Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Ontario, OR

  • Published 2023/02/22

You can find thirteen cities named Ontario in three countries, but the one in the United States truly sets itself apart.

Ontario is a city in the easternmost part of Oregon, near the border of Idaho.

This quaint city is known throughout Idaho as the first city they pass when crossing the border through Interstate 84.

Thus, Ontario carries the slogan “Where Oregon Begins,” a fascinating message to visitors.

Ontario has a vibrant community known for its diverse culture and heritage.

Ontario’s population comprises European, Native American, Hispanic, Japanese, and Basque ancestries, making this city even more unique.

Moreover, its attractions are impressive and all worth visiting.

As the largest city in Malheur County in Oregon, Ontario is an excellent weekend getaway destination.

Since Ontario meanders through the famous Snake River, expect a lot of outdoor adventure and beautiful natural sceneries.

So, what’s in store for you in this city in Oregon?

Discover the 20ther t best things to do in Ontario, Oregon.

Check Out the Historic Union Pacific Train Depot

Exterior of Union Pacific Train Depot

Ron Reiring, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Historic Union Pacific Train Depot situated along Depot Lane is a famous historical attraction in Ontario.

This historical attraction now serves as a famous events venue aside from being a significant place of history for Ontario and Malheur County.

The entire depot covers more than a 2,000-square feet facility.

It once served as a crucial train depot back in the late-1800s.

Because of this train depot, Ontario became a town and grew into a city in the late-1800s.

It was the nearest railroad depot for passengers who traveled from coast to coast, including products, freight services, and livestock.

In addition, thousands of young men who volunteered for the army made a stopover at the depot before deploying to the front lines in WWII.

Drop by the Ontario Welcome Center

When you arrive in Ontario, head to the Ontario Welcome Center situated along Interstate 84.

The Ontario Welcome Center is an important place you need to visit before heading out on your travel adventure.

You can conveniently grab some maps, brochures, and other information at the welcome center to access Ontario’s attractions conveniently.

In addition, the center recommends terrific restaurants, shops, businesses, and cafes in Ontario.

So, before anything else, drop by the Ontario Welcome Center.

Explore the Four Rivers Cultural Center & Museum

The Four Rivers Cultural Center Museum is the most famous attraction in Ontario.

This massive facility houses a vast museum that features more than a century of historical artifacts and items.

Its museum exhibits the history of the first settlers of Malheur County and Ontario.

These settlers were the Basque, Northern Paiutes, Hispanic, Japanese, and European immigrants who contributed to the city’s growth and progress.

During your visit, the museum screens an educational film to give you a more precise context of the historical background of the museum’s exhibits.

On the other hand, the Four Rivers Cultural Center is also a famous place for public and private events.

It’s where most events in Ontario take place, from arts, entertainment, education, history, and community functions.

Don’t miss the Hikaru Mizu, the lone Japanese Garden in Ontario, boasting a magnificent 13,000-square-foot diorama.

Rub Elbows with Locals at the Malheur County Fairgrounds

Every August, the entire Malheur County converges in Ontario to join the annual County Fair at the County Fairgrounds.

This central gathering has happened in Malheur County since 1909 through the efforts of the Malheur County Agricultural Association.

The county fair was initially organized to promote the region’s corn production.

It eventually grew into a significant public affair featuring entertainment, food, and festivities, making it an exciting event.

Visit Ontario in August if you want to join the Malheur County Fair.

It’s your perfect chance to rub elbows with locals while enjoying the festivities with more than 20,000 people.

Have a Picnic at Lions Park

Lions Park is one of Ontario’s community parks worth visiting with your loved ones.

Lions Park has a vast green open space and enough trees to cover you from the sun.

Many of Ontario’s locals love to spend their time at this park during weekends for a family picnic or outdoor recreation.

Like most excellent community parks, Lions Park boasts a beautiful playground, picnic shelters, and other amenities that make it a fantastic garden.

Most importantly, you’ll likely spend your entire day at Lions Park because of its fabulous indoor pool and splash pad with an affordable admission fee.

You can also check out the Veterans Monument at the park, which honors the courageous military servicemen and women.

Discover the Urban Legend of the Malheur Butte

Sunset over Malheur Butte

Staplegunther at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Malheur Butte is one of the most outstanding natural landmarks in Malheur County and the Ontario-Vale area.

This extinct volcano is west of Ontario.

Despite being inactive for over a million years, this ancient volcanic formation still displays geothermal activity through hot springs.

Today, it’s a famous natural attraction outside Ontario.

Besides its fascinating backstory, Malheur Butte is more famous for its urban legend.

According to Native Americans in Malheur County, Malheur Butte served as a lookout point for the area’s settlers back in the day.

They also believe that many people met their untimely demise in the nearby trail, haunting the area for years.

At the same time, it was also where witches performed their rituals.

With all that in mind, Malheur Butte is an exciting place to check out when you’re in Ontario.

Embrace Nature at the Ontario State Recreation Site

If you’re searching in Ontario for an excellent spot to relax, go to the Ontario State Recreation Site to rest within nature.

This massive natural area in Ontario is a day-use park nestled on the west bank of the Snake River.

It has vast lush green fields, tree lines, and park amenities, perfect for meditating or perhaps breathing fresh air under the shade of its cottonwood and juniper trees.

In addition, Ontario State Recreation Site is also an excellent place for birdwatching, fishing, and wildlife viewing.

Chug a Pint of Craft Beer at Tandem Brewing

Take a break from your Ontario travel adventure and head to Tandem Brewing for a cold pint or cold bottle of its finest craft beer.

Situated in downtown Ontario, this local brewery boasts some of the finest craft beer in Malheur County.

If you’re yearning for a much-needed break after an entire day touring Ontario’s attractions, head to this brewery and enjoy a pint with your travel buddies.

Tandem Brewing features a wide selection of signature craft beers served on tap or bottled.

Overall, it’s an excellent place to loosen up or perhaps have fun with the locals who consider this their favorite watering hole in Ontario.

Tee Up at the Country View Golf Course

If you have some hidden golf skills that you want to show off with your travel buddies, head to the Country View Golf Course and swing through its scenic 18-hole course.

This public golf course is along Golf Course Drive in Ontario.

Whether you’re a skilled golfer or simply visiting Ontario for vacation, visit this charming golf course and appreciate its perfectly landscaped course.

Aside from playing golf, many people love to visit this golf course to take photos with the gorgeous backdrop of the natural beauty of Ontario.

This golf course has operated since 1964, making it a premier place to play a round of this beloved sport.

Browse the House that Art Built

Head to The House That Art Built and bring home a unique souvenir.

This famous artsy gift shop features unique handmade items such as artwork, scarves, accessories, jewelry, hats, glassware, mosaics, aprons, pottery, and mirrors.

More items are waiting for you at the shop before returning home from Ontario.

In addition, you can also join its arts workshop regularly held to complete your experience.

Catch the Latest Flicks at the Reel Theatre

If you’re not in the mood to go outside during your travel to Ontario, head to Reel Theatre along 13th Street.

This movie theatre is the favorite place for locals and visitors in Ontario to watch the latest Hollywood and even foreign flicks.

Like most top-notch cinemas, Reel Theatre boasts top-quality visuals and audio.

At the same time, it has a snack bar you can check out before buying tickets.

Hop on a Kayak with Ontario Board Shack

Ontario Board Shack is widely known in the city for its top-notch stand-up paddleboard, boating, and kayaking rentals.

Most visitors in Ontario rent stand-up paddleboards and kayaks as part of their boating experience on the Snake River or perhaps at Lake Owyhee.

So, don’t miss the chance to experience boating through this famous river and lake.

If you’re not entirely familiar with kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, you can also join lessons and guided tours.

Admire the Scenery While on Your Stroll along Beck-Kiwanis Park

After a mile-worth of exploration within Ontario’s best attractions, don’t forget to unwind and enjoy the simple pleasures of nature.

Beck-Kiwanis Park can get you closer to the relaxation you desire.

Sitting at 31 acres, this park features baseball fields and playground areas for your active loved ones.

Its walkways are ideal spaces for meditation and idle jogging or walking.

Take in the peaceful environment of Beck-Kiwanis Park at the picnic pavilions within the site.

You won’t regret it!

To get to this park, head over to North West 8th Avenue.

Join the Annual Chocolate and Wine Walk in Downtown Ontario

Up for a unique tasting adventure while in Ontario?

Then, you’ll like the Chocolate and Wine Walk and its evening elegance.

Offering at least 20 stops in the downtown district of Ontario, this walk features world-class wine and chocolate samples.

The Chocolate and Wine Walk is a gateway to the city’s best wineries and restaurants.

Bring a friend or loved one and turn this stroll into a memorable one.

This special event usually starts at Moore Park during the first week of May.

Listen to Music While Admiring Flowers at Live After 5 in the Garden

Get ready to jam while in Ontario at Live After 5 in the Garden.

This annual event hosted by Four Rivers Cultural Center showcases the silent beauty of the Hikaru Mizu Japanese Garden.

This 1.3-acre garden offers green spaces, a flowing stream, and stunning Japanese-inspired pavilions.

And this is more emphasized by the presence of local artists and bands during the outdoor event.

Live After 5 in the Garden occurs from June to August—the ultimate summer event you shouldn’t miss.

The impressive gardens are on South West 5th Avenue.

Enjoy the Presentations and Performances at America’s Global Village Festival

Every first week of June, the community of Ontario gathers for a celebration of diversity and culture.

America’s Global Village Festival features a collection of village-like booths representing different cultures all over the world.

Kickstarting the event is a downtown parade.

Tents lined up within the park offer varied cuisines and entertainment.

Don’t miss out on cultural presentations and dance performances all throughout the day.

Lions Park hosts the yearly America’s Global Village Festival on South West 4th Avenue.

So, mark your calendars as early as now!

Admire One of the Murals Included in the Oregon Mural Trail

One of Ontario’s prominent public artworks is the “Oregon is Magic” mural right outside Red Apple Marketplace.

This piece is a part of the 7-piece Oregon Mural Trail created by Matt Wagner.

This particular mural draws attention to the desert landscapes of Ontario.

Along with its rugged mountain background, the mural depicts cracked desert ground.

And the centerpiece of the art piece is a herd of horses running on ahead.

If you’re planning to hop along various Oregon cities, you might want to consider the cities Pendleton, Roseburg, and Prineville.

These cities make up some parts of the Oregon Mural Trail.

It’s an art adventure unlike any other!

Other Things to Do Nearby

Spot Bighorn Sheep at Lake Owyhee State Park

Scenic view of Lake Owyhee State Park

Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington from Portland, America, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re looking for a top-notch outdoor adventure, head to Lake Owyhee State Park, where you can spot wild bighorn sheep roaming freely.

Besides the bighorn sheep, you’ll also love this beautiful lake’s fantastic rock formations.

Most Malheur County locals consider Lake Owyhee State Park an oasis, perfect for outdoor recreation.

It is truly the perfect place for outdoor recreation since Lake Owyhee State Park offers excellent boating and camping facilities.

You can choose between two campgrounds in the state park on the shores of the Owyhee Reservoir, which spans 53 miles of a narrow and deep canyon.

In addition, head to Gordon Gulch Day-use Area, which functions as the recreation area of the state park.

Boating is the favorite activity in Owyhee State Park, where visitors explore the lake’s beauty.

At the same time, anglers love to cast their line to catch some local fish species.

Lastly, this state park is a popular destination for wildlife viewing.

Aside from bighorn sheep, local wildlife such as mountain lions, deer, eagles, hawks, and small mammals are commonly seen.

Step inside the Rinehart Stone House Museum

Exterior of Rinehart Stone House Museum

Ian Poellet, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

From its name, the Rinehart Stone House Museum is a fantastic place you need to check out in Ontario.

This museum is in the adjacent city of Vale, the county seat of Malheur County.

The museum is in a remarkable sandstone building constructed more than a century ago and served as one of the county’s permanent structures.

Visiting this museum is genuinely worthwhile because of its vast collection of artifacts, relics, memorabilia, period photos, and artworks from the early settlers of Malheur County.

Historically, the sandstone building was once a wayside stop for passing travelers along the Oregon Trail and became a settlement for refugees during the Bannock Paiute uprising.

Experience Boating along Snake River

Scenic sunrise reflecting on Snake River

Curtis Fry, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Boating is one of the favorite activities you’ll enjoy in Ontario because of the Snake River.

This famous river offers outdoor enthusiasts and visitors dozens of exciting experiences.

Snake River has something exciting for everyone, from nature lovers to adventure seekers.

The calm waters of Snake River

Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There are dozens of boat and kayak rentals you can choose from in Ontario when you plan to boat along the Snake River.

In addition, anglers around Oregon love to return to Snake River because of its abundance of trout, catfish, and bass.

Snake River also teems with local wildlife from eagles, deer, osprey, bighorn sheep, and lizards, perfect for wildlife viewing.

Final Thoughts

Ontario is genuinely a worthwhile travel destination for those who want a short respite from their busy lives.

This small city in Oregon has many hidden gems.

So, pack your bags and bring your loved ones or travel buddies with you on this unique travel adventure.

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