Here's our starter kit for first-time Eugene visitors; these six spots will give you just a taste of all the arts, outdoors and farm-to-table food and drink experiences that await you here.
What's the first thing people will tell you to do when you visit Eugene for the first time? Visit the Saturday Market. This outdoor, fun and colorful event is a nod to Eugene's counter-culture heritage. The market first opened in the early '70s and continues to be a popular spot for shopping for one-of-a-kind artisan gifts. The live entertainment and delicious food make for a full (and fun) afternoon. To fully immerse yourself in the scene, get a plate of food, find a shady spot on the grass and hang out. You will have stories to share back home along with some fabulous tie-dye t-shirts, beaded earrings and handmade pottery.
Visit the University of Oregon Campus
This historic, beautiful campus is worth at least a stroll, if not a full afternoon. A few University of Oregon highlights you may want to add to your list: The Knight Library, the EMU (Student Union), the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art and Museum of Natural and Cultural History, Autzen Stadium and "Animal House" movie locations. Narrow down your interests with the UO's "Be a Duck" tour app or take a guided walking tour from the Ford Alumni Center. Stroll the campus hub around 13th & Alder, rub shoulders with the students at The Duck Store, and sip a beer at one of the longstanding watering holes – like Rennie's – for the full college vibe.
Hike a Butte
What do locals do in Eugene's great outdoors? Run, go for bike rides, and go hiking. Hit one of two iconic Eugene trails that take you to the top of the two buttes that bookend Willamette Street, the main road that runs through the center of Eugene. To the south, Spencer Butte climbs steeply through evergreen forests to an amazing rocky lookout with expansive valley views. On the north end, Skinner Butte offers a moderate mile climb and a drive to the top, for those that would prefer to drive. From here you can look straight down at Eugene's downtown and across the town to Spencer Butte. Both hikes are fun in their unique way, so give yourself double points for hiking both.
See Downtown Eugene
Start at Kesey Square, named for the statue dedicated to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest author Ken Kesey. Here street art and enriching cultural events spark unexpected wonder. Downtown hums with cult destinations like VooDoo Doughnuts, Euphoria Chocolate and Off the Waffle. For farm-to-table dining and an authentic feel for Eugene culture, try Party Downtown. Here you can get plenty of locally-sourced, organic and innovative dishes. Downtown Eugene has many concert venues and theaters, a boutique movie theater, an arcade lounge and several tea and coffee shops.
Visit the Market District
This charmingly quirky indoor/outdoor shopping area is jammed-packed with romantically-inspired cafes and courtyards. 5th Street Public Market showcases high-end shopping including indulgent toy stores, gourmet kitchen supplies and sought-after fashion. Stay at the Inn at the 5th or make spa arrangements at Gervais.
Hang in "The Whit"
The Whiteaker neighborhood is downtown Eugene's hip, artsy twin. A craft beverage haven, this community features breweries, distilleries and urban wineries. Pick the beverage trail of your choice for a fun tour. You'll also find spectacular dining and enclaves of artists and innovative industries. Don't miss Ninkasi Brewing Company, one of the largest and most well known regional brewers.
Follow the Willamette River Path
On the banks of the Willamette River is an extensive set of trails known as the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Path System. Miles of paved cycling routes, walking paths and chip trails (including famed Pre's Trail) connect river views with playgrounds, grassy lawns, gardens and forests. Ride a PeaceHealth rental bike along the bike paths, crossing the river at interval bike bridges. During the summer season, rent a canoe at Alton Baker Park for a river paddle.
Eugene's sister city is immediately adjacent to Eugene's metro center. Rich in its own timber town history and its Simpsons claim to fame, Springfield is a fun family destination. Main Street has excellent dining, vintage and boutique shopping and robust arts and cultural offerings. The Gateway neighborhood offers big-name shopping from Cabela's to Best Buy.
After you've crossed these classic Eugene experiences off your list, get ready for more by exploring all there is to see and do in Eugene!
Top photo: Autzen Stadium as seen from Skinner Butte by Rick Obst