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Oregon and the Pacific Northwest

Has your trail led you to Oregon and the beautiful Pacific Northwest? It’s no wonder why - with so many outdoor excursions, urban excitement, and friendly people, it’s a great place to be.  Here are a few facts and some trivia about the state that may come in handy.

McMinnville is located in the northwest corner of the state – about an hour southwest of Portland, the state’s largest city, and an hour to the coast.

Basic Oregon Facts

  • Oregon became the 33rd state to enter the union on February 14th (Valentine’s Day), 1859. Oregon Territory originally spanned north to Canada and east through Idaho and into Montana and Wyoming.
  • Oregon has 26 state symbols, among them, the Western Meadowlark (bird), the Chinook salmon (fish), American Beaver (animal), milk (beverage), Dungeness crab (crustacean), Square dance (dance), Oregon grape (flower), pear (fruit), Oregon Swallowtail (insect), hazelnut (nut), “Oregon, My Oregon” (song), and Douglas fir (tree).
  • Oregon is the only state to have a different design on the front (the words State of Oregon, 1859 and the seal) and back (a beaver) of our flag.
  • The world’s largest sea cave, the Sea Lion Caves, is located outside of Florence.
  • The Oregon Trail, responsible for bringing approximately 80,000 people west, began in Independence, Missouri and traversed 2,000 miles to Oregon City, just south of Portland.
  • At 1,943 feet deep, Crater Lake located in southwestern Oregon is the deepest lake in the United States and the ninth deepest in the world.  Crater Lake National Park is Oregon’s only national park and the fifth addition to the National Park Service. Crater Lake was also featured on Oregon’s state quarter.
  • Only three cities exist in the United States where an extinct volcano is located within the city limits and two are in Oregon – Portland (Mount Tabor) and Bend (Pilot Butte).
  • A 22 foot-tall Oregon Pioneer stands atop the state capitol building in Salem. It weights eight and a half tons and is covered completely in gold leaf.
  • Oregon is one of five states without a statewide sales tax, and one of two states that bans self-service gas.

Urban Excitement

While McMinnville has much to offer, for students looking for a bigger city experience, can head north to Portland, a city of just under 600,000 people and the 29th most populous in the country.

Entertainment and Performing Arts – Portland is home to the Artists Repertory Theatre, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Oregon Symphony, Portland Center State, Portland Opera and Portland Youth Philharmonic. Portland tends to be a stop on major concert and other touring events with venues including the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Keller Auditorium, Rose Garden Arena and Memorial Coliseum. Smaller venues abound throughout the city, as well.

Culture and Science – In addition to the Portland Art Museum, other main tourist stops include the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), the Lan Su Chinese Garden, Portland Japanese Gardens, International Rose Test Garden, Oregon Zoo, and World Forestry Center. Many art galleries are also located in northwest Portland (Pearl District) and northeast Portland (the Alberta Arts District).

Shopping – Quirky Portland classics include Portland Saturday Market (March through December 24th at Skidmore Fountain and Waterfront Park), Powell’s City of Books (the world’s largest independent new and used bookstore), Portland Farmer’s Market (located throughout the city) and boutiques in the Pearl District, and along Northwest 23rd Avenue, North Mississippi Street and Northeast Alberta Street. For shopping malls, Pioneer Place (downtown Portland), Washington Square Mall (Tigard), Bridgeport Village (Tualatin), Lloyd Center (north Portland) and Woodburn Company Stores (Woodburn) all provide access to department and specialty stores.

Food – Portland is more than just Stumptown Coffee and Voodoo Doughnuts (although, make sure you try the McMinnville Cream, should you go). From food carts to fine dining – Portland has it all, and is consistently known for being a bit of a foodie town.

Sports – Portland is home to the Portland Trail Blazers (NBA), Portland Timbers (MLS) and Portland Winterhawks (major junior league hockey). Do note major rivalries with the Lakers, Sounders and Seattle Thunderbirds as you walk the streets. Portlanders are active people – with the largest park in a city’s limits (Forest Park), running and biking trails across the city, and multiple ski areas within an hour’s drive.

Outdoor Excursions

If tromping through the mud, catching a wave or skiing the slopes is more your thing, check out these options just a short drive from McMinnville.

Oregon Coast – Nearly all 363 miles of the Oregon coast is public beach – from the mouth of the Columbia River to the California border. Hiking, fishing, clam digging, golfing, cycling, scuba diving, surfing, and boating are all popular activities. You can also explore light houses, blow glass, fly kites, try fresh seafood, shop through small towns or just stroll along the beach.

Mount Hood – Oregon’s tallest peak (at 11,239 feet) is also a dormant volcano with three major ski areas, including Timberline (open nearly year round), Ski Bowl (with the largest night skiing area in the country), and Mt. Hood Meadows (the largest of the three). In the summer, hiking, camping, mountain biking and fishing opportunities abound.

Bend and Central Oregon – Take a trip over the Cascades and find yourself in the high desert of central Oregon and the town of Bend. Rock climb at Smith Rock, raft the Deschutes, ski at Mt. Bachelor or explore downtown Bend.

Road Trip

Ready to see what else the Pacific Northwest has to offer, consider these weekend trips.

Seattle, Washington – About four hours north is the Emerald City of Seattle. Catch a Mariners game at Safeco Field, take a ride up the iconic Space Needle, or stop by Pike Place Market to see the flying fish and get a coffee at the original Starbucks.

British Columbia, Canada – Grab your passport and cross the border into British Columbia, Canada and the city of Vancouver. Home of the 2010 Winter Olympics and one of the largest, most diverse cities on the west coast, Vancouver highlights include Granville Island, Stanley Park, Chinatown and Gastown.

Weather and Geography

McMinnville is located in the Willamette Valley, between the Coast Range to the west, and the Cascade Range to the east. McMinnville receives an average of about 40 inches of rain a year (less than New York, Houston, or Miami), and offers an average of 154 sunny days. At a relatively low elevation, we average about six inches of snow a year with average winter lows in the 40s and average summer highs in the 80s.

To the west, the Oregon Coast spans the entire western border of the state and the Pacific Ocean. Tides and weather flows from the north, bringing cold water, and great opportunities for storm watching. You’ll find hearty Oregonians beachcombing in all seasons.

To the east, the Cascades divide the state between temperate rainforest and high desert plains. Mt. Hood averages a base of 175-200 inches of snow per season, with average snowfall of 500-600 inches per year.

Fun Oregon Trivia

  • One of the longest relays in the world, the Hood to Coast, occurs each September. Beginning at Timberline Lodge, and continuing through Portland to Seaside, the total distance is approximately 200 miles.
  • A popular place to film movies, Oregon has been featured in Animal House, Free Willy, The General, The Goonies, Kindergarten Cop, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Stand By Me, the Twilight series, The Hunted, The Shining, Point Blank, Mr. Holland’s Opus, Men of Honor, Pay It Forward, Swordfish, The Ring. Television shows currently being filmed in Oregon include Grimm, Leverage and Portlandia.
  • A hub of sportswear companies, Nike (founded in Oregon and headquartered in Beaverton) is the largest sportswear company in the world. Columbia Sportswear was also founded in Oregon, and Adidas North American headquarters are located in North Portland. Others include KEEN (Portland) and Da Kine (Hood River).

Tip: Are you coming from out of state to visit? Here’s how you can fit in with the locals - don’t be caught saying the state’s name wrong (OR-EE-GONE), rather pronounce it “OR-UH-GUN.”