Two years ago, I was sitting in a century-old tavern on the west end of Astoria doing field research for what would’ve been the 2020 edition of Willamette Week’s Summer Guide when I realized the whole project might get scrapped. It was March 14, just three days after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Tom Hanks announced his diagnosis, and the NBA suspended its season.
The rest of the world may have begun gradually shutting down, but it felt like business as usual at the Portway—locals lining the bar shoulder to shoulder, gamblers feeding dollars into video lottery machines, and two old guys having a rowdy debate in the corner. Now, friendly arguments aren’t uncommon here—hell, unfriendly ones aren’t either, since this ancient dive once had a “Fightin’ Pit” out front. But it was the topic of conversation that suggested things were a little off: They were debating, pretty vociferously, the possibility of a government-mandated pandemic curfew.
Everyone remembers what happened next: Life, as we knew it, was canceled. So was my Summer Guide, as every bar, restaurant, haunted hotel, hot springs and hiking trail I’d planned to write about was suddenly off-limits.
Now, two long years later, I’m thrilled to announce the return of Oregon Summer, WW’s new and detailed catalog of adventures waiting for you across the state and over the Columbia River. You can find it now in more than 1,200 locations—newsstands, bars, restaurants, hotels, grocers, convenience stores—across the Portland metro area. Look for it to be added to our website in the coming weeks.
This year’s guide contains a series of ideal trips based on the length of time you might have to escape Portland: a day, a weekend, or a glorious long weekend. Each getaway will keep you busy from morning until night—accompanied by recommendations on where to eat, drink like a local, immerse yourself in history, and hike to stunning views—be they waterfalls or crashing waves. And since nothing really happens unless you post about it, new to this edition is a roundup of selfie spots at each destination—eye-catching murals, sculptures and vistas you can take advantage of to rack up likes on social media.
Along the way we’ll introduce you to all sorts of new attractions—like Sisters’ Ski Inn, where you can fill up on house-smoked barbecue and craft beer in the first-floor taphouse, then retire to your second-story hotel room with a wraparound porch in the shadow of the three towering peaks that gave this high-desert town its name.
There’s also the Salishan Aerial Park just south of Lincoln City, which places thrill-seekers dozens of feet above ground on a giant jungle gym built into the majestic coastal spruce trees.
Even our often-overlooked northern neighbor has new features worth crossing the Columbia to visit: Vancouver’s 7.3-acre Waterfront Park now boasts a fancy riverside boardwalk and an impressive collection of tasting rooms for far-flung, Washington vineyards.
We’ve also revisited long-standing favorites you probably missed the past two years—such as Cascade Locks’ Eastwind Drive-In and its colossal ice cream cones, or the sprawling Oregon Garden in Silverton, home not just to an impressive collection of Pacific Northwest fauna, but also the state’s only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home. There are even a handful of Portland activities in these pages for days when a long drive just feels like too much work.
Ambitious readers should appreciate our comprehensive account on how to achieve an Instagrammable #VanLife—maybe not for life, but at least for five days along the Central and Southern Oregon Coast, along with suggestions on where to boondock and glamp.
After two exceedingly difficult years, I hope you’re ready to rediscover our state, one place at a time. This guide’s eclectic mix of trips should help you get back out there doing whatever it is that brings you joy, even if that’s bickering with a friend in a 100-year-old Astoria tavern.
—Andi Prewitt, Willamette Week Arts & Culture Editor