Odyssey in Oregon

By Jennifer Hartley

This enchanting state sometimes gets overlooked.  It shouldn’t. Volcanoes that dominate the skyline, stunning coastline with distinctive, soothing, salty sea air, divine cuisine thanks to a robust agriculture industry and a legendarily quirky, chill attitude make Oregon a magnificent, rejuvenating getaway destination. Here are some ideas to experience the Beaver State.

Mt. Hood on a sunny day. Photo: Uday Mittal


A host of subcultures feed its reputation as “weird.” A vacuum museum, a naked bike race and the world’s smallest park are a good start. Even the fashion is eclectic. Just soak up the unconventional energy.

Donuts are serious business. Take a donut tour. Voodoo Donuts is an institution and, with concoctions like the gigantic Cock and Ball, you know a good time is ahead. Blue Star donuts are legendary, gourmet “donuts for grownups.” Annie’s is deliciously old school and Mikiko Mochi’s are gluten-, dairy- and nut-free beauties. In short, Portlanders can’t get enough of the sweet stuff.

Food carts (as opposed to trucks. Portland just has to be different) are everywhere. There are 500 of them in business at any given time. Groups of them cluster together with benches and fairy lighting to serve up inspired cuisines from around the world.

Multnomah Falls, the tallest in Oregon. Photo: Jennifer Hartley

Stuff to do

  • Washington Park (a drive away) has multiple attractions and trails. The Portland Japanese Garden is one of the most authentic outside of Japan. The meticulous attention to detail is breathtaking.  Hit the Oregon Zoo in the Park. Pink flamingos never get old.
  • Into Jazz? Head to the Jack London Revue that has created that old Jazz bar, speakeasy feel with great music.
  • Walk around downtown to soak up the beautiful architecture that is a mix of old and new. You’ll discover great high-end shopping.

Sleep: You can’t go wrong at The Porter Portland, Curio Collection by Hilton downtown with its unique vibe, rooftop bar in the summer, indoor pool and perfect location.

Head out on the Highway

Mount Hood Region 

Visit a volcano. At 11,000 feet, Mount Hood is also the highest mountain in Oregon and offers year-round skiing. Snowshoeing is particularly peaceful, as is summer hiking. Doing anything with a burning cauldron deep underneath your feet is a humbling experience.

Do not miss the Timberline Lodge bar. It has a stunning view of other volcanoes in the region. Breathtaking and, again, humbling. If you get a chill entering the building, that is probably because the entrance was used in The Shining.

Sleep: the Cooper Spur Resort, on the North side of Hood, has gorgeous log cabins, a plethora of hiking trails (and skiing of course). Peaceful sleeping.

Hood River

A beautiful drive from Cooper Spur. Reward yourself with delectable cinnamon buns or a slice of Oregon’s official state pie, Marionberry pie, at Bette’s Restaurant. This is also brewpub and farm-to-table territory.

The Oregon Trail’s stunning coastline. Photo: Bob McDonald

The Columbia River Gorge 

The drive west is glorious. Multnomah Falls, Oregon’s tallest waterfall, is a busy place but worth a visit. However, stopping at less-busy spots that grab your eye is just as rewarding.

Sleep: McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale is over 100 years old. It was once a “poor farm,” then a seniors’ residence and now it’s a resort. Great amenities—a winery, spa, brewpub, movie theatre and gorgeous pool—can’t hide an almost creepy ambience. But McMenamins nurtures this impression with its thick ghost-sighting binder. If you dare, ask to enter the one-time morgue that’s now a meeting room.

Celebrate weird? The North American Bigfoot Center, in Boring, Oregon (yes, for real, but it is named after a human) may be of interest.  It is the hub for Sasquatch lore.

Get weird at the Big Foot Center.


Very quaint town, fabulous restaurants and wine bars. Silverton Inn and Suites is close to everything. Beautiful area, wineries, farms, Christmas tree farms.

Silver Falls State Park

The “crown jewel” of Oregon state parks boasts massive trees in a magnificent temperate rainforest, fabulous hiking and waterfalls and diverse activities such as climbing a 300-foot, old-growth tree. As you look around, landmarks may look familiar as the park has been featured in films like Twilight, The Hunted and Just Before Dawn.

Lobby of the Portland Porter.

Evergreen Aviation Museum in McMinnville

Heard of the Spruce Goose? Think Howard Hughes and The Aviator. It was once the largest aircraft in the world.

Look to the Sea

Head to The Oregon Trail. The endless beaches, jagged coastline and offshore rock formations are astounding.

A great thing about Oregon is that it is never too cold or too hot, so there is always something to do outside. It is Goldilocks-fabulous all year.