Exploring why Oregon is such a beloved state
About the author: Lily Rogers is a sixth-generation Oregonian, and has lived in Eugene, Portland, Bend, and Leaburg. She grew up hiking in forests, picking summer blueberries and marionberries, rafting the Rogue and McKenzie, drinking coffee in cozy local cafes, visiting the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and getting to know all the ways her unique home state is truly the best.
Oregon is a treasure trove, rich beyond measure in beautiful landscapes, delicious regional foods, talented locals, and general amazingness. Whenever you see the claim, “made in Oregon,” you know you’re in for quality. From richly flavored homegrown cuisine to quirky and unique tourist draws to not-to-be-missed annual events, this Pacific Northwest state bestows gift upon gift to locals and visitors. Comprising some of the most beautiful places on earth, including pristine cities and charming small towns, awe-inspiring natural wonders, and diverse landscapes–from desert to forest to beach—Oregon is a dream for visitors in search of adventure of every kind.
The following is an exploration of some of the best things Oregon has to offer, though it is by no means a complete list. Here, you’ll find top examples of the flavors, personalities, visual wonders, and vibes of this magical land. Oregon is a joy to behold, and should move to the top of your dream destinations. If you think we’re exaggerating, plan a visit and see for yourself.
PeopleIf there is one thing the people across Oregon have in common, it’s the creative spirit. Artists of every kind flock to the Beaver State for the abundant inspiration to be found all over, and homegrown genius is far from unheard of. Oregon’s talent has spread beyond its verdant borders, and though the number of famous people born in Oregon is too long to list, here are a few names you may recognize:
The funnyman and star of “Modern Family” was born in charming Grants Pass. Surrounded by landscapes begging to be explored, the southern Oregon town is an outdoor adventurer’s dream. Growing up in all that wide-open space, it’s no wonder Ty’s adept at elevating broad comedy to new heights.
This world-famous Olympic runner was born in Coos Bay; attended the University of Oregon, where he put Hayward Field on the map; and may be personally responsible for Oregon’s love of track sports.
People often associate the controversial musician with Olympia or Seattle, Washington, but Ms. Love grew up in Eugene and Portland, where she also began her career.
FoodOregon cuisine may not have always been in the national spotlight, but dishes like the famous fish sauce wings at Pok Pok or the sweet chili crab at Taylor Railworks brought to the fore what Oregonians have always known: when it comes to quality eating, they’ve been doing it right for centuries. If you’ve ever wondered what foods are made in Oregon, ask no more. The following samples merely whet the appetite, however, as there’s plenty more to taste. Do take note: these locally grown and produced products are used the world over, but are best served up close to home.
Tillamook Cheese and Ice Cream
The recipe that spawned their famous cheddar has been in Tillamook since 1894, and has only gotten better with age. Tillamook County Creamery Association is a collective of local farms, many of which have been family-run for multiple generations. Visit the cheese factory (the new visitor’s center opens summer 2018), and stay for the beauty of Tillamook County. Surfing, forest hiking, clamming, river kayaking—whatever your tastes, there is more to satisfy than just that dreamy cheese.
Marion blackberries (aka marionberries)
An Oregon creation, this blackberry hybrid is the star in the official state pie. Buy them fresh at farmers markets and stands all throughout summer, or try them any time of year with a jar of Oregon Hill jam or a slice of pie. Where to get the best is hotly contested, but top contenders are Sisters Bakery, Willamette Valley Pie Co., or Blue Raeven Farmstand. But really, IMHO, nothing beats mom’s.
This coffee roaster and retailer opened up shop in Portland in 1999, and has been expanding and bringing the goods to refined coffee palates ever since. Though acquired by an international company, the brand’s roots are strong in Oregon, taking its moniker from its home city’s nickname. During Portland’s original 1850s growth spurt, lumber was in such demand that stumps remained sprinkled throughout the city until the resources could be spared to remove them, hence, Stumptown.
Hazelnuts (aka filberts)
Hazelnuts are Oregon’s official state nut, and the state produces 99 percent of the supply in the U.S. Buy from the source at Oregon Orchard in Cornelius, where you can find fresh-off-the-farm hazelnuts expertly seasoned. Try hickory smoked, milk chocolate, and even marionberry.
This large crustacean loves chilly Pacific waters, and is a star on the West Coast. The Oregon shoreline is the best place to get it, especially Tony’s Crab Shack in Bandon. Before heading into the restaurant, stop at their Port O’Call, where you can gear up and catch your own. The restaurant will clean and prepare your catch for you, and it’s an immersive experience you’ll never forget.
EventsFood isn’t the only thing Oregon does right. While you can get your hands on delectable Oregon products from anywhere, you’ll have to step foot on hallowed soil to attend some of the best events in the country. As eclectic as the people, and with the same flair of creativity and individuality, Oregon events provide singular spaces you’ll never want to leave.
Oregon Country Fair
There is nothing more Oregon than the Oregon Country Fair. A beloved gathering in Veneta since 1969, its hippie roots are still the center of energy in this free-wheeling fairyland. The three days of food, hand-crafted goods, music, friendship, and spectacle are a magical time held dear by fair-goers. It’s something every peace-minded, earth-loving reveler should experience at least once.
If you’re less about the frolic and more about the rope and ride, Pendleton Round-Up is your event. This year marked its 107th, and thousands flock to town each September for parades, vendor booths, pageants and wild west shows, concerts, bull riding, and the grand rodeo. During this week-long celebration of all things western, Main Street Pendleton transforms into family-friendly festival central.
If Coachella crowds make you cringe, and you want to see a festival that’s truly about the music, set your sights on Pickathon. Staged in a leafy forest setting on a farm in Happy Valley, this unique 3-day event prides itself on sustainability as well as killer line-ups featuring artists such as Jeff Tweedy and Yo La Tengo. The 2018 celebration marks its 20th year, but it’s never too late to jump on the bandwagon! It’s just 15 miles outside Portland, so plan to be in the city as well; there is so much to do you might want to plan a long stay.
Oregon Shakespeare Festival
The love of theater is alive and well in Ashland, home to the award-winning Oregon Shakespeare Festival. An estimated 400,000 play-goers enjoy their pick of eleven productions throughout the February – November season. Since its first days in 1935, this repertory theater has put on every play penned by the Bard, as well as new and established plays and musicals. The 2018 season promises Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” and the musical “Oklahoma!”, in addition to “Othello,” “Henry V,” and “Romeo and Juliet.”
Famous sitesOregon has made people sit up and take notice in so many ways, and here are a few of the most talked about sites, notable for their unique qualities and recognizable fame, that have worked their magic on visitors.
What started out as a tiny hole-in-the-wall, 24-hour doughnut shop in Old Town Portland, Voodoo gained notoriety for their funky sensibility and unusual take on fried dough. Original flavors included NyQuil and Pepto, which added to their outside-the-box reputation. Inside their iconic pink box, you can still take away their classic inventions, such as the Bacon maple bar, and Cap’n Crunch-topped yeast doughnut.
Portland Airport carpet
Ah, the PDX carpet. What was once a curiously dated, bold, yet little thought of design detail reached cult status when it was announced that the airport would be replacing the distinctive carpet. People came out of the woodwork to champion their favorite PDX feature, the familiar geographic turquoise expanse that welcomed back travelers and signaled that they were, indeed, back on home turf. A few patches remain, the new carpet is growing on people, and the old pattern lives on in merch of every kind, from magnets to mousepads.
The Oregon Vortex
Open to the public since 1930, the vortex and adjacent Mystery House have been mystifying visitors within the spherical force field, where all manner of strange phenomena are seen and felt. The laws of perspective are skewed in ways that have to be experienced to be believed. Located in the quaint town of Gold Hill, this naturally occurring visual twister is well worth a stop.
When they say it’s the City of Books, the folks at Powell’s are not being hyperbolic. Taking up an entire city block in downtown Portland, this mammoth book shop houses rooms and rooms stacked so high with volumes of every genre, it might be more accurate to say it holds entire worlds in its walls.
“The Goonies” locations
For lovers of the beloved 1980s movie, “The Goonies”, Astoria will feel strangely familiar. Many of the scenes were filmed in this coastal town, and notable places to visit include the Clatsop County Jail, which holds Jake Fratelli in the first scenes. It’s now the Oregon Film Museum, where you can learn about other Oregon spots made famous in film. The Captain George Flavel House Museum is where Mikey’s dad worked, and the family house is still a private residence in town.
And now we come to the true star of the show: Oregon’s natural scenery. As photogenic as it gets, this majestic place wows with one splendid place after another. Every part of the state has beauty to offer, from desert pines in the east to Pacific sunsets in the west. The state is beset with hidden gems, but here are a few shining standouts.
The deepest lake in the U.S., Crater Lake is so named because it was formed in the crater of a collapsed volcano. Its clear blue waters and mountainous tree-lined shores make it one of the most photo-worthy spots in the country, and visitors can take it all in from the balconies of the charmingly woodsy lakeside lodge.
Speaking of lodges, the iconic Timberline on Mount Hood was used as the exterior of the Overlook Hotel in the film “The Shining.” Guests soon discover why views from Mount Hood are every bit as pretty as catching sight of the mountain from afar. Ski, hike, or just explore—the mountain is full of picturesque points. To capture it in full, head to Trillium Lake, where views of the mountain reflected in the water are the stuff of Bob Ross-level happiness.
Layers of multi-hued earth stretch out before you as you witness what 40 million years of changing ecosystems can do. Located near the central Oregon town of Mitchell, this area is full of short trails that offer different perspectives of the tan, red, gold, and black clay hills, and experts recommend late afternoon for the best photographic lighting.
When people think of the Oregon coast, odds are they picture Cannon Beach without knowing it. The super recognizable Haystack Rock at this seaside city has come to epitomize northwest beaches for many. Endlessly photographable, it’s often perfectly reflected in the wet sands or tides below, and also houses tide pools and bird colonies.
Though temporarily closed due to the Eagle Creek fires, this waterfall is a mandatory part of this list. Iconic and beloved, it is the most visited Oregon natural wonder and arguably the most beautiful waterfall in the Pacific Northwest. The lovely bridge near the base is the site of countless posed photos, and the historic lodge is all Oregon-made with Cascade stones and area timber. Firefighters worked tirelessly to save the structure, and hopefully soon visitors will be able to enjoy its loveliness again.
ProductsWe know Oregon’s got beauty and substance, but what about the goods? If you’re wondering what’s made in Oregon (aka what you’ll be bringing home from your trip) there is no shortage to choose from. For a one-stop-shop approach, you’ll find a little bit of everything at the aptly named Made in Oregon stores. There are seven locations around the state, as well as two in the Portland Airport for you last-minute shoppers.
When you talk about what products are made in Oregon, perhaps the most ubiquitous is Pendleton wool. Though its unmistakable goods are sold all over, the OG spot is Pendleton Woolen Mill in the town of Pendleton, though it’s now headquartered in Portland.
You’ll find this delicious gourmet condiment on restaurant tables all around the country, but don’t be fooled—it’s born and bred in Beaverton.
Refined palates will appreciate the love and care that goes into Jacobsen Salt Co. products. Hand-harvested in the perfectly situated Netarts Bay, the salt retains the flavor of its environs and reflects the right mix of clarity and salinity of water, as well as the inflow of rivers, streams, and other runoff. Buying options include various salts and spices as well as salt candies like caramels and licorice.
Of all the products in the land, Nike is certainly the A-lister in the room. Though manufactured elsewhere, Nike was born in Oregon, and remains at the famous Nike headquarters in Beaverton. Nike stores and factory outlets dot the state, and Nike Portland is a huge store and museum.
Wine, especially pinot noir
The Willamette Valley, most notably, but many other areas of the state are producing first-rate wines that have been capturing the attention of oenophiles everywhere. Oregon wine country is rife for exploring, but if you need a place to start, try St. Innocent Winery and David Hill Winery.
Have you been to Oregon? What are your favorite things?
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