40 miles S of Salem, 71 miles N of Roseburg, 61 miles E of Florence

Although Eugene, with more than 150,000 residents, is the third-largest city in Oregon, tie-dyed T-shirts are more common than silk ties on downtown streets. This laid-back character is due in large part to the presence of the University of Oregon, the state's liberal-arts university. Although downtown does have a small historic district with restaurants and interesting shops, much of downtown is dominated by parking garages and the characterless buildings of 1970s urban renewal. Consequently, life in Eugene tends not to revolve around downtown but rather around the university. For this reason, you'll want to spend time on the school's tree-shaded 250-acre campus, where you'll find both an excellent art museum and a small natural-history museum.

Eugene has for years been home to liberal-minded folks who have adopted alternative lifestyles. At the Saturday Market, a weekly outdoor craft market, you can see the works of many of these colorful and creative spirits. Adding to the city's diverse cultural scene is the grandiose, glass-gabled Hult Center for the Performing Arts, which schedules a wide range of performances throughout the year. Throw in a couple of beautiful riverfront parks with miles of bike paths, several excellent restaurants, brewpubs, nearby wineries, and proximity to both mountains and coast, and you have a decent base for exploring a good chunk of the state.