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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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 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.
Marvel at Human Creativity During the Da Vinci Days
Much like the polymath from which it's named, Da Vinci Days is a festival that celebrates human genius and creativity.
It’s one of the most anticipated events in Corvallis, brought about by the collaboration of OSU, the city, and a private company.
During the third weekend of July, students, townsfolk, and visitors come together to watch live music concerts, art showings, and the famous Kinetic Race.
This event involved kinetic sculptures made by the competitors themselves, which are all non-motorized and powered by people.
Watch as winged insects, gnarly creatures, and other incredible designs race towards the finish line!
This combination of art, engineering, and human endurance elevates it from other races—an event that da Vinci himself would be proud to see.
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
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.
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
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.
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.