I love traveling to the far edges of Oregon in search of undiscovered gems.
But one of my favorite fall adventures sits right in the heart of the state in the sleepy hamlet known as Eugene.
Yeah, I know, I’m really going out on a limb recommending the home of the Ducks during football season. But this trip has nothing to do with Willie Taggart’s first season in Eugene and everything to do with fall foliage, hop harvests and amazing seasonal dining in one of Oregon’s more under-the-radar food scenes.
First, book a room at Eugene’s Valley River Inn, which is nestled along the Willamette River and the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Path System. Bring your bike, as you’ll be able to roll out the door and hit the ath system, a gorgeous 12-mile paved trail that spans both sides of the Willamette. The trail is beautiful any time of year, but it’s truly hypnotic during the fall as the leaves change colors. Slow down and enjoy the colors and the various gardens, playgrounds and green spaces along the trail. I always try to spend some time at the Owen Rose Garden on the south bank and plan to make a stop at the RiverPlay Discover Village playground with the kids.
Want to make sure you plan your Eugene trip during peak fall foliage time? Check out the Oregon Foliage site to get the most up-to-date reports on color changes around the state.
Heading to Eugene for Labor Day Weekend? Pop up to Agrarian Ales just north of Coburg and help pick hops for the brewery’s fall beers. You’ll earn a couple bucks off your tab and help out the coolest brewery on a chili farm in the entire country. (Always try the seasonal chili beer and don’t pass up the brown porter made from dandelion roots if it’s on tap.)
The wood-fired pizzas at Agrarian are great, but if you’re looking for something back in Eugene, you’ve got plenty of options. One of my favorites is board, the small-plate restaurant in the Whiteaker neighborhood housed in what once was Tiny’s Tavern. Get one of the house boards – the bone marrow soufflé is awesome – and then grab the board burger or Cubano. Note, the cocktails aren’t too shabby, either.
While board makes for a great dinner or late meal, check out the Falling Sky Brewery & Delicatessen for brunch or lunch. Yep, you read that right, craft beer and cured meats, both excellent. I’m a sucker for the corned beef and pastrami hash any hour of the day, but you be you.
One final recommendation for your Eugene fall adventure–make the trip to Alesong Brewing & Blending. Focusing almost exclusively on barrel-aged and farmhouse-style beers, Alesong, located 20 miles southwest of Eugene in Willamette Valley wine country, is well worth the extra 15-minute drive outside of town.
Alesong only releases beers four times a year, so every quarter you’re getting beers made with whatever happens to be in season. This fall, for example, Alesong is offering up Kind of Blue, a Belgian blonde ale aged in French oak with blueberries; a Saison called Oregon Honey, made with Oregon wildflower honey; French 75, a French Saison that soaked in gin barrels for nearly nine months; Pinot Spontanee, a wine-inspired beer that spontaneously fermented on Pinot Noir from Benton-Lane Winery in Monroe; and my favorite, Bailey’s Joy, a bourbon-barrel aged imperial milk stout.
So go, be merry and enjoy your very seasonal, very adult fall vacation in Eugene.