The sun’s back; time to make the most of summer in Eugene

The Willamette River near Skinner Butte

Summer at the University of Oregon is finally kicking into gear, and students don’t have to travel far to soak in the sun.

Many restrictions due to COVID-19 have been lifted, but students are still encouraged to “stay home and stay safe” in Eugene to help prevent the spread of the virus. If you’ve been exposed or have any symptoms, take some safety measures. The UO continues to offer free testing for students through the Monitoring and Assessment Program.

Luckily, staying in Eugene is easy. There are plenty of fun-in-the-sun activities on and near the nest. It’s Oregon, after all!

Now’s the best time to stroll around campus. With calmer streets and hundreds of lush trees, the UO is stunning in the sun. If you get hungry, stop by the Erb Memorial Union for lunch and munch at one of the many tables outside.

Yoga on the Memorial Quad

Looking to linger around campus a bit longer? You’ll find plenty of lawn space to roll out a picnic blanket and lounge. Bring your sunglasses, earbuds or good book to enjoy. Just make sure to wear sunscreen.

The UO plans to host some huge events this summer. The upcoming World Athletics Championships Oregon22 are bound to be one for the books and will be held at Hayward Field July 15-24. Stick around and buy tickets now.

Should you choose to venture away from campus, Eugene has lots to offer. Here’s a list of fun stuff to do close to home:

Check out the local food scene in Eugene. Restaurants and food carts are parked in every corner downtown. You can also swoop by the Lane County Farmers Market at Eighth Avenue and Oak Street for fresh vegetables, fruits, drinks and more.

Berries at a farmer's market

For more unique treats, head downtown on Saturdays for the weekly Saturday Market, a 51-year Eugene tradition. Grab some food and spend hours shopping for random trinkets.

Once you’re done shopping in the sun, stroll the streets to check out the murals. Take on the mural walk in Springfield to view larger-than-life tributes to Northwest outdoor pursuits. Oh, and there’s also The Simpsons Mural in the Art Alley. Don’t forget to take a picture in front of Homer.

Springfield mural

Stick around later in July to join the annual Lane County Fair. Concerts, carnival rides, games and an abundance of cotton candy are on the menu. Bring your friends, and make sure to ride the Ferris wheel for a bird’s-eye view of Eugene.

Looking for something beyond the city walls? Choose from Oregon’s countless outdoor adventures and activities:

Biking is always a fun option. In fact, Eugene is the third-best city for cycling in the United States. Hop on a PeaceHealth bike, or your own wheels, and take a ride along the river path.

Hiking is another great choice. When the sun peeks out, visit Hendricks Park, Eugene’s oldest park. The world-renowned rhododendron garden is an easy walk from campus.

Meander along the Ridgeline Trail to hike up Spencer Butte or explore some of the lesser-traveled sections.

The summit of Spencer Butte

The area has several spectacular summer waterfall trails. Salt Creek Falls is a classic Oregon hike in the Willamette National Forest near Oakridge. The view is stunning, with a 283-foot (86-meter) waterfall visible from a safe platform.

Sweet Creek Falls ups the game with 11 waterfalls in total. The trail is super easy and family-friendly and is located between Eugene and Florence in the Siuslaw National Forest.

Water lovers can also lounge at a lake. With 249 lakes in the Eugene, Cascades and coast region, you can find plenty of nearby destinations to dip your toes in. Just make sure to follow these quick water safety tips before you start swimming.

Kayakers can paddle around Waldo Lake, located just past Oakridge in the Cascade Mountains. It’s one of the largest natural lakes in Oregon and one of the purest in the world.

Paddleboarders on the Willamette River

Fern Ridge Reservoir, located along Highway 126 near Veneta and home to a wide variety of wildlife, is a popular paddle spot. Keep an eye out for the nearly 250 recorded bird species in the area.

Then, pick up the pace along the river. Eugene has miles of rivers to explore.

Thrill-seekers can battle the water corridors of the McKenzie River, while more laid-back meanderers can float  the Willamette River. Whichever water path you choose, make sure you have the proper gear and permits.

Once you’re done exploring all Oregon has to offer, head back home, clean yourself off and crank up the AC. It’s OK if you can only soak up the sunshine in small doses. There’s nothing wrong with relaxing inside and cooling off on the couch. It’s your summer vacation.

—By Sydney Volchok, Student Services and Enrollment Management