The many things to do in Oregon City are exciting activities that you won’t want to miss out on a visit to its Pacific Northwest region.
This city is a namesake to its home state Oregon, the “Beaver State,” which should already give you a hint of a historical linkage between the two.
Oregon City, founded in 1844, holds the bragging rights as the first permanent Euro-American community in the Willamette Valley.
Also, before Oregon City became the county seat of Clackamas County, it was the first state capital of Oregon.
Oregon City, moreover, enjoys an enviable location: just 13 miles south of the vibrant Portland metro with many attractions of its own.
But staying within the 26-square-kilometer enclave of Oregon City for a vacation may be quite enough for you.
The city is comprised of three major areas that draw much of their charms from the Willamette and Clackamas Rivers, merging on the city’s northern periphery.
On this wonderful template, let’s explore the 15 best things to do in Oregon City below.
Visit the Historic McLoughlin House and Barclay House
These two historic buildings—witness to the early days of Oregon—are located adjacent to each other on Center Street corner Singer Hill and 7th Street.
One of these historic structures is the restored house of John McLoughlin, recognized as the "Father of Oregon."
McLoughlin served as Chief Factor Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Vancouver from 1825 to 1845, acting as a prime mover in Oregon County’s development.
McLoughlin’s Oregon City general store became famous as the last stop of settlers coming via the Oregon Trail.
The McLoughlin’s neighboring Barclay House was constructed in 1849 and was the family home of Dr. Forbes Barclay, a noted Oregon medical practitioner for 23 years.
The minimal Classical Revival Barclay House counts as a part of the McLoughlin House Unit of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.
Tour the Museum of the Oregon Territory
This regional museum opened in 1990 on Tumwater Drive overlooking the awe-inspiring Willamette Falls.
Run by the Clackamas County Historical Society, the Museum of the Oregon Territory is freely open to the public.
It is a self-guided museum and features artifacts and displays spanning 10,000 years of history.
The eras of the collections in this museum span from prehistoric times up to the American settlement of the Oregon Territory during the 19th and 20th centuries.
The museum’s second floor displays Native American artifacts, items belonging to early American settlers, the memorabilia from the circa 1900s Kaegi Pharmacy.
The Murdock Gallery in the museum features exhibits changing seasonally to highlight the different life aspects in Clackamas County.
Peek at the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center
This center’s theme revolves around Oregon City being the end of the trail for many of the 400,000 Pacific Northwest settlers during the mid-1800s.
The city became the finale of their epic thousand miles journey because it was here that authorities granted land claims not only for Oregon but also Washington, Idaho, and Wyoming.
Visitors of the End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center can learn about the pioneers’ adventures and experience bits and pieces of the life of a pioneer.
Located on Washington Street, this historic site includes a self-guided tour along an ADA-compliant nature trail.
Besides listening to the history talks of pioneer-costumed interpreters in the center, you can also join pioneer games and try your hands at pioneer crafts, like candle making.
Have a Shot of Whisky at The Highland Stillhouse
The Highland Stillhouse brings the delights of a Scottish pub in South McLoughlin Boulevard.
This pub found an Oregon lair in a historic building nestled atop a bluff overlooking Willamette Falls.
Visitors of The Highland Stillhouse surely won’t leave dry as it boasts more than 600 whisky bottles consistently behind its bar.
The pub also offers an authentic Scottish dining experience with its menu that includes Scotch egg with spicy mustard and coleslaw, as well as artichoke and crab dip.
Gluten-free and vegan meal options are also available at the Highland Stillhouse, which hosts live Celtic folk music.
Explore the Canemah Bluff Nature Park
Canemah Bluff Nature Park, located on 4thAvenue, will provide you with overlooking views of the Willamette River.
You can gain a good vantage point for taking pictures of spring wildflowers while learning bits of history about Oregon City.
The Canemah Bluff Nature Park features unpaved trails of more than a mile traversing a remarkable tapestry of natural habitats.
Birdwatchers enjoy these trails where they can espy on white-breasted nuthatches, red-breasted sapsuckers, chipping sparrows, orange-crowned warblers, eagles, and hawks.
These birds thrive in this nature park because of the rich diversity of their Canemah Bluff habitat, where you’d find the rare Oregon white oak and Pacific madrone trees, as well as Douglas fir, alder, and maple.
You can also bring your kids here for them to enjoy the Canemah Neighborhood Children’s Park, which offers a playground and a basketball court, as well as picnic tables and restrooms.
Enjoy the Newell Creek Canyon Nature Park
This park on Warner Milne Road is an amazing place to visit, as it allows communion with Mother Nature right at the heart of the city.
At the Newell Canyon Creek Nature Park, you can bike or walk under the canopies of majestic big leaf maple trees while enjoying views of crystal-clear waterways.
Occasionally, you are wont to see wildlife entering the park’s natural scenery, such as black-tailed deer, red fox, beavers, cottontail rabbits, and pileated woodpeckers.
The dedicated mountain biking trails of the park notably features easier paths for beginners and kids.
The park provides a picnic area under the shadows of big leaf maple trees and close to restrooms and parking.
Shoot Photos of the Willamette Falls
You can have an exciting boat trip to the base of Willamette Falls if you visit Oregon City during the summer.
On summer weekends, a 49-passenger sternwheeler makes trips to the horseshoe-shaped 42-foot-high and 1,500-foot-wide falls just southeast of the city’s central district.
The transit dock of the sternwheeler boat called “Belle of the Falls” is on Clackamette Drive.
If you can’t spare the one-hour boat trip of this tour, there is an option to shoot pictures at the falls viewpoint on US Highway 99E.
This vantage point is on a parking bay just across the Museum of the Oregon Territory.
Be a Triathlete at Clackamas Cove
If you’re into the sports discipline of the swim-bike-run triathlon, check out Clackamas Cove immediately east of Clackamette Park.
Also known as the Clackamette Cove, this quiet inlet comes alive during the Oregon 5K 10K Triathlon held since 2013.
For non-triathletes, the cove is a fine place for swimming and fishing that can yield Bluegill, Yellow bullhead, and smallmouth bass.
You can also enjoy a nice walk visiting the cove if you take the Clackamette Cove Trail from the city’s Main Street Extension.
This trail leads to a footbridge to the River Access Trail in the nearby city of Gladstone for an extended exploration from the Clackamas Cove.
Have Fun at Clackamette Park
You can enjoy water-based recreational activities in this park located on Clackamette Drive.
The Clackamette Park provides this delights as it spreads on the banks of the merging waters of the Clackamas and Willamette rivers.
One of Oregon City’s largest, this park features water access and a boat ramp, as well as walking paths, horseshoe pits, drinking fountains, a swing set, two reservable shelters, and restrooms.
You’ll also find a skate park here, offering scheduled days for skating novices under age 10.
A two-acre site in Clackamette Park is available to 36 RV Campers, with water and electricity hookups provided.
Take a Quiet Stroll at Waterboard Park
You can enter the secluded Waterboard Park via the northern terminus of John Adams Street, with the armory there as your landmark.
This pocket park is a lush natural area with a promontory offering an awe-inspiring view of Oregon City.
Its paved pathway, Waterboard Park Road, is 1.1 miles long and lightly trafficked, opening the chance for you to observe wildlife.
With the easy trek along Waterboard Park Road, you can extend your stroll to Hidden Viewpoint.
The panorama here is even astonishing as the views extend from Oregon City to surrounding areas like West Linn, Portland, Milwaukee, and Happy Valley on clear days.
Ride the Oregon City Municipal Elevator
This municipal facility connects the central business district of the city to its eastern neighborhood higher in elevation due to the unique local topography.
The Oregon City Municipal Elevator is 130-foot high and the only one of its kind in the US.
This “vertical street” was built in 1954-55 and is listed on the US National Register of Historic Places.
It replaced the first Oregon Municipal Elevator, which was made of wood and steel and opened to the public in 1915.
At the top level of the current elevator, there is an observation deck resembling a flying saucer when viewed from outside.
In the early 1900s, before the construction of the elevator, a stairway with 722 steps serve residents and visitors going to and from the city’s central district.
Go for the 18 Holes of Oregon City Golf Club
This golfers’ destination in Oregon City is a privately owned, public golf course on
South Beavercreek Road.
The Oregon City Golf Club’s 18-hole course is carved on more than 100 acres of scenic, rolling Cascadian terrain with mature trees lining the fairways.
Play on this layout goes at par 71 over 5,872 yards from the longest tee, playable to golfers of all skill levels.
Golf Digest Magazine has included this course in its list of "Best Places to Play."
The course rating of this Oregon City golf links is 68.2, while 116 is the slope rating from the layout’s back tees.
Cross the Oregon City Bridge
This landmark, also called the Arch Bridge, can be accessed from the city’s central district via 7th Street and Main Street.
This Oregon City Bridge was opened in 1922 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The span serves as a link between Oregon City and the city of West Linn.
This bridge is unique because it resembles a concrete arch bridge, but it is not.
Oregon City’s Arch Bridge is classified as a steel arch bridge because what looks like concrete formed around its beams and solid steel boxes is shotcrete or simple gunite.
This material was applied like a coat of paint supposedly to protect the span from the corrosive fumes of Sulphur dioxide from nearby paper mills.
Enjoy Beer at Oregon City Brewing Company
Award-winning beers await you at the Oregon City Brewing Company, a family-owned brewpub on Washington Street.
In the US Open Beer Championship, this brewer emerged among the top 10 with a bunch of individual awards, too, for its beers.
These winners that beer connoisseurs would want to sample include the gold medalist Beast of Burton crafted as a British imperial stout.
Another winning pick is the Oregon brewer’s silver medalist Very A-Gris-Able set expertly as red wine barrel-aged beer.
To cap the night of merry drinking, try Coming to Fruition in Marionberry, also a silver medalist as a Brett beer.
Feel Nostalgic at the Historic Midway Public House
This unassuming neighborhood establishment on 7th Street has been serving locals and visitors since 1933.
Known originally as "Midway Confectionary and Bus Depot,” it started as a barbershop and later converted to a tavern after the 1933 repeal of the Prohibition.
From just 900 square feet, Historic Midway Public House is now a laid-back and roomy watering hole with a full-service bar offering 20 taps.
To help its customers blow off steam, this pub house provides 11 pool tables.
It also offers American comfort food, such as house-smoked meats, steaks, fresh burger patties, and hand-cut fries.
Historic Oregon City has so much to offer to visitors in much the same way that it has contributed a lot to the foundation of its home state.
The things to do in Oregon City can make you recall the hardworking spirits that molded the Pacific Northwest into what it is today.
A visit to this city also allows you to enjoy an unspoiled natural environment yet remain so close to the modern conveniences of an urban metropolis.