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7 Best Places to Live in Oregon

By: Susan Finch
February 9, 2021

Ready to play outdoors, sip on microbrews, and explore the coastline? Oregon attracts visitors and locals alike looking for an idyllic escape in the Pacific Northwest. Whether you want to go rafting or biking, you can find it in Oregon.

It's challenging to narrow down your choices and pick the best places to live in Oregon. Fortunately, each city has its own unique flavor and charm, from historic downtowns to quirky boutiques and culture

You can be yourself in Oregon and enjoy the best in natural beauty as well as thrive professionally in industries like education and tech in the "Silicon Forest".

Not sure where to start? We’ve already done all the hard work for you. Here are the best places to live in Oregon and the characteristics that make them uniquely suited for you.

1. Portland

  • Population: 2,174,000
  • Median Household Income: $53,230
  • Walk score: 67
  • Transit Score: 52
  • Bike Score: 82

If you're a quirky, independent spirit at heart, Portland is ready to welcome you. The city is known for its trendsetting neighborhoods, bike culture, stunning views, and support for the arts. It’s also totally acceptable to embrace your weirdness in the City of Roses.

Portland’s neighborhoods offer something for everyone. Stroll the Pearl District's cobblestone streets and buy a rare edition book at the iconic Powell's Books.

Portland is also celebrated for its craft beer. The Bridgeport Brewing Company delivers as the state's oldest craft brewery. Make sure to bring your bike with you.

Over at the Alberta Arts District, galleries, boutiques, and restaurants keep residents busy all weekend long. Explore the gluten-free and vegan bakeries, pubs, and the lively Last Thursday street fair.

For something more off the beaten path at the confluence of the Willamette River and Columbia River, settle into the quieter St. John’s neighborhood.

Portland is more than just a town for passionate creatives. The city is also home to 12,591 acres of public parkland and open space for relaxing and exploring.

Residents spend their time biking and exploring parks. They include Washington Park, Tom McCall Waterfront Park, and Portland Japanese Garden.

If you want to get in on the beloved "weird" culture in Portland, start with an oversized fried treat from Voodoo Doughnuts the size of your head. Then, head over to The Freakybuttrue Peculiarium. It features exhibits like an alien autopsy table and Al Capone's safe. Cap your day off by joining the locals at Karaoke from Hell or at pubs like Dante's or the Spare Room.

Major employers also set up shop in the metro area. They include Nike, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, and Adidas.

Portland's Downtown area and Pearl District are also attractive to retailers and the hospitality market. They bring visitors and locals to the City of Roses.

It's easy to see why U.S. News & World Report ranked Portland among the best places to live on the West Coast, primarily due to its emphasis on self-expression, growth, and reasonable salaries.

Wherever you work, remember to bring your bike. According to the Portland Bureau of Transportation, 22,647 workers in Portland commute by bike. That’ll also help drive down the cost of living in Portland.

Read up on everything you need to know before moving to Portland.

Find apartments for rent in Portland.

2. Eugene

  • Population: 168,302
  • Median Household Income: $49,029
  • Walk score: 45
  • Transit Score: 36
  • Bike Score: 72

Outdoor lovers flock to Eugene, Oregon, for its stunning views of the Willamette Valley. The area is situated near the Willamette and McKenzie Rivers' confluence that opens up to dazzling views. There are endless opportunities for kayaking, rafting, and cycling to explore its landscape and rivers.

Eugene is also ideally situated for day trips. It’s roughly an hour’s drive to the Pacific Ocean.

Eugene's coastal climate is unusual for the Pacific Northwest. It offers a more temperate climate throughout the year. The temperature rarely dips below the 40s or gets above the mid-80s. That creates outdoor recreational opportunities for locals.

Soak up the great outdoors at Hendricks Park for 80 acres of walking trails and an expansive Rhododendron Garden. Beyond the green space, you'll also find the Museum of Natural and Cultural History, an Asian art collection at Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, and Fifth Street Public Market for boutiques and pubs.

Beyond all that glorious nature, Eugene offers a decent job market for skilled professionals. The University of Oregon, Eugene School District, and PeaceHealth Medical Group are significant employers in the area.

Eugene also attracts year-round visitors to its dozens of breweries in the city that stretch into the Willamette Valley.

Find apartments for rent in Eugene.

3. Salem

  • Population: 169,259
  • Median Household Income: $55,920
  • Walk score: 42
  • Transit Score: 31
  • Bike Score: 62

Settle into Oregon’s state capital of Salem. The area is celebrated for its agricultural epicenter. You’ll find stunning orchards, grapes, and vegetables along rolling terrain.

You'll also find government buildings in its cozy downtown boasting a laid-back vibe. Despite Salem's small-town feel, you can still join in on the cultural scene with classic cinema and live theater at the local Elsinore Theatre.

Like many of Oregon's best cities, Salem features acres of lush gardens and parks, including Bush's Pasture Park with gorgeous blooming roses. During warmer months, locals gather at the Riverfront Park along the Willamette River to enjoy the carousel or annual holiday events.

The Willamette Valley Vineyards also aren't far away. There, you can soak up the sweeping views and wine tastings.

Day trips to the Oregon coast, gallery hopping, and hitting the vintage boutiques are popular pastimes. You can also get to know Salem's character and charm with a stroll through the Schreiner's Iris Gardens and Salem's Riverfront Park.

Then, head to historic downtown for window shopping or annual events like the Anual Salem Art Fair Festival and Willamette Jazz Festival.

Education and health services are big employers around Salem. Look for jobs at the public school district, Salem Health, Willamette University, and Chemeketa Community college. Beyond healthcare and schools, the government also supplies career opportunities around Oregon’s capital city.

Find apartments for rent in Salem.

4. Corvallis

  • Population: 58,028
  • Median Household Income: $52,942
  • Walk score: 48
  • Transit Score: 28
  • Bike Score: 84

Corvallis attracts higher academics to the rolling Willamette Valley. The city is home to Oregon State University and residents love college sports, the access to gorgeous hikes, and coastal recreation.

Living in Corvallis is like living within a national park with mountain views, dense forest, and open spaces nearby. It’s easy to see why Corvallis is home to Audubon-approved birding spots. Grab your binoculars and head out for 60 miles of hiking and biking trails in the area.

There's more to see and do in Corvallis than only enjoying the great outdoors. The area is also home to six microbreweries and over a dozen wineries. Spend one weekend on a craft brew crawl and the next savoring vintage wines from the Oregon coast.

Pack up produce from the Corvallis Farmers Market and head over to the William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge for wildlife watching and hiking. The Siuslaw National Forest is also a gorgeous stop for hiking along the coastal forests and sand dunes before enjoying craft brews at Sky High Brewing & Pub back in town.

Oregon also offers a growing job market. Oregon State University, HP Inc, and Kforce are among its major employers.

The local beer and wine scene is also thriving. Bring your beer knowledge to Corvallis and find new opportunities or career growth.

Find apartments for rent in Corvallis.

5. Bend

  • Population: 93,917
  • Median Household Income: $71,806
  • Walk score: 91
  • Transit Score: 37
  • Bike Score: 77

Visitors turn into long-time residents in Bend, Oregon after catching the snowboarding, rock climbing, and the Cascade Range views.

The Deschutes River stretches through the city's center. There, it's common to see people rafting or navigating SUP boards during summer months. Snowtop recreation is also available at Mt. Bachelor for winter recreation.

Don't let Portland's cold, rainy climate speak for the rest of Oregon. Bend is among the state's sunniest cities. It gets over 260 days of no to low cloud coverage. Expect moderate daytime temperatures and cool nights in this high desert region.

Bend is steeped in Oregon's natural beauty but doesn't skimp on the microbreweries. Downtown Bend is alive and well with pubs and breweries, while Old Bend invites locals for a stroll past bakers and taco stands.

Grab your hiking gear and watch the water tumble down the rocky face of Tumalo Falls. Get to know the area's history and beauty at the popular High Desert Museum with interactive and outdoor exhibits.

You may not think of volcanoes when you visit Bend. However, one of the newer national monuments opens up to 55,000 acres of volcanic features and rock. Explore the Newberry National Volcanic Monument for lava flows, lake, and stunning geologic features.

Bend, Oregon, transformed from a sleepy lumber town to an oasis for outdoor recreation and tourism. Bend's job market has also steadily grown while the unemployment rates have dropped.

Tourism is going strong in Bend with careers in hospitality and related outdoor recreation. Bring your love of beer to your next job search. Bend also holds the unique distinction of boasting the most microbreweries per capita in the country.

Despite the steady flow of beer, St. Charles Health is city's largest employeer, making Bend a great city for healthcare professionals.

Find apartments for rent in Bend.

6. Beaverton

  • Population: 97,861
  • Median Household Income: $57,068
  • Walk score: 50
  • Transit Score: 37
  • Bike Score: 68

Beaverton offers the best of both worlds as a suburb of Portland with its own low-key urban vibe. It’s also an easy day trip to the Oregon coastline, Mount Head, and local skiing.

A mix of gorgeous residential homes and luxury apartment buildings abound in Beaverton. The area is also welcoming to families looking for more space and quality schools for their kids.

Beaverton's climate is similar to Portland. It gets an average of 41 inches of rain per year and only 141 sunny days per year. Highs in the summer hit the low 80s and lows are in the 30s.

You don't need to make the commute to Portland to find cultural opportunities. Beaverton offers its own entertainment centers, outdoor plays in warmer months, and multicultural festivals.

And although Portland has its share of award-winning restaurants, you can also find contenders right in Beaverton like the well-regarded Fireside Grill or the Westgate Bourbon Bar & Taphouse.

Beaverton is also home to the famous "Silicon Forest" where high-tech firms pepper the corridor leading to Hillsboro. Nike is among Beaverton's most prominent employers. It boasts 75 buildings, a fitness center, and running tracks along 286 acres. IBM, Columbia, Tektronix, and Shari's Cafe and Pies also round out Beaverton's primary job market.

There are more careers to choose from. At just 12 miles from Downtown Portland, locals in Beaverton also have their choice to commute into the city for opportunities in the banking, education, retail, and hospitality sectors in Portland.

Find apartments for rent in Beaverton.

7. Hillsboro

  • Population: 106,543
  • Median 2-Bedroom Apartment Rent: $1,500
  • Median Household Income: $82,275
  • Walk score: 44
  • Transit Score: 39
  • Bike Score: 72

Hillsboro is a gem in the Pacific Northwest. It’s home to a rich history, the oldest and largest winery in the country, and is among the largest solar cell manufacturers in North America.

Hillsboro also earned its bragging rights for having nine sites on the National Register of Historic Places. Those include Old Scotch Church and Imbrie Farm.

Hillsboro gets slightly less rain than Beaverton and Portland, with 39 inches of rain per year. Expect 142 sunny days per year and similar temperatures to Beaverton. Despite the rain, there's still plenty of opportunity to get outdoors and take day trips to Eugene and the Oregon coast.

Nature lovers have plenty to explore in Hillsboro. The historic Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve was restored in the 1970s and became part of Hillsboro's park system. Now it's a hot spot for locals to hike and enjoy wildlife.

Hillsboro is also home to the famous Oregon International Airshow and the Rice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals. It's among the largest of its kind in the region, with over 20,000 gemstones and meteorites.

Beaverton may have Nike, but Hillsboro also attracts giants like Intel. Hillsboro is also at the other end of "Silicon Forest" that it shares with Beaverton. Browse for jobs at tech companies like RadiSys that call Silicon Forest home.

Manufacturing is also a big business in Hillsboro. The city is home to over 13% of Oregon's manufacturing jobs.

Find apartments for rent in Hillsboro.

Final Thoughts

The best places in Oregon all have a few things in common. The outdoors are a wonderland, the microbreweries are plentiful, and the views are glorious. From urban epicenters to historic towns, Oregon offers something for everyone.

Ready to find your next home in Oregon? Just get started with our quiz!

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Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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