Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Corvallis, OR

  • Published 2022/08/16

The idyllic city of Corvallis, Oregon is an often overlooked attraction outshined by the state’s famous coasts.

But those who are curious enough to explore the interiors will be surprised at the hidden wonders that this town offers.

Surrounded by expansive forests and bordered by the Willamette River, Corvallis has a long list of outdoor adventures for nature lovers and thrill-seekers.

It’s also a designated “Tree City USA” thanks to the 47 public parks and green spaces the city manages.

But nature isn’t the only thing celebrated here, as the town has many festivals, museums, and centers that celebrate human talent and prowess.

From the Oregon State University (OSU) to the Reser Stadium, different talents are honed and showcased in various institutions within the city.

So if you’re looking for an all-around destination for an upcoming holiday, make this your top choice!

Here are the 15 best things to do in Corvallis, OR:

Catch a Game at Reser Stadium

Aerial View of Reser Stadium

Grindstone Media Group /

As the seat of OSU, Corvallis has a strong sporting culture that connects to the school spirit.

One of the best places to catch the games is at the expansive Reser Stadium.

With the facility’s 43,000 seating capacity pre-renovations, you can bring the whole family and still have plenty of space.

Front View of Reser Stadium

Zachary C Person /

The stadium holds a wide range of sporting events, but football is the most prominent.

Many tournaments have been played here, so if you want to catch one and join the cheering crowds, visit their calendar and see their schedules.

View of Reser Stadium

Grindstone Media Group /

Take a Cooling Dip at Osborn Aquatic Center

When the warm summer days come, Osborn Aquatic Center is the place to be!

This public community center has an expansive area filled with facilities for all ages and experience levels.

So whether you’re a pro at swimming or just looking for a pool for a cooling dip, you’ll find it here.

There are four individual swimming pools at the center, large enough for you to take a few laps.

Aside from these four, there’s also Otter Beach, Corvallis’ very own water park complete with modern amenities.

It has a recreation pool, splash pad, and towering slides where kids and adults can play.

And if you want to stay for a while, there are comfortable seats with plenty of shade around the pool.

Commune with Nature at McDonald-Dunn Forest

The McDonald and Dunn forests are often lumped together as a single destination, covering 11,250 acres of land.

These large swaths of woodland are primarily managed by OSU, which uses the forests for research.

Because of this status, there are many restrictions for visitors, most notably the ban on motorized vehicles.

But this hasn’t stopped nature lovers from checking out the attraction, as the annual number of visitors still reaches 155,000.

The gateway to the forests is the Peavy Arboretum, a patch of land that serves as a living laboratory for students of OSU.

This is one of the few places where picnics are allowed, as the rest of the forest is open only for hiking, biking, and horseback riding.

Camping and other activities outside designated areas are prohibited to maintain the pristine state of the destination.

Smell the Roses at Avery Park and Natural Area

At the heart of Corvallis’ city center lies one of its most popular parks, the beautiful Avery Park and Natural Area.

This destination covers 75 acres and is filled with many attractions and modern amenities.

One of these is the favorite flower bed in the city: Avery Park Rose Garden.

From May to October, this garden fills with color and fragrance from hundreds of blooming roses, making it a popular spot for photoshoots and nature walks.

Then there’s the one-mile walking trail that runs parallel to Mary’s River, the water feature that creates Avery Park’s northern borders.

The rest of the facility has picnic shelters for rent, play structures for kids, and wooded areas where you can rest under the shade.

See the Geese at William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge

View of  William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge

Jacob L Stark /

The expansive William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge is the farthest attraction from the city proper, but it’s still worth visiting, especially for nature and bird lovers.

This large area covers more than 5,700 acres of land, all of it protected to provide safe winter habitats for dusky Canadian geese.

They are the reason why the refuge was established in the first place, as they don’t have other places since the region became too populated.

Baordwalk at William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge

Robert Mutch /

Aside from being a home to geese, the protected area has diverse habitats unique to the Willamette Valley.

While exploring the trails winding through the land, you’d find old-growth forests, wet prairies, and other unique features.

These are home to many native wildlife species like Roosevelt elks, Oregon Chub, and waterfowl.

Keep an eye out for these animals while exploring the trails so you won’t disturb them.

View of  William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge

Jacob L Stark /

Immerse in Local History at Corvallis Museum

Learning the history of Corvallis will give you much-needed context about many of its attractions, and the best way to do that is at Corvallis Museum.

It’s under the care of the Benton County Historical Society, which manages the four galleries of the facility.

Here, you will find artifacts, collections, and documents that detail the history of Corvallis, Benton County, and the surrounding regions.

One of the most significant displays here is the Horner Collection, donated by OSU.

It has some rare items gathered from past societies in the Pacific Northwest, including many Native American tribes.

There are also artworks from talented local artists as well as national masters.

So if you want to get a glimpse of the city’s storied past, then a visit to the museum is worth the trip.

Cruise the Waters of Willamette River

Aerial view of Willamette River

justkidding /

Spanning 187 miles, the lengthy Willamette River begins its journey on the mountains near the city of Eugene before spilling into the Columbia River as its tributary.

Along the way, it passes the eastern borders of Corvallis, providing much-needed irrigation and nutrient-rich sediment for the city’s agricultural lands.

It also serves as a recreational attraction for those who like water-related activities.

Chief of these is fishing, with a few charters in Corvallis offering half-day or full-day charters.

The waters of Willamette River

melissamn /

The segment next to the city is a well-known spot for large and smallmouth bass and some other trophy species.

If you don’t have time for a boat ride, some of the city’s urban parks are open for shore fishing.

You’re also welcome to go kayaking or canoeing into the more isolated sections.

These are the perfect activities if you want to explore the hidden wonders of the river while also getting an arm workout.

Stay Awhile at Riverfront Commemorative Park

There’s no shortage of waterside attractions in Corvallis, thanks to the rivers and creeks of the city.

One of these is the tranquil Riverfront Commemorative Park, a green space that combines natural beauty and human ingenuity.

With its verdant grounds, tall and leafy trees, and riverfront section facing Willamette River, the attraction offers some of the most scenic views around.

These are complemented by the many sculptures dotting the park’s trails, including interactive ones where children can play.

On one end, you’ll find Helen M. Berg Plaza and its splash fountain.

It’s open from the early afternoon until the evening during November, allowing kids to have fun with the waters.

Bring Your Dog to Woodland Meadow Park

Unlike the other urban parks in Corvallis, Woodland Meadow Park has a more rugged and undisturbed look.

This attraction is, as implied by the name, an expansive meadow bordered by verdant trees.

During spring, the new growth grass creates a sweeping landscape of green that’s akin to the famous Windows wallpaper.

And you’re welcome to take stunning photos of the scenery.

There’s also a looping trail about half a mile long, frequented by joggers and walkers during early mornings and late afternoons.

You can bring your dog during your walk as they are welcome in the park.

It’s an off-leash site where your furry friend can run around and play with you or other dogs.

Just keep an eye out for them so they won’t stray into the forested sections or fight with other canine visitors.

Explore the Habitats in Jackson-Frazier Wetland

Scenic View of Jackson-Frazier Wetland

Craig Hanson /

The magnificent Jackson-Frazier Wetland is a 147-acre protected area that doubles as a tourist attraction.

Within this parcel of land, there’s a huge variety of habitats that allow it to host a wide range of native species.

There are cattail marshes, wetland prairie, forests, and shrubland areas where birds, small mammals, and reptiles live in harmony.

Via the wooden 3,400-foot boardwalk, you can explore these habitats and discover the abundant wildlife.

A pretty bird at Jackson-Frazier Wetland

Peter K. Ziminski /

Make sure to check out the interpretive signs that talk about certain sections as well as the park’s history.

Birdwatching is one of the favorite activities here, so you’re welcome to bring cameras or binoculars to document all the species you’ll see.

Just be careful—it’s a wetland, so most of the area is covered in water that can damage your equipment.

Check Our Beautiful Works at Corvallis Fall Festival

Signage of Corvallis Fall Festival

Jacquie Klose /

When autumn comes, the vibrant Corvallis Fall Festival goes into full swing.

This event was established to sustain the local arts scene but has now turned into a renowned celebration in the Pacific Northwest.

During the second-last weekend of September, artists from all over surrounding cities and towns converge in Corvallis to showcase their works.

There are usually more than 170 stalls every year, each displaying intriguing, handmade works.

You’ll find paintings, artisanal furniture, glassworks, jewelry, sculptures, and many other unique pieces.

There will also be live music concerts, street dance performances, as well as the Fall Festival Run, where everyone is invited to join.

So if you want to participate in this colorful and enjoyable event, make sure to visit the city during the early days of fall.

Watch a Show at Majestic Theatre

True to its name, the Majestic Theatre serves as a sublime venue where the very best of the city’s performance art scene is showcased.

This attraction has been around since 1913, originally serving as a vaudeville house.

It was only during 1990, when the facility was opened as a community theater, that it really became a hub for actors, playwrights, and directors in Corvallis.

Today, it serves as a flagship culture space in the region, a place where various forms of art are celebrated and developed.

So aside from thought-provoking theater plays, the theater holds musical concerts, community events, and lectures related to performance art.

Check out their calendar today and book a ticket for an upcoming show!

Reach the Highest Point of Chip Ross Park

Sitting close to the McDonald-Dunn Forest, Chip Ross Park is a peaceful attraction on the northern edges of Corvallis’ city proper.

It’s really more of a woodland area than an urban park, so it’s largely underdeveloped with a few modern amenities.

But these features add to the experience, as most people who come here want to escape from the urban noise without going too far from the city.

The most prominent feature in the park is the looping trail that brings you to the summit of a tall, forested hill.

Here, you can view Corvallis and the surrounding areas in all their majesty.

Aside from panoramic scenery, this hill also offers opportunities for wildlife encounters thanks to its prairie habitat.

So keep an eye out for colorful birds or small mammals hiding behind branches or scurrying about in the undergrowth.

Explore the Trails of Bald Hill Natural Area

Another one of the city’s expansive green spaces is Bald Hill Natural Area.

It covers 284 acres of land, making it one of the largest parks in Corvallis if the large forests are not counted.

With its rugged landscape and underdeveloped woodlands, Bald Hill Natural Area serves as a wild attraction offering adventures for thrill-seekers.

The rough trails are ideal for mountain biking, but there are milder paths for horseback riding and regular hiking.

While exploring, you’ll see the diverse habitats of the area, which include wetlands, oak savanna, and mixed forests.

These are home to native flora and fauna, including bluebirds, woodpeckers, gray squirrels, and Willamette daisy, an endangered plant.

So make sure to tread carefully to avoid stepping on or disturbing them.

Pay a Visit to Siuslaw National Forest

Scenic view from Siuslaw National Forest's peak

Jessica Maser /

Siuslaw National Forest is the epitome of natural splendor.

Sitka spruce and western hemlock dot its wooded pathways leading to waterfalls and wildernesses.

Marys Peak is the tallest peak in the Oregon Coast Range.

It offers breathtaking panoramas of the ocean and the Cascade Mountains.

Beautiful waterfalls at Siuslaw National Forest

Carolyn Croyle /

Ranger-led activities, forest and seaside hikes, camping, and picnic areas await you.

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is an exciting habitat, home to some of the world’s most extensive temperate coastal sand dunes, which are great for off-roading, beachcombing, and sandboarding.

Cascade Head, the first Scenic-Research Area in the United States, is located in the county of Siuslaw.

This protected area is vital to the survival of unique fauna, such as the Oregon silverspot butterfly.

Trail at Siuslaw National Forest

Heartwood Films /

Learn More about the Area’s Wildlife at Chintimini Wildlife Center

Chintimini Wildlife Center, located on the northern outskirts of Corvallis, is another must-see attraction.

This location has 9.4 acres of open space, making it ideal for Family Saturday outings.

The Raptor Education Program also calls this facility home.

The center also hosts excellent presentations on raptors and their survival in the wild, along with other educational exhibits.

Day camps, spring break, and summer camps are all ways that the center makes money to pay for operating costs and create new animals and habitats for the public.

Check Out the Irish Bend Covered Bridge

Daytime view of Irish Bend Covered Bridge

melissamn /

One of Corvallis’s most famous landmarks is the Irish Bend Covered Bridge.

Its original plan was for it to cover all of Willamette Slough inside Monroe, and construction began in 1954.

In 1979, the National Park Service added this location to the National Register of Historic Places.

The current condition of the bridge is the result of a reconstruction project that was funded in its whole by Bendy County and the Bend Advisory Committee.

The Howe truss-type bridge has a height of 60 feet.

Along with the nearby oak tree, the bridge is a popular year-round tourist attraction due to its significant historical significance at Oregon State University and the farm research facility.

Enjoy Local Brews at 2 Towns Ciderhouse

2 Towns Ciderhouse is Oregon’s most prominent craft cider maker.

Visiting this ciderhouse is a must for beer enthusiasts when in Corvallis, Oregon.

It resulted from the long-standing friendships that have paved a new way for the production of traditional cider made from entire fruits that are in season.

2 Towns Ciderhouse recognizes the importance of giving back to the community by throwing a harvest celebration, Brewfest, and other events all year long.

Each day at noon, patrons may relax in their comfortable tap room and sample any of 14 different ciders on tap or in bottles.

Bring your significant other to the cider house for a romantic evening, as dining options are available.

However, note that only those above 21 years old can dine here.

Shop for Eco-friendly OOTDs at Second Glance

Launched by the original Glancing Girl Nancy in 1984, Second Glance has been servicing Corvallis and the surrounding region.

Second Glance, which promotes eco-friendly, sustainable, and aware lifestyle choices, reminds the importance of Slow Fashion’s recent renaissance.

This is not your typical second-hand shopping trip.

Second Glance, open every day of the year, welcomes consumers to peruse their seasonal collection in-store and promotes consignment and an eco-friendly, ever-changing wardrobe.

Second Glance is a classic, clever, and fashionable firm that has been a local success story since 1984.

The company employs 14 women from the area and has been celebrating its founder’s entrepreneurial success on a global scale.

Final Thoughts

Corvallis’ setting makes it an excellent destination for thrilling outdoor adventures, whether on land or water.

There are also attractions that showcase local talent, a vibrant culture, and a storied past that will satisfy every curious traveler.

So reference this list when making your itinerary to add the top spots of this charming city.

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