Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It features rugged rocky coastlines, dense forests, fun cities, mountains, deep canyons, and desert in the southeastern part of the state.
If driving in Oregon, be aware of a state law that does not allow self-service at gas stations. A gas station attendant must pump the gas.
Also, be aware that the name of the state is invariably pronounced "OR-uh-gun" within the state; if you pronounce it "or-ee-GONE," most residents will reflexively correct you, as they are unable to abide this particular faux pas. If you persist, be prepared to endure some awkward moments. Also, the Willamette River, the main river in Western Oregon that runs north from Eugene through Salem to Portland, is pronounced "wil-LAM-met," with the accent on the second syllable.
The four largest commercial passenger airports in Oregon are:
For most of eastern Oregon, the Boise Airport (BOI) in Idaho is the closest. Tri-Cities Airport in Pasco, Washington (PSC) is also nearby for locations further north, but still east of the Cascades.
Portland International is served non-stop by most major airlines and by several international carriers. It is the only international port of entry for Oregon with daily non-stops from Tokyo, Amsterdam, and a few Canadian cities.
The three smaller airports are served non-stop by feeder lines to Portland and other regional hubs such as San Francisco, Seattle, Las Vegas, and Salt Lake City. Salem Airport no longer has passenger service.
Amtrak offers several ways to enter and travel throughout Oregon by train:
For more information, see Amtrak's website, Wikivoyage's article Rail travel in the United States, or the Wikipedia pages on each of this train services.
Oregon has two Interstate Highways:
Federal and state highways effectively serve the remainder of the state, arranged in a grid-like lattice, but warped by mountain ranges:
Oregon is one of two states in the U.S. (along with New Jersey) where self-serve gasoline stations are not allowed by law. The speed limit along the interstates is generally 65 miles per hour (mph) except in the urban areas of interstate 5 where it is 55 mph. On highways it is generally 55 mph. For more details see Oregon Revised Statutes Chapter 811.111 and 810.180 .
The Oregon Coast is a premier destination for cycling, although traffic, narrow shoulders, heavy winds and rains, and windy roads make it dangerous. Nevertheless, many people cycle the entire Oregon Coast each year. In the summer months take Highway 101 north to south starting in Astoria through Lincoln City and onto Brookings to get breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean. The prevailing winds will be at your back all summer long. For the seasoned cyclist head north in winter months as the winds are out of the SW at that time of year.
The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (which runs from Canada to Mexico) passes through Oregon along the Cascade Mountains. With almost no civilization along its route and very few highway crossings (four in the northern 150 miles of the trail), it is exceptional for experiencing nature while avoiding civilization.
Hundreds of species of birds and wildlife in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge.
Mt. Hood, known for its beauty as well as family recreation area.
The Lush forests around every corner, and the fantastic Willamette river.
The Portland Timbers MLS soccer team, who while lacking skill have some of the best fans to talk to and cheer with in America.
Unlike most US states, Oregon has no sales tax. There is no tax included in posted prices and no tax is added at the till. This is worth bearing in mind if you're planning on making any large purchases during an interstate trip.
(Also unique to Oregon is that employees pump gas for you at any gas station within State boundaries)
From the coastal hamlets to the valley cities to the remote towns of the high desert, Oregonians drink, and proudly. Because of the growing wine and microbrewery industries in the state which produce drink of world-class quality, having a tipple and touring beverage facilities is a popular pastime for Oregon residents and tourists alike. It is occasionally joked that one cannot throw a cat in the city of Portland without hitting a bar (though one shouldn't: the PETA people there can be touchy and rather humorless, especially regarding the hurling of cute little kitties), while most other towns of any appreciable size have at least two places in which one can imbibe. Yes, the drinking culture here is strong, and if you like to pickle your giblets then you'll be in heaven.
Oregon is an "Alcoholic Beverage Control State" and as such requires all distilled spirits to be sold by state-approved outlets. Because the liquor stores purchase their wares from the state at an inflated and heavily-taxed cost, liquor by the bottle or by the shot can run your booze bill up pretty quickly. Fortunately, Oregon has no shot size regulation (such as, say, Utah has) and many bars - especially in the Portland area - pour their drinks quite liberally; in fact, a literal three fingers of whiskey is not uncommon if you know the barkeep. Bottoms-up, but don't bottom out!
There are no "blue laws" concerning time of alcohol sales other than a daily 2:30-7:00AM restriction, so if you like "kegs and eggs" for your Sunday breakfast, Oregon's your kind of place. Also, Oregon's alcohol laws are unitary within the state and are wholly overseen by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC), so there's no need to worry about dry towns or dry counties.
Finally, bartenders in Oregon seem to be a bit more strict about checking ID than those in many other states. This likely due to the aforementioned OLCC, which is known to be nothing short of draconian when it comes to the enforcement of laws regarding the furnishing of alcohol to minors by service workers and punishment under the same. If you look under 30 (or even 40!), just hand them your ID card / passport before you order because they will ask for it. There is also a total indoor smoking ban in all places but cigar and hookah bars.
Oregon has a large number of local microbrews, and several breweries whose beverages are distributed outside the state. Most are happy to host guests for tastings, and many are accompanied by restaurants and gift shops.
In recent years, Oregon has become renown as an outstanding wine producing region in its own right, with a range of temperate climates that allow the production of vintages significantly different from neighboring vineyards and wineries in California. The Willamette Valley, just south of Portland, is particularly well known for its distinguished Pinot Noirs, and is well-suited to grow other Burgundian and Alsacian varietals: Gamay Noir, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Riesling and Gewürztraminer among others. A diverse arrangement of climates, though, fosters a range of other grapes throughout the state.
Some of the larger, more well-known wineries and vineyards are:
Due to strict policing for DUI's and meandering country roads, it is strongly suggested to hire a tour guide when visiting local wineries and participating in wine tasting.
Liquor in Oregon is sold in specifically-licensed stores (though supermarkets may still sell wine and beer).
There are several well-known distilleries:
Oregonians are fanatically proud of the natural beauty of their state; littering or otherwise causing harm to the scenic beauty - including wildlife - found here is bound to draw attention to you that you probably do not want, up to and including that special type which only an officer of the law can give.
That being said, keep in mind that while Portland and the rest of the Willamette Valley is very cosmopolitan and culturally similar to San Francisco and Seattle, Eastern Oregon and Southern Oregon are more akin to Idaho and Nevada; that is to say, quite conservative. Contrary to popular belief, not all Oregonians are liberal, a fact which will become abundantly clear to you on a trip to a place such as Burns, La Grande, or Prineville.
State issues in general tend to be divided along Willamette / non-Willamette lines (that is, large cities within the valley such as Eugene and Portland / smaller cities along the coast, around the mountains, and in the high desert), and some resentment between these groups may be uncovered. The State of Jefferson, a region of southern Oregon and northern California marked by a period of attempted secession during the first half of the 20th century, retains a very independent mindset: Jefferson Public Radio and the State of Jefferson Chamber of Commerce are two indicators of a retained degree of autonomy from this period.
Oregonians are known for being exceptionally kind and welcoming people; accordingly, violent crime in Oregon is quite low and visitors are not likely to have any harm come to them during their stay. Be aware, however, that violence has been on the rise in the Portland and Salem areas due to increasing gang activity - troubles which have likely been exacerbated by the state's 10.5% unemployment rate (November, 2009). Property crime is always a problem. The most dangerous neighborhood in the entire state is probably the King neighborhood in Northeast Portland (and even this area is not too risky if traveling in a group at night). The Rockwood district in suburban Gresham is also known for disturbingly high levels of violent and property crime. A casual visitor, however, will not likely have any reason to go to either of these places - in fact, most residents don't, either. For hazards specific to these cities, please see their respective guides.
If you are in need of emergency assistance, dial 911 on your phone.
Marijuana is decriminalized in Oregon. Possession of a user-quantity (1 oz. or less) is a civil violation and can be punished by a fine of $500-$1,000. The level of enforcement will vary greatly depending on where you are: in Portland (Potland?) the police will likely dump it on the ground and tell you to get lost; in Eugene they might smoke it with you; and in Burns you'll likely face down a judge who isn't too keen on letting some "Godless stoner" off with anything less than the maximum fine. Dealing is, as one might expect, not tolerated as well and offenders can expect unpleasant ramifications in the form of a felony conviction; this is especially true within 1,000 feet of a school.
As for "hard drugs", you're better off avoiding them. Due to the state's awful methamphetamine wave of the 1980s - 2000's, there is very little tolerance in this area and a number of tough laws passed in response to the epidemic will all but ensure that you will be involved with the legal system for a long time to come and at great expense. Another side effect of the state's notorious methamphetamine problem is that any medication containing pseudoephedrine (e.g. Sudafed) is treated as a Class III Controlled Substance of the Controlled Substance Act and thus requires a prescription. This also means that one must prove that they have a prescription to be in possession of such medications, so if one is coming from out-of-state it is a good idea to leave it at home.
Psychoactive mushrooms grow naturally here and abundantly, but, of course, possession is illegal. Don't be stupid.
Natural hazards are also few, but include mountaineering fatalities (Mt. Hood in particular). tsunamis on the coast are very rare, but have occurred; make note of the "Evacuation Route" signs. For information on the state's hazard assessment, visit the NOAA Center for Tsunami Research . Sudden snowstorms in the Cascade Mountains from October to May occur and could lead to increased avalanche danger. The usual perils of desert travel in the Southeastern part of the state could be eminent if you are unprepared, so always follow desert survival guidelines ; and rattlesnakes, bears and other wildlife (particularly east of the Cascade range).
If you venture out of the Willamette Valley during your stay, be sure that your automobile is well fueled and in suitable condition: while Portland is modern and well-populated, Eastern Oregon includes some of the most sparsely populated areas in the United States. Harney County in the Southeast region of the state, for example, is slightly smaller than Massachusetts but is the home to only about 7,000 people. Breaking down out there will, in best case scenarios, make for a very long and annoying day; at worst, the consequences can be tragic. In rural areas, be aware that many seemingly passable roads are truly impassable for large portions of fall, winter and spring. Apparent routes or shortcuts across mountainous areas and deserts should be validated with locals before attempting - deep snow has captured the vehicle of many a tourist or day tripper who ventured into unknown territory and pushed when they should have exercised better judgment.
Finally, as the subject of the vast emptiness of Oregon has been broached, remember to always have an adequate map (Benchmark Maps makes an exceptionally good one), especially if traveling into the wilderness on foot: each year many hikers go missing and, sadly, some never return. Know where you are going, and make sure someone else does too.