Local traditions and culture in Oregon

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Most Viewed Local Customs in Oregon

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    Voodoo Donuts in Portland

    by Roadquill Written Mar 22, 2012

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    An observant traveler departing the Portland Airport may notice any number of fellow travelers carrying boxes of donuts home from Portland. In fact, we eschewed the box, but did bring some of the tasty and creative, flavorful gutt bombs home to our loved ones. Voodoo donuts is a "must do" whilst in Portland. There are two in the downtown Portland area. The original seems to have a line around the block at all hours. But where else can you get your own voodoo doll shaped donut

    Voodoo Donuts in Portland
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    Got Beer?

    by TashieKitten Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Here's some general info on the Brewers Festival. Please visit my Portland page for more information.

    I once read that Oregon had more breweries per capita than anywhere else in the United States and had fewer than only Copenhagen, Denmark.

    We love our craft beers and pretty much anyone will point you to their favorite brewery.

    The web site below will show you which breweries are in the Oregon Brewers Guild. There are so many sites for Oregon beer you could just "google" it and see what comes up.

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    Craft Beer Pioneer

    by richiecdisc Updated Oct 30, 2009

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    Many are coming to realize that Oregon is full of many scenic wonders but it has been a forerunner in the craft beer revolution in the United States as well. In the early 1980s, small breweries started to spring up around the the US with many of the first in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California. The climate is quite good for growing hops and there's no shortage of high quality water. Add to this an alternative entrepreneurial spirit and making beer was a no-brainer. Cascade hops are quite robust and lend a citrus nose and flavor to the beers it is used in so initial beers tended to be very hoppy or bitter. Recent trends bring a big malt profile into the mix and make for more balanced beers. But make no mistake, beers from the Pacific Northwest are not for the meek. While brewers in Europe initially complained of unbalanced beers in the US craft industry, more of them are now incorporating American hops as well as ideas into make "bigger" beers.

    Oregon is a great place to try some of these amazing beers. Portland is a particular hotbed but there are some great ones along the coast as well. Conveniently, many of the breweries have restaurants attached so you can make a culinary experience out of out. Check my individual Oregon pages for details on all the ones we hit during our summer of 2008 visit.

    great beer with great scenery: Oregon
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    Oregon White Oak

    by glabah Written Aug 10, 2009

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    At one point in time, the Willamette Valley had a significant portion of oak savanna and other ecosystems that revolved around the large oak trees found here.

    The tree is also known as the Garry Oak, and was named after Nicholas Garry of the Hudon's Bay Company.

    For various reasons, the wood from the tree is difficult to use commercially, and therefore in most cases the trees are simply destroyed when land around them is developed.

    As time has gone on, people have learned a lot more about the importance of these oak trees to the ecosystems of the Willamette Valley. Early in 2009, it was found that even preserving a single tree in a farmer's field can result in a huge ecological benefit to surrounding plants and animals that was previously unknown.

    Only a small fraction of the original oak tree ecosystems in the Willamette Valley remain due to commercial and farm conversion of the land.

    Various Web Sites:
    http://na.fs.fed.us/pubs/silvics_manual/volume_2/quercus/garryana.htm - US Department of Agriculture information
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quercus_garryana - Wikipedia entry for Oregon White Oak
    http://www.oregonoaks.org/ - Oregon Oaks preservation group

    typical Oregon White Oak at Finley Wildlife Refuge up close look at Oregon White Oak leaves grove of Oregon White Oak at Champoeg State Park a look at bark texture of Oregon White Oak tree typical Oregon White Oak savanna ecosystem
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    Wapato, Sagittaria latifolia, native plant

    by glabah Updated Oct 12, 2008

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    Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest held this species of plants in particularly high regard. There have been some attempts at trying to restore some of the native habitats for these plants.

    The particular photo shows a small display of growing wapato as part of a display outside the entrance of the Jackson Bottoms Wetlands Nature Center, which is appropriate as this plant grows in wetland areas.

    While Wikipedia and other sources say that wapato is actually about 20 different types of plants, most of the time in the Pacific Northwest that name applies to Sagittaria latifolia.

    Photos 3, 4, and 5 show the large swamps full of wapato growing at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge in Washington, where a Chinook village once existed. Lewis and Clark visited this village on their journey to the Pacific, and in their journals describe the harvesting methods used by Native Americans. Generally, women would take a canoe out into the swamp, and then jump into the water. They would kick up the tuber end out of the bottom with their feet, pull the plant up, and then drop it into the canoe. The canoe would then be floated or carried (where water was too shallow or land was an obstruction) back to the village.

    wapato: Sagittaria latifolia, growing in planter wapato: Sagittaria latifolia, growing in planter wapato swamp, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge wapato swamp, Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge wapato as far as the eye can see, at Ridgefield
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    Salmon

    by glabah Updated Sep 18, 2008

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    Fish that live in the ocean and return to fresh water to reproduce (salmon and steelhead) have been part of life in the Pacific Northwest as long as anyone can remember. Native American folklore has some fish stories, and native culture heavily depended on the fish, to the point where important trading centers were centered around fishing grounds such as Willamette Falls and Celilo Falls.

    Unfortunately, due to huge declines in northwest fisheries, they are no longer quite as easy to obtain as they once were.

    Take a look at the Native American Fishing Platforms that are still used today, though they used to be far more common and built with no modern tools!

    Coho Salmon in a tank as part of preservation plan
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    Don't Pick the Trilliums

    by glabah Updated May 8, 2008

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    Trilliums are a native Oregon (and elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest) flower that arrives in March or April, depending on the winter weather, flourishes for a few weeks, continues to live in relative obscurity as a three-leafed plant, and then disappears completely as summer wears on.

    It exists as a bulb under the ground.

    They are very selective about where they prosper. In places where they prosper, they are all over the ground, but if you try to transplant them they almost never seem to do very well. They want to live wild at a place of their choosing only, it seems.

    While the flowers first appear as a bright white flower, sometimes as eary as March, usually they are gone by early May. As the weeks go by, the flower slowly turns into a pink then purple color. Eventually only the leaves are left, and then they too disappear, leaving no trace of the root that lives underground.

    It is said that if one picks a trillium flower, the flower will never come back as doing this kills the root. It is also said that it can take seven years for a trillium to grow back. I'm not sure which, if either, of these two is correct.

    As for me, I have never tested this. It is a wild plant and visitors are not supposed to remove wild native foliage from our public parks.

    These can be seen in Portland's Forest Park, Portland's Tryon Creek State Park (home of a trillium festival), Mt. Tabor Park, Champoeg Park, Minto Island, and various other parks that are preserved as wild spaces.

    Trillium: early stages are bright white flowers Trillium: late in season, they turn purple Trillium in the process of turning white to purple Entire field of Trilliums in Champoeg State Park dark purple Trillium in McDonald State Forest, May
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    Oregon Grape

    by glabah Updated Apr 9, 2008

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    I can not count the number of times I have had people make comments to me about "that strange holly plant with the blue berries rather than red ones" because they are unfamiliar with Oregon's state flower: the Oregon Grape.

    While the leaves are somewhat like holly, the blue berries are a give away. I have been told that some people use the berries in some types of jam, but the fact is that this is considered a flower and not a fruit: they are generally not suitable for eating.

    Also, unlike holly (which you will find in abundance all over the place in Oregon now) it is not an imported plant: as the name implies, Oregon Grape is an Oregon native.

    Around late March and early April, yellow flowers appear on the bushes. These are the blossoms. The "fruit" will come much later. The second photo shows what these flowers look like.

    As there are a number of public plantings of our state flower in Portland (and Salem and many other cities as well!), both in public places and private gardens and yards, I have more photos of Oregon Grape in the Oregon Grape tip in my Portland section.

    Oregon Grape: kind of like holly with blue berries Oregon Grape in Flower in very early April, 2008 closer look at Oregon Grape in Flower
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    Douglas Fir Trees

    by glabah Written Oct 30, 2007

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    The Douglas Fir tree is Oregon's state tree, and they serve as popular decoration, shade, park feature, and Christmas tree. It is also a popular tree to cut down and use as lumber for housing, and is therefore a prime mover of local industry.

    Douglas fir tree: Oregon's state tree & popular
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    Slugs

    by glabah Written Oct 30, 2007

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    Slugs ("snails without shell" according to the Lewis & Clark Expedition) are very common in the Pacific Northwest. They come in two types: native slugs and imported European black slugs. The native Pacific Northwest slug is not quite like the bright yellow "banana slug" that is found further south in California, but it is a close relative.

    The European black slug has no native enemies and will grow to huge proportions and eat many valuable crops overnight. The native slug shown in the photo does not cause as much damage to valuable crops or lawn flowers.

    If you spend any time at all outside in the Pacific Northwest, particularly during the rainy season (September to June or so) you will see at least one slug somewhere if you spend and time at all outdoors and are paying attention. They are everywhere west of the Cascades.

    Native Pacific Nortwest slug hides in the leaves Slugs: slow moving and common in Oregon Slugs: slow moving and common in Oregon
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    You won't be pumping your own gas in Oregon

    by TheTravelSlut Written Sep 24, 2007

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    Oregon and New Jersey are the only 2 states in the USA that do not have (nor allow) self-serve gas pumps.

    The disadvantage is that gas costs a few cents a gallon more but the advantage is that when it is cold or rainy outside your car, someone else is getting cold and wet.

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    Blowing Up the Neighborhood

    by glabah Written Sep 12, 2007

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    Oregon is very conservative about what entertainment explosives are allowed by the general population (those without professional fireworks training or licence). This includes just about anything that flys up into the air.

    Washington State and the Indian reservations are far more liberal about what is sold.

    Thus, every 4th of July, New Year's Eve, and various other holidays traditionally celebrated with explosive devices, several people in each neighborhood buy the biggest explosive stuff they can find - either in Washington, at an Indian reservation, or an illegal fireworks market - and light the stuff off in the middle of the street.

    It is surprising that more people are not injured, or cars or houses set on fire, by these adventures....

    Blowing off Fireworks in a Neighborhood Street

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    Native American Fishing Platforms

    by glabah Written Aug 24, 2007

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    Since time immemmorial, the tribes along the Columbia River have constructed wooden platforms to allow them to get out over the river and catch fish.

    Today, power tools are used to build them, but the idea remains: get out over the water to catch fish.

    Some of the platforms are quite intricate, and almost all look quite dangerous.

    This, however, is the way it has always been done, and we can hope that there will always be those around who will keep the old traditions alive.

    We can also hope there will always be fish around for them to catch in this way.

    Member of Yakima Tribe fishes from River Platform
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    Don't pump your own gas

    by goingsolo Updated Jun 3, 2007

    All gas stations in Oregon are full service. You are not allowed to pump your own gas. Although at most gas stations this simply means that the attendant starts pumping gas and then walks away, leaving you to finish. At least, that's what happened to me when I stopped to "fill up" while driving along the Coast.

    The state of Oregon is one of only two in the US where motorists are not allowed to pump their own gas. As recently as 2003, a bill was introduced to allow self service gas stations. It didn't get enough votes to pass. So, when in Oregon, don't expect to just swipe your card, fill up and go.

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    Faerie Worlds

    by leafmcgowan Written Jul 28, 2005

    an international festival inspired by the artistic works of artist Brian & Wendy Froud and the musical talents of "Woodland". Each year, hundreds to thousands of musicians, artists, authors, craftspeople, and faerie enthusiasts gather together to celebrate the realm of faerie. Put on annually by Brian Froud, Woodland Productions, and Imaginosis ... Faerie Worlds is a unique and celebrated festival of its own accord. Faeries, pixies, satyrs, dragons, gnomes, tree people, mermaids, and God/desses of all kinds can be found playing, frolicking, dancing, walking, and hanging out at this event. Attending the 2005 Faerie Worlds outside of Eugene, Oregon was mind blowing and mesmerizing. Excellent bands, good entertainment, great vendors, incredible artists, and yummy food. A 5 stars out of 5 event. Highly recommended. Every year in July. See Web site for details ....

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Oregon Local Customs

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