Eugene is home to the Oregon Ducks, whose national reputation as a winning Pac-12 football team has helped change the view of Eugene as little more than a hippie holdover from the 1970s.
Eugene’s abundance of farms makes it a delicious place to eat local, seasonal food all year-round. The city’s seven resident dance, music, and theatre companies and numerous small music venues throughout the week provide alluring nightlife. Yes, Eugene has everything, including a bit of an identity problem. Is it a college town or a town with a college?
Now that the city center is more bustling than it’s been in decades, some have dubbed Eugene’s downtown “Little Portland.” Most downtown denizens, though, embrace it as the vibrant heart of a city that has finally come into its own—even though several of the newly installed downtown restaurants are branches of Portland-based businesses. No matter, though. Eugene is Eugene.
And while the University of Oregon runs the show throughout the rest of the year, August is a great time to visit, because the university’s 25,000 residents mostly clear out for the summer, leaving a lot more elbow room.
Day 1: City biking, outdoor concerts
The convenient location of the Amtrak train station makes that an easy way to begin exploring the downtown and the hip Whiteaker neighborhood on foot or wheels. Thanks to a progressive pro-bicycle mayor in the 1970s, Eugene now has 187 miles of on-street bicycle lanes. Five pedestrian/bike bridges connect both sides of the Willamette River, giving easy access to Valley River Center and Autzen Stadium.
Stop at Red Barn Natural Grocery in the Whiteaker and order custom deli sandwiches to take to your picnic at Alton Baker Park. If you happen to not have tickets to one of the many outdoor concerts in Cuthbert Amphitheater, on the edge of the park, hang out anyway. You can’t see the show, but you can hear it well enough to sing along when your favorite song is played. Also near Alton Baker is the Science Factory Children’s Museum, where kids can learn about science through hands-on activities, or rest while enjoying a planetarium show.
While you’re out, stop at Eugene Running Co. in nearby Oakway Center and check out the collection of memorabilia documenting Eugene’s history as TrackTown USA. Ask about the best running trails and directions to “Pre’s Rock,” memorializing famed UO distance runner Steve Prefontaine, who died in an automobile accident in 1975. A running trail named for him now winds through Alton Baker Park.
For more tips on visiting Eugene, visit 1859 Oregon’s Magazine.