The Best Attractions in Oregon

No matter what time of year you plan your trip to Oregon, you're sure to find a wealth of fun things to see and do in this northwest state. With its rugged Pacific coastline, mountain playgrounds, wild rivers, artisanal food and drink, colorful culture, and significant history, Oregon is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts, art lovers, and adventurers of all ages.

Oregon's rich geography—which also features high deserts, volcanic landscapes, rocky canyons, and vast wetlands—natural wonders, and color past provide interesting attractions for you to visit and explore on your vacation this year, especially in the summer months when roads are cleared but there may still be snow high on the mountains.

From driving down the historic Columbia River Highway checking out the Oregon Zoo or Discovery Museum in Portland's famous Washington Park, there are plenty of attractions all over the state for you and your family to enjoy.

01 of 10

Tour the Historic Columbia River Highway

Loops in the Old Columbia Gorge Highway
Bob Pool/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images
Historic Columbia River Hwy, Oregon, USA

The first section of the scenic Columbia River Highway, which ran between Portland and The Dalles, originally opened in 1915. One of the first American highways designed specifically for scenic touring, its final 350-mile length (from Astoria to Pendleton) was finished in 1921.

A section of this historic highway has been preserved, with portions still available to automobiles along US Highway 30, and other portions open to bikers and hikers. The western drivable section, which runs from Troutdale to Multnomah Falls, is a fabulous Oregon attraction and should not be missed. You'll want to stop often along the way to check out scenic viewpoints, hike to and around grand waterfalls, and take in the beauty of the Columbia River Gorge.

02 of 10

Marvel at Crater Lake National Park

Close Up of Snowcapped Wizard Island in Crater Lake, Oregon
Lingxiao Xie / Getty Images
Oregon, USA
+1 541-594-3000

Located in southern Oregon, Crater Lake is a wonder both for its beauty and its natural history. The lake fills a volcanic caldera, formed when Mount Mazama erupted over 7,500 years ago. Visitors marvel at Crater Lake's amazing clarity and brilliant blue color, and a scenic drive circles the rim of the caldera with dramatic overlooks, picnic sites, visitor centers, and other attractions along the way. Hiking trails or a boat tour are other popular ways to enjoy the beauty of Crater Lake National Park.

03 of 10

Catch a Show at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Elizabethan Theatre
Amy Richard/Oregon Shakespeare Festival/Wikimedia Commons
15 S Pioneer St, Ashland, OR 97520-2749, USA
+1 541-482-2111

The world-famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which runs from mid-February to October each year, takes place in the charming town of Ashland. You'll have the opportunity to take in both classic and contemporary plays at Ashland's various venues, and backstage tours, lectures, informal talks, and workshops and classes are available for Shakespeare lovers as well.

While in Ashland, you'll also be able to enjoy great local dining, shopping, and parks as well as year-round recreation among Southern Oregon's mountains, rivers, and lakes.

04 of 10

Drive Down Cascade Lakes Highway

Cascade Lakes, Oregon 97413, USA

Designated as both an American Scenic Byway and an Oregon Scenic Byway, this 66-mile driving tour takes you through volcanic landscapes, into the mountains, and around lakes and rivers. The route begins in Bend, Oregon, and heads west around Mount Bachelor, then south past lakes large and small. You'll find plenty of places to stop for a hike, a paddle, some fishing, a picnic, or to just sit and absorb the gorgeous scenery.

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05 of 10

Retrace Footsteps at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park

Replica of Fort Clatsop
Angela M. Brown
92345 Fort Clatsop Rd, Astoria, OR 97103-8701, USA
+1 503-861-2471

The Lewis and Clark National Historical Park is comprised of 12 different units in the states of Oregon and Washington. The Fort Clatsop Visitor Center is the major Oregon site to check out, and the Lewis and Clark National Historical Park Interpretive Center is in Cape Disappointment State Park across the river in Washington.

There are a number of fun things to do at the Fort Clatsop site, and you'll definitely want to spend time in the visitor center checking out the informative exhibits, great films, and quality bookstore before you explore the rest of the park, including the reproduced Fort Clatsop and nature trails to sites of note from Lewis and Clark's famous expedition.

06 of 10

Learn and Play at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center

National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker City OR
Angela M. Brown
22267 OR-86, Baker City, OR 97814, USA
+1 541-523-1843

The story of the incredible effort and hardships of the people that blazed the Oregon Trail is one of America's greatest tales, and the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center brings that journey to life. 

Located at a key site along the actual route, where wagon trains first glimpsed the Blue Mountains, there are plenty of things to do inside the center including informative exhibits, artifacts, multimedia presentations, and fabulous views. Outside you can get your own taste of life on the Oregon Trail through living history demonstrations, covered wagon exhibits, and by hiking the four-plus miles of interpretive trails.

07 of 10

Witness History at Astoria Column

USA, Oregon, Astoria, tower
Gary Weathers / Getty Images
1 Coxcomb Dr, Astoria, OR 97103, USA
+1 503-325-2963

Completed in 1926, the Astoria Column commemorates the city's significant role in the history of America. The murals that wind up and around the column depict such important events as the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the destruction of the ship "Tonquin," the first Astorians, and the arrival of the railroad. A spiral staircase inside the column takes adventurous visitors to a viewing platform at the top. Whether you take that climb or not, you'll enjoy outstanding views of the town of Astoria, the mouth of the great Columbia River, and nearby lakes, rivers, and mountains.

08 of 10

Wander Through the Columbia River Maritime Museum

Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria Oregon
Angela M. Brown
1792 Marine Dr, Astoria, OR 97103, USA
+1 503-325-2323

Yet another Astoria attraction to make this list, the Columbia River Maritime Museum offers indoor and outdoor exhibits covering a wide range of topics relevant to the Northwest's maritime past and present. Early European exploration, the fishing industry, Coast Guard activity and vessels, and lighthouses are all included in the exhibits, and considerable attention is paid to the Columbia River itself, including its many hazards.

Continue to 9 of 10 below.
09 of 10

Blast Off at the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum

500 NE Captain Michael King Smith Way, McMinnville, OR 97128, USA
+1 503-434-4185

The Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum is actually a complex of indoor and outdoor attractions and activities, perfect for space-enthusiasts of all ages.

The Space Museum building houses such artifacts as missiles, rockets and rocket boosters, a Mercury Space Capsule, replicas of the Apollo Command Module and Lunar Module, and satellites. Aircraft and related hardware can be found inside and outside the Aviation building, where the huge wooden Spruce Goose looms over artifacts and displays covering general and military aviation.

Another building houses Evergreen's very large IMAX theater, and the aviation-themed Evergreen Wings & Waves Waterpark, which opened in 2011, is yet another family-friendly attraction on the site.

10 of 10

Get Wild at Washington Park in Portland

Zoo Train Station for the Washington Park and Zoo Railway
Angela M. Brown
4001 SW Canyon Rd, Portland, OR 97221-2705, USA
+1 503-226-1561

Portland's Washington Park is a hub of interesting and family-friendly attractions, including the Oregon Zoo, the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum, the Portland International Rose Test Garden, the Portland Japanese Garden, the Portland Children's Museum, and the Hoyt Arboretum.

You can spend an entire day or more exploring these attractions, as well as Washington Park's hiking trails, playgrounds, and other open spaces. If you're staying in Portland, this attraction is a must-see—plus you can knock out multiple attractions in one stop!

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The Best Attractions in Oregon