What Willamette We Do?
May 12, 2021 4:46 PM   Subscribe

We are in the midst of planning a trip to the PNW. We have a few days in OR for which we have neither plans nor lodging. Suggestions?

We will be entering Oregon on Thursday, June 24th and staying one night in Astoria, one in Coos Bay, and then two nights with relatives outside of Eugene until the 27th. We will be staying in Portland on the night of June 30th-July 2nd before catching the train back to Minnesota.

So we need some suggestions for places to stay on Monday, June 28th and Tuesday, June 29th. We'd also be happy to hear suggestions of things to do on that Mon-Tues-Wed, keeping in mind that we want to wind up in Portland on Wednesday night.

Two items at the top of our list are Silver Falls State Park, and checking off a visit to the state capitol in Salem, but otherwise it's pretty uncharted. Our ideal would be a cool town or city that would give us the option to drive back to the coast for a day trip if we want, or do some hiking, or hit some touristy spots, or just chill in a walkable/bikeable community, depending on how we feel at that time.

Things we like: hiking, being outdoors, touring neat architectural, cultural, and/or historical stuff, vegetarian restaurants, bookstores.

Things we don't care much about: alcohol, sports (other than the Twins, who we will be seeing in Seattle), boats, fancy shopping, nightlife, or fine dining. We're not bringing our camping gear or our bikes with us on this trip.

So we're kind of looking for a place to stay/stuff to do between Eugene and Portland. We're hoping that someone with more knowledge can give us a better comparison of the relative merits of Eugene, Corvallis, Albany, Salem, and the districts therein, or some small town we're not even aware of.
posted by Gray Duck to Travel & Transportation around Oregon (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have a specific destination in mind in Coos Bay? If not, I'd stay a little further north, like Florence or Yachats. That's a long drive from Astoria either way; not much need to head all the way to Coos Bay unless you're visiting someone.

From Eugene, you could add a few night's stay somewhere in the Willamette Valley. There's the Grand Lodge in Forest Grove or the Oregon Garden Resort in Silverton. Either of those is an easy jump to Portland.

If you wanted to see a different part of the state, Bend/Central Oregon is also do-able, and will be about a 2.5 hour drive from Eugene, and about 3 hours from Bend to Portland. It's high-desert and is near Smith Rock and so much other amazing hiking. It's a great town to chill in (but not easy access to the coast).
posted by hydra77 at 5:07 PM on May 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

The Cascades Raptor Center near Eugene is lovely. If I remember right, across from it is a park with some nice walks.
posted by humbug at 5:11 PM on May 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

touring neat architectural, cultural, and/or historical stuff, vegetarian restaurants, bookstores
Is there a reason you're not spending more time in Portland then? Or have you already spent a lot of time in Portland otherwise? If not: Portland has lots of neighborhoods that can feel like small towns, and you might have fun exploring them. You can go for a nice long walk in Forest Park and spend tons of time outside and doing all of these things. Many of our neighborhoods are walkable and bikeable, and you can use the ebike share program, Biketown.

Corvallis is a college town with that vibe. I'm not sure it would be worth a special trip. If you want to head back out to the coast, Newport has some charm. I suppose you could visit Oregon City along the way to Portland.

But really I'd say to leave Eugene and go to Silver Falls and then maybe stay in Silverton on Monday night. You can go to the Oregon Gardens the next day and then drive to Oregon City or Portland.

Bend is great, but you're already jamming in quite a bit in a few days.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:13 PM on May 12, 2021

Hood River / Mount Hood, depending on how you feel about that much driving? Can hike, Timberline Lodge is lovely, Hood River has a lot of breweries, but is walkable and there are other shops and restaurants. If you aren't feeling the mountain both days, you can drive a bit further east to the dry side of Oregon/Washington and hike near The Dalles.

The Columbia Gorge is also beautiful and you'd pass through it on the way to Portland from Hood River. Some hiking (limited by recent fires in the area), waterfalls, WPA-era Vista House, historic scenic highway. Bonneville Dam is currently closed to tours but is worth a quick stop if open.

I also think you'd be happy just driving up the coast on 101 and stopping when you see something interesting or want to walk on the beach. Cannon Beach has great tidepools (and the Goonies rock) and a cute touristy area to walk around, Newport has the aquarium and a lighthouse with a cobbled beach nearby, but I'm not sure how open either of those will be in a month-ish. Cape Perpetua Scenic area is near Yachats and it's beautiful. Tillamook has the eponymous cheese factory, which is a fun tour, and you can see the Octopus Tree (a giant sitka spruce shaped like a candelabra) and lighthouse.

I wouldn't recommend Corvallis. It's fine but you have better options.
posted by momus_window at 5:34 PM on May 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Do check out the Bend/Mount Batchelor area. My parents owned property in Sun River for years, and its a great place for family biking. The Oregon high desert is amazing country (and you can see the last remaining Blockbuster Video store while you're there).
posted by lhauser at 6:06 PM on May 12, 2021

The McMenamins hotels are fun, especially if overnighting in transit. The buildings have lots of personality, the crew is friendly, and it's nice to have a good meal on arrival and in the morning. They have a cute scavenger hunt "Passport" program too.
posted by dum spiro spero at 7:08 PM on May 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

I'd do Bend or somewhere in The Gorge whether that is Hood River or Skamania/etc.

The gorge is why we moved to Portland, and Bend is just great high desert and very walkable and easy drive to Crater Lake/etc.
posted by iamabot at 8:02 PM on May 12, 2021

I think Silverton is probably your best bet for an interesting stay in the Willamette Valley. It's a pretty cute little town and the Oregon Gardens are nearby, which has the only Frank Lloyd Wright house in Oregon on its grounds. But otherwise, the mid-valley is basically the fly-over country of Oregon. Not really a lot to do, mostly just agriculture and suburbs.

If you can adjust your schedule you might have more fun staying in Hood River (or staying longer in Portland) and exploring the Columbia Gorge/Mt. Hood area. Amazingly scenic and the best hikes in the state. Hood River has a quaint, walkable downtown with lots of touristy boutiques as well.
posted by TurnKey at 8:37 PM on May 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

Columbia Gorge/Hood River & Mt. Hood. A minimum of a visit to Multnomah Falls, if you like waterfalls.
posted by stormyteal at 11:13 PM on May 12, 2021

Silver Falls is super pretty so I'd say it's worth at least a day trip there; the main Trail of Ten Falls trail can get a bit busy especially around South Falls which is right next to the day use area, but there are plenty of trails there aside from that.
posted by Aleyn at 11:46 PM on May 12, 2021

There are some cool places between Eugene and Portland. Mt. Angel Abbey has an awesome library designed by Aalto, a really cool and quirky and tiny natural history museum, a beautiful cathedral and amazing views of the valley. Down the hill in town there's a glockenspiel that plays several times a day. There's a Frank Lloyd Wright house in Silverton that you may (or may not, I'm not sure) be able to tour near Oregon Gardens.

If you spend any time in Salem, there's a really cool mill, museum and operational textile center at the Willamette Heritage Center.

Not exactly directly related to your main questions, but the Astoria area includes some of the region's most interesting historical sites, including Fort Stevens, Lewis and Clark National Historical Park and the Columbia River Maritime Museum. Spending much time here would probably mean changing some travel plans, though.
posted by vverse23 at 11:22 AM on May 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

You've got the coast and the Willamette Valley covered; on the 28th and 29th, I'd see Crater Lake and the Cascades, the Bend area. Tumalo Falls State Park is awesome, as is Smith Rocks.
posted by at at 11:51 AM on May 13, 2021

touring neat architectural, cultural, and/or historical stuff,
The Mount Angel Abbey, a Benedictine monastery near Salem, has a fascinating museum of local curiosities.

The last time we were there, we found the keeper of the museum was great to talk to, he had a real interesting path into monastic life. We felt very welcome there and got zero sideeye for not being Catholic, or even Christian. I will say that the gift shop has nothing that tempted me, it was all hypercatholic stuff.

Their website is https://www.mountangelabbey.org/ As you'd expect they have a disclaimer about covid impacting their operations, so call them before you show up.
posted by Sauce Trough at 12:34 PM on May 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

It's not directly between Eugene and Portland, but I'd recommend you use your time in the Columbia River Gorge. The Willamette Valley is nice but pretty same-y and you'll have done the coast, so I would try to do some exploration of both the Mt Hood area and the Gorge more generally. Hood River would be a good jumping-off point for both of those things, and there is tons of great hiking and plenty of interesting history in that region. (And if you want to visit the high desert on the other side of the Cascades, just head a bit further East in the Gorge.) I have nothing against the Salem/Albany/Corvallis area, but if you are already spending two days in and around Eugene I think your time would be better spent elsewhere.
posted by lhputtgrass at 2:31 PM on May 13, 2021

Call a Metafilter meetup in Portland!
posted by bendy at 5:39 AM on May 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

If you take I5 from Eugene to Portland, you will pass pretty close to the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. I've been there twice over the years and found it to be a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.
posted by metadave at 7:19 AM on May 14, 2021

A few things came to mind as I was thinking about your post recently.

First, Silver Falls can get very crowded on a nice day, so I'd recommend going as early in the day as you can. The last time we were there, the trail to the falls was as congested and slow as a line at Disneyland, and that's not at all an exaggeration.

Second, there's a little town called Aurora between Salem and Portland that was founded by a utopian religious sect in the 1850s, and many of the original colony buildings are still there at the museum. The town of Aurora itself has a bunch of antique stores, including one of my favorite antique and salvage stores in the state, Aurora Mills. If you're into that sort of thing.

About 20 miles north of there is Oregon City, which is often overlooked being so close to Portland, but which has some great historic museums, buildings and districts, including the only municipal elevator in the U.S.
posted by vverse23 at 8:24 PM on May 18, 2021

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