Portland may get all the press, but the same hip food scene, alternative culture and general eccentricity that marks Oregon’s biggest city can also be found here, in a more laid-back fashion. Breweries, fabulous restaurants, outdoor activities galore and a lively student scene keep Eugene under-the-radar cool.
Hippies? Lumberjacks? Tech entrepreneurs? Anarchists? Check. Eugene is a mishmash of every political and social tribe imaginable. Twenty-one thousand students enliven things and create a base for the dining scene, which ranges from cheap and tasty Southern food to abundant Mexican and fine Italian. There are nearly a dozen craft breweries, including Ninkasi, one of Oregon’s best. The fine Pinot Noirs of the southern Willamette Valley are mere minutes to the north.
For outdoor fun, Three Sisters Wilderness and the wild Oregon Coast are only an hour away. Closer to town, walk for miles along the McKenzie and Willamette Rivers or chill in one of many shady parks. In late June through mid-July, don’t miss the Oregon Country Fair, the state’s preeminent hippie fest.