Things to do in Oregon this summer

First published 1 August 2022

Summertime in Oregon

Summer in Oregon means floating on shimmering rivers, devouring triple scoops of ice cream in fresh waffle cones and sipping frosty pints of craft beer during rooftop concerts.

One of the best things about summer in Oregon is the weather. The state enjoys a temperate climate, which means you can enjoy all your favorite outdoor activities without having to worry about extreme heat or cold.

If you're looking for things to do in Oregon during the summer months, you won't be disappointed. From hiking and camping to fishing and rafting, there's plenty to keep you busy. But at the state’s most iconic sites, it can also mean crowds.

Go Car-Free to Oregon

Ride the rails and leave the car behind as you explore the vineyards, decadent farm-to-fork dinners and picturesque parks of the Willamette Valley during this three-day itinerary perfect for couples. Hop on and off the regional Amtrak Cascades line, and get ready for an excursion full of history, views and, of course, pinot.

We suggest a three-day trip on the Amtrak Cascades line, which will take you from Portland to Eugene to Albany to Salem and back home again. Plus, Amtrak lets you check your bike, too. Why not get a different perspective on traveling the valley by taking the entire trip car free?

Don’t have a plan? Well, you might not need one. Locals at each town will proudly provide ideas on what to do. Here’s a suggested itinerary:

Day One: Eugene

The Amtrak Cascades Eugene station is very close to downtown. Since Amtrak Cascades allows you to take your bike along, you can cycle to the Hotel Eugene, which, because of its central location, is an ideal place for train-riding bikers to spend the night.

From there, your options for exploring Oregon’s third-largest city are many.

  • First things first, you can book a charter to tour the wineries in the valley’s southern region. There are custom tour options that take you around the South Willamette Valley. This quieter stretch of wine country is home to less-trafficked but award-winning wineries and tasting rooms. A few favorite stops included King Estate Winery, Sarver Winery and Silvan Ridge.

  • Back in Eugene, head over to the famous and walkable Whiteaker neighborhood. The neighborhood has long been home to Eugene’s artists and activists — and you can tell. It’s filled with colorfully and imaginatively painted hostels and co-ops. Their residents might seem reclusive — virtually every window is blotted out with bookshelves or tapestries — but those communal homes are also mini performance spaces for public puppet shows.

  • At this point, a day of riding by train, bike and wine bus will probably have you a bit hungry — and, yes, thirsty. The Whiteaker area has plenty of spots for sipping and snacking. The legendary craft brewery Ninkasi Brewing Company has a taproom here. There is also a collection of craft breweries and urban wineries within walking distance. The dining scene impresses too: Grit serves four-course dinners that change weekly. Vegetarians and vegans flock to Pizza Research Institute.

  • One of the other culinary hot spots for dinner is: Marché, which is a quick bike ride from the Whiteaker neighborhood. Stephanie Pearl Kimmel’s restaurant is a dazzler, with an emphasis on seasonality. And if you’re a cocktail nerd like me, it’s also the place where the Godfather of Portland cocktails, Jeffrey Morgenthaler, got his start. In fact, Morgenthaler is on record as crediting Pearl Kimmel as the person who first really encouraged him to emphasize technique and method.

  • After dinner, head back to the hotel to take in a show at Eugene’s cultural hub, the Hult Center for the Performing Arts. It’s exactly 100 steps from the Hilton, and it has hosted performances as diverse as Hawaiian guitar festivals, operatic-ballet mash-ups and lectures by public radio personas like This American Life’s Ira Glass.

  • Still not done for the day? Take a walk over to Doc’s Pad Restaurant & Sports Lounge, an unpretentious sports bar right across the street from the Hult.

Day Two: Albany

Amtrak Cascades is a convenient and relaxing way to explore towns in Oregon without a car. On day two, jump back on the train in Eugene, and within a short time, you will already be in Albany, known for its historic architecture. The charming town seems small, but it’s unexpectedly Oregon’s 11th largest city, with a population of 50,000-plus.

  • Again, the train depot is convenient to town so you can walk from the train station through old neighborhoods with great architecture and find a number of great options to eat if you are hungry.

  • If you are caught in a summer shower or looking to escape the sun, the Albany Antique Mall is a 20,000-square-foot menagerie of antiques and collectibles. Want to buy Edison cylinders, Superman comic books, antique tools or World War II-era women’s clothes? Then this is the place. The mall even has an ancient moonshine still, a player piano and a horse-drawn carriage.

  • Don’t forget to visit the historic carousel which is a main attraction of Albany and visit the historic downtown shopping areas. The carousel is a lovingly restored 100-year-old ride, full of history and lovingly cared for by the artisans of Albany.

  • If you are lucky enough to visit during August, the Northwest Art & Air Festival is a must-attend event. Hot air balloons, visual arts and music and an experience you will remember forever.

  • There are many hotels in Albany and if you are a foodie, you are in the right place. For hotel accommodations, try out the bike-friendly Best Western Plus Prairie Inn or check out the other options on our website.

  • Dinner? Try Vault 244 who specializes, as many Pacific Northwest restaurants do, in seasonal fare, steaks and seafood. But Vault isn’t another cookie-cutter steakhouse; they do everything right. Try an old-fashioned and the top sirloin.

Day Three: Salem

Station to station, the Amtrak Cascades trip from Albany to the state’s capital city of Salem lasts about 30 minutes.

  • From the station, you can bike to the Grand Hotel, which is located right in the center of town. It’s a classy affair; classy in a way that’s all about making sure you’re well taken care of and have everything you need.

  • Salem is very walkable. The wide one-ways are lined with venues, shops, restaurants and bars, so you won’t have to go far to find something that grabs your interest. To fuel up, try the Taproot Lounge & Café, a crowd-funded cafe and music venue. The interior ambiance is bohemian and chill, populated with a colony of jade plants and booths that are immaculately hand-painted. Taproot is also close to the Willamette Heritage Center which is a campus of 14 historic structures with permanent and rotating exhibits.

  • A little-known fact about Salem is that it has a top-notch park system. After wandering around downtown, bike over to Bush’s Pasture Park, a 90-acre park located among the city’s tonier southeastern neighborhoods. If you want to blend in with the locals, this is the place. Everyone uses this fine greenspace. There are paved paths throughout for bikers and walkers, but it also has a gravel running path ringing its perimeter. You’ll find a slope for soapbox derby-ers, a rose garden, people playing football, people chasing Frisbees, seniors taking power walks and pet owners walking their pups.

  • The State Capitol is in Salem with its beautiful gardens and the opportunity to see this beautiful building. Check out the 23-foot, bronze pioneer statue atop the capitol, which represents the independent spirit of Oregonians. It can be seen from miles away.

  • After a day exploring Salem’s parks — and three days of biking — your choices of eateries is abundant. Cristo’s is an unfussy but solid pizza joint located across the street from the Salem cinema. So is Barrel & Keg, a beer and wine taphouse where you can snack on food prepared at on-site food carts. Right downtown is another favorite spot among locals, Archive Coffee & Bar, which stirs up some of the city’s finest drinks.

The next day, assuming you don’t want to extend your stay in the Willamette area, Amtrak Cascades can whisk you back to Portland in less than an hour.