The Slug Queens sum up the spirit of Eugene. Every 12 months the Oregon city hosts another magnificence pageant – coinciding with, however unbiased of, the annual Eugene Celebration – by which outrageously costumed contestants vie for the coveted title. The winners are marked out by a mixture of anarchic creativity, wry humour and passionate dedication to their setting: the identical qualities that makes this place so distinctive.
Two hours south of Portland, Eugene isn’t as urbane as that famously hipster metropolis. This is a city of parks, bushes and waterways, a mountaineering mecca that melds swiftly into the close by mountains. It additionally feels barely scruffy: a former hotbed of hippies and anarchists whose radical edge lives on in its environmental agenda. The single most necessary local weather change case within the US legislation courts originates right here, and the University of Oregon attracts social activists from throughout the nation.
A brief stroll from campus is a revitalised downtown, with a 2,500-seat performing arts venue – the Hult Center – a contemporary theatre and three unbiased cinemas. “A few years ago, not many people came and hung out downtown,” says Gino Franco, manufacturing supervisor on the Oregon Contemporary Theatre, which expanded into its present house in 2012. “But thanks to the growing arts scene, and some new restaurants, it’s become a lot more friendly.”
A 10-minute stroll away, within the gentrifying Whiteaker neighbourhood – known as the Whit – Eugene’s hippie tradition can nonetheless be discovered, and Oregon’s legalisation of leisure drug use could assist hold that spirit alive. There are nonetheless seen social points to be addressed, homelessness particularly. But Franco says: “There are a lot of great services here for people who are going through life transitions, and I’m so glad I live in a community that’s open to this and willing to embrace people who are struggling.”
CULTURE AND SPORT
Hult Center for the Performing Arts
There’s one thing actually democratic concerning the late-70s design of Eugene’s publicly funded arts centre. Under its large triangular roofs, a wholly glass frontage exposes the within of the constructing, so it’s not only a vibrant sight come night, it’s a spot that begs you to stroll into it. The Hult’s programming is equally accessible – it homes Eugene’s wonderful resident ballet and opera firms but in addition hosts main nationwide touring reveals, starting from Book of Mormon and Kinky Boots, to Loudon Wainwright III and Tori Amos live shows. Three smaller areas complement the large auditorium with comedy, cabaret and extra (a variety of NPR favourites visited in 2017 together with Garrison Keillor, Ari Shapiro and S-Town’s Brian Reed) and the Hult can also be accountable for the Cuthbert Amphitheatre, the 5,00Zero-seat out of doors stage in Alton Baker park that holds gigs in the summertime months.
• 1 Eugene Center (seventh & Willamette), hultcenter.org
Despite the damp local weather – there’s a motive their sports activities groups are referred to as the Ducks – Eugenians will take any alternative to get outdoor: as quickly because the rain stops, the city empties and folks head to the hills to hike, camp or kayak. And they’re not all utilizing gallon-guzzling SUVs: the buses in Eugene have bike racks and run all the best way to the Cascade Mountains, with the mountain-biking haven of Oakridge and bathing on the McCredie Hot Springs.
“You can ride your bike across the whole city in 20 minutes and get out of it in as many,” says Al Hongo, who hires out bikes and equipment at Bicycle Way of Life (from $24 for 24 hours). “We’ve got a really good network of cycle routes to help you navigate the roads, and you can ride up Skinner Butte for a view over the city.” For a pleasure trip, the Ruth Bascom path alongside the river gives peace, quiet and an ingenious scale mannequin of the photo voltaic system.
Track and subject
Runners will discover loads of pals right here in Tracktown USA. The city has been an epicentre for athletics because the 1970s, when University of Oregon coach Bill Bowerman and one in all his pupil athletes, Phil Knight, invented just a little shoe company referred to as Nike. There’s a shrine to Bowerman’s best protégé, Olympian Steve Prefontaine, on the hill the place he died after crashing his automobile on the age of 24. That was in 1975, however folks nonetheless bedeck it with medals and working bibs.
Eugene’s stadium, Hayward Field, repeatedly hosts the US Olympic trials and a significant renovation is underneath approach forward of the 2021 World Championships. It’s nonetheless open most days, although, to observe the coed athletes practice – or have a go your self. Bowerman’s philosophy was that in case you have a physique, you’re an athlete and a Sunday morning health programme helps put together locals for something from a 5km enjoyable run to the Eugene marathon. On the primary Saturday of every month, the college additionally gives a free “run with researcher”, the place graduate college students and professors lead a tour of campus and inform you about their work.
Eugene didn’t have a homosexual bar till Colin Graham opened the Wayward Lamb two years in the past, and there are loads who’ll inform you it’s now their favorite downtown hangout full cease. It serves candy and savoury pretzels to go together with drinks, and the dance ground out again is widespread with college students and townies alike. Most necessary, nevertheless, is its welcoming environment, with themed music nights, trivia quizzes and a well-liked all-ages drag present. The lip-sync battle nights are legendary – as soon as a month there’s a $100 money prize that pulls a giant crowd. No marvel the place is already increasing.
• 150 West Broadway, thewaywardlamb.com
Old Nick’s Pub
The exterior of Old Nick’s is unprepossessing and the within solely just a little higher. But it is a genuinely lovable dive bar due to its proprietor, Jevon Peck, who is aware of find out how to make you are feeling immediately at home. He’s additionally a good chef, says Michelle Loew, who works at Eugene’s finest literary hangout, the Smith Family Bookstore, with branches downtown and on campus. “He makes a killer Tempeh Reuben (sandwich),” says Loew, “and you don’t want to miss his Chinese ribs night on Tuesday.” There’s music most nights, though it’s principally punk and heavy metallic, and for the actually curious there’s a weekly “Weirdo’s Open Mic”, the place actually something goes, from experimental poetry and efficiency artwork to sword swallowing.
• 211 Washington St, oldnickspub.com
The Bier Stein
“Eugene has this magical ability to straddle the line between quiet country town and big city,” says Al Hongo. “So we have some really quaint hole-in-the-wall bars, and then we have something like Bier Stein, with an international beer menu.” Bottle fridges line one complete wall of the large beer corridor, providing craft beers from throughout the planet, whereas large screens above the bar inform you what’s on faucet with the up-to-the-minute precision of a flight departure board. Eugene’s personal tipples are well-represented – from Ninkasi’s flagship IPAs to the numerous flavours of Wildcraft Cider, produced from native fruit surplus. And if there’s an extended queue, you may take a desk and order via a cell app.
• Willamette St, thebierstein.com
There are a number of Japanese eating places in Eugene – the locals put it right down to the coed inhabitants – however there’s just one that’s a must-book. “It’s by appointment only,” warns Loew. “You can’t just pop in and expect to get served.” The tiny room, which seats 16, serves killer sushi (attempt the pink snapper with jalapeño and white onion French dressing); the chef’s selection begins at $20 a head. The finest seat is on the bar, the place you may take heed to gregarious proprietor Taro spill outrageous secrets and techniques from the open kitchen. “I don’t think Eugene’s a place for ‘cool’ people,” he says. “It’s a place for people who really care about community.” For one other enjoyable eating expertise he suggests Izakaya Meiji, which pairs Japanese small plates with whiskey.
• 541 Blair Blvd, on Facebook
Falling Sky Pizzeria
Falling Sky is a brewery whose concepts stretch far past beer. Its pour home incorporates a Jewish deli the place the whole lot, from the candy potato latkes and matzoh ball soup to the house-cured pastrami, is do-it-yourself. (The pastrami’s additionally obtainable for bike supply to your home till 10pm every single day.) The pizzeria serves a full menu of pizzas complete and by the ($four) slice on a chief campus location, within the Erb Memorial Union constructing. The just lately renovated union constructing is a superbly realised public house the place college students work, eat and hang around, and also you’re welcome to affix them. You may additionally recognise the canteen from John Belushi’s meals combat within the movie Animal House.
• 1395 University St, fallingskybrewing.com
Try to disregard the identify, which appears like a stripper bar. Party Downtown is definitely some of the subtle and sustainable eating places within the metropolis. On the wall above the kitchen is a blackboard that lists the three dozen native farmers and suppliers the homeowners supply their natural components from, making scrumptious dishes like charred brie and stuffed squash skins and one of the best brussels sprouts you’ve ever tasted (throughout $eight). It’s in the identical constructing as Red Wagon Creamery, whose grown-up ice-cream flavours embrace pickled plum and mascarpone, and a mint chocolate chip that isn’t inexperienced and really tastes of mint.
• 64 West eighth Alley, partyeugene.com
Hi-Fi Music Hall
The eclectic choice obtainable on the House of Records retailer suggests Eugene has a reasonably broad-minded strategy to music. “It’s a very supportive scene,” says Matt McCallum, a bass participant (and former marine) who works there. “It’s often other musicians making up the crowd.” One of his favorite venues is Hi-Fi, which opened downtown a few years in the past and now competes with the extra established McDonald Theater for the larger acts. “They have a nice set-up – a main floor and a lounge and even an outdoor area, and I’ve been there when they’ve had three events going at once, which is kind of wild.” The Chaiyo meals truck exterior sells one of the best Thai on the town for $eight – however be warned, the chillies are a lot in proof. Maybe ask for a gentle.
• 44 E seventh Avenue, hifimusichall.com
Sam Bond’s Garage
McCallum says the native band scene – teams akin to Pancho + the Factory, Sacred Trees, Critical Shakes – have a tendency in the direction of psych rock. But there’s additionally numerous people stuff taking place, too.” Sam Bond’s has been the cultural hub of the Whit district since 1995: an previous storage transformed within the mid-1990s to a modest bar, providing a variety of Americana acts to observe whereas sipping one in all its personal microbrews. It hosts an open bluegrass jam each Thursday, and there’s even a bingo evening on Mondays. Also widespread is the John G Shedd Institute, a non-profit venue that programmes all method of roots music together with jazz, classical, acoustic and blues.
• 407 Blair Blvd, sambonds.com
Mac’s Restaurant and Nightclub
The Veterans Memorial Association constructing – The Vets Club – is a type of locations that maintains Eugene’s small-town vibe. Musician Rich Glauber says: “Thirty five years ago we used to come here and there’d be a polka band, and the women would be wearing chiffon dresses. Now on any given night there’ll be a swing class in one room, ecstatic dance in another, and, of course, the blues night downstairs.” Mac’s has dwell music 5 nights every week and has established a well-respected blues scene over the previous 15 years – “we have people seek us out when they come through town,” says proprietor Patrick McCallum. Even its Tuesday evening jams draw a giant crowd. “Usually you’ll be hunting for a table,” he warns.
• 1626 Willamette St, macsnightclub.com
Who to comply with
gomomgoeugene.com is a weblog highlighting and selling household actions in Eugene and the encircling Lane County
instagram.com/antiaesthetic gives intriguing and provoking photos from Eugene Contemporary Art, a collective supporting Eugene artists
The journey was offered by Eugene Cascades & Coast with lodging on the Excelsior Inn (doubles from $140). More data at eugenecascadescoast.org and VisittheUSA.com