Pendleton, Oregon, is one of the Northwest's premier cowboy towns, filled with fun things to do and interesting things to see. Visitors to Pendleton will enjoy a taste of the American West, its mythology and its reality, both past and present.
Located along Interstate 84, Pendleton is known for a few reasons. Its historic downtown core is small yet mighty, with shops and galleries to explore. It's the home of the famous Pendleton Round-Up, a huge and long-running rodeo and it is near the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. In fact, the Umatilla River runs right through town.
Read on for some of the best things to do in Pendleton!
The colorful blankets and woolen fabrics produced at the Pendleton Woolen Mills are an icon of the American West and prized heirlooms in many families. Sheep and wool production has thrived in Eastern Oregon for well over a century, so it's no surprise that Pendleton became the base for the creation of these all-American textiles. Weekday visitors to Pendleton's retail store can enjoy a free tour of the attached mill, where you'll see wool transformed into thread and then woven into blankets and fabrics. While weekend visitors will miss out on the mill tour, the Pendleton retail store is open seven days a week, providing the opportunity to view some historic exhibits and browse the abundance of colorful clothing and blankets.
Explore Downtown Pendleton and Local Events
Make no mistake, Pendleton is not a large city, and yet wandering its compact downtown is always good for a morning or afternoon. Many of the shops nod toward the area's Western heritage, and you'll find art galleries and restaurants. Many visit Pendleton for an event, and there are plenty to choose from. Popular Pendleton events and festivals include the BMCC Arts & Culture Festival (April), Old Iron Show (June), Pendleton Round-Up (September) and Oktoberfest Pendleton (October).
A visit to the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute provides an excellent opportunity to learn about the culture and traditions of the region's Native people, who include the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla tribes. The museum's permanent exhibits are organized to look not only at the Tribes' past, but the present and the future. The exhibit structure tells a compelling story. In addition to these permanent exhibits, the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute hosts changing exhibits and events. During your visit, be sure to check out the well-stocked gift shop or take a lunch break at the Kinship Cafe.
The Pendleton Round-Up and its companion events take place every September, but you can experience the grand rodeo all year round at this museum. The Pendleton Round-Up & Happy Canyon Hall of Fame, located next to the rodeo grounds, is packed with historic artifacts and photographs that bring the Round-Up's long history to life. During your visit, you'll learn about the men, women and livestock that have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Items on display include saddles, firearms, clothing, vehicles, wagons, beadwork and trophies.
Encompassing the McKay Reservoir just south of Pendleton, this national wildlife refuge provides land and water habitat for creatures large and small. Osprey, pheasant, quail and deer are among the wildlife you might view at different times of the year. Fishing, boating and bicycling are popular recreation opportunities within the refuge.
With ever-changing exhibits, this museum of the Umatilla County Historical Society illuminates local history. Located in the 1909 Pendleton railroad depot - an important piece of history itself - the Heritage Station Museum is packed with interesting artifacts that combine to tell the story of a time or a culture. Be sure to visit the interesting artifacts around the museum grounds, which include an old one-room schoolhouse, a caboose and a vintage fire engine. This is one of the best ways to really delve into the local history.
The Wildhorse resort complex includes a hotel, RV park, fine and casual dining, a five-screen movie theater, and a golf course. The casino itself has more than 1,200 slots, as well as table games from poker to roulette to craps. The casino also hosts weekly poker tournaments, has a lineup of live entertainment and events, and several restaurants to choose from.