7 Best Things to Do in Pendleton, Oregon

Pendleton, Oregon

John Elk / Getty Images

Roughly three hours from Portland in Oregon (or 4.5 hours from Seattle next door in Washington State), Pendleton is one of the Northwest's premier cowboy towns, filled with fun things to do and interesting things to see and learn about. Visitors to Pendleton will enjoy a taste of the American West—its mythology and its reality, both past and present.

Situated along Interstate 84, Pendleton is known for a few reasons. Its historic downtown core is small yet mighty, offering plenty of shops and galleries to check out. ​It's the home of the famous Pendleton Round-Up, a huge and beloved long-running rodeo, and is located near the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. In fact, the Umatilla River runs right through town. Here's how to make the most of your time in this interesting locale and why it's worth a visit.

01 of 07

Take the Family to the Children's Museum of East Oregon

Children's Museum of Eastern Oregon

Children's Museum of Eastern Oregon

400 S Main St, Pendleton, OR 97801, USA
Phone +1 541-276-1066

If you happen to be traveling with little ones, make time to visit the Children's Museum of East Oregon, a great place to let the kids blow off some steam and learn a little something along the way.

Don't miss permanent exhibits like Big John's Pizza—where they can pretend to run a pizzeria—the fire station, the Build It! station, STEM Alley, and the toddler zone, created especially for the museum's youngest guests. There's also an art studio, a mock grocery store, and several exhibits featuring magnets, puzzles, games, and books.

02 of 07

Learn and Dine at the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute

Photo of Tamastslikt Cultural Institute in Pendleton, OR

TripSavvy / Angela M Brown

47106 Wildhorse Blvd, Pendleton, OR 97801, USA
Phone +1 541-429-7700

A visit to the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute provides an excellent opportunity to learn about the culture and traditions of the region's Indigenous groups, including the Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla peoples, who have lived in the area for more than 10,000 years.

The museum's permanent exhibits are organized to look not only at the American Indian peoples' past, but the present and the future—its structure tells quite a compelling story. In addition to the permanent exhibits, the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute also hosts changing displays and other cultural events. During your visit, be sure to check out the well-stocked gift shop or take a lunch break at the Kinship Cafe.

03 of 07

Visit the Iconic Pendleton Woolen Mills

Pendleton Woolen Mills

John Elk / Getty Images

8500 SE McLoughlin Blvd, Portland, OR 97222, USA
Phone +1 503-535-5786

The colorful blankets and woolen fabrics produced at 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.

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.

04 of 07

Explore Downtown Pendleton and Local Events

Photo of Bareback Bronc Riding at the Pendleton Round Up

Bob Pool / Getty Images

1205 SW Court Ave, Pendleton, OR 97801-1964, USA
Phone +1 541-276-2553

Make no mistake, Pendleton is not a large city, and yet wandering its compact downtown is always a fun way to spend a morning or kill some time in the afternoon. Many of the shops offer a nod toward the area's Western heritage, and you'll find plenty of art galleries and restaurants to keep you busy.

Many people visit Pendleton for one of its popular events and festivals, and there are lots of them to choose from, including the Blue Mountain Community College Arts & Culture Festival, typically held each year in April, the Umatilla County Historical Society Old Iron Show, usually held in June, the world-famous Pendleton Round-Up, which typically takes place in September (we'll get into that more a bit later), and Oktoberfest Pendleton, held each year in October to celebrate the area's rich German heritage.​

Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07

Explore the Pendleton Round-Up & Happy Canyon Hall of Fame

Pendleton Round-Up and Happy Canyon Hall of Fame

Pendleton Round-Up and Happy Canyon Hall of Fame

1114 SW Court Ave, Pendleton, OR 97801, USA
Phone +1 541-278-0815

While the world-famous Pendleton Round-Up and its companion events take place every September, you can still experience the grand rodeo all year long 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 100+ year history to life. During your visit, you'll have a chance to learn all 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.

06 of 07

Get Wild at McKay Creek National Wildlife Refuge

McKay Creek National Wildlife Refuge

McKay Creek National Wildlife Refuge

Pendleton, OR 97801, USA

Encompassing the McKay Reservoir just south of Pendleton, the McKay Creek National Wildlife Refuge provides land and water habitats for creatures great and small, including osprey, pheasants, quail, and deer, among the many examples of wildlife you might be able to spot depending on what time of year you're visiting. Fishing, boating, and bicycling are also popular recreation opportunities within the refuge.

07 of 07

Learn About the Past at the Heritage Station Museum

Heritage Station Museum

Heritage Station Museum

108 SW Frazer Ave, Pendleton, OR 97801-2138, USA
Phone +1 541-276-0012

With ever-changing exhibits, the Heritage Station Museum, brought to you by the Umatilla County Historical Society offers visitors a look at the area's rich local history.

Located inside the 1909 Pendleton railroad depot, an important piece of history in 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 larger artifacts located throughout the museum grounds, which include an old one-room schoolhouse, a caboose, and a vintage fire engine. A trip to this place is one of the best ways to really delve into the local history in this part of the state.

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7 Best Things to Do in Pendleton, Oregon