique festivals in the world- the Oregon Country Fair. If you are looking for something a bit different to add to your Oregon bucket list, this is it!
To even describe the Oregon Country Fair is a difficult challenge- if a renaissance festival and Woodstock had a baby that would get you somewhere in the ballpark of the Oregon Country Fair experience.
Housed under the canopy of a beautiful Oregon forest, the Oregon Country Fair is a whimsical world of art, music, and friendship. At the Oregon Country Fair the weird is not just accepted, but celebrated. Art is created and displayed at every turn, often in the form of spectacular costumes, and everywhere you look someone will greet you with a smile.
The Oregon Country Fair takes place the second weekend of July every year. Tickets are available to attetnd all 3 days of the Oregon Country Fair as well as single day tickets. It is located just 40 minutes West of Eugene, Oregon in the town of Veneta.
While you cannot camp on the grounds of the Oregon Country Fair, there are several campgrounds within walking distance where you can reserve a spot for the weekend.
Be sure to bring a water bottle (there are water refill stations throughout the grounds), sunscreen, and a hat because Oregon is hot in July!
Brittany, The Rolling Pack
12. Smith Rock State Park
Smith Rock State Park is located in Terrebonne, Oregon, which is about 30 miles from Bend. This gorgeous state park is in Central Oregon’s high desert area and is famous for its rock climbing trails and unique rock formations. Smith Rock State Park is over 650 acres and has numerous hiking and biking trails in addition to hundreds of climbing routes. My husband and I started out hiking the scenic river trail and then decided to challenge ourselves with a hike called Misery Ridge. Aptly named, it was a steep ascent, yet the views of the rock spires and the Crooked River were stunning.
Day use passes are availble. It’s a great place to visit year round. The summer temperatures can be brutal, so if you do plan to visit in the summer, arrive early and bring plenty of water. We visited Smith Rock State Park as one of our stops on our San Francisco to Seattle road trip. There are so many spectacular things to do in Oregon, but Smith Rock State Park is one you shouldn’t miss.
Margie, DQ Family Travel
13. Cycle the Central Oregon Deserts
Nobody talks about the deserts in Oregon. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a few days to cycle from Bend to Alturas, California. Ride down 97 past La Pine to highway 31. This is where the fun really begins.
Most of the land is owned by the BLM, so you can camp almost anywhere. Be prepared for subfreezing nights and sweltering days. You can eat and resupply in little towns such as Paisley and Silver Lake. You might have to wake the clerks up at the general store, but they’re all friendly.
When going through Lakeview (Oregon’s highest town), be sure to stop at the gem shop for an incredible breakfast burrito.
The trip can be done on a shoestring budget with a tent and bike. Give yourself three to five days to make the entire journey.
Chris, The Places I Pee
14. Painted Hills, Eastern Oregon
The Painted Hills in Eastern Oregon should be on everyone’s bucket list. They are listed as one of the “7 Wonders of Oregon,” and yet this otherworldly site is virtually unknown to most people who visit the state.
The Painted Hills are one unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, located about 10 miles northwest of the town of Mitchell. Named for the red, orange, yellow and brown striations that color the landscape, the Painted Hills are millions of years old, with each layer representing a different geological era.
Getting to this site takes a bit of effort (the closest large city is Bend, two hours away), but it’s absolutely worth including as part of an Oregon road trip anyway.
There’s no entry fee required to visit the Painted Hills, and they’re open from sunrise to sunset each day. The best time to visit is in the late afternoon and just before sunset for the most vibrant colors. There’s a scenic drive to take through the park, as well as a handful of short trails to hike around the hills. I recommend the Painted Hills Overlook Trail and the Painted Cove Trail for the best colors.
Amanda, Dangerous Business
15. Rogue River Rafting Trip
A multi-day rafting trip on the Rogue River is a fun Oregon attraction for those who love adventure! It was one of the first rivers to receive the “Wild and Scenic River” designation, and the wilderness surrounding the river remains protected and pristine to this day.
I joined OARS for a four day white-water rafting trip on the Rogue River. In late September, we had a cold, rainy trip, but we all had proper rafting clothes, and the scenery made up for the poor weather.
The trip leaves from Merlin, Oregon just outside of Grants Pass. We floated for four days, through Class III and Class IV rapids, under towering pine forests. We had several black bear sightings along the river; a highlight for everyone! Each night, we made camp on a sandy shore. There are also lodge-based trips if you prefer not to camp.
Spending an extended amount of time in such pristine wilderness is a gift; I can’t recommend it highly enough!
Leigh, Campfires and Concierges
16. Crater Lake National Park
One of the best places to visit in Oregon is Crater Lake National Park. It is the only national park in this beautiful state, and it is an absolute gem. The lake is a bright, royal blue color with 360-degree views of surrounding mountains. It should be on everyone’s Oregon bucket list.
Our favorite activity at Crater Lake is to hike to the lake. The only trail that offers lakeshore access in Crater Lake National Park is called Cleetwood Cove trail. The trail is steep but short. Being that it is the only place to access Crater Lake shores, it can get pretty busy in the summer. With that being said, parking can be difficult. Also, the lake can be pretty chilly, but people still love spending time swimming on the shores. So be sure to wear a swimsuit!
Crater Lake is a unique, fun experience that should be on everyone’s “must do” list of Oregon. Simply witnessing the blue sapphire colors of the lake is such a wonderful experience.
Michelle, The Wandering Queen
17. Alvord Desert
Frolicking in an open desert surrounded by the Steen Mountains and nothing else is quite a freeing feeling. Even better? Camping here! A visit, camping or no camping, should be on your Oregon bucket list.
Take your car and drive out on the crackled dried up lake bed that resembles something unearthly. Your feet will get dusty, your clothes will get chalk marks, and if you stay to camp, you’ll hear coyotes howl into the night and hares scamper about the desert floor.
Camping on the Alvord Desert, seeing sunset and sunrise, and maybe even popping over to the nearby hot springs, is certainly a worthy Oregon bucket list item!
Nina, Oregon is for Adventure
18. Astoria, Oregon
Oregon is an amazing state to visit. But it is not just about those nature views. Oregon has one of the largest Hollywood histories in the United States, having been featured in countless films and television shows. If you enjoy visiting filming locations, Astoria should be on your list of places to visit in Oregon.
One hidden gem, which houses probably one of the largest Hollywood presence in the state, is Astoria. A very small and quaint coastal town, which has been put on the map due to the classic films “The Goonies”, “Free Willy” and “Kindergarten Cop”. Fans of these films flock here every year to re-trace the locations of all of these films and more, which has helped it achieve solid tourism, and really adds a fun element to a visit here.
Astoria has a lot to offer though, whether you crave a night away, a long weekend or a detour on a roadtrip. It is not expensive to visit, and has some really charming eateries, as well as a number of local brewhouses which is nice. Astoria is a great place to venture out to when taking a drive from Portland to Tillamook, with scenic views everywhere – do yourself a favor and not miss it.
Toni, Enchanted Serendipity
19. Ecola State Park: Crescent Beach Trail
Hiking the Crescent Beach Trail in Ecola State Park definitely needs to be on your Oregon bucket list of ‘things to do’. It’s about an hour and 45-minute drive from Portland and a quick seven-minute drive from the center of Cannon Beach.
Since this hike is located in a state park, there is a fee to enter. Once you get to the parking lot, the trailhead is to the left of the bathrooms. I recommend you use the bathroom before heading out, as there isn’t many private places to go once you head out.
I’d rate this out-and-back hike easy to moderate. Much of the hike is in a lush forest area that tends to stay pretty damp, so I also recommend good hiking shoes, as it can be muddy. The views of the ocean and rock formations are remarkable from many viewpoints. Once you get to the beach, you’ll have much of it to yourself. There was only one other couple there when we were there.
If it’s low tide, you can even find caves! Be careful and don’t risk going to the caves if there’s a chance of a high tide to roll in. My last tip: Bring a picnic, and take in the beauty that surrounds you and the peaceful sounds of the crashing waves.
Jaems, Time Zone Travelers
20. Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach, Oregon
Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach is one of the most iconic landmarks in all of Oregon. The enormous rock formation, formed by lava flows some 17 million years ago, towers over the ocean just off this gorgeous and wide beach.
To truly explore Haystack Rock, visit Cannon Beach about an hour before low tide. (Check the low tide schedule here, since it’s always changing.) Then you can walk right up to this gigantic rock. Explore the tide pools that surround Haystack Rock, where you’ll find lime green sea anemones and bright sea stars. Look up at the rock to check out the many birds that use the rock as a home, including tufted puffins!
Even if you don’t go to Haystack Rock at low tide, you should definitely add it to your Oregon Bucket list. Cannon Beach is one of my favorite spots on the Oregon Coast because of its nearly four miles of beach, stretching from one end of town to the other. Any photo you take will have the unmistakable profile of Haystack Rock in the background. After all, at 235 feet tall, it’s hard to miss.
Catherine, To and Fro Fam
21. Tillamook Creamery (Cheese Factory)
A visit to the Tillamook Creamery is not only educational, but also very tasty. Watch the cheesemaking process then sample various types of cheeses. And don’t forget to also try their amazing and unique ice cream flavors. There is a dining hall, but after eating all the samples, you may not be hungry!
The Tillamook Creamery is a fun place to visit in Oregon with kids. They love posing in the Loaf Tour bus, and with the cow statues. You’ve been warned!
22. Tillamook Forest Center
The Tillamook Forest Center is right on Highway 6 as you make your way from Portland to the coast. You should definitely add this to your Oregon bucket list because stopping there during our vacation was one of the best decisions we made.
When we stopped, a group was getting ready to take a fairy garden tour. The volunteer tour guides (who were older kids) showed the children what materials they could find for building fairy houses, and how to collect them without damaging living plants.
After that they led the kids on a short hike, where they viewed fairy houses built by previous groups. Everyone in the group got to build their own fairy house along the trail as well. It was a magical experience, and a great way to stretch everyone’s legs for an hour.
23. Lincoln City Glass
When we were in Oregon, the most memorable stop for us was spending the afternoon working one-on-one with a glass artist at Lincoln City Glass Center. After choosing the project we wanted to work on, my daughter and I were each teamed with an artist who took us step-by-step through the process. We did about 85% of the work under his direction, but our professional partner would take over during the more dangerous or delicate portions.
We were working with very large, extremely hot ovens to repeatedly re-melt the glass, so I was all for him stepping in to help, and prevent me from mucking up my pretty bowl! The artists we worked with were friendly and seemed to enjoy talking about their art and answering our questions, so the process made for a fun and educational time, and some really cool photos.
When we were done, our pieces were put in a special storage area to cool for 48 hours. Since we were moving on in our journey, our works were mailed to us once they were completely cooled and could be ship. After we got home, our art souvenirs arrived safely and are a beautifully displayed memory of our trip. I recommend adding this stop to your Oregon bucket list – it’s a completely unique experience!
Megan, Wander Toes
24. Otter Rock Beach
Otter Rock Beach off Highway 101 can be easy to miss. It doesn’t seem like much at first glance, but this small beach is worth the stop.
Explore the tide pools, hunt for sea glass, build structures with driftwood, climb on rocks and more. Otter Rock Beach quickly became our favorite place to visit in Oregon.
25. Devil’s Punchbowl
From Otter Rock Beach you can access another Oregon attraction called Devil’s Punch Bowl. Plan to go at low tide so you can explore inside the punch bowl and the surrounding tide pools. The tide pools are incredible and home to many beautiful sea creatures.
This is a cool place to take kids. They can climb on the rocks in the punch bowl and along the access route.
If you visit at high tide, you can see the Devil’s Punchbowl from above. There’s a short trail along the cliff side to view the beaches below.
26. Thor’s Well
Oregon has always been one of my favorite states and for good reason. It has beautiful beaches, awesome lakes and rivers, and fun hikes through the forests.
One of our favorite spots along the coast is called “Thor’s Well”. It’s a large blowhole in the ocean that sets off every several minutes. It’s easy to find along the way, and even had a parking lot for all the visitors off the side of the road.
It’s just a pull over stop on your drive along the coast, so there is no fee to get there. It’s a great lookout spot and a perfect place to stretch your legs during your road trip. Definitely add Thor’s Well to your Oregon bucket list!
Sara, Our Kind of Crazy
27. Sea Lion Caves
During our west coast trip, we spent quite a bit of time along the Oregon coast, soaking in the sights and beautiful locations this state has to offer.
We checked off quite a few Oregon bucket list items, but one thing that definitely sticks out in my mind as a must-do is the Sea Lion Caves outside of Florence. This is America’s largest sea cave and definitely did not disappoint.
Check the website for the latest information about admission prices. Parking is free and if you’re traveling by RV like we were, there is plenty of RV parking as well.
To get down to the cave, just hop on the elevator and make the 208 feet decent down to this natural wonder. This is one of the few places along the west coast where the sea lion population is increasing, which gives you ample opportunities to see these amazing animals. We spent quite a bit of time watching the sea lions swim around, jump on the rocks and of course listen to them talking to each other.
After your visit to the cave, be sure to stroll along the walkway, take a picture with the statue and try to spot some of the many other animals that call this place home.