While often overshadowed by the city of Portland and the coastal towns in Oregon, there are still many great reasons to explore Eastern Oregon and see what this part of the state has to offer. Pendleton is a mid-sized town here that is an excellent home base to check out the region and see a different side of Oregon. This is an old west-style town in the Pacific Northwest and a unique spot for families and curious travelers. Check out these fun things to do in the Pendleton area the next time you are passing through Eastern Oregon and looking for adventure.
YOU'RE ALL SET!
Look out for our newsletters in your inbox soon.
The famous Pendleton Round-Up is one of the biggest things to do in town and a fun way to experience the region’s cowboy culture. The round-up is a huge rodeo that draws in people from all over the state and country. The rodeo takes place annually in September, and the Happy Canyon Hall of Fame next door has lots of historic artifacts to learn about the event and its traditions. In addition to tradition rodeo competitions, you can also attend music concerts and enjoy dances and cowboy-themed meals at the event. It’s a very popular event, so make sure to buy your event tickets and book lodging well in advance. In addition to the annual Round-Up event in September, it’s also fun to visit in April for the Arts and Cultural Festival or in October for the local Oktoberfest celebration.
Pendleton Woolen Mills
The Pendleton Woolen Mills is another essential stop for visitors to Pendleton. You may recognize the Pendleton name from the iconic woolen blankets that are beautiful and wonderfully warm on chilly nights. This is where all-American textiles are created, and visitors can join a free tour of the mill to see how the blankets and fabrics are made. There’s also a retail store onsite where you can shop for souvenirs to take home with you. Free tours are offered Monday through Friday.
Tamastslikt Cultural Institute
We also recommend checking out the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute in Pendleton to learn about the traditions of the native people who once lived here. This part of Oregon was home to the Walla Walla, Cayuse, and Umatilla tribes, and the institute tells the story of these peoples in both past and present perspectives. Come here to see permanent and temporary exhibits about native life and to browse the nice gift shop for souvenirs. This attraction is just east of Pendleton at exit 216 off of Interstate 84, and there is a café here for snacks too. Stop by on the first Friday of any month for free admission. The museum is open every day except Sunday from 10am to 5pm.
Oregon Grain Growers Brand Distillery
One favorite spot among both locals and tourists in Pendleton is the Oregon Grain Growers Brand Distillery. This distillery specializes in whiskey and vodka and is open Wednesdays through Sundays. Free tasting and tours are offered here, as well as onsite bottle sales. There’s also the Bitchen Kitchen onsite here that serves delicious wood-fired pizzas and is kid-friendly. If you’re into local libations, also make sure to check out the Prodigal Son Brewery in Pendleton for numerous beers on tap plus a great pub fare menu.
Stroll Through Downtown Pendleton
When you visit Pendleton, make sure to set aside some time to take a casual stroll through the downtown area and pop into the interesting local businesses. The downtown core celebrates the region’s western heritage and is a casual place for a walk. In this area, you can check out the Happy Canyon Hall, Heritage Station at the Umatilla, Pioneer Park, the Umatilla River, Pendleton Convention Center, and the Roy Raley Park & Ice Rink. Recommended restaurants in town include Great Pacific, Thai Crystal, and Momiji Sushi & Hibachi.
Pendleton Underground Tours
To learn more about this part of Oregon and be entertained, take a walking tour with Pendleton Underground Tours. Here you can learn about the city’s shady past, including stories about gamblers, opium dens, and Chinese laborers. There are underground tunnels here that were home to Chinese laborers who built the regional railroad operations. Tours take visitors through the underground areas, such as card rooms and bordellos, and back through history to a really fascinating time. Tours of this “red light district” are offered on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 10am to 5pm.
Pendleton Center for the Arts
It’s also nice to spend some time at the Pendleton Center for the Arts when you’re in town because this venue serves as both a gallery and a community center. You can see exhibits and also attend arts and craft classes that focus on music, film costumes, and more. This is also a place to see affordable live performances, and general admission is always free. Stop by on Tuesdays through Fridays from 10am to 4pm or on Saturdays from noon to 4pm.
If you want to try your luck or simply be entertained, check out the Wildhorse Resort and Casino in Pendleton. Here you can stay in a hotel room or at the onsite RV park for your time in Pendleton. Other things to do here are the golf course, movie theater, and dining at the restaurants. The resort is located along the scenic Umatilla Reservation and off of Interstate 84. The onsite hotel has 300 rooms and suites in a 10-story tower, golf packages are available, and the RV park has 30-amp and 50-amp spaces with full hookups.
Take a Hike on a Nearby Trail
It’s also fun to get out in nature and enjoy the outdoors when you visit Pendleton, Oregon. Once nice natural area in the region is the McKay Creek National Wildlife Refuge, which is just south of town. This is a popular spot for biking, boating, and fishing too. Other nice hiking areas in the region are the Umatilla National Forest, North Fork Umatilla Wilderness Area, Hat Rock State Park, and Pendleton River Parkway.