Eugene is one of Oregon’s hidden treasures, and I was thrilled to get to go visit this funky little college town in the fall. My dad went to college here at the University of Oregon back in the 70s, so it was fun to check out his old stomping grounds.
This college town is located in the famous Willamette Valley and is right along the Willamette River. Home to famous landmarks, a vast majority of restaurants, bars, breweries, shopping, gardens, and parks, there truly is so much to do in Eugene.
You can visit any time of the year, but spring brings the best in the show for flowers and roses. In contrast, fall provides breathtaking foliage that you’ll see when biking through one of the town’s trails. There are activities for every traveler—whether you want to visit a museum, hike through the forested nature trails, or indulge in a day of wine tastings. I am sharing a roundup of fun and worthwhile things to do in Eugene, Oregon.
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Is Eugene, Oregon Worth Visiting?
Yes! Eugene, Oregon, is definitely worth visiting while on an Oregon road trip. I recommend adding Eugene to your itinerary if you’re going to go wine tasting in the Willamette Valley or want to have a weekend or day trip from Portland. Portland is only an hour and a half away!
It is a unique place because it still has small-town charm while also being surrounded by nature and beauty! Plus, it’s only 1 hour and 15 minutes from the Oregon Coast!
There are an assortment of gardens you can walk through, a bike trail along the river, hikes you can challenge yourself on, and museums you can get lost in. This small Oregon town has a fun food scene, countless wineries, and fun breweries for you to spend your day.
Here are my top picks of what you can do when visiting Eugene, Oregon!
What to Do in Eugene, Oregon
Bike the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Path System
This bike and walking path follows the Willamette River as it flows through Eugene. It’s also known as the Willamette River Trail, and you can get on the trail from many different points throughout Eugene to make your ride short or longer!
I recommend grabbing e-bikes from Pedego Eugene and riding along the river! You can book your e-bike ahead here. You’ll find different parks, bridges, child playgrounds, wildlife (mostly ducks), and the beautiful Owen Rose Garden—this is worth a stop.
While planning your trip, you can pack a picnic and enjoy it at Eugene’s largest developed park, Alton Baker Park. The 373-acre park has been around since 1959, and they have a BMX track, a sports field, a looped trail for walking or running, and even exercise stations. There is also a boat launch at the park for those looking to get out onto the water.
Walk Through the Owen Rose Garden
Have you ever wanted to marvel at more than 4,500 roses? If yes, head over to Owen Rose Garden. This serene park sits next to the Willamette River by the Washington Jefferson Street Bridge and you can get there from the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Path System.
Here you can walk the eight-and-a-half-acre park while snapping photographs with and of the beautiful roses. This park is beautiful, even in the fall when we went! Oh, and Owen Rose Garden is free to visitors.
In addition to the roses, you can also view the nationally recognized Oregon Heritage Cherry Tree.
Visit the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
Attention all art lovers, the Jordan Schnitzer Museum in Eugene is calling your name. The University of Oregon’s art museum opened its doors to the public in 1933. It was originally built to be the home to the Murray Warner Collection of Oriental Art, which has over 3,700 works of art.
Now there are tons of collections and exhibits to look at. Art collections include but are not limited to, Chinese, European, Japanese, Korean, Russian Icons, South & Southeast Asia and the Islamic World, and The Americas. The exhibits are constantly changing. The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of art is cheap to visit too, at only $5 per adult.
Grab Delicious Brunch and Dinner
Eugene has plenty of restaurants and food trucks for you to try but Lion and Owl is an especially unique one to point out! The restaurant literally has an airstream inside of it that serves up handcrafted cocktails.
If you want more of a picnic, grab some food at Provisions Market Hall at the 5th Street Marketplace. They have all sorts of unique culinary creations you can take with you.
For dinner, try Marche, located in the 5th Street Marketplace. It’s a farm-to-table, more upscale, french inspired restaurant. We ate here and it was yummy!
Go Wine Tasting in Eugene or the South Willamette Wine Trail
Wine and Oregon are a perfect match and Eugene showcases some of the best. Spend your day wine-tasting throughout the town of Eugene! Your first stop should be Terra Pacem in the 5th Street Public Market. This winery not only has delicious wine but they are also a working, learning, social community by and for people with disabilities. So you are drinking for a great cause!
After grabbing a glass there, head over to J Scott Cellar or Pfeiffer Winery. The food at this market is internationally ranging from Thai Spice to Northeast Burgers, so you could spend all of your time just at 5th Street Public Market, but I recommend venturing on.
End your day of tasting at Oregon Wine Lab. This urban winery has plenty of different wines for you to try. They have their own label which is called William Rose Wines and they showcase other local wineries. Don’t forget to try a glass of Pinot, Oregon’s most famous blend.
The South Willamette Valley Wine Trail is another great option since you’re in the area! You can spend a day with this highly-rated tour to spend 8 hours at some of the best wineries in the Willamette Valley! I’ve personally heard great things about Sarver Winery, Sweet Cheeks Winery, King Estate Winery, and Alesong Brewing (this is actually a brewery for wine lovers)!
Bike the Mckenzie River National Recreation Trail
The Mckenzie River National Recreation trail is rated one of the best biking trails in Oregon. It is 24.1 miles long with an elevation gain of 797 feet. The trail offers so much beauty, including two large waterfalls, a lava field, and a lush forest.
This trail is also a backpacker’s dream in Oregon if you are looking for overnight camping. The trail brings you to the remote Belknap Hot Springs which is located on the McKenzie River.
There are campgrounds, and restrooms along the way too! If backpacking is not your scene that is fine too! You can hike as much or as little of the trail as you would like.
Shop the Eugene Saturday Market
The Eugene Saturday Market kicks off on April 1st and lasts all summer long! This popular event is a favorite for both locals and visitors. Did I mention the market is also the Oldest Open-Air Crafts Market in the US?
First, you have to stop by the International Food Court to try some delicious food. The market hosts 15 different food vendors. Enjoy your dish while listening to live music from the local musicians. Next, visit the local vendors that sell art and handmade items. A perfect place to bring home a souvenir from Eugene!
The market is held downtown every Saturday seasonally, rain or shine, from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM at 8th Ave and Oak Street.
Kayak the Willamette River
Spend your day outdoors by renting a boat from Oregon Paddle Sports. They offer rafts, hard kayaks, Hobie kayaks, eddyline kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddle boards for you to rent.
Once you pick it up, you can take your board out on the Willamette River, which is 187 miles long. Here’s a beginner’s guide on kayaking the Willamette River! It has become a favorite area for water spot lovers in Oregon. Ask the shop owners for advice on the best spots in the area for entering the water or places for overnight kayaking trips.
Walk Between the Trees at Hendricks Park
Visit the oldest city park in Eugene, Hendricks Park. This is one of the local’s favorite spots to relax and unwind. Take a walk through the world-renowned Rhododendron Garden and spot wildflowers such as trilliums and irises. You will also see the 200-year-old Douglas fir trees!
While most flower lovers head to Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden in Portland, Owen Hendricks Park sometimes gets overlooked. But it shouldn’t be spectacular for garden lovers.
You can also hike here by taking on the northern terminus of the 12-mile Ridgeline Trail.
Explore the Museum of Natural and Cultural History
Want to learn all about the cultural history of Eugene and Oregon? Then visit the Museum of Natural and Cultural History. Their exhibit of “Oregon Where Past is Present” teaches you Oregon’s story, from the archaeology of the first Americans to the cultures of today’s tribes.
They also have plenty of artifacts, a paleontological collection, geology collections and so much more. The collection features numerous bird specimens such as skins, skulls, mounted specimens, eggs, and nests.
Admission to the Museum is an affordable $6.
Brewery Hop Through Eugene
Oregon is not only known for its wine country but also for its beer scene. Brewery hop during your trip to Euege by visiting some of my favorite spots. Claim 52 Brewing is a local hot spot that has outdoor seating on its patio. Their tap list consists of pilsners, pale ales, and more.
Next up is Alesong Brewery. They are a one-of-a-kind artisan brewery that crafts exclusively barrel-aged beer. The taproom is surrounded by trees and wildlife, making it a special place to enjoy a beer. They have a variety of beers, from tart to fruit, malty and more!
A few other recommendations are The Better Living Room by Ninkasi Brewing, Hop Valley Brewing Co, and ColdFire Brewing Company.
Visit the University of Oregon Campus and Appreciate the Iconic Hayward Field
Eugene is home to the famous campus, the University of Oregon! Did you know that this is where the late 70s movie, National Lampoons “Animal House” was filmed? It’s fun to take a walk to see the large Fraternity and Sorority houses in this area!
The U of O also does campus tours if you’re into seeing more of campus from an expert. Schedule your visit here.
You can also visit the famous Hayward Field. Hayward Field hosted the US Olympic Trials in the early 70s, so it’s got some history! During the trials, three men from Oregon advanced to the Olympics in Munich.
Today the field is used as a world-class track and field facility. You can visit the field that sits on the University of Oregon campus by taking a guided tour of the campus or a self-guided one. You may even spot some athletes practicing their track skills.
Visit Skinner Butte Park and the Shelton McMurphey Johnson House
Skinner Butte Park is a popular hilltop park with trails, climbing areas, a playground, and sweeping city and mountain views over Eugene! Many people rock climb along the rock columns along the edge of the butte.
The Shelton McMurphey Johnson House dates back to 1887 and backs up to Skinner Butte and got the nickname “Castle on the Hill.” It’s a Victorian-style mansion that’s registered on the National Register of Historic Places! You can tour the grounds and the mansion to see the museum’s antiques and decor on a guided or self-guided tour! Entry is $6 per person.
Take a Day Trip to the Oregon Coast: Yachats and Florence
Eugene is only 1 hour and 15 minutes away from the Oregon Coast, so it’s worth heading over if you have the chance. I recommend visiting Florence, Yachats, and/or the sand dunes!
On your way you can stop to see America’s Largest Sea Cave to see the sea lions, Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve, the Heceta Lighthouse, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, along with Florence and Yachats! Here’s a highly-rated tour that takes you to do most of these activities from Eugene.
Take a Nature Walk at Mount Pisgah Arboretum
Lace up your hiking boots and visit Mount Pisgah Arboretum, the 209-acre nature education facility. There are plenty of things to do here for outdoor lovers! You can enjoy one of their Nature Walks or Workshops, which will help you learn all about the area of Willamette Valley.
If you want to take a self-guided hike, check out the Riverbank Trail. Enjoy the extended 1.5-mile loop walk which will bring you all around the Arboretum. There is no better way to spend your day than being in the middle of nature, nestled in the trees of Oregon. No entry fee is required to enter the Arboretum, but there is a $5 parking fee.
See a Show at Hult Center for the Performing Arts
Spend your evening enjoying a show at Hult Center for the Performing Arts. The center has been open since 1982 and they have been providing entertainment to Eugene ever since. Some events they offer are Comedy Shows, Ballet, Orchestra and so much more. The shows are performed by both local performing artists, as well as big named artists.
Check their event schedule when visiting Eugene.
Hike the Spencer Butte Trail
If you are looking for a workout in Spencer Butte Park then hike the Spencer Butte Trail. The loop trail is rated as moderate and is 1.7 miles long with an elevation gain of 741 feet. The Spencer Butte Summit can become very crowded on the weekend. It is no surprise since the mountain is 2,058 feet high and provides breathtaking views of the area.
The hike has lots of stairs but can be done by most hikers. I recommend going for sunset for spectacular views. If you do, make sure to pack a headlight for the trek down!
View Raptors at the Cascades Raptor Center
Visit Eugene’s beloved animal sanctuary, Cascades Raptor Center. They are home to 40 raptors, which are mostly native to the Pacific Northwest. You can enjoy an outdoor self-guided tour which will bring you along the path to see the birds. The walk takes anywhere from 45 minutes to one hour.
You can even sign up for their On-Site Program. This includes a customized 30-minute presentation with 1 resident raptor and their trainer. Admission is $12 per adult to do the self-guided tour or the On-Site Program. It is recommended to get there early as parking on-site is limited.
Where to Stay in Eugene, Oregon
There are numerous places to stay when visiting Eugene. From chic hotels to quirky AirB&Bs, here are my top three picks!
The Gordon Hotel
Spend your night admiring the decor of the art-centric Gordon Hotel. Located right in downtown Eugene, this hotel is built for art lovers. They even have an Art Bar where you can create art yourself. Have a craft beer, glass of wine, or a cocktail, all available right in the lobby. You will even be greeted with a welcome cocktail upon arrival.
When you are ready to catch some rest, cozy up in one of their spacious rooms. The rooms offer a free snack bar, so go crazy if you want!
This hotel is located on 6th Ave and is just steps from the Hult Center. So if you are catching a show during your time in Eugene this hotel has a prime location. Their hotel rooms are fun and quirky as they mirror the Green & Greek Life.
Play a round of golf in their Topgolf Swing Suite or bike through the town on their complimentary bicycles!
The list would not be complete without showcasing the Eugene Dome! This weird and exhilarating AirB&B is literally a dome that is surrounded by trees right off of Loraine Highway. You will get private access to the rolling hills behind the property.
If you are traveling with more than one person there is a queen-sized air mattress as well as another bed in the other room. The kitchen is perfect for cooking your own meals with a full-sized oven, stove, mini fridge, and more.
Oh, and did I mention there is a private hot tub on the property for you to use? This little gem literally has everything, and for $167 a night, it is a steal to live like a hobbit for the evening!
As you can see, Eugene is a quirky little town, nestled in the hills of Oregon! You can also check out my guides on Things to Do in Bend Oregon on Your Next Weekend Trip and Fun Things to Do in Portland, Oregon if you want to extend your trip!
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