Located at the south end of Oregon’s Willamette Valley, the picturesque town of Eugene was known as a counterculture haven in the 1960s and 1970s. It is also known as the “Track and Field Capital of the World” for frequently organizing world-class events and competitions. Visitors are bound to find an amazing array of outdoor spaces with fascinating nature and wildlife sceneries in the charming city of Eugene.
As cherry on top, you can enjoy quite a lot even without spending a dime in this thriving city filled with performing arts centers, galleries, music and cultural festivals, museums. You will not be needing a lot of money to take advantage of all that Eugene Oregon has to offer. It is a vibrant, friendly, community oriented city full of cheap and free things to do. Just follow our ultimate guide on free things you can do in Eugene and you’ll surely have an unforgettable experience! Let’s have a look at the 10 free things to do in Eugene!
1. Visit Mount Pisgah Arboretum
On the southeast region of Eugene lies the magnificent Mount Pisgah. It is a beautiful botanical garden that also happens to be a non-profit community area. The whole area features a 209 acre living tree museum, riverside trails, open wildflower meadows, fun educational events and many more. Walking along the meadows watching pretty wildflowers of vibrant colors or enjoying the view from the riverside trails will make for a great day outdoors. The refreshing breeze, the natural environment is great for picnics. On the east side, there is a dedicated picnic area that includes grills, tables and restroom facilities as well. The natural beauty of the place coupled with the entertaining events will definitely take your breath away. So, be sure to visit Mount Pisgah Arboretum if you ever find yourself in Eugene.
2. Explore The Maude Kerns Art Center
Founded in 1950 by a group of local artists including Maude Irvine Kerns, the Maude Kerns Art Center is a non-profit community center for the visual arts. It is conveniently located just east of the University of Oregon. A wide variety of work from local Eugene artists is exhibited in this Art center to be enjoyed by the community free of cost. The art center located in a former chapel not only offers major exhibitions but also art classes, lectures, workshops, outreach programs, and intimate performances. Visiting the Art center to witness the artistic expression and creativity of the local artists is completely free. So, this is an incredible opportunity to take pleasure in art without any dent on your wallet
3.Stride along Hendricks Park
The oldest park in Eugene city is called the Hendricks Park. The park features a beautiful garden, a loop trail, and a mesmerizing viewpoint- perfect for a relaxing getaway. The park is laced with trails suitable for hiking, jogging, and birding. This place is nothing but ideal for having a picnic with your friends or your family on a sunny afternoon.
This park gives visitors an opportunity to experience the wonders of the Oregon environment without even leaving the city. It is a haven for hikers, birders, and others who enjoy retreating to the tranquility of nature. Pets or large social gatherings are not allowed here but that does not lessen the charm of this lovely hillside park with an extensive collection of plants. Walking among 200 year-old Douglas fir trees, ferns, and colorful wildflowers such as trilliums and irises, and over 6,000 varieties of rhododendrons and other ornamental plants is nothing short of heavenly for spectators of all ages.
Strolling through the lush forest, native plant garden and world-renowned 12 acre rhododendron garden at Hendrick’s Park can feel just as majestic as walking through the garden of Eden.
4. Hike the Spencer Butte Trail
This 1.7-mile heavily trafficked loop trail in Eugene is one of the most popular attractions in the area. Spencer Butte is not just an exemplary backdrop to Eugene – hiking to its top is one of the most famous city hikes. The trail has sloped switchbacks through fascinating heavy forestry, meadows and treeless, rocky butte.
It is comparatively easier to hike and the 360-degree view from the summit makes this short but challenging trail worth the effort for hikers of all ages. Wild flowers adorn the sides of this iconic trail which is best to be hiked from May until September. It is quite family friendly and dogs are allowed to be taken as long as he/she is on a lease, making this a great place to take your pet! An exhilarating hiking experience and breathtaking view from the top without spending a single penny – it really can’t get better than this!
5. Visit the Museum of Natural and Cultural History
This epic museum located on the University of Oregon campus is a great place to go for a day of learning and experience. The University of Oregon Museum of Natural History is the largest natural history museum between Seattle and San Francisco. It is also a center for archaeological and paleontological research in the Pacific Northwest and the wider world.
The museum features a very unique style for you to enjoy. The main building construction is inspired by the design of Pacific Northwest Native longhouses. The museum displays many artifacts, fossils, thousands of comparative specimens from modern or historical birds (and their eggs and nests), mammals, reptiles, marine and freshwater shells, and other organisms in its exhibit halls.
Overall, 15,000 years of human history and 200 million years of geology is exhibited in the museum for visitors to spectate, analyze and learn from. A native plant garden, a geological time line and a replica of the Willamette Meteorite surrounds the museum and adds to its charm. If you visit this place, your experience will enlighten you as well as delighting you.
6. Stroll through the Eugene Saturday Market
This certainly deserves a top spot on your list of things to do in Eugene! The Eugene Saturday Market features hundreds of local crafts artisans, great food, live music, and a fabulous Farmers Market! The Saturday Market usually stays open every Saturday through mid-November at East 8th and Oak Street in downtown Eugene.
All kinds of beautifully handcrafted items can be found in the market for sale which are delightful to look at. And if you have some money to spare, you can taste some mouth-watering international food cooked with fresh produce on site. It can also be the perfect place to shop for unique gifts for your loved ones and friends because over 250 artisans sell locally and regionally handcrafted goods in the market. You will also get the chance to interact with the local people and learn about their culture making your time enjoyable in the pleasant park- setting in the heart of Eugene.
The tunes of live music playing in the market-place will definitely add glamour to your experience as well. The market stage features about 6 acts per day and works as a showcasing platform for the local talents and upcoming artists. You are bound to have a great time here!
7. Pay your respects at Pre’s Rock
Pre’s Rock is a shrine memorializing the legendary distance runner, Steve Prefontaine. Pre’s Rock is located near the intersection of Skyline and Birch Road of Eugene. In 1975, Olympian Steve Prefontaine died at the age of 24 when his convertible crashed at this very spot, which has now become a shrine to his memory. Athletes come from all over the world to pay respect to the bold runner who at the time of his death held every American record from 2,000 to 10,000 meters.
They leave medals, flowers, shirts, energy bars, and handwritten notes, and sometimes just quietly reflect at the stone. This place holds historical significance and can be a great choice to visit without any cost. If you have the spirit of running, Pre’s Rock is a rite of passage. If not, you can simply pay your respect to Pre for being a beacon of light that he remains. You can choose to mark your visit to Pre’s rock by leaving any personal item like others. But keep in mind, the parking near Pre’s rock is limited and you also need to be careful using the narrow roads.
8. Check out the Science Factory Children’s Museum & Planetarium
The museum is situated near Autzen stadium in Alton Baker Park in Eugene. This place is not just the perfect place to take your kids, visiting the Science Factory Children’s museum can be a great way to reminisce about your childhood memories or the good old teenage years.
The planetarium offers live and pre-recorded digital shows to the public on Friday mornings, all day on weekends, and every day during the summer.
The planetarium also offers laser shows on Friday and Saturday nights. You can catch Zeppelin, Beatles, U2, or Pink Floyd Laser show at the Science Factory Children’s Museum & Planetarium from November to December which will make you feel young and rejuvenated. The 10,000-square-foot museum features interactive exhibits, planetarium shows, camp programs, special events and other science and technology-related education programs. You will leave this place with a soulful experience and maybe even some wonderful new scientific facts!
9. Catch a movie at the Bijou Art Cinemas
The Bijou Art Cinemas on 13th Avenue in downtown Eugene is a cinema hall, performance theatre and a historical landmark- all combined in one! It is quite popular for playing characteristically hipster movies, indie dramas and even documentaries on its two screens. Established in 1980, the Bijou Art Cinemas has been Eugene’s primary source for various kinds of cinema.
It not only shows first-run, foreign and independent films, but also second run and classic cinema to satisfy the appetite of all kinds of movie lovers. It was originally the home of the First Congregational Church but was later turned into this Art Cinemas. It’s location between the University of Oregon campus and Downtown Eugene is very convenient for the city people. It is housed in a repurposed historical California Mission-style church designed and constructed in 1925. For over 30 years, this place has provided the finest Foreign, Indie and Classic Films to Eugene. This is a great place that any true cinephile should stop by.
10. Unwind at Alton Baker Park
This park’s location is only a few minutes’ distance from Titan Court making it a convenient place to reach. Alton Baker Park is the largest developed park of Eugene consisting of attractive duck ponds, disc golf course, bicycle trail and even a dog park. It features dozens of recreational facilities that you can easily get a hold of for free or within a very small cost.
At Alton Baker Park, you can engage in a number of activities like running along the Willamette river, taking a walk in the refreshing air of the lush greenery, and even biking or rollerblading along the beautiful riverfront bike path and pedestrian bridge. this is undoubtedly a great place to frequent if you enjoy the outdoors.
You can also choose to bring a picnic basket and your favorite book to the park and settle in to enjoy the soothing views of the river and ducks. If you’re looking for a place to lay back and relax without any cost, Alton Baker Park is indeed a great destination. In addition, Alton Baker Park is a wonderful site where various events are held all year round. For the past 30 years, the festival “Art and the Vineyard” has been held in Eugene which showcases the works of local artists and is completed with wine, concerts, and art, in a celebration of local culture.
There goes your 10 free things to do in Eugene. You’ll be able to find a few more if you have a look around this beautiful city. When it comes to doing free activities, Eugene never disappoints.
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