Best Things to do in Eugene, Oregon

The 15 Best Things to Do in Eugene, Oregon

Eugene lies in the Willamette Valley and is one of the largest cities in the state of Oregon. It’s an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise thanks to all the recreational activities it offers, including biking, hiking, rock climbing, and watersports. About 50 miles from the coast, the city is known for its natural wonders and parks, with approximately 6,000 acres of green spaces and endless opportunities to get outside! 

Eugene is also home to the University of Oregon, so it has plenty of art galleries, unique shopping centers, weekly markets, interesting museums, and quirky entertainment venues on offer. It’s got a robust craft beer scene, too, but it’s also a mecca for wine lovers. This area is wine country, where wineries, wine bars, and vineyards are thriving. 

With so many wineries, green spaces, and entertainment venues to choose from, you might not know where to begin. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Eugene for you. Add these top 15 things to do to your Eugene bucket list, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring this gorgeous corner of the Pacific Northwest!

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1. Stop and Smell the Roses at the Owen Rose Garden

Best Things to do in Eugene: Owen Rose Garden

The first attraction on your Eugene sightseeing itinerary should be a visit to the Owen Rose Garden. This impressive garden sits along the Willamette River and features more than 4,000 roses in over 400 different varieties. 

Take a morning stroll through the impressive 8.5-acre park featuring a gazebo, a tree-lined picnic area, lots of paved and flower-covered archway paths, and a cherry tree that’s about as old as the city. Not only does it hold one of the largest collections of roses in the state – the flower that Oregon is known for – but it also holds an array of different flora and fauna. 

Cool Things to do in Eugene: Owen Rose Garden

To make an afternoon of it, rent a bike from one of the city’s many bike rental shops. It’s part of the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Path System, a 12-mile bike trail that connects Eugene and Springfield, Oregon. A part of the loop is the South Bank Path, a picturesque trail that goes through the University of Oregon and leads toward the city’s most popular parks, including Skinner Butte Park and the Owen Rose Garden.

2. Peruse the Extensive Collections at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

Unique Things to do in Eugene: Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

You don’t have to be an art enthusiast to appreciate the galleries found at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. Located on the University of Oregon’s campus, the museum was first built to house the extensive collection of more than 3,500 works of traditional East Asian art. The museum’s collection features an array of art from China, Japan, Korea, and Europe. Plus, it also has special exhibition galleries that change regularly throughout the year. 

It’s relatively small compared to some other art museums, but what it lacks in size is made up for in quality thanks to its massive collection of historic and contemporary art. It’s easy to spend a few hours here since the museum’s collection has grown to over 15,000 pieces from all over the world, including Europe and now the Americas. 

Plus, if you’re looking for cheap things to do in Eugene, admission to the museum is free on the first Friday of every month! 

3. Get Tipsy on the South Willamette Wine Trail

Best Things to do in Eugene: South Willamette Wine Trail
Image courtesy of Melanie Griffin / Eugene, Cascades & Coast

A trip to Eugene would be incomplete without a self-guided winery tour. Often ranked as a top wine destination in the Pacific Northwest, there are more than 20 wineries and vineyards around Eugene, each with its own distinct personality. Spending some time sipping and swirling around town is easily one of the must-do things in Eugene!

If you’re feeling adventurous, there are a few wineries that can be reached by bike. Located about 15 miles from Eugene, visit the wineries on Briggs Hill Road, like Sweet Cheeks and Silvan Ridge, which are located directly across from each other. 

In the center of the Market District, there are 10 or more wineries, wine bars, and tasting rooms within walking distance of each other. Plus, many are located near some of the most popular hotels in Eugene, making it easy for a night out. Some even offer weekly events and activities like yoga paired with a beverage of your choice, including wine or mimosas. 

This region is famous for its award-winning Pinot Noir, so be sure to try a glass (or two!) during your visit to the area’s wineries or wine bars. 

4.  Explore Nature at the Mount Pisgah Arboretum

Best Things to do in Eugene: Mount Pisgah Arboretum
Images courtesy of Melanie Griffin /

If you want to get out of the city, Eugene has plenty of opportunities to explore the outdoors. The Mount Pisgah Arboretum is a 209-acre arboretum, botanical garden, and nature preserve located about 10 miles from Eugene. The preserve has a variety of hiking trails – from 0.5-mile pathways to 1.5-mile trails – making it easy for visitors of all ages and skill levels to enjoy the arboretum. 

There are seven miles of riverside trails, over 20 bridges, and a handful of interactive nature exhibits. The four exhibits include a Wetlands Exhibit, Incense-Cedar Exhibit, Oak Woodlands Exhibit, and Oak Savanna Exhibit. These are meant to offer a way to learn about nature while engaging with the environment. 

One of the most popular exhibits with visitors is the Wetlands Exhibits, a trail that starts with a tunnel constructed with branches. The arboretum also offers workshops and nature walks, guided tours with topics that range from the local ecology to plant identification and birdwatching, and crafts like basket weaving!

5. Hike the Scenic McKenzie River National Recreation Trail

Fun Things to do in Eugene: McKenzie River National Recreation Trail

Considered one of the most popular trails in the country, the McKenzie River National Recreation Trail is a scenic 26-mile trail that leads bikers and hikers through the Willamette National Forest. It’s about an hour’s drive from Eugene, but this outdoor area is easily one of the top Eugene attractions – think waterfalls, hot springs, natural lava formations, bridges made from logs, and crystalline waters and lakes!

There are more than 10 trailheads for easy access to the lake if you’re not up for the entire 26 miles. Rent an inflatable stand-up paddleboard or borrow a  kayak to see the forest that is preserved underwater at the lake. Clear Lake Loop Trail #4341 is an easier, mostly flat trail that’s just a few miles long and will lead you along the west side of the lake.

To see the waterfalls, take the Koosah Falls and Sahalie Falls Trail, a 3-mile hike that will take you past both waterfalls. Another favorite trail is the Tamolitch Blue Pool Hike, which will transport you to another transparent blue pool. 

6.  Browse the Booths at the Eugene Saturday Market

Eugene Bucket List: Eugene Saturday Market

If you’re looking for fun things to do in Eugene, you’ll definitely want to take some time to explore the Eugene Saturday Market

This is the self-proclaimed oldest weekly outdoor crafts market in the United States. It was started in the 1970s as a way to provide a low-cost marketplace for local artisans and still remains strong to this day. Back in the day, it started with less than 30 vendors and now has hundreds and hundreds of vendors with handmade arts and crafts made by local artists. 

Located on 8th Avenue and Oak Street, it happens every Saturday, rain or shine. This is a great way to experience the local Eugene vibe and a great place to find souvenirs. It’s open from 10 am to 4 pm, but no matter when you visit, be sure to bring your appetite because eating your way through this market is one of the best things to do in Eugene! 

The market’s food court features 15 food booths with cuisines from around the world – from Ethiopian to Thai food. Each vendor prepares their food fresh on-site, mainly from locally sourced ingredients. Plus, there are live music performances and street performers throughout the day. 

7. Spend a Quirky Afternoon with Alpacas & Arcades

Cool Things to do in Eugene: Quirky Afternoon with Alpacas and Arcades

If you are looking for unique things to do in Eugene, head to the Aragon Alpaca farm in southeast Eugene. Here you can get up close and personal with the alpacas in the pastures, greet them by name, and hand-feed them carrots. On-site, there’s also a small store called the Spinner’s Barn Farm Store and Craft Studio that sells goods made from alpaca fleece and holds demonstrations about how they spin the yarn.    

Next, head over to Eugene’s vibrant Whiteaker neighborhood to visit the Blairally Vintage Arcade. Boasting more than 30 pinball machines, this vintage arcade housed in an old warehouse has a full bar with pub food and local microbrews on tap. 

They specialize in games from the 1970s and 8-bit video games, many of which you can still play for a quarter. Various events are held throughout the week, like trivia nights, local DJs, and free play Fridays, where a number of games are free to play all day.

8. Rent a Bike and Ride the Ruth Bascom Bike Trails

Fun Things to do in Eugene: Ruth Bascom Bike Trails

Eugene is well-known for being a bike-friendly city, with trails covering nearly 100 miles. Take full advantage of this by renting a bike to go around some of the city’s most popular trails, including the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Path System. 

These bike paths connect the cities of Eugene and Springfield. There are four main paths, each going in four directions, but the most popular ones are the North Bank and South Bank bike paths. Both bike paths follow the riverside edge, passing through parks and green areas, and provide lots of scenic views along the way.

If you want to see the University of Oregon, Skinner Butte Park, and the Owen Rose Garden, choose the South Bank Path. For more river views, opt for the North Bank Path that winds along the river and passes through Alton Baker Park.

Lots of independent shops provide bike rentals within the city. The city also has a bike share program called the PeaceHealth Rides, which lets you rent a bike and pay based on your usage once you sign up with a membership with their app. 

9. Check Out Birds of Prey at the Cascades Raptor Center

Must do Things in Eugene: Cascades Raptor Center

Home to about 40 raptors that are native to the Pacific Northwest, the Cascades Raptor Center is an educational nature center open to the public. The non-profit also includes the Louise Shimmel Wildlife Hospital, where they treat orphaned, sick, and injured wildlife, including regional birds of prey, before releasing them to the wild when they are recovered. 

During your visit, you might see birds like bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, falcons, and a variety of owl species. Most people opt for the self-guided tour, where you can move at your own pace and learn about how these creatures came to be at the center and why each resident bird cannot be released into the wild due to their injuries.

Eugene Bucket List: Cascades Raptor Center

Guided tours are also available, which include a private tour led by a knowledgeable wildlife handler. This allows you to learn the background stories of the raptors and even gives you the chance to get up close and meet one of the raptors outside of their enclosure. If you’re looking for unique things to do in Eugene, this is the place!

10.  Visit Skinner Butte Park

Eugene Things to do: Skinner Butte Park

Named after the founder of the city, Eugene Skinner, this 100-acre park is a favorite among locals. It’s one of the oldest parks in the city and features bike paths, hiking trails, and a natural 45-foot rock climbing area called the Columns. 

Skinner Butte Park sits on a 600-foot-tall hill that overlooks the Willamette River, offering sweeping views of the city and landscape. It’s also home to some of Eugene’s most historic buildings, like the Victorian-style Shelton McMurphey Johnson House

What to do in Eugene: Skinner Butte Park

The elaborate castle-like house is hard to miss, with intricate woodwork, an ornate wraparound porch, and large windows. As one of the top Eugene attractions, it is definitely worth a stop inside for one of their formal afternoon tea party events! 

Kids will love the massive RiverPlay Discovery Village Playground. This kid zone plays on the city’s history with creative play structures like a ferry, a stagecoach, a replica pioneer village, a sand area with hidden fossils to discover, and even a mini climbing area that replicates the Columns. 

11.  Catch a Show at the Hult Center 

Eugene Things to do: Hult Center
Images courtesy of Eugene, Cascades & Coast

If you’re looking for casual Eugene activities, head to the Hult Center for the Performing Arts, which has been a hub for entertainment since 1982. Year-round, they routinely hold comedy shows, dance performances, Broadway-style shows, plays, kid-friendly entertainment, operas, and live music. 

The architecture alone is enough to visit the center. The lobby is almost entirely made up of glass, and the outside is lit up in colorful lights at night. The building is made up of a few buildings, including the Silva Concert Hall and its stunning basket weave-style ceiling. There’s also a public art gallery and a smaller, more intimate theater.

Now it’s home to several resident companies that you regularly see throughout the year, including ballet companies, a choir, a symphony, and other performances. There’s also a way to see areas that are off-limits to the general public. By taking a tour, you’d have access to the backstage areas, dressing rooms, and studios. 

12. Shop ‘til You Drop at the 5th Street Public Market

Cool Things to do in Eugene: 5th Street Public Market
Images courtesy of Joni Kabana /

In the center of downtown Eugene, the 5th Street Public Market is a colorful open-air shopping area. Grab a coffee and a seat upstairs where you can look out over the quaint courtyard area that’s lined with vibrant flower baskets, greenery, and a fountain. 

This charming shopping center has locally-run restaurants and unique boutique stores that sell everything from jewelry to artisan chocolates. A great place to buy a souvenir to take home is the gift store Made in Oregon, with, you guessed it, items exclusively made in the state. The toy store is also fun to browse, and they have a few vintage-style coin-operated kids’ rides.

In true Eugene fashion, expect to find a handful of wine bars, craft breweries, distilleries, and wineries. There’s a great selection of food, with a handful of gourmet restaurants serving Thai, French, and American grub. Plus, there’s also a relaxing spa and a yoga studio on-site for those that don’t want to shop. 

13.  Have a Picnic at Alton Baker Park

Cool Things to do in Eugene: Alton Baker Park

Eugene has no shortage of green spaces thanks to the city having more than 20 parks and public spaces. One of the most beautiful parks to enjoy the outdoors is Alton Baker Park. It’s known as the city’s largest park and offers more amenities and activities than most other parks nearby. 

The park has something for everyone, including a canal with canoes and kayaks available to rent. There’s also a BMX track, a disc golf course, and lots of biking and walking trails spread about among the 400 acres. Fishing is allowed here, and there’s also a duck pond where guests are encouraged to feed the wildlife. 

Best Things to do in Eugene: Alton Baker Park

For families, there are picnic areas as well as a children’s education center. The Eugene Children’s Science Museum is also located within the park, which is fun to visit year-round but especially good for rainy days. 

Throughout the year, the park hosts events like art and wine festivals and concerts are held at the Cuthbert Amphitheater.  

14. Take in the Views at Spencer Butte Trails

Unique Things to do in Eugene: Spencer Butte Trails

For some of the best panoramic views overlooking Eugene and the Cascade Mountains, head to Spencer Butte Park. To get to the summit, there are a few options which are both on clearly marked dirt paths, some more difficult than others. Spencer Butte is part of the Ridgeline Trail system, which means you can get to the top on any trailhead.

For the easier option, take the Spencer Butte Trail. This 1.7-mile loop trail usually takes over an hour to complete and is considered a moderately challenging hike. For more experienced hikers, take the 52nd & Willamette Trailhead. 

With a distance of about 5 miles round-trip, the scenic hike will give you over 1,000 feet of elevation gain. Many people visit the lookout point in the early mornings to catch a beautiful sunrise over the Willamette Valley. If you decide to watch the sunset, opt for the shorter trail and be sure to take a headlamp for your descent down. 

15.  Learn All About Oregon at the Museum of Natural & Cultural History

Fun Things to do in Eugene: Museum of Natural and Cultural History
Image courtesy of Museum of Natural & Cultural History / Eugene, Cascades & Coast

Located on the eastern side of the University of Oregon campus, the Museum of Natural and Cultural History is one of the top things to do in Eugene. This museum is home to several interesting and interactive exhibits about the cultural history and geology of Oregon and the Northwest Coast. 

The museum’s permanent collections include paleontology, anthropology, geology, and zoology artifacts, including nearly 100,000 fossils from Oregon, like a giant spike-tooth salmon. One of the most famous and unique artifacts found in the museum is a pair of shoes called the Fort Rock sandals. They are approximately 10,000 years old and are known for being some of the oldest shoes in the world!

Plus, the outside of the museum is just as interesting as the inside exhibits. The building design was built to look like a typical Pacific Northwest Native American longhouse building. Surrounding the museum is the Glenn Starlin Native Plant Courtyard featuring plants native to Oregon, a geological timeline, and a replica of the largest meteorite ever found in North America! 

There you have it—the 15 best things to do in Eugene, Oregon. What’s your favorite thing to do in Eugene? Drop us a line and let us know!

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About the Author

  • Carrie Back

    Carrie Ann Back is part-time travel writer and full-time globetrotter based in Southeast Asia. Recent bylines include Travel + Leisure, Parents Magazine, Postcards Magazine, Culture Trip, Matador Network, & more!

    Leaving her home in 2015, she has embarked on an around-the-world journey and has been traveling continuously ever since. Her most recent adventures include working in the Bolivian Amazon jungle, surfing in Sri Lanka, and exploring Laos via a slow boat up the Mekong River.

    She’s a proud member of the Cherokee Nation and is passionate about sustainable travel. She now lives in Siem Reap, Cambodia, with her cat Lil’ Mama. Most nights, you can find her munching down at the street food vendors.

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