8 Terrific Free Outdoor Excursions for Families in Eugene 

Whether you are visiting Eugene, Oregon, a.k.a. “Track Town U.S.A.” for the first time for the World Athletics Championships this summer, or passing through as part of a broader Oregon exploration, this relaxed Oregon city may steal your heart.

We’ve lived in Oregon for almost fifteen years, and I feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface of all there is to see and do in the area. When I think I’ve hiked to the most beautiful vistas, visited the best farms, and seen the prettiest waterfalls, I learn about one more outdoor excursion that I simply must add to my bucket list.

Nestled in the valley between the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade Mountains, Eugene offers so much for outdoors-loving families both within and outside of the city center and features a thriving art and culinary scene to boot. What is so special about Eugene, home to the University of Oregon, is that retains a fairly small-town feel but offers a thriving cultural and dining scene that rivals bigger cities.

The new riverfront park being developed in downtown Eugene.

Read on for a few of my favorite free outdoor activities in and around Eugene’s city center plus one that might involve a glass or two of wine.

Lane County Farmer’s Market and Eugene Saturday Market

Website | Directions | Free!

Ask any local, and the Lane County Farmer’s Market and Eugene Saturday Market will likely rise to the top of recommendations for something fun to do in the area. At the market, the community’s love for the land and its bounty shines through. 

The Lane County Farmer’s Market, located in and around the new Farmers Market Pavilion on the corner of 8th Avenue and Oak Street in downtown Eugene, runs Saturdays April 2 – December 17 from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., and Tuesdays May 3 – October 25 from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. More than 85 farm and food artisan vendors will be there to “wow” you with their wares from handmade pastries to organic produce and so much more. The new farmers market pavilion, opened in early June 2022, will provide a year-round space for the market and is made out of locally sourced and sustainable materials.

Right nearby, at the Park Blocks on 126 East 8th Avenue, is the Eugene Saturday Market which features an international open-air food court, live music, and handmade crafts. The Saturday Market is open every Saturday from the first Saturday in April through mid-November from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Make sure to buy a balloon from the balloon man when you are visiting the farmer's market!
Make sure to bring a sliding scale donation for the balloon man – he is quite a hit with kids of all ages.

20×21 Mural Project

Website | Directions | Free!

The 20×21 Mural Project was spearheaded by the City of Eugene Cultural Services Public Art Program to create 20 beautiful outdoor murals before the World Athletics Championships.

One of many beautiful outdoor murals in downtown Eugene.

You can explore the murals at your leisure by using a self-guided map or sign up for a free, all-ages walking tour led by one of the founding members of the 20×21 Mural Project. These tours meet in front of the Eugene Public Library’s downtown branch at 100 W. 10th Avenue. Click here to sign up.

The Ruth Bascom Riverbank Path System

Website | Directions | Free!

The Ruth Bascom Riverbank Path System is a 12-mile multi-use paved path system running along both sides of the mighty Willamette River and connecting the cities of Eugene and Springfield. Bike, run, or walk along this beautiful trail and find many things for the whole family to enjoy like Riverplay Park, Owen Rose Garden, Delta Ponds, and Alton Baker Park. (I’ll share more on a few of these below.)

Run, walk, or bike along Eugene's extensive waterfront paths.

You might also notice the exciting transformations that are happening along Eugene’s downtown riverfront. The City of Eugene is in the process of constructing a new three-acre Downtown Riverfront Park on the former EWEB utility property. The design incorporates river views and new paths for pedestrians and bicycles and connects to the 5th Street Market shopping area. You can read more about the project here

From July 15-24, 2022, at the new Downtown Riverfront Park, come to the free Eugene Riverfront Festival event with food, music, and art and celebrate the new park and the WCH Oregon22 events at Hayward Field.

RiverPlay Discovery Village Playground

Website | Directions | Free!

The city of Eugene has some pretty awesome public parks, but this one takes the cake in my opinion. The park is located in Skinner Butte Park and along the Willamette River and highlights include a replica of Skinner Butte, a fossil sand dig, and water features including a replica of the Willamette River. This park can get very crowded on nice days and I found it a little unnerving to try to keep an eye on my tots when they were little, there is so much to see and do they’ll be off in a flash, so keep that in mind when you plan your day.

RiverPlay is one of many wonderful city parks in Eugene, Oregon.

The University of Oregon Campus and Hayward Field

Website | Directions | Free!

No visit to Eugene would be complete without a stroll around the beautiful University of Oregon Campus and a peek, at least, at the impressive new Hayward Field ready to welcome the World Athletics Championships Oregon22 from July 15-24. 

Take a self-guided tour by downloading the UOregon app or printing a self-guided tour map. (Bonus: The UO has included special tours like “sustainability tour,” “tree tour,” indigenous UO tour,” and more in addition to the main campus tour! Click here if you’d prefer a guided tour

While on campus, make sure to walk by the beautifully renovated Hayward Field, even if you are not in Eugene for sporting reasons. Eugene is known as “TrackTown USA” for a reason. Hayward Field is a world-class track and field facility and a campus landmark with a 100-year history having hosted more USA Olympic Track and Field Trials and NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships than any other venue. Stroll the periphery and see how many of the 156 flags of the world you can identify. More about Hayward Field’s history here.

Hendricks Park

Website Directions | Free!

Right near the University of Oregon campus, along the ridgeline to the east, is Eugene’s oldest city park circa 1906. This beautiful 78-acre park is located just about one mile from the University of Oregon campus and features a pretty network of trails through mature trees, a lovely rhododendron garden, and many native plants. There are also picnic tables and a serene meadow in the center of the rhododendron garden so it’s a great place to enjoy a relaxed picnic.

Delta Ponds City Park

Website Directions | Free!

The Delta Ponds Trail, located off Goodpasture Island Road near the Valley River Center Mall (also accessible via the Ruth Bascom Riverbank Path System), is a short paved 1.8-mile family-friendly trail where you can spot migratory birds or do a little fishing year-round. This special 150-acre natural area is owned by the City of Eugene and includes wetlands and riparian areas.

Go bird watching or take a stroll at Delta Ponds in Eugene.

Picnic and Music at Silvan Ridge Winery

Website Directions | Varies

This isn’t free but it’s very economical, and you must toast your visit to Eugene with a trip to one of the beautiful nearby wineries. Silvan Ridge Winery is one of the most family-friendly in the area, in my opinion, because they have always welcomed children, well-mannered dogs, and picnics. Bring your own picnic or snack or buy some of the on-site food items (charcuterie and cheese plate, hummus plate, etc.) 

Hours are 12-5 daily and from June 17 – Labor Day weekend they host music concerts on their outdoor stage from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. as well as a rotating food truck. Tickets for the music events are $5 and the fee goes to a local charity.

This blog post is just the beginning of all there is to see and do in the lovely little city of Eugene in the southern Willamette Valley. If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy 4 Family-Friendly Hikes With Marvelous Views Near Eugene, for more outdoors excursion ideas.

What is your favorite thing to do in Eugene, Oregon? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Images and content copyright © 2022 Tournesol Adventures. All rights reserved.

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