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Learn about Oregon’s cultural and historical past and its vibrant present by exploring the state’s performing arts venues, science centers, art galleries, and museums.
If your travels start in Astoria, the restored Liberty Theater should be your first stop. This vaudeville-turned-movie house has come alive again as an elegant performing arts center. The Elsinore Theatre in Salem was also once a vaudeville theater. It opened in 1926, and its current slate of performances ranges from Bach to Broadway touring shows.
The Elgin Opera House saw its beginnings in 1912. Today, it hosts live theater events, films and other entertainment. Its museum reveals the history of Indian Valley and Elgin. If your travels bring you to Eugene, pick up a ticket for a performance at the Hult Center for the Performing Arts.
The sounds of the Oregon Symphony fill the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland. It’s among the oldest symphonies in the country, and they perform more than 80 shows per year. Portland Center Stage is considered among the best professional, regional theaters in the United States. You can see musicals, contemporary plays and classical works here. The Artists Repertory Theater produces a slate of plays in a more intimate setting with the goal of exploring contemporary issues.
The Camelot Theatre in Talent, near Medford in Southern Oregon, recently moved into the James Morrison Collier Theatre Building and offers plays, musicals and concerts, as well as a youth conservatory. Meanwhile, if your travels take you to Ontario, investigate the symphony concerts at the Meyer-McLean Performing Arts Center in the Four Rivers Cultural Center and Museum.
Science Centers and Museums
The Oregon Air & Space Museum, located in Eugene, features numerous historic aircraft, as well as aviation artifacts from decades past. You can also learn more about the exciting race to space. The Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville also welcomes aviation and aerospace enthusiasts. The museum hosts numerous craft, including Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose.
If you are traveling through Portland, schedule some time to explore the exhibits, watch the movies and marvel at the Planetarium shows at the Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI). The Science Factory Children’s Museum Planetarium in Eugene is also a huge draw for anyone looking to the stars.
There are more than 100 hands-on exhibits and displays at the Science Works Hands-On Museum in Ashland. Another great spot for interactive learning is A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village in Salem. The Village is named after Alfred Carlton Gilbert, an American inventor, and many of his inventions are displayed here, including what is reportedly the largest Erector Set Tower in the world.
The Portland Art Museum is the West Coast’s oldest art museum, having opened its doors in 1892. It’s also one of the largest art museums in the country with a permanent collection of more than 42,000 art pieces. It highlights Northwest Art, Native American Art, Asian Art, and it supports contemporary and modern art. It has also incorporated the Northwest Film Center into its complex.
If you are on the coast, art lovers should stop by the Coos Art Museum. It has a permanent collection of more than 500 art objects, and it focuses on contemporary and Northwest art.
If you are fascinated by glass blowing and traveling through Lincoln City, you are in luck! Alderhouse Glass allows you to watch the artists create their unique pieces. Likewise, the Jennifer Sears Glass Art Studio will allow you to watch artists in action, as well as take classes to learn this more than 2,000-year-old form.
Valley Art Gallery in Forest Grove displays the work of more than 200 national and local artists. From metalwork to wood carvings, you’ll find something that catches your eye. Downtown Bend, Oregon is home to numerous galleries that range from printmaking to contemporary crafts. The Workhouse is home to more than 60 artists, and you’ll love exploring The Ironworks Art District and the art pieces displayed in the traffic circles throughout the city. The High Desert Museum is also a favorite of anyone who loves Western, Native American or contemporary art.
Raincoast Arts is an artist-run gallery that reveals that work of regional artists. It has been the go-to art spot in Bandon for decades. Meanwhile, Art Alley, located in the alleys of Springfield between A Street and Main, is well-worth a tour.
Cinephiles flock to the Oregon Film Museum in Astoria. Here, you can get the inside scoop on the many film projects that have been shot in Oregon.
The Columbia River Maritime Museum is also in Astoria. It holds more than 30,000 artifacts and tells the tales of the dangerous Columbia River Bar. The collection includes the bridge of a WWII Destroyer, Coast Guard lifeboats and The Lightship Columbia, among many others. Fans of maritime history can also visit Portland’s Oregon Maritime Museum. Just step aboard the 1947 Portland Sternwheeler – don’t be surprised if it feels like you are stepping back through time.
The Western Antique Aeroplane & Automobile Museum always draws crowds to Hood River. Guided tours are available, providing valuable information on their collection, which includes a WWII glider and a Detroit Electric Car built in 1914. The Rail Depot Museum in Troutdale beckons anyone intrigued by the early history of the railroad in this area. The original depot was built in 1882 and rebuilt after a fire in 1907. You’ll love exploring the artifacts that have been donated to the museum.
The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Baker brings alive the stories of the pioneers, Native Americans and mountain men who first walked the trail. Other museums of note include The Douglas County Museum of Culture and Natural History in Roseburg, the North Lincoln County Historical Museum and the Heritage Museum in Astoria.