Five Wow Reasons Why You Must Visit Eugene, Oregon

Written by Lara Dunning

December 7, 2017
Home >> Destinations >> North America >> United States >> Oregon >> Five Wow Reasons Why You Must Visit Eugene, Oregon

Set beside the scenic Willamette River, Eugene Oregon is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, art and museum lovers, sports fans, and foodies. While staying at The Oval Door Bed and Breakfast I toured the sights of Eugene and experienced what makes the town that is home to one of the oldest universities on the West Coast so special.

1—Eugene Oregon: Panoramic Views and Outdoor Recreation

Eugene is surrounded by natural beauty and the best place in town to get a grand view is at  Skinner Butte Park. On my first full day in Eugene we drove to the top of the park and from the viewpoint, the city spread out before us.  In the distance, we could see Spencer Butte, which is a popular hiking spot.

Eugene Oregon

From the viewpoint, Spencer Butte’s 2,055-foot peak rises in the distance. Photo by Lara Dunning

The park is one of the town’s oldest and includes the land claim by Eugene’s founder, Eugene F. Skinner. The 100-acre park has hiking trails, a bike path, a historic landmark home, and 50-foot high basaltic rock columns, which are popular with rock climbers.

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Eugene Oregon

The basaltic columns were exposed during quarrying excavations during the late 1800s. Photo by Lara Dunning

2—Hayward Field, The Centerpiece of Track Town, USA

Sports fans will appreciate a visit to Hayward Field at the University of Oregon. Named for legendary track and field coach, Bill Hayward, it is the only facility to host three consecutive U.S. Olympic Trials. It has also been featured in movies, such as National Lampoon’s Animal House and Without Limits which told the story of local runner Steve Prefontaine who finished fourth in the 1972 Olympics and died tragically three years later in a car accident.

Eugene Oregon

Each May, University athletes compete in the Prefontaine Classic. Photo by Lara Dunning

In honor of Prefontaine’s legacy, the city completed the running trail he started pursuing before his death. Today, the bark-covered Steve Prefontaine Memorial Jogging Trail has 42 miles of running paths.

3—Rescued Raptors and Curious Vultures

One of the highlights of my stay was visiting the Cascades Raptor Center. At the educational center, visitors can see raptors such as eagles, owls, and osprey up close and find out why they are part of the center. And, you can even adopt a bird that helps care for them and has perks like free admission for one year and one-on-one with an outreach bird and handler.

Surprisingly, my favorite raptor turned out to be a very curious turkey vulture named Kali. She was one of two eggs rescued from an abandoned nest at a logging site. While her rehabilitators took precautions to stop her from bonding with humans, after her release, she still kept coming down to them. In 2003, she became part of the Education Team at the center.

Eugene Oregon

On September 2, the center celebrates International Vulture Awareness Day. Photo courtesy Cascades Raptor Center

4—Art, Culture, and History in Eugene Oregon

Here are some of my recommendations for the best ways to experience the art, culture, and history of Eugene, Oregon.

Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

Originally built to house more than 3,700 pieces of Oriental art donated by Gertrude Bass Warner, the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art also displays a wide variety of international art and has rotating exhibitions.

I found one of the most intriguing pieces of art to be the unfinished “The Last Audience of the Hapsburgs” by Artur von Ferraris. The painting depicts Empress Zita receiving an audience of orphans and wealthy noblewomen. What is interesting about the piece is that minutes after this reception the Empress, Emperor, and their children were forced to flee Austria and Hungary, and like the unfinished painting, they never regained their throne and died in exile.

Eugene Oregon

Artur von Ferraris’s unfinished painting the “The Last Audience of the Hapsburgs” captures an interesting moment in time. Photo by Colin Morton.

The museum opened in 1933 and is a work of art itself. Designed by the University’s Dean of Architecture and Allied Arts, Ellis. F. Lawrence is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Eugene, Oregon

The museum’s brickwork, iron grillwork, and decorative moldings make it one of the most distinctive architectural structures in Oregon. Photo by Lara Dunning.

An Unexpected Oasis

One part of the museum, you’ll want to be sure to wander through, is the Prince Lucien Courtyard. This oasis is quiet and lush with a reflecting pool. It also made Oregon Quarterly’s best place to kiss. While I didn’t have a loved one to kiss on this trip, I did have the courtyard and its stone fairies all to myself.  Set next to the lobby, behind two doors it can be easy to miss. If you have trouble finding this must-see gem, museum staff are happy to help you find it.

Eugene, Oregon

The courtyard is named after the University’s president who championed the building of the art museum. Photo by Lara Dunning

The museum also has a shop and the Marché Museum Café menu features fresh seasonal and regional ingredients.

Eugene Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History

When I saw the 15.5-ton gigantic meteorite on display outside of the Museum of Natural and Cultural History, I knew I’d be in for a treat. What I didn’t know is that the museum houses thousands of ethnographic and archaeological objects making it the premier natural and cultural history museum in Oregon.

Eugene, Oregon

The Willamette Meteorite weighs 15.5 tons and is the largest found in North America. Photo by Lara Dunning

The museum exhibits cover ecosystems, Oregon and natural history, native history and culture, and many parts are hands-on. One of my favorite exhibits showcased the archeological finds at Oregon’s Paisley Cave, which included coprolites and stone points left from the first Americans 14,000 years ago.

5—Local Eats and Drinks at Eugene Oregon Provisions Market Hall

Your Eugene experience isn’t complete without a trip to Provisions Market Hall. The market houses a grocery, bakery, specialty foods and wine shop, restaurants, and more. It’s a little like Seattle’s Pike Place Market, all in one building.

The morning I perused the market the aroma of freshly baked pastries mingled with the scent of colorful perfumed bouquets. I had already had an amazing breakfast at The Oval Door Bed & Breakfast, so I didn’t get anything to eat. But, I made a mental note to return to Blackboard for a glass of Oregon wine and a warm slice of Margherita pizza.

Eugene Oregon

Blackboard’s menu features charcuterie, cheeses, sandwiches, oysters, wine and has a popular Sunday brunch. Photo by Lara Dunning

A fun way to experience the market and mingle with locals is on Fridays from 5 to 8 for Chicchetti Night, a Venice style happy hour.

Eugene Oregon

Chef Stephanie Pearl Kimmel’s Marche Restaurant. Photo by Lara Dunning.

Behind the creation of Provisions Market Hall is the team at the French-inspired Marché Restaurant, which you’ll know from the museum cafe. The market team hand-selects ingredients and focuses on sustainably produced and local foods. The restaurant was founded by Chef Stephanie Pearl Kimmel, who has many accolades including being a finalist in 2006 for a James Beard Award.

When You Go to Eugene, Oregon

During my visit, I stayed at the charming The Oval Door Bed & Breakfast, which is three blocks from the heart of downtown. Eugene is less than a 2-hour drive from Portland, Oregon. Find out more online Eugene, Cascades & Coast. Read all of our Eugene Oregon articles here.


Note: As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with accommodations, meals, and other compensation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.

Written by Lara Dunning

Lara Dunning lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest and freelances for a variety of travel magazines. Her work can be found at Experience Anacortes, Bainbridge Island Magazine, Northwest Travel & Life Magazine,, and Whidbey Camano Islands. She also owns the travel site Small Town Washington & Beyond (, where she shares her passion for small town travel. Lara has an MFA in Creative Writing from the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts, writes young adult novels, nonfiction essays, and likes to hike with Hazel, her Australian Cattle Dog.

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  1. Malini

    How cute is that cafe!?!? I haven’t been to Eugene but this looks like such a fun place to explore. I bet my 5 year old would LOVE the Cascades Raptor center. Also, how cool that you can “adopt” a bird! We wouldn’t live close enough to go back and visit very often, but I’m going to look into it and see if it’s something we can do from home and if they’ll send her “updates” on the animal. What a neat idea – thanks for sharing!!

  2. Lance

    Thank you for a post full of great places to visit. I have been to Eugene before, but did not know about some of these places. When I return, my family will definitely need to check out the Cascades Raptor Center. We had the opportunity to get up close and personal with some raptors through a similar program this summer and absolutely loved the experience. We need to check out Museum of Natural and Cultural History too. It sounds like the museum would entertain the science lovers and history lovers in our family.

  3. Dominic

    I haven’t had an opportunity to visit Oregon yet, but my circle keep telling me that I would love it. The West Coast is great at ticking off my outdoor and foodie boxes – Eugene appears to do that as well. The Oval Door B&B looks cute as well. Brian looks like quite the chef.

  4. Dany

    I’d never heard of Eugene before but now I know I’ve been missing out! It has lots of things we love, from the chance to hike at the park, to being able to get up close to the wildlife at the Cascades Raptor Center. I’m definitely adding it to our bucket list, thank you for all the useful info!

  5. Lara Dunning

    Malini, I hope they can do that. I know as a kid I would have loved that! Thanks so much for commenting!

  6. Lara Dunning

    Lance, History and science lovers would totally love the museum! I hope you get to visit soon!

  7. Lara Dunning

    Dominic, The West Coast is an outdoor lover and foodie paradise. I’d have to agree with your friends – you will love it!

  8. Lara Dunning

    Dany, Eugene is a fun town with history, good food, nature and lots of artistic flair. You’ll love it!

  9. Corinne

    Even though I have been to Oregon many times, especially to go tax-free shopping, I’ve never ventured as far as Eugene. I always love a university town, and this one looks great to explore.

  10. Divyakshi Gupta

    Lara this is such a fabulous post! I would love to see the rescued raptors, as I am a birding enthusiast. The views from the skinner park are so stunning!
    Eugene looks like a great town to explore: got so much history, natural beauty and more!

  11. lisa

    I have not been any where Oregon yet but it looks like there is plenty to do. The Prince Lucien Courtyard looks stunning and you will find me in the art museum!

  12. Sandy N Vyjay

    Eugene is really a lovely and enchanting place. The basaltic columns look really intriguing. I would be fascinated by visiting the museums. Especially the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art looks absolutely stunning. The architectural design of the building is so beautiful and unique.

  13. Lara Dunning

    Corinne, I love university towns too. They have such a great vibe, don’t they?

  14. Lara Dunning

    Divyakshi, I didn’t know that about you. Neat! I love learning about birds too. I hope you get to visit soon!

  15. Lara Dunning

    Lisa, There is so much to see in Oregon and the state has such a diverse landscape. I hope you make it there soon. You will not be disappointed.

  16. Gaurav

    I saw your tweet on blogger and thought to check your site. Impressive, looks like has come a long way. Keep the good work going.
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  17. Sara Broers

    I have ventured to Oregon, but have not been to Eugene. You have definitely shown me why this is a must visit while in Oregon. Toss in some history and of course, you mentioned food and I’m so there! Now I can’t get the scent of fresh baked pastries out of my mind.

  18. chloe lin

    This place looks so so amazing. I’ve never been to Oregon but it’s a place that will attract me with the nature and culture! The landscape is so diverse as well!

  19. Katie

    Looks like there are a lot of great things to see in Eugene! I have never been to Oregon, but I am sure the countryside would be amazing to explore. Would love to see the raptors as well!

  20. Alex

    Skinner Butte Park looks like a great place to spend a day outdoors. Would be cool to see people climb those basalt rock columns though they seem a bit fragile…

  21. Elaine J Masters

    I’ve only passed through Eugene and never ventured to the Museum. It’s stunning and that courtyard! Must see more next time I’m back.

  22. Lara Dunning

    Sara, Ha! Isn’t that the best small in the world. 🙂 I hope you find yourself in Eugene soon. 🙂

  23. Lara Dunning

    Chloe, Oregon is such a beautiful state, you’ll love it!

  24. Lara Dunning

    Katie, I really enjoyed the raptor center and I loved learning about each birds story. Such a great place to have as well as help birds that can no longer live in the wild.

  25. Lara Dunning

    Alex, There is something about basalt columns that just fascinates me. Love that they are all over the PNW. I’ve heard good things about the hike to Spencer’s Butte. If you like hiking, you might want to check that out.

  26. Lara Dunning

    Elaine, Yes, stop! One could spend hours in the museum!

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