Blake Walsh

21 Best Things to Do in The Dalles, OR

  • Published 2022/10/17

On the southern banks of the Columbia River is The Dalles, a historically important Native American trading center.

A part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the city was home to a trading post, Methodist mission, and a fort in the 1800s.

Presently, The Dalles, with its gorgeous natural landscapes, offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures, like hiking, fishing, and more.

Study its history in its museums or taste some of its delectable wines.

To make the most of your vacation, check out the best things to do in The Dalles, Oregon, below.

Study the History of The Dalles at the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum

Sign of Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum in The Dalles, OR

Victoria Ditkovsky /

The Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum is an award-winning facility that serves to collect, preserve, and interpret natural history resources.

The building itself is a whopping 48,200 sq ft, situated in a 54-acre property next to Columbia River and the Historic Columbia River Highway.

Discover the history of Columbia Gorge and explore the museum’s many exhibits, starting from the Ice Age until the present day.

Front View of Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum in The Dalles, OR

© Steven Pavlov /

Right near the entrance is the Columbia River Trading Co., featuring tons of art pieces, giftable items, as well as delicacies sold by locals.

If there’s something about the museum that you want to know, you can find a lot of information on its website.

Take a look at their map for directions, check out their events schedule, or sign up for membership.

If you want to book the museum for an event, there are many choices of rooms.

There’s even a café and a theater.

Interior View of Columbia Gorge Discovery Center and Museum in The Dalles, OR

Steven Pavlov, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Marvel at the Architecture of Old St. Peter’s Landmark

The Old St. Peter’s Landmark is an awe-inspiring piece of architecture, a towering church with gorgeous stained-glass windows.

It was saved from demolition by the locals, who asked for donations and sold a postcard “brick”
with a quote to fund the purchase of the church.

It has been the venue for many local events, including weddings and much more.

You can avail yourself of membership online through their website if you want to receive their yearly newsletter.

Make sure to check their website for schedules, events, and more.

Learn about the Lives of the Early Settlers in the Fort Dalles Museum and Anderson Homestead

Front View of Fort Dalles Museum in The Dalles, OR

Ian Poellet, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A historic, gothic-revival-styled structure, the former Surgeon’s Quarters, built in 1856, is currently the Fort Dalles Museum, which opened in 1905.

Learn about the fort’s history and how the influx of pioneers greatly affected the lives of the city’s citizens.

If you’re interested in cars, you’ll love its large, historic collection of wagons and antique vehicles.

The Anderson Homestead, on the other hand, consists of three buildings – the log house, the granary, and the barn.

Facade of Anderson Homesteadi n The Dalles, OR

© Steven Pavlov /

Each of the buildings served a different purpose and is made up of dark, hand-hewn logs.

It was restored in 1971 and is a part of the National Register of Historic Sites.

The Fort Dalles Museum and the Anderson Homestead sit in front of each other, and the tour guides in the museum can also give tours of the homestead.

Check out their website for details about the establishments and for contact information.

Check Out the Interactive Displays at The Dalles Lock and Dam Visitor Center

As one of the largest hydropower dams in the United States, The Dalles Lock and Dam is a sight to behold.

In addition to providing power, the dam also serves as a point of navigation and a site for recreational activities.

Grab your fishing equipment and test your angling skills.

It also helps fish passage, provides an irrigation system, and acts as a barrier for floods.

Meanwhile, The Dalles Lock and Dam Visitor Center features a series of interactive displays about the operations and uses of the dam.

You can also check out the Discover Your Northwest bookstore for great finds.

Taste the Delectable Pinot Noir in the Sunshine Mill Winery

Front View of Sunshine Mill Winery in The Dalles, OR

Dee Browning /

Sunshine Mill Winery creates delectable wines from the Oregon Mountain Estate grapes, meticulously maintained and processed.

It is a 130-acre pinot noir plantation, the grapes in which were selected by one of the world’s top viticulturists.

The Sunshine Mill has been standing for more than a century and has a rich history.

Visit the winery for extravagant wine tasting sessions.

Entrance door of Sunshine Mill Winery in The Dalles, OR

Dee Browning /

To complete the experience, take a bite of their delicious food, including cheeses and meats.

You may also check out the schedules for the Drive-Up at the Mill, where you can watch some of your favorite movies in a large parking lot.

It’s a perfect venue for events as well.

Visit their website for more information regarding events and if you want to book wine tastings.

Attend the Annual Northwest Cherry Festival with Your Friends

Come and join the lively crowds in the Columbia River Gorge during the Annual Northwest Cherry Festival.

There are tons of activities to try.

Sample the different varieties of cherries featured.

Groove to the music or sing along with the live bands.

Make some noise as the parade passes by.

If you’re a car aficionado, you’ll definitely enjoy the classic car show.

Put on your game face and join the race.

Visit one of the many vendors and enjoy the delicious food.

Watch the crowning of the Cherry Festival Royalty.

There’s quite a number of things to do; however, some events may not be available, so be sure to check online first.

You can also be a vendor and join the parade, but make sure to give them a call beforehand.

Search for The Dalles Murals

View of Dalles Murals in The Dalles, OR

Lambtron, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Scattered across the city are beautiful, painstakingly made murals.

These murals are a project of The Dalles Murals Society, established in 1993, and depict significant historical events in the city.

The murals make The Dalles Historic Commercial District one big history book, as you can take a stroll and learn about the stories that led to what the city is today.

In addition to creating art, the organization also restores parts of the city and advocates for more community involvement.

If you want to learn more about the individual pieces, you can take a look at their website as well.

They have a map online too, where you’ll be able to find their locations.

Walk amid Bright Neon Lights in the National Neon Sign Museum

You’ll like you’re back in time in the National Neon Sign Museum, located in the center of the Historic The Dalles Commercial District.

Take a walk amid vintage signages with bright neon lights and fun designs.

It features 20,000 square feet of signs, exemplifying the ambiance of the 1800s to the 1960s.

In addition, you can find artifacts that have a connection to the sign industry.

These signs are perfect examples of the power of advertising.

In this museum, you can learn more about the significance of advertising and the role it played, and continues to play, in history.

Visit their website to see some of the signs in their large collection.

Hike across the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail

A Biker in Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail

Gary Gilardi /

In the past, Highway 30 was the only road to get from Portland to The Dalles.

Here, you will the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail, which consists of three disconnected paved paths.

This trail offers many great amenities and features.

Go hiking or cycle your way on the bike path.

Have a picnic with your family.

Stop by the road and appreciate the amazing views that you will see as you pass through the trail.

You’ll be able to see the local wildlife occasionally as well.

Let Your Kids Play in the Wonderworks Children’s Museum of the Gorge

Take your kids to play and learn in the Wonderworks Children Museum of the Gorge.

It is an organization that has been run by volunteers since its inception.

They can join in on educational classes in a fun and entertaining manner.

They can learn about music, art, cooking, parenting, and gardening.

Looking for a venue for your kid’s birthday?

The museum allows for reservations as well and offers a discount for members.

Appreciate the Artworks in The Dalles Art Center

Front View of Carnegie Library at The Dalles Art Center

Tedder, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Art lovers and enthusiasts will have a blast in The Dalles Art Center, which aims to inspire and engage with art and cultivate artists.

Different mediums and styles have been used in the creation of the artworks.

A lot of these artworks have been made by local artists.

However, there are also those from artists all around the world.

Check out their website for their past, current, and future exhibits.

You can also catch one of the many events here, including Writer’s Talks, a series of readings.

Some artworks are also for sale and will make for a great addition to your collection.

Admire the Courageous Acts of Firefighters in the Fire Museum in City Hall

The Fire Museum in the City Hall building allows for a great learning experience about the history of firefighting.

You’ll be able to see various exhibits featuring tools and equipment.

You will also find antique firefighting vehicles that have been well-preserved.

The artifacts show the challenges faced by firefighters.

Take a look at the photos about historic moments too.

Enjoy Movies and Other Performances at the Granada Theatre

Front View of Granada Theatre in Oregon

Gary L. Quay /

Enjoy watching old and recent movies in Granada Theatre, located in a quaint, Art Deco-style building.

In addition to watching movies, you can invite your friends to see various performances.

Sing and dance to live concerts playing blues, jazz, and more.

Laugh your heart out at the jokes of different comedians.

Old Crow Medicine Show performing at the Granada Theater

Rich Anderson from Denton, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The theater has a state-of-the-art sound system and a high-quality projector, so you’re sure to have a great watching experience.

You can also reserve the space for events.

Have a lovely wedding, book a corporate event, or invite your friends and family for a private party.

Check out their website for their seating chart and if you want to buy tickets to a show or movie.

Catch a Local Event at the Lewis and Clark Festival Park

Lewis and Clark Festival Park is a small patch of land made for community events.

It sits right next to the Columbia River, making for a venue with splendid nature scenes.

Various performances are held here, including live music shows and more.

The first thing you’ll see is a large, well-made building with a huge glass entrance.

The building is surrounded by manicured lawns, and you’ll find trees scattered across the area.

You’ll also find a few interpretive signs that talk about the history of the city.

Revisit the History of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in Rock Fort

View of Lewis and Clark Expedition in Rock Fort

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

Rock fort is a historic piece of land on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail that was used as a campsite for the Corps of Discovery.

They had stopped by here for the purpose of acquiring horses and other goods for their journey.

It is an elevated site with large rocks, hence the name.

It is right on the banks of the Columbia River, offering amazing views.

Along the path, you can stop and read information about the area on the wayside panels.

You can reach the site through a footpath from the parking area.

Visit the Sorosis Park

Sorosis Park offers a scenic nature getaway, filled with tall trees and tons of recreational activities for the whole family.

It rests on top of a hill, offering great views and a cool, refreshing breeze.

Follow the walking trail and have a stroll, enjoying the scenery.

Visit the rose garden and gaze at the beautiful flowers.

Take out your snacks and have a picnic with the whole gang at the picnic tables.

If you’re looking for some exercise, you can have a match at the tennis courts, softball fields, or volleyball pits.

You can play disc golf here as well.

There’s also a Veterans Memorial and restrooms on site.

Cycle through Riverfront Trail

You may take this flat, paved path to the Dalles Dam from the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center.

Riverfront Trail is around 6 miles one way, but there are attractions all along the way, so you may choose how much of it to explore.

The track is at its finest in the spring when wildflowers bloom, and the temperature is mild.

There are a few places to begin the route; however, we don’t advise you to start at the marina between Veterans Day and Thanksgiving.

The Riverfront Park is off-limits to the public to conserve the local animals.

The trailhead for the section beginning at the marina lies near a busy freeway with fewer scenic views.

Find out more about the State’s Oldest Bookstore at Klindt’s Booksellers

The oldest bookshop in Oregon lies in The Dalles.

This bookstore has been a downtown staple since it opened in 1870.

There’s a children’s section and a wide selection of fiction and nonfiction in their bookstore.

Visit there to shop for a wide variety of items, including books, quirky cards and diaries, toys for kids of all ages, DIY supplies, and office supplies.

You’ll find many books here, both current and long out of print.

Bookworms and occasional readers alike will find something to their liking here, from books about baking and brewing to mysteries and sci-fi thrillers.

Enjoy Sweet Dreams Shannon’s Ice Cream

Upon approaching the ice cream store, the irresistible scent of freshly baked waffle cones will greet you.

You can tell that much care and attention goes into every one of Shannon’s more than a dozen homemade ice creams and sorbets.

The proprietors, who have made it their life’s work to spread happiness through ice cream, reside in the apartment above the store.

On a pleasant day, you might want to get here early.

Certain flavors might be so in demand that they quickly run out.

Get some homemade ice cream and take it outside to enjoy on the porch.

The atmosphere is calm and suitable for families. When you go out, your dog can join you there.

Experience the Uniqueness of Le Riv Café

Le Riv Cafe lies in a historic structure that was previously a church and is more than a century old.

In its present incarnation as an event venue and coffee shop, the building retains the stunning stone facade, several pews, and impressive stained-glass windows.

In addition to its inside seating, Le Riv features a lovely outside terrace adorned with plants.

It’s the place that would have a long wait on a good day in Portland.

In addition to coffee, there are breakfast and smoothie choices available at Le Riv Café.

Sip Locally-Brewed Beer at Freebridge Brewing

The naming of Freebridge Brewing took inspiration from the free bridge that crosses the Deschutes River just south of The Dalles.

An alternative to the toll bridge, it was destroyed in the 1920s for unknown reasons.

The proprietors are descendants of Oregon pioneers and farmers going back five generations, some of whom may have arrived via the free bridge.

The brewery has set up shop in a structure originally constructed to hold and manufacture gold during the Rush.

See liquid gold dispensed from tank faucets and produced as cheese for pizzas and other dishes in the kitchen!

Final Thoughts

This picturesque city, The Dalles, hugs the southern part of the Columbia River and has a history deeply connected to it.

There are numerous activities to try near the Columbia River and a lot of wonderful attractions, including nature parks, museums, and historic sites.

If you want to discover all the amazing things that this city has in store, check out the best things to do in The Dalles, Oregon, listed above.

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