Eugene isn’t glamorous and it doesn’t brag about its attractions, but it’s actually one of America’s least known tourist gems. This relaxed, creative city of just 140,000 people will welcome and entertain everyone who visits.
Base yourself in the center of town and you’ll be able to walk to attractions like the Jordan Schnitzer Museum, Autzen Stadium, or Skinner Butte Park in fifteen minutes or less. Rent a car and you can be at some of the finest beaches on the west coast in under an hour, or drive into the mountains to hike, ski, snowboard, or climb in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.
Back in town, fill up on a steak at the Oregon Electric Station before hitting the Eugene Ale Trail and trying beers from superb local brewers like De Garde, Deschutes, and the Boneyard Beer Company.
Whether you want to spend your vacation in gorgeous scenery or you are looking for a charming, walkable city break destination, Eugene will be ideal.
Oregon is one of the most beautiful places on earth, and if you visit Eugene you’ll be in a great position to see everything it has to offer. Drive the stunning coast to Cape Perpetua, hike in the Cascades, or test yourself on the trails at Oakridge, the “mountain biking capital of the northwest”.
If you love art, you’ll love Eugene. The Jordan Schnitzer Museum features a wonderful collection of Asian and Pacific Northwest art, but it’s the smaller galleries that make Eugene special. Check out local institutions like the Maude Kerns Gallery or the Robert Canaga Studio or just wander around areas like Whiteaker to see the works of local graffiti masters.
Eugene is a cultural hub in the Pacific Northwest, and there are always theatrical entertainment options available. The latest shows are performed by the Oregon Contemporary Theater, while the Very Little Theater stages Shakespeare plays in one of the most intimate venues imaginable.
The coast around Eugene is stunning, with windswept dunes, mighty surf, safe swimming beaches, and outdoor activities like kayaking, fishing, and horse riding. You can also get to Florence Beach in under an hour with a rental car.
The Cascade Mountains produce a world-famous hop variety that is exported to brewers across the globe. This also means that Eugene has a thriving brew scene, and beer lovers will have a great time on the Eugene Ale Trail.
Stretching along the Willamette River not far from the University of Oregon, Alton Baker Park is a beautiful place to skate, cycle, walk, picnic, and play some sports. There's an 18-hole disc golf course, a challenging BMX course, and the Cuthbert Amphitheater - which hosts theater and music all summer long. And, offering a unique touch, there's the Nobel Peace Park, which honors the 24 American winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, from Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama.
Eugene is a famously creative city, and Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is probably its artistic hub. In any case, it's an unmissable gallery for anyone with an interest in the visual arts, particularly if they love the Asian traditions. As you'll see when you stroll up to the Moorish-influenced facade, the museum has a distinctly oriental feel, with outstanding Japanese, Chinese, and Korean collections, as well as plenty of American, European, and Latin American masterpieces too. If you can, be sure to take the free guided tours which take place on the first Saturday of every month.
Drama and music are also high on the agenda in Eugene, and if you are a fan of the stage, the Hult Center for the Performing Arts is the place to go. This downtown theater is a beautiful modern concert hall venue, with some of the best acoustics to be found on the North American continent. Opened in 1982, it's become a local treasure and hosts 700 events every year, so there should be something worth checking out during your stay in the city.
Just down the road from the Hult Center, you'll find Eugene's leading retail destination. 5th Street Public Market is crammed with boutique retailers, from haute couture designers through to traditional woolen craftsmen, toy vendors, lingerie shops, and beauty salons. If you're in the mood for a day of window shopping, there's no better destination, and the same goes for gourmet food lovers. With top-quality Greek, Thai, American, Sushi, and French restaurants in the market, there's something for all tastes at Eugene's shopping paradise.
Out on Fox Hollow Road in the south of Eugene, you'll find this magnificent attraction for wildlife fans. The Cascades Raptor Center is the nation's leading rehabilitation center for injured raptors and other birds of prey, housing over 50 majestic species for visitors to meet. From all-American bald eagles to turkey vultures, the staff here look after a dizzying array of birds, all with their own names and identity. Kids will love watching their handlers call them in, and seeing them soar into the Oregonian sky.
Eugene, Oregon, is a fantastic summer destination and the city is at its best between July and October. That’s the best time to hit the beaches, cycle or hike in the Willamette River Valley, or tour the region’s wineries. Alternatively, fall is a beautiful time to visit, while between March and June the spring bloom is one of the most colorful in the United States. Winters tend to be wet and a little gloomy, but aren’t cold, so it’s also worth considering out of season breaks here.
The best way to get to Eugene is by flying into Eugene’s Mahlon Sweet Field Airport, which is located about 11 miles out of town. The airport has regular connections with cities like Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, Los Angeles, and Salt Lake City. There are no public buses from the airport. However, there are car rental outlets like Budget and Alamo, as well as the Omni Shuttle service which will take you to Downtown Eugene for around $26.
Eugene’s Amtrak station is located at 433 Willamette and provides reliable connections to Portland, Vancouver, and Seattle via the Amtrak Cascades service. Eugene is also on the Amtrak Coast Starlight route from Los Angeles to Seattle.
If you are arriving by car, Eugene is around 5 hours drive from Seattle and 9 hours from San Francisco. Whether you are traveling from north or south, I-5 is the best road to take. If you are coming from Idaho or other interior Northwest states, take I-84 to Portland and then drive south on I-5.
Greyhound is the major bus company operating services to Eugene and their main terminus is at 987 Pearl St. They provide plenty of connections to major cities in Oregon, Washington, and California. Other bus companies active in the city include Bolt Bus and smaller operations like Diamond Express and High Desert Point.
Visitors to Eugene have a wide choice of accommodation options, including hotels and B&Bs at almost every price range. The Valley River Inn is a good luxury option on the Willamette River, while Comfort Suites Eugene is a high-end Downtown hotel worth checking out. If you are staying close to the University, the University Inn & Suites is a mid-range choice, while Shilo Inn and the Whiteaker Garden Hostel provide cheaper, but still very comfortable lodging in convenient locations.
Market District – Located just north of Downtown Eugene, the Market District is the place to go for fine dining at French restaurants like Marché or drinking at some of the city’s best craft beer pubs (the Steelhead Brewery is a local favorite). It’s also next to the river and is home to Skinner Butte Park, a lovely inner city park with riverside walks and cycle paths.
The University – The University of Oregon is located a short distance southeast of the city center and is a good area to stay in its own right. Aside from the University itself, it’s home to Hayward Field, where you can cheer on the Oregon Ducks in track and field, and Autzen Stadium, home to the college football team.
Whiteaker – Eugene’s creative hub, Whiteaker is a bohemian neighborhood with a strong environmentalist population. There’s plenty to see and do, from vintage gaming at the Blairally Arcade to wandering around the beautiful Owen Rose Garden, or dining at some of Eugene’s best restaurants like Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen.
The Lane Transit District (LTD) operates a wide network of bus routes in central Eugene and the surrounding area. Tickets are $1.75 for single fares or $3.50 for all day passes, a much more cost effective option.
Standard taxi fares in Eugene are $4.75 for the meter drop then $2.25 per mile after that. Uber can save visitors money, with a standard fare of $3 plus $1.75 per mile after that.
If you are planning to explore the wineries or beaches of Oregon, having a car of your own makes sense, and Eugene isn’t a difficult city for drivers to navigate. Parking in Downtown Eugene shouldn’t be hard (unless there are special events taking place), as there are 4,000 metered spaces. Expect to pay $6 for 5 hours parking.
Eugene has some excellent shopping malls and markets. For a conventional mall experience, head to the Oakway Center, where you’ll find major names like Old Navy and Trader Joe’s. The 5th Street Public Market (in the Market District) is the place to go for local stores. The prices are higher, but you can find unique pottery items, jewelry, and clothing at stores like Due Donne, Freudian Slip, and Outdoor Elements. The Valley River Center is a good out of town mall with stores lie J.C. Penney and Macy’s.
Eugene has its fair share of supermarkets, with stores like Target, Grocery Outlet, Walmart, and Winco represented. There are also more up-market options like Sundance and Capella where you’ll find organic fruit and vegetables and delicatessen counters. Grocery prices in Eugene tend to be slightly above average, but less than major cities like New York. For example, expect to pay $2.40 for 12 eggs and $12.50 for a good bottle of wine.
Eugene has a diverse dining scene, with something for every food lover to enjoy. If you want an affordable and beautifully cooked Italian meal, Mazzi's is the place to head, while the best eatery in town for Mexican meals is Red Agave. The steaks at Oregon Electric Station will satisfy any carnivore, while at the other end of the scale, the Keystone Café is Eugene’s best vegetarian restaurant. You can also find cheap but delicious pizza restaurants like Mezza Luna and mouth-watering desserts at Off The Waffle.