Written by: Austin
My family and I recently spent four weeks (!) of RV travel in (and around) Corvallis, OR. Four weeks in one place is a long time for us, but extended repairs to the RV stretched what was supposed to be one week into four. Normally, I’d be a bit bummed about having to stay in one place – unplanned – for several weeks. Thankfully, I found a lot to keep me busy and interested in Corvallis, one of the best places to visit in Oregon – what a great surprise! Here are some things to do in Corvallis:
This small college town nestled in the Willamette Valley between the more-famous Oregon towns of Portland and Eugene, is weather-wonderful between June and September. That is, the temperatures are generally in the 70’s and 80’s with abundant sunshine.
Bike and Hike! Corvallis is one of the most bike friendly towns we’ve been to. In fact, 97 percent of its collector and arterial streets (those are the main streets) have bike lanes. You can get to anywhere in town in 15 minutes on bike. When you do share the road with vehicles, drivers are aware and give pedestrians and cyclists the right of way. The trails even stretch from Corvallis to the Coast (C2C), 50 miles or so one way.
The hikes in Corvallis are dog-friendly and range from wetlands to the highest point in the Oregon Coast Range (4,097 feet). My parents hiked Fitton Green and took me to the Old Growth Trail in McDonald-Dunn Forest. Corvallis is where to take dogs in Oregon.
Some of the best trails in Corvallis are:
Jackson-Frazier Wetland: I’ve heard this is stunning during the “wet” months when the 3,400-foot long wooden boardwalk is a dry path through the wetlands teaming with wildlife and native plants. Dogs are allowed but we need to watch out for snakes and other creatures.
Bald Hill Park: This one is connected to the Benton County Fairgrounds (that’s where we camped) and is 274 acres of open space oak savanna and woodlands, wetland and native prairies with lots of trails, ranging from easy to rigorous. There is even an off-leash area for dogs.
Alsea Falls Park: Fishermen, this one’s for you! Excellent fishing (so I’m told) on the Alsea River. Dogs are allowed (on leash of course).
Shop, Eat and Drink! Corvallis has a robust downtown whose energetic vibe extends to outlying areas. It’s okay for RV travel but parking will be an issue. Every Saturday features a bustling Farmer’s Market which takes over several blocks and down the Riverwalk. The freshly-made crepes are delicious and homemade jams won’t disappoint.
After you eat and shop at the Farmer’s Market, take a stroll down the Riverwalk, lined with musicians and artists peddling their wares. There is even an interactive fountain where children (and a few child-like adults) gleefully run through the water sprays. The Riverwalk is superb dog-walking area.
When you’re ready to shop, you’ve got a wide variety of fun shops to choose from. All of the stores downtown are locally-owned. And a lot of them have dog dishes filled with fresh water outside of their entrances. The InkWell Home Store is a must-stop shopping destination. It has a wide variety of home-focused merchandise, from high-end furniture to kitchen ware to unusual gift ideas.
My parents rode their bicycles from Corvallis to Philomath and they discovered a little shop called The Myrtle Mystique Gallery. Local wood artisans sell their unique designs and it’s even got a working word shop in the back of the store. From Philomath, they rode to South Corvallis specifically to seek out the 4 Spirits Distillery, which is in a new building in an industrial section of town. Four Spirits is named in dedication to four soldiers the owner served with in the Army National Guard. Sadly, the owner’s four friends lost their lives in Iraq. A portion of the sales from 4 Spirits are donated each quarter to support local programs that help veterans and their families with reintegration support. Four Spirits is a fun distillery that serves tasty drinks and light food selections.
Now for the berry best news: tons and tons of blackberries grow wild around town, especially on the bike paths. Pick to your heart’s content.
Explore by Vehicle! Corvallis is a great RV travel home base for reaching a bunch of nearby destinations.
Coburg is just 40 miles away and is where Marathon Coach takes Prevost bus shells and converts them into multi-million dollar, high quality motor coaches.
Marathon gives factory tours and even welcomes dog visitors on the tours. I did the tour! Marathon is classy RV travel! How many dogs get to see a $2.5 million bus being built?
The stunning Oregon coast towns of Newport and Bandon are just 46 miles to the west of Corvallis. Here’s a sweets tip: avoid the crowds at Tillamook and go instead to FaceRock Creamery in Bandon. The ice cream and the cheeses are really, really good. It’s owner-operated and you get to watch the cheese being made while you indulge in the free samples.
Eugene is 48 miles south and is a funky, eclectic city with a youthful vibe. I think we hit Eugene’s Prince Puckler’s ice cream three times during our stay. It’s a Eugene must-see as it’s been in business for more than 40 years. I liked the French Vanilla flavor. Mom liked the Oregon Bing Cherry. And Dad liked everything.
Finally, Portland is 85 miles straight up the road from Corvallis. We were so busy with everything else we didn’t try to go to Portland on this stay.
Camp, Cook-off and Tailgate! Benton County Fairgrounds is the place to RV-camp in Corvallis. Literally. There are no other RV campgrounds in the town itself; the nearest is a KOA in Albany, which is 11 miles away. In the Fairgrounds, sites range from quiet, wooded spots for tents to level hook ups with water and electric for RVs. There is a dump on site as well as laundry, restrooms and showers.
Talk about convenience: you don’t need to use your vehicle if you don’t want to. You can reach anywhere in Corvallis from the Fairgrounds using the bike/hike trail system and the free bus service (complete with bicycle racks on the front of the buses).
The best part about camping at the Fairgrounds is you become a part of the community. The Fairgrounds are used a lot by Corvallians and they warmly welcome visitors, especially those of us on RV travel. While we were there we participated in a couple of events at the Fairgrounds.
We had just missed the county rodeo when we camped in late August but we arrived just in time for the Annual Invasive Species Cook-off and Potluck Fundraiser. The cook-off is organized by the Institute for Applied Ecology whose motto for the event is, “We eat ‘em to beat ‘em!” Invasive species are when plants and animals are introduced to areas without their natural enemies so they crowd out native species. Two of their popular dishes are dandelion wine and fried bullfrog legs. Thankfully they don’t consider dogs to be an invasive species. But I think cats might be.
Another event we joined was a tailgating party – campground-wide – for the Oregon Beaver-Minnesota Gopher football game. Food (pizza, lasagna, brats, and more!) and beverages (adult) flowed freely throughout the campground. I must admit, when I first heard the Beavers were playing the Gophers I was real excited. I’ve never seen a beaver. And I’ve never seen a gopher. To see both in one place was just unbelievably good luck! When I finally figured out these were college football teams, I felt like… a…. deflated football (you can insert your own New England Patriot joke here). Shuttle buses ferried the tailgaters from the Fairgrounds to the game. No dogs are allowed at the games, which was okay by me since I wasn’t really interested if no actual beavers or gophers were going to be there.
And the answer is… Now back to the maraschino cherries and headless ostrich robots. They were both developed at Oregon State University (OSU)! Well, to be completely fair, maraschino cherries weren’t actually developed at OSU, the process for making the maraschino cherries we know and love (you know, the ones that are used in our drinks and on our sundaes) is what was developed and perfected at OSU.
As for the headless ostrich robot… you might have heard of Cassie, the world’s first bi-pedal robot. Cassie was developed at OSU, which is the fourth leading program in the nation for robotics research and education. Cassie can stand, steer and even fall without breaking. She (?) looks kind of like an ostrich without a head. This makes sense since the developers were trying to mimic techniques birds use in their walking movements. Cassie was built with a 16-month, $1 million grant from the United States Department of Defense. Word on the street is that Amazon may be very interested in this robot since it can make household deliveries. Just imagine, a driverless van pulls up to your house, a headless robotic ostrich steps out of the van and drops a package at your door. Not quite as cool as seeing real beavers and gophers. But still pretty cool. You can stop by OSU and see Cassie and the developers hard at work at other inventions like smart wheelchairs, swarm robots to fight forest fires, and robots that can interact with humans to provide at-home physical therapy. Go OSU!
While I couldn’t go on the tour of the University, I did walk some of the grounds with my parents. OSU is 577 acres, with about 35,000 students.
The neatest part of the walk around the University, to me, was when we got to the cattle and sheep pastures! I got to see a seriously-focused border collie learning to herd sheep. It gave me inspiration! I’m part border collie! I think I’ll try to herd. Cats. I’ll start with my sister CoCo. I’ll let you know how it goes.
When looking for things to do in Oregon, Corvallis has endless things to do, see, learn and taste. Where else can you see where both maraschino cherries and a headless ostrich robot were born?
Have you been to Corvallis, OR? Or perhaps another cool college town? I’d love to hear your comments!