Written by Kelsey Swenson
Peeking out from under your shell after winter and spring, new experiences await in a world that’s coming back to life. Where to begin? We’ve curated a list of seven ways to redefine vacation. Jump into the deep end—stretch your legs and train your mind with the practice of trying new things.
Our state’s abundance of outdoor adventures is matched only by the joy Oregonians reap when sharing them with others. Push the boundaries of your next getaway, and you’ll find people offering musical joy, confidence on the waves and in life, soul-restorative forest retreats, and the fulfillment of playing on trails while remedying the devastation of last year’s wildfires, too. This summer will be the one you were dreaming of in 2020 as you—and our community—reopens, rebuilds and recreates.
When you walk in the door of the SunnySide Theatre in Roseburg onto the solid maple floor, you’ll step into the 1920s. Brave the stage and develop your performance skills in a welcoming theatre intended as a springboard for the up-and-comers. Owner Daniel Thomas’s dream is not only to invite well-known performers such as singer-songwriter John Mayer, but also to jumpstart lesser-known artists’ careers. “Our overall vision is really just to create a homey place for community, so we can have artists of all ages and abilities come, whether that’s a painter, singer, dancer, aerial silks … we even have someone we know that does metalwork,” said Thomas.
If simply being in the audience and indulging in new music feels like a daring new experience these days, sit back and cultivate a sense of wonderment in your surroundings. The trumpet and saxophone brass pendant lights set against the turquoise, CD-embedded ceiling “light up the place to showcase the stage,” said Thomas. You can see the stage from every corner and from tables made crafted from old pianos. The bar was made from three 1860s grand pianos from Chicago and New York.
The endeavor sprung from the musical passion of Thomas and his wife, Lu, who owned a ballet studio previously and whose five kids all sing and dance. Above all, “The world has so much art, and that’s really what we want to remind people of,” said Thomas.
When the cool air of Portland meets the warmer air of the Columbia River Gorge, strong winds power the sails of pent-up city folk as well as the energetic little town of Hood River, as prokiteboarder Lindsay McClure calls it. It’s easy to clear your mind when the wind takes your sail and blows your worries away with views of Mount Hood and Mount Adams towering over the gorge. A tidal wave of interest has swelled around the water sports scene here. Fortunately, a less intimidating, entry-level option for soaring high above the waves has surfaced. Wing foiling, with its inflatable, handheld wing, offers easier navigation in a wider variety of wind conditions.
If you want the challenge of getting to know the wind and waves better, try kiteboarding, in which the wind plays a bigger role. Many elite and professional kiters come from around the world to practice, play and compete here, but there’s plenty of instruction for beginners, too. McClure recommends lessons at Cascade Kiteboarding, where instructors use microphones to give you tips through your helmet as you ride on the water. Once you learn how to harness the wind, you can kiteboard or wing foil nearly anywhere. “It’s a way to use natural energy to get out and explore,” said McClure.
After a day on the river, stroll along the rolling gardens and pastures of Hiyu Wine Farm, where cows, chickens and ducks roam. To explore more vineyards and views, hop on a bike, ebike or shuttle with MountNbarreL through the blooming backroads of the valley.
“It wakes you up—you just get that alive feeling,” said Lexie Hallahan, who has been empowering women to chase this feeling with her since she started NW Women’s Surf Camps in 2005. Her camps and classes in Seaside create a diverse surfing community no longer dominated by men. In her camps, Hallahan strives to break down barriers that keep women from conquering the waves.
Her eight instructors are not only talented Northwest surfers who inspire students of the water to be brave, but also certified lifeguards who spend a considerable amount of time teaching a healthy respect for rip tides. “You feel more confident, you gain resiliency and you gain understanding of the natural forces,” said Hallahan. “But also, you feel like you’re part of the bigger scheme of things.”
To start your journey, visit Clean Line Surf shop to pick up your board and gear before heading to Oswald State Park. Although surf camps are booked, Bodyboard Day Camp for teen and adult women let you connect with other women while taking the first step into the surfing scene by learning on a soft bodyboard. For a day full of surfing adventures with family or friends, take a coed group surfing lesson to study the waves and let them transform you.
“You feel more confident, you gain resiliency and you gain understanding of the natural forces. But also, you feel like you’re part of the bigger scheme of things.”
— Lexie Hallahan, NW Women’s Surf Camps founder
Mastering the art of cooking and gathering around to savor your creation together is an age-old tradition. It’s also an art for you to personalize. Whether roasting chicken in a first-class kitchen or sizzling corn over an open flame, let a professional chef spark some excitement in you to get creative beyond your usual weeknight dinner repertoire. Chef Bob Neroni of EVOO: Cannon Beach, emphasizes that Oregon has more than fourteen micro-seasons. His mantra: “There’s always something new to play with.” You’ll walk away with confidence to invite your friends to the backyard for your own dining experience. At EVOO, you’ll prepare three main courses paired with wine alongside Neroni as he offers tips for choosing the freshest ingredients and flavor combinations.
For a deliciously passive experience, every Wednesday in August Neroni will be serving Mexican street-style corn on the cob over an open, wood-fired grill with cojita cheese and crema. What is his favorite dish? “Anything I’m making right now.”
In a valley of the Ochoco National Forest, Wine Down Ranch is the place to tap into to your cowboy or cowgirl self. Feed cattle from the back of a hay truck, brand and brush horses or help build a fence on this family owned, working ranch in Prineville amid 2,100 acres of scenic meadows and forests. Venture onto miles of trails winding up hills and through the valley. “It’s nice to unplug and just be out in nature,” said ranch owners Mary and Roy Beyer. Out the back door of your cabin, the Oregon Outback Trail winds among tall crags and wildflowers in full bloom.
At the end of the day, when you’re sitting on the bunkhouse porch sipping wine, you’ll realize that this is a really good breathing space. The ranch also offers yoga and hiking for some mental rest after a full day of farmer’s work. On August 20 and 21 music, cowboy poetry, vendors, food and drink, ranch activities and camping at the McKay Creek Cowboy Gathering celebrates and supports their Horses on the Ranch equine therapy program.
In the Mohawk Valley outside of Eugene, the leaves of quaking aspen applaud guests who come to breathe in the scent of pines and relax into the rhythm of the forest. Tipi Village Retreat draws those seeking to renew their mindfulness, yoga and writing practices while staying in tipis and cabins and eating nourishing foods. Katrina McGiffin, a yoga teacher with a master’s in nutrition, hosts retreats such as True Nature, July 22 through 25. “What we have experienced in leading past experiences like this is that when people connect more deeply with nature on the outside, they also deepen their connection with their inner nature,” she said. Some of the proceeds go to the Native American Youth and Family Center in Portland.
At the retreat, take a dip in shinrinyoku, a Japanese practice known as “forest bathing,” an immersive walk in the forest where you stop for deep breathing and yoga. According to a study in Japan, forest environments correlate to better health. Urban arborist Dustin Marchello leads forest bathing walks around Portland, where he leads groups of up to thirty bathers who take their Sunday rest to the next level, breathing in forest-fresh air while learning about trees. “I’m here to create curiosity,” he said. Amid this summer’s excitement, time in the forest can reset your mind to prepare for the next adventure.
Vacation is an investment in yourself, and rightfully so. But what if you could vacation and volunteer at the same time? Enter voluntourism. After last year’s Holiday Farm Fire which ravaged more than 400 homes and popular tourist sites along the McKenzie River, Forest Service workers began cleaning up the damage. Executive Director Alyssa Archer of Cascade Volunteers brainstormed ideas to bring people in to help. The McKenzie Regenerative Travel Project emerged as a model for the cooperation of public land management, federal agencies, destination marketing, outfitter guides and nonprofits, creating a type of post-disaster voluntourism that could serve for years to come.
Stay at a local lodge and volunteer on the trails, having fun while doing work to repair the damaged areas and local economy. “You’re learning, you’re working and you’re playing,” Archer said. And at the end of a full day of trail work when you’re sitting around a campfire roasting s’mores with your new friends, you’ll feel a sense of fulfillment. “There’s no better feeling than volunteering on your public land,” said Archer. The bonus: exciting outings such as rafting the McKenzie River, mountain biking the river trail and taking guided hikes to learn about your surroundings.