When the opportunity presented itself last week to take a spontaneous road trip to Eugene, Oregon for a day and a half, I hopped in the car and headed south. Fall is my favorite time of year in Eugene. It's a gorgeous place to watch the leaves change and being a college town, there's always a feeling of excitement when classes start up again for the year no matter how long it's been since you've been out of school.
About two hours from Portland, Eugene makes for a quick and easy getaway from the city. I used to live in Eugene not so long ago and wanted to share a few favorite places around town. This list is by no means exhaustive of all of the tasty eats, activities, and sights to see. Consider this part one of your city guide to Eugene, Oregon.
If it's cold and rainy, drive around Skinner's Butte to catch a glimpse at the beautiful autumn foliage in Eugene. Or feel collegiate as you stroll through the University of Oregon campus which doubles as an arboretum with over 3,000 trees. Be sure to check out the historic Hayward Field, home to the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Track and Field. After all, Eugene's nickname is "TrackTown USA." Then there's Hendricks Park, the City of Eugene's oldest city park filled with 200 year-old fir trees and a beautiful rhododendron garden. It's the perfect spot for wandering on a clear fall day.
We all have our favorite local coffee shops and mine in Eugene is Vero Espresso. Serving Stumptown Coffee out of a restored, bright yellow Victorian mansion (you can't miss it) on 14th and Pearl, Vero is a popular spot for Eugene locals. Unfortunately, the service can sometimes err on the side of apathetic, but you'll forget by the time your delicious, weekend-only breakfast sandwich arrives. Be early if you plan on reading or writing in the comfortable, communal seating area as it can fill up quickly with professors and upperclassmen preparing for their classes.
If you're in the mood to get away from it all, Noisette Pastry Kitchen is located on a quiet street in Downtown Eugene. Noisette offers a range of sweet and savory options as well as a macaron of the day at the register. Let it be known that I scarfed down a pain au chocolat before savoring a warm roasted squash, goat cheese, and gruyere brioche, and took two almond macarons filled with chocolate ganache for the road. There are too many good options at Noisette to choose from. It's the best kind of problem to have. Then there's the perennial favorite, Sweet Life Patissere. Should you truly want to treat yourself, Sweet Life is one of the best casual places to grab dessert and catch up with friends. Tucked away in the funky yet family-friendly Whiteaker neighborhood is cozy, and as the name implies, sweet. Their seasonal dessert selection is one of the best in town.
Being that Oregon is the best state in the U.S. for beer, it's no surprise that Eugene is home to a solid selection of local breweries. The Ninkasi tasting room is a top choice with a full lineup of Ninkasi classics alongside a rotating, seasonal tap list and a great outdoor patio. Other options include the always stellar Falling Sky Brew House & Gastro Pub or Oakshire. If you're pressed for time and can only make one beer oriented stop, I'd make it Bier Stein. With a rotating selection of over 30 beers fresh on tap, it's my favorite beer geek spot in town. You can even view the tap list in real time here. The new digs on 16th and Willamette have been seriously upgraded with a large electronic tap board and an impressive stock with over 1,000 local and international bottles. The food is beer hall-style approved and the staff is the perfect combination of friendly and knowledgable.
Planning a quick getaway to Eugene or have a favorite spot in town? More on the best restaurants, wineries, sights and entertainment are to come.