Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Eugene, OR

  • Published 2022/11/25

The city of Eugene is much more than just your typical college town.

It is a vibrant and diverse city nestled along the southern portion of Willamette Valley in Lane County, Oregon.

Also called Track Town USA because of the many outstanding Olympic runners it has produced, Eugene was once an area inhabited by Kalapuya Indians before it was established in 1853.

Besides being known for its rich track and field history, the city is also popular as the home of visionaries, artists, and innovators.

After all, this is where the world-famous brand Nike was born back in 1971.

Eugene is also called Emerald City by many due to its lush greeneries and dense forest areas.

While this is the case, the outdoors aren’t the only thing you can check out when you visit the city because it has many more fun activities and great destinations.

Here are 15 free things to do in Eugene, Oregon:

Reconnect with Nature at Hendricks Park

Skyline view from Hendricks Park

Jamie Hooper /

Immerse yourself in the beauty and tranquility of nature when you head to Hendricks Park.

Located along Summit Avenue and Skyline Boulevard, Hendricks Park is the oldest park in Eugene.

It spans 80 acres and features a popular rhododendron garden and another garden filled with native plants.

Bench surrounded with flowers at Hendricks Park

Jamie Hooper /

There are also trails around the park that you can explore to see the gorgeous natural sights and reconnect with nature.

You can also find fir trees that date back to 2000 years ago and stunning wildflowers when you explore this park.

If you get tired from roaming around, you can sit by the picnic tables to grab a snack or unwind as you listen to the soothing sounds of nature.

Vibrant flowers at Hendricks Park

Mahdi2009 /

View Captivating Works of Art at Maude Kerns Art Center

Exterior of Maude Kerns Art Center

Visitor7, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Let your eyes enjoy an explosion of vibrant colors and intricately connected lines through the enchanting artworks on display at Maude Kerns Art Center on 15th Avenue.

Maude Kerns Art Center is a creative institution on 15th Avenue that exhibits a collection of artworks created by Maude Irvine Kerns.

Maude Irvine Kerns was an educator and artist whose works have garnered attention nationally and internationally.

She is a renowned artist, as her pieces greatly helped shape the art industry in the early 20th century Pacific Northwest and Coast regions.

You can check out more than 75 art pieces of Maude Kerns at this art center, from simple watercolor paintings to full-blown oil paintings.

You can also look at other artworks made by talented local artists displayed here on rotation!

Appreciate Natural Wonders as You Hike at Mount Pisgah Arboretum

Welcome sign of Mount Pisgah Arboretum

Andrew Wendt, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Deepen your love and appreciation for nature when you visit Mount Pisgah Arboretum.

Mount Pisgah Arboretum is a gorgeous education facility on Frank Parrish Road that spans 209 acres.

Here, you can explore the natural areas that reflect the ecology found in the southern portion of the Willamette Valley.

Engaging with nature at this arboretum can enhance your appreciation for the environment and inspire you to conserve it.

A barn at Mount Pisgah Arboretum

John M. DeMarco, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hike on the family-friendly nature trails and spot rare birds and flowers along the way!

There are also fun exhibits along the trails with information about the area’s different habitats.

Take in the breathtaking view of nature and be inspired to be a better steward of the environment when you visit this center!

Willamette river at Mount Pisgah Arboretum

John M. DeMarco, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Step into a Paradise Filled with Gorgeous Blooming Flowers at Owen Rose Garden

Rose arch at Owen Rose Garden

Jamie Hooper /

Enter a haven blooming with more than 400 varieties of stunning roses at Owen Rose Garden.

This gorgeous rose garden on Jefferson Street features over 4,500 roses you can gaze at and take pictures of.

Explore this stunning garden and try to spot the Oregon Heritage Cherry Tree, a nationally recognized feature of the garden.

A pretty flower at Owen Rose Garden

Anni Fox /

Walk through the paved pathways and let them lead you to all the enchanting rose bushes planted throughout the park.

There is also a large open area where you can play or run around with your kids and a gazebo where you can rest if you get too tired from exploring.

This is the best place to visit if you are a rose enthusiast or love being surrounded by beautiful flowers.

Trail lined with flowers at Owen Rose Garden

Jamie Hooper /

Break a Sweat at the Amazon Trail

Slip on your running shoes and jog around the Amazon Trail!

The Amazon Trail is accessible from 24th Street and Amazon Parkway and is shaped like the number 8, making it a great trail to keep active on.

This trail is described as relatively easy, meaning anyone can work out and break a sweat without too much of a challenge here.

Here, you can take in the picturesque views of the landscapes you will be passing by as you run through the trail.

You don’t need to worry about getting too fatigued because the trail is flat and perfect for jogging.

If you prefer to run at night, this path is perfect for you because it has lights that make it great for jogging.

Spend an Afternoon Reading at the Eugene Public Library – Downtown Branch

Interior of Eugene Public Library

Robert Ashworth from Bellingham, WA., USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Head downtown to the Eugene Public Library and enjoy a relaxing and chill day of reading books!

Nestled on 10th Avenue, the Eugene Public Library is the perfect place to go if you want to spend the day transporting yourself to another dimension by reading.

You can find books, audiobooks, eBooks, and many other resources that contain great literary works.

There are also magazines and newspapers if you want to stop by for a quick read.

If you’re not that into reading, you can check out their collection of music and movies as you let time pass in this library.

The Eugene Public Library also features a “Library of Things” where you can borrow objects other than books, like musical instruments, board games, and even art materials!

Go Birdwatching at Delta Ponds

The water of Delta Ponds

Hiedi Carman /

Spot local birds, fishes, and other creatures at Delta Ponds!

Delta Ponds is a waterway on Goodpasture Island Road that spans 150 acres of water, including wetlands, channels, and ponds.

This spot is extremely popular for bird watching because many avians call this area their home.

Some people also come to this area to go fishing or enjoy the water’s scenic view.

Here, you can stroll around the waters and appreciate the breathtaking landscape and the sky reflected on the pond.

You can also bring your binoculars and do your best to spot extraordinary birds around the area!

Another thing you can do is explore the natural areas surrounding the ponds and experience a quick escape from the city.

Enjoy your day outdoors when you visit this destination!

Pay Your Respects to a Legendary Olympian at Pre’s Rock

Close view of Pre’s Rock

Kip C Anderson /

Remember the exciting life and shining career of Steve Prefontaine when you visit Pre’s Rock.

Pre’s Rock is a memorial located hillside on Skyline Boulevard dedicated to renowned Olympian Steve Prefontaine, also known by many as Pre.

This memorial was installed at this location because this is the site where the Olympian died in a car accident back in 1975.

Daytime view of Pre’s Rock

User:Cacophony, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Runners and track athletes frequent this site to pay their respects to this iconic athlete.

Some people leave their running shoes or race bibs at the memorial to show respect to Pre.

Although it may be difficult to spot, you can still find and visit this memorial if you walk or drive through the road very slowly.

Take a Peaceful Stroll at Alton Baker Park

A lone cyclist at Alton Baker Park

Jamie Hooper /

Unwind and relax after a long day by strolling around the scenic Alton Baker Park.

Nestled along Day Island Road, Alton Baker Park is the biggest developed park in the city.

For more than 50 years, this spot has been the go-to destination for people who want to bike, jog, or spend quality time with their furry best friends.

As it’s a cornerstone in the community, it’s no surprise that many efforts were made to develop this park throughout the years.

People riding bicycles along Alton Baker Park

Jamie Hooper /

You can also check out the park’s own concert venue and trails.

There is also a BMX track, canoe canal, and even a disc golf course!

Stroll around the tree gardens and admire the beautiful surroundings and wildlife throughout the park.

You can bring some bread and feed the adorable ducks by the duck ponds!

Note that entry here is free, but some activities may require a fee.

Foliage on Alton Baker Park's trail

Jamie Hooper /

Step Back in Time at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History

Exterior of the Museum of Natural and Cultural History

Visitor7, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Take a deep dive into history when you visit the Museum of Natural and Cultural History.

Located on 15th Avenue, this museum focuses on forging connections among all its visitors.

Whether you love looking at artifacts, learning scientific topics, or commemorating diverse cultures, this is the place to be!

Feast your eyes on artifacts that reflect the culture of the first inhabitants of Oregon.

Meteorite displayed at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History

Another Believer, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can also check out exhibits featuring items that offer information about the state’s landscapes and ecosystems.

Some displays dive into the history of magic during the medieval period in Europe, and exhibits focus on significant Civil Rights events in the city’s history.

This destination is a must-visit for all history buffs.

Make sure to schedule your visit on the first Friday of the month to get in for free!

Run around with Your Furry Best Friend at Westmoreland Park

Take your dog out and spend the day bonding with them at Westmoreland Park.

Westmoreland Park is a community park located along Taylor Street and 20th Avenue.

This large open space spans 63 acres and features many fun amenities, including soccer fields, tennis courts, and bike paths.

There is also a recreation center and a play area where kids can hang out.

Aside from these fun amenities, this park offers a wide open space to let your pet dogs loose and run around with them.

Bond with your furry best friend and create more meaningful memories together as you have fun under the sun at this park!

Feast Your Eyes on Enchanting Artworks from All over the World at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

Exterior of Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

Joshua Rainey Photography /

Set your sights on artworks made by local artists as well as creators from different parts of the globe when you visit the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

This museum on Johnson Lane features many works of art created by artists from different cultures, allowing visitors to take a trip around the world by viewing the art pieces.

From Southeast Asian Art to European Art, you can find a wide range of art pieces when you explore this museum.

There are also sculptures, photographs, and mixed media pieces which reflect the varying cultures and beliefs of the featured artists at this gallery.

Courtyard of Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

Another Believer, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Roam around the museum and deepen your appreciation for unique art styles from other countries.

You can also check abstract art pieces and ask museum staff members about the meanings behind each artwork.

Visit this art institution on the first Friday of the month, so you don’t have to spend a dime to see stunning works of art!

Facade of Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

Joshua Rainey Photography /

Visit the Final Resting Place of the City’s Founder at Eugene Masonic Cemetery

Skinner headstone at Eugene Masonic Cemetery

Another Believer, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pay your respects at the grave of the city’s founder when you head to Eugene Masonic Cemetery.

Located along University Street and 25th Avenue, Eugene Masonic Cemetery is the city’s first-ever chartered cemetery.

Due to this, it’s no surprise that you can find the final resting place of many of the city’s pioneers here.

Roam around this cemetery and try to find the grave of Eugene Skinner, the city’s founder.

This is also the cemetery where you can find the burial grounds of Maude Kerns, an artist who played an incredibly significant role in the development of the art industry in the region.

Marvel at the Beauty of the ”Castle on the Hill” at the Shelton McMurphey Johnson House

Exterior of the Shelton McMurphey Johnson House

Cynthia Liang /

Lay your eyes on a stunning Victorian-style home when you stop by the Shelton McMurphey Johnson House.

The Shelton McMurphey Johnson House is a property on Willamette Street, which stands out as it is perched on a hill.

Its location is also the reason for its moniker, “Castle on the Hill.”

This home was originally built for Thomas Winthrop Shelton and was completed in 1887.

Despite this, you’ll find that the year of completion on the property is 1888 since it burned down and was rebuilt during this year.

Facade of the Shelton McMurphey Johnson House

Vince360 /

Today, the home is a museum that people can explore.

You can also book it for special celebrations like weddings and other formal events.

While tours require payment, you are free to stop by when you’re driving through the street and set your sights on this gorgeous house superimposed on luscious foliage behind it.

Don’t forget to take some photos outside this well-preserved house!

Steps leading to Shelton McMurphey Johnson House entrance

Rick Obst from Eugene, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Gaze at the Exceptional Architecture of the First Christian Church

Exterior of the First Christian Church

Visitor7, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Head to the First Christian Church and marvel at its jaw-dropping architecture.

The First Christian Church is located on Oak Street.

Due to its magnificent architecture, you probably won’t even think that this institution is a church at first glance!

Its facade features towering columns that are reminiscent of the architecture that was prevalent in Ancient Greek buildings.

Facade of the First Christian Church

Visitor7, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The church also has a soaring bell tower on its side which has intricately designed architecture towards the top.

When you step inside the church, you’ll be surprised by its relatively modern interior design, which highly contrasts its exterior architecture.

If you are an architecture buff, this church is a must-see in the city!

Interior of the First Christian Church

Orbiter7, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of interesting things to see and do in Eugene, Oregon.

From seeing all the stunning architecture around, exploring the great outdoors, or taking your beloved dog out for a day of fun, there is something for everyone in this city.

Keep these 15 free things to do in Eugene, Oregon, in mind the next time you visit to make your trip even more memorable!

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