If Eugene, Oregon, had to be described in just one word, it would be “green.” The color best describes the city’s unspoiled landscape, numerous parks and conversation philosophy, and it is the primary color of the University of Oregon in Eugene. The community clearly treasures nature, if its well-preserved natural wonders are any indication. The arts are celebrated here, too, with cultural festivals that give artists and art-lovers many opportunities to connect.
On the outskirts of Eugene, tourists can explore the abundance of green parks. All are popular attractions for hiking, biking and bird-watching, yet are seldom crowded. The Mount Pisgah Arboretum and botanical garden is a beautiful retreat, with old-growth forests, blooming meadows and a water garden. At Buford Park, efforts are underway to restore habitats for native wildlife.
The Cascade Range rises to the east, inviting tourists to experience Eugene from a different vantage point. In winter, the mountains are dotted with warming huts used by adventuresome snowshoers and hikers.
There is plenty of water to be found in and around Eugene, including 249 lakes and eight rivers, not to mention the Pacific Ocean just an hour’s drive west. Visitors who like to boat, water ski, sail and dive have much to discover. The city’s rivers offer both whitewater rapids and calmer flows. McKenzie Whitewater Rafting, a well-known local outfitter, offers guides and gear for full- and half-day trips downstream.
Eugene’s natural wonders make it a popular destination for ecotourists, who seek to explore the land without impacting it. Eugene encourages the practice by offering charging stations for travelers in electric vehicles. Many streets have safe paths for biking and walking.
Hikes are naturally drawn to the Delta Old Growth Nature Trail, accessible inside the Delta Campground. Some trees along the trail are more than 500 years old. Visitors can climb 200 feet up into the forested canopy to see the sights from a new perspective. Another great hike begins at the McKenzie-Santiam Pass Scenic Byway. Eugene tourists can traverse 1,500-year-old lava flows on their way to the Dee Wright Observatory at the summit.
Back down at sea level is the University of Oregon, known for its research in green technology. The 296-acre campus lies along the scenic Willamette River and is lushly landscaped. The school’s Mighty Ducks football team plays outdoors in the 54,000-seat Autzen Stadium, where according to tradition, it never rains.
Eugene’s top cultural attraction is its thriving arts scene, which combines contemporary works by students and professionals with old art displayed in city museums. Talented artists showcase their creations at the outdoor Saturday Market on East 8th Avenue, where locally-grown food and crafts are also available. Older masterworks from Russia, Asia and Africa are exhibited at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. The museum’s permanent collection contains more than 13,000 pieces.
For music fans, Eugene hosts the internationally known Oregon Bach Festival for several weeks each summer. The festival is led by Helmuth Rilling, a famous German conductor, on the University of Oregon campus.