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The Best of Eugene Oregon: Places for art lovers and outdoor enthusiasts

Eugene, Oregon, surrounded by scenic foothills and forests, is located at the southern end of the lush Willamette Valley. With excellent museums, international street artist wall murals, enticing foodie tours and hiking and biking, this lively city is a perfect destination for art lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Art & Museums

Street art murals have become one of the defining characters of many cities across the U.S. The City of Eugene Cultural Service's Public Art Program launched a fabulous initiative, the 20X21 Eugene Mural Project for the exciting World Outdoor Championships the city will host in 2021. Over 20 wall murals, painted by famous U.S. and international artists, will adorn the city's downtown buildings, with 18 already completed. Take a stroll along Willamette Street to see artist Beau Stanton's vibrant mural on the west side of the historic McDonald Theater. Located on the south wall of the theater is Argentina artist Fanco Fasoli's (Jazz) surreal Discussion About the Red. And, visit Oak Alley for UK artist Hush's brilliant Japanese influenced mural, located on the Falling Sky Brewing House.

Eugene's downtown is level and an easy walk for mural tours, and you might find some great places to explore along the way, such as the legendary and unusual Voodoo Doughnut. You might need several of these delicious bad boys for energy on your walking tour. Moreover, if you are interested in a guided bike or walking tour, Eugene's annual Visual Arts Festival takes place in early August. Or, visitors who wish to take a self-guided walking tour of the 20X21 Eugene Mural Project. If you prefer to pick up a map in the city, stop by the Eugene Cascades & Coast Visitor Center, located on Olive Street.

The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, located on the University of Oregon campus, exhibits a significant collection of historic and contemporary art. The museum opened in 1933 and was initially built to house the Murray Warner Collection of Oriental Art with over 3,700 works of donated art by Gertrude Bass Warner. Today, the museum is the only academic art museum in Oregon and features an impressive and breath-taking collection of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, European, Russian Icons and more. A few art works to look for: an exquisite jade and teak Chinese Model of a Pagoda from the Qing Dynasty and Kusama Yayoi: Pumpkin (contemporary, on loan). In addition, the museum exhibits the Masterworks on Loan program that presents stunning works by internationally recognized artists, such as Andy Warhol and Edouard Manet.

If you go, plan on several hours to explore the museum's exciting exhibitions and collections. Plan additional time if you want to walk around the University of Oregon's beautiful and captivating campus.

Another excellent museum to visit is the Museum of Natural and Cultural History. The museum's exhibits feature Oregon -- Where Past is Present; archeology from the First Americans to today's tribes. And, Explore Oregon; the exhibit focuses on forces that shape Oregon's landscapes, climate and ecosystems.

Both exhibits are walk-through and are fascinating for the entire family to explore with artifacts, such as textiles, musical instruments, baskets and weapons to fossils and petrified wood.

Cider, Breweries, Distilleries & Foodie Tours

For a mid-size city, Eugene is hopping with superb ciders, breweries, distilleries and food. Perhaps it's due to the three colleges in town, but it is most likely that Eugene is just a great place to live, work and play. From amazing chefs, bakers, brewers and distillers, you'll find your passionate indulgence.

If you're a fan of cider, visit Wildcraft Cider Works. This cidery excels in dry hard cider and all of their fruit comes from the Willamette Valley. The tasting room is rustic wood decor with plenty of seating and a bar perfect for sampling ciders. Try Wildcraft's Rose Dry Cider; its divine aroma is reminiscent of a warm summer in an apple orchard.

The largest brewery in Eugene is Ninkasi Brewing that specializes in brewing great IPAs, stout, lager and ales. If you visit, plan on a tour of the brewery and a tasting. Ninkasi offers a small selection of snacks but hosts a rotating schedule of local food carts on their patio if you hungry.

There are several wonderful distilleries in Eugene with Thinking Tree Spirits that you'll want to visit first. The distillery crafts superb gin, rum, stellar vodka and soon to produce specialty spirits, bourbon and liqueurs. Stop by for a tour and a tasting -- locally grown and sustainably sourced spirits bottled with a gorgeously designed label.

Foodie Tours are great fun and a wonderful way to familiarize yourself with a city and its local cuisine and spirits. America's World Hub Tours in Eugene provides an exciting food tour with five different stops and a bit of history as you stroll to each location.

Generally, the tour takes three-and-half hours and begins at the 5th Street Public Market and visits restaurants, cafes and popular food carts. Scrumptious fare, from Vietnamese and charcuterie to French macarons and brown sugar bourbon drinks are on the tour. A few top restaurants you'll experience on the Hub tour are Le Cafe Maison, 6th Street Grill, Blackboard and The Sugar Bug. Tours run from Tuesday through Friday, year-round.

Outdoors & More

The Cascades Raptor Center, located on Hollow Road, is a non-profit nature center and wildlife hospital. Tucked into a serene forested area, the center specializes in birds of prey and focuses on wildlife rehabilitation and public education. The center cares for owls, hawks, eagles, falcons, kites and more. Visitors are able tour about 50 birds of prey in their outdoor aviaries and learn their history and how they ended up at the center. The raptor center is great for kids and adults to see and learn about these magnificent birds and how we can help protect their environments.

If you enjoy biking and walking, the beautiful Ruth Bascom River Trail that wraps around the Willamette River provides paved paths that run for miles.

The trail connects Eugene to Springfield for a 29-mile stretch and a 12-mile stretch within the city that meanders past lovely parks, forested and wildlife areas. In addition, there are some interesting art works along the route And multiple locations to park your vehicle and enter the trail. Make sure to visit the trail website for the map and parking locations and bring your camera!

If You Go

Eugene has fantastic accommodations from brand and boutique hotels to fabulous B&Bs and Inns. One of our top recommendations is the gorgeous Campbell House, located on Pearl Street at the base of Skinner's Butte. This Victorian inn was built in 1892 and is fully restored as a boutique hotel. The rooms imbue European elegance, yet are comfortable and quiet with comfy beds. The Campbell House's restaurant is equally divine and offers fine dining with scenic views of their lovely and peaceful property. Try their heavenly scones with your complimentary breakfast and then repose on one of the inn's outdoor garden benches, or tuck in with a good book at the picturesque gazebo.

For an outstanding meal, visit George & Violet's Steakhouse in the adjacent town of Springfield. The restaurant's interior features subdued lighting and a cozy and gracious atmosphere to enjoy the best steaks in the area. The steaks are cooked perfectly and guests can opt for an amazing butter option of blue cheese, hazelnut miso or Dungeness crab butter to melt over their luscious and tender cuts. Don't be shy with dessert either; the Fig Leaf Anglaise with hazelnut milk and blackberry granita is heaven in a bite.

Eugene has a plethora of awesome shops, as well as their must-visit Saturday Market that is huge and offers everything from art to produce. Two shops to explore if you visit, are Mountain Rose Herbs and Sweet Life Patisserie. The herb store sells the best organic herbs, teas, oils and more that you can find in the Pacific Northwest. Sweet Life is a walk into sheer patisserie indulgence with their to-die-for desserts and chocolates.

For more information on Eugene, Oregon, visit Eugene Cascades Coast.

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Patrice RapleePatrice Raplee is an accomplished travel photojournalist and editor of Travel Excursion and Seattle Spotlight for Positively Entertainment magazine. In addition, she writes a monthly travel column for the award-wining site Offbeat Travel and is a regular correspondent for award-winning travel radio shows. She is a member of North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA), International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA) and the Recording Academy. Her articles and photographs have appeared in national magazines and newspapers such as Alaska Airlines in-flight magazine, Beyond and the Seattle Times. Patrice travels the globe to cover destinations that feature fascinating culture, art, culinary, history and soft adventure.

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