Oregon is an appropriate site to meet to explore the conference theme: “Democracy in a Divided Society.” Oregon is one of the most divided states in terms of its underlying urban and rural divisions. Last winter, those divisions led Republican lawmakers to flee the state to avoid voting on a climate change bill while the statehouse to be closed briefly over a threat from militias. In 2016, a group of protesters occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge for over a month in an armed uprising against federal land management. The divisions are perhaps most dramatically seen in repeated Portland clashes between Antifa and Proud Boys – some of the most dramatic example of such clashes across the nation.
Eugene sits at the south end of the Willamette Valley — Oregon’s urban axis running north to Portland. Eugene has its own political traditions – known for its strong anarchist and anti-capitalist community, and with a dense network of community organizations promoting social equity and inclusion. It is not the most diverse of cities – and its history is replete with the kind of exclusionary practices that have marred so many other cities in the region and nation. Contemporary Eugene, however, enthusiastically celebrates its diversity. Along those lines: In 2016, the Advocate ranked Eugene 12th among the Queerest Cities in America. (See this LGBTQ-friendly guide for out-of-towners.) All of that is to say that Eugene is friendly and inviting, and a wonderful place to visit. It is clearly not as large as its more famous urban centers in the Pacific Northwest, but it is definitely more manageable – and there is plenty to do in Eugene!
We’re also lucky to be in the heart of downtown, so conference attendees will have lots of options for places to continue discussions and to connect with old friends over food and drink. Our conference hotel (The Graduate) is conveniently located: just a couple of blocks in one direction will take you to the city center along Broadway (where you’ll find, among other things, Voodoo Doughnuts), and a couple of blocks in the other direction will take you to the Fifth Street Public Market (with a wonderful food court). For those willing to venture a tiny bit further, a short mile walk will land you in the Whiteaker District. The Whiteaker’s Wiki page describes as “a vibrant cultural hub, center of community and environmental activism and home to alternative artists.” It also happens to be the home of many breweries and brewpubs, distilleries, coffee shops, and restaurants. It will be a great place to get away for explore for an afternoon or evening. —-PSA President Dennis J. Downey
EUGENE, OREGON: Places to eat, things to do and see, local history, local organizations working for social change, and more
(collated by Michelle Alexander, Michael Dreiling, Patricia Gwartney, and others from the University of Oregon)
Standout PoC-owned Restaurants in Eugene: Eugene has a thriving restaurant scene. For those who are interested in eating at establishments that are owned by people of color, we have provided a good list below. (All of the restaurants in town can be accessed via apps such as Yelp.)
Saigon Café (Vietnamese)
Ta Ra Rin (Thai)
Taste of India (Indian)
Uniquely Chengdu (Chinese)
Angkor Cambodian Café (Cambodian)
Bobahead (if you crave bubble tea/boba)
Da Nang (Vietnamese): food cart sits just outside the Oregon Wine Lab
Lani Moku Grill (Hawaiian): food cart located at Beergarden
Bao Bao House (Chinese and Taiwanese)
221 BCE (Northern Chinese)
Kung Fu Bistro (Szechuan Chinese)
Mama Mayra’s Kitchen (Mexican)
Addis Ethiopian Cuisine (in Springfield, about four miles away – and worth the drive)
Lane County History Museum is a great place to learn about the history of the region, and catch one of their rotating exhibits.
Shelton McMurphey Johnson House: A short 10-minute walk from the Graduate Hotel, the SMJ House is a 7,000 square foot Victorian home completed in 1887 – a historical and architectural gem open for touring.
The Historic Mims House: If you’re interested in African American history in the area, you’ll definitely want to walk by the Mims House, less than a half mile from the conference hotel. The Mims Home was the first African American owned property in Eugene, and served as a “safe house” for musicians and other artists travelling through the area (like Luis Armstrong, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald) who were excluded from city hotels. Check out a brief video detailing the history of the property.
Non-profits: For those interested in learning about the vibrant non-profit sector in Eugene, here is a partial list: Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide; Rural Development Initiatives; Eugene Springfield Solidarity Network (Jobs with Justice); NAACP of Eugene and Springfield; Centro Latino Americano; Relief Nursery; Assistance League Eugene; Beyond Toxics; Civil Liberties Defense Center; Community Alliance of Lane County; Oregon’s Immigrant Rights organization, CAUSA.
University of Oregon events: Eugene is best known as the home of the University of Oregon. You can reach the university with just over a mile walk – and there is a lot to see and do there. The campus itself is a 295-acre arboretum, containing approximately 4,000 trees of more than 500 species. You can also visit the Natural & Cultural History Museum on campus focusing on the earth’s varied environments and cultures, with the motto “we make science happen.” The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (JSMA) is located on the campus of the University of Oregon, and features a range of permanent and temporary exhibitions, both historical and contemporary. If you’re interested in seeing what’s happening on campus, check the University of Oregon events calendar (which will start to fill up as we get closer to next March).
Parks & natural environment: The Pacific Northwest is known for its amazing outdoor opportunities. Below are a few of the parks and other amenities that are within the city limits.
Alton Baker Park: Eugene’s largest developed park, with running/hiking paths, a lake with boats to rent, Frisbee golf, and public art – among many other attractions. The park also hosts the Nobel Peace Laureate Project which is part of a peace park designed to honor American recipients of the famous prize. Alton Baker Park is just a mile walk from the Graduate Hotel.
Skinner Butte: A mile walk/hike from the hotel will take you to the top of Skinner Butte – a beautiful timbered butte that rises 200 feet from the surrounding city, affording gorgeous views of the city.
Amazon Park: A two-mile walk south from the hotel will bring you to another gorgeous Eugene park of 100 acres in the heart of the city, with a diversity of activities to offer.
Hendricks Park: A three-mile walk and another gorgeous park – for those who want to visit a different park each day of the conference!
Mt. Pisgah Arboretum: If you’re willing to drive a bit (less than 10 miles), you can visit the beautiful Mt. Pisgah Arboretum – a gorgeous 209-acre “living tree museum,” with miles of trails and an opportunity to see spring wildflowers (if timing works out).
Ridgeline trail System: For those who want to spend a little more time seeing the beautiful natural environment around Eugene, the Ridgeline trail system offers around 12 miles of hiking trails through interconnected parklands. The crown of the trail is Spencer Butte, at over 2,000 feet.
Cascade Raptor Center: One of the largest collections of native raptor species in the Pacific Northwest allows visitors to view nearly 50 birds of prey in large outdoor aviaries.
A Runner’s Paradise: Eugene is known as Track Town, U.S.A. – famous for hosting the Olympic Trials and various NCAA running events. The city has miles and miles of running trails, just outside the hotel and networked all over Eugene. One of those trails is a memorial to Eugene’s most famous runner: Steve Prefontaine, known locally as Pre’s Trail.
Hult Center for the Performing Arts: Literally, right next door to the Graduate Hotel is one of the premiere venues for the performing arts in Eugene. If you’re interested in attending a show, you might look at their March/April 2020 events calendar, which is still being put together. Located on the Hult’s east plaza is the Japanese-American Art Memorial to WWII era internment.
Shedd Institute for the Arts: “The Shedd” (as the locals call it) is a performing arts company, cultural arts center, and community music school in a complex with multiple performance venues. It is less than a half mile walk from The Graduate, so another great place to check for shows as we get closer to March.
Public Arts Initiative: If you’re interested in public arts, you’ll want to check out the 20x21EUG Mural Project – an initiative of Eugene Cultural Services Public Arts Program to create 20 or more world-class outdoor murals in Eugene over the next couple of years.
Wine & Beer: You can’t throw a stone in Eugene without hitting a pub or a winery! That may not actually be true – but you could be forgiven for thinking that after walking around the city for a while. Wine tastings are a popular spring activity and can be had at Capitello Wine Tasting Room, Civic Winery, Eugene Wine Cellars, Oregon Wine LAB, Territorial Vineyards and Wine Company, and Sweet Cheeks on 5th. Eugene is surrounded by wonderful wineries. To tour the vineyards and wineries, several tour companies can be booked in advance, such as Cork & Barrel Wine Tours. . . . For those interested in beer, you also have plenty of options – such as the Ninkasi Brewing Company, Hop Valley Brewing Company, McMenamins, and Falling Sky Brewpub. If you’re interested in a fun way to see the city with a group and enjoy a variety of local beers, you can arrange a pedal-powered tour with Pacific Pub Cycle.
Local Farms (short list): If you’re interested in checking out some local farms – either to pick your own produce, or just to see how they operate – here are some options: Johnson Vegetable Farm; Thistledown Farm; Skinner City Farm; and GloryBee.
Additional ways to experience Eugene culture:
Axe throwing: For those who really want to get into the Pacific Northwest experience, you can try your hand (and hopefully not lose your hand) at axe throwing.
Laserium: And what would a visit to the Emerald City be without a trip to the Laserium? The Laserium is the figurative field of poppies along the Yellow Brick Road!
Scavenger Hunt: Eugene now has a downtown scavenger hunt! It’s by Let’s Roam and is completely app-lead, so no reservations are required and there is no maximum time frame. Guests purchase online “tickets” that allow up to 20 in a group to participate using their smart phones, completing photo challenges and learning about Eugene art and history along the way.
Barcades: If you’re interested in enjoying a relaxing cocktail or beer while playing vintage arcade games, check out Eugene’s “barcade” scene. Below are a few local favorites: Level Up; GamePub; Blairalley Vintage Arcade.
Getting Around: The Lane Transit District serves Eugene and its surrounding communities. If you’d like to get around on public transportation, LTD is the way to go. Most of the places listed in this local guide can be reached by the Emerald Express (EmX) bus rapid transit system. For more information about LTD routes and schedules, see their website: https://www.ltd.org/. . . . . . In addition to the bus system (and the EmX), the PeaceHealth Rides network is very useful, as is the new all-electric “EmGo” which is a free shuttle around the downtown Eugene area.
You can find more information on Eugene and surrounding areas through the Eugene, Cascades & Coast visitors bureau; they will have a table with information and handouts at the conference.
HOW TO GET TO EUGENE
(Under construction–more information here soon)
There are more direct flights to Eugene than you may think!
Airlines that fly to Eugene:
Direct flights by United: