Oregon has it all: Mountains, forests, rivers, spirited cities and towns and best of all, no traffic compared to the Bay Area. After a quick flight to Eugene (about an hour), my husband and I spent a couple of days exploring this lively university town.
Eugene (home to the University of Oregon) is high-energy, easily walkable, and thoroughly enjoyable with the Willamette River running through it. Natural beauty, an abundance of outdoor activities, commitment to the arts, and easy lifestyle make Eugene a haven for residents and tourists alike.
The Inn at the 5th is a modern urban boutique hotel and a part of the exciting downtown 5th Street Public Market complex. Each guest room is unique, spacious, and equipped with upscale amenities (Italian linens, Aveda bath products). Our contemporary king had Asian accents throughout, a gas fireplace, and a balcony overlooking the public garden level. It’s the perfect spot to sip a beverage and catch the scene.
At check-in, you’re greeted with complimentary beer and wine. In the lobby, find a refrigerator full of water and sodas plus snacks — all available during your stay.
Get picked up at the airport or chauffeured in town in a classy Mercedes-Benz (they also have a bus to transport guests). The hotel offers complimentary cruiser bikes and a 24-hour fitness center. In addition, during game season, free shuttles run guests back and forth to the university games. With the perfect combination of friendly service and close proximity to dining and shopping, it’s a destination worth exploring (541-743-4099, innat5th.com).
PLAY & SHOP
There are numerous hiking and biking trails in and around Eugene, especially along the banks of the Willamette River. Follow the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Path System and you’re bound to discover most of them, including a magnificent rose garden along the way. Alton Baker Park (altonbakerpark.com) is Eugene’s largest and is a favorite spot for all sorts of activities. Or hike on the Ridgeline Trailhead, just minutes from downtown, and discover Eugene from some of the nearby peaks (eugene-or.gov/324/Park-and-Trail-Maps).
The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, located on the university campus, showcases historic and contemporary art (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and American), and offers educational programs (541-346-3027, jsma.uoregon.edu).
The 5th Street Public Market is an urban oasis and a magnet for lovers of jewelry, fashion, home décor, and everything culinary (see Dine). Lots of outdoor seating and great people-watching (541-484-0383, 5stmarket.com).
Next to the hotel is the Gervais Day Spa & Salon, the perfect antidote to a busy schedule. Choose from facials, haircuts, and of course massages that all incorporate Aveda products. Pick an aroma from their essential oil collection, then lay back and let the tension vanish (541-334-6533, innat5th.com/about-inn-at-the-5th/gervais-salon-day-spa).
Within walking distance of the hotel (on Saturday mornings in season), discover the Eugene Saturday Market and savor the farm-fresh food, local music, and artisans selling their wares (eugenesaturdaymarket.org).
Jazzy Ladies Café has a hip vibe and good food. Grab a window seat overlooking the park, and as the jazz plays in the background, drink coffee and watch the world go by. The real “jazzy ladies” are the two proprietors who had a dream for 20 years to own a place like they do. Open until mid-afternoon, we visited first thing in the morning. With a menu full of hard-to-resist choices, we opted for the porchetta hash made with Yukon potatoes, herbs, arugula, and topped with a fried egg, and the egg scramble with melted cheese and toppings (including spinach, sausage, and mushrooms). Their motto is simple: “Hot food, warm smiles, cool jazz” (458-201-7062, jazzyladiescafe.com).
The 5th Street Public Market complex is home to Provisions Market Hall. Here you find everything from wood-fired pizzas to bakery items, seafood and meats, flowers, housewares, wine, and more. On Friday nights, they celebrate the Venetian custom of “cicchetti bars.” Just like tapas, these small bites highlight ingredients from what the chef found at the market. Pair with a specialty cocktail (it was Aperol spritzers the night we visited), take a seat in the courtyard, and savor the flavors (541-743-0660, provisionsmarkethall.com).
Since the second grade, the owners had a fantasy of their restaurant; today The Vintage is a casual eatery showcasing dishes inspired by their passion (especially fondue and crêpes ) and seasonal ingredients. Choose the cozy interior of the converted house or the outside patio for your meal. On the warm evening we visited, it was the patio.
We started with a bowl of juicy clams in a white broth, which got sopped up with the toasted cheese bread. Then it was the grilled chicken Panini with mozzarella and artichoke paired with the William Rose Pinot Noir. The specialty dessert crêpe that night was over the top — the filling was blueberry cheesecake, and it was topped with a graham cracker crust, blueberry sauce, and whipped cream (541-349-9181, thevintageeugene.com).
Open all day, Marché is one of the anchors in the 5th Street Public Market. As its name implies, the menu is created around what comes from the market. Sitting at the counter gives you a bird’s-eye view of the restaurant and the chefs at their stations. Coincidentally, the executive chef here was at San Francisco’s A16 previously.
For dinner we went with the mussels and clams cooked in a bouillabaisse broth with saffron aioli and grilled bread. We also had the Alaskan octopus cooked with new potatoes, castelvetrano olives and piment d’espelette (a French paprika) and sipped the Broadley Vineyards Pinot Noir with both. The menu offers a variety of mains, sides, salads, and more, but we went straight for dessert and ordered the warm stone fruit galette dripping with vanilla bean ice cream (541-342-3612, marcherestaurant.com).
Travel Oregon: traveloregon.com
Eugene Visitor Center: eugenecascadescoast.org