Portland is a thriving hipster city full of amazing things to see and do, but sometimes you just need to get away from the usual daily grind and check out what else is around you. Luckily there is no shortage of exciting and picturesque one-of-a-kind places under 3 hours from Portland to go on a spontaneous day trip to. So whenever you are feeling bored just hop in a car, maybe bring a friend or two, and spend the day exploring these 19 spots - you will be glad you did.
Note: some places require reservations for certain activities, check individual websites for additional information, hours, and prices if applicable.
Distance: 174 mi, 2 hrs 50 min
Get away from the city by going to a completely different city. Pushing the limits of our criteria at just under a 3-hour drive, Seattle, Washington is a must-see if you have never been. It's really not just "another" city, there are loads of awesome and unusual places you need to add to your bucket list, like the mystery soda machine (if it ever returns), Seattle Underground, the troll under a Fremont bridge, Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, and the disgusting yet intriguing Gum Wall, which is barely even scratching the surface of this city's destinations. Basically, you would have no problem spending an entire day sightseeing here.
Distance: 80 mi, 1 hr 28 min
What's great about Portland is that it's inland, but not too far inland that you can't access a beach within a reasonable amount of time. With that being said, one of the nicest beach towns around is Cannon Beach. So spend some time tanning and swimming on the beach, and when you've had enough of that you can do some shopping and dining in the adorable coastal town.
Bagby Hot Springs
Distance: 61 mi, 1 hr 21 min
This is a day trip you need to take ASAP! There is probably no better way to relax than in the hollowed out wooden tubs at Bagby Hot Springs. Soak in the hot spring water totally free, oh, and nudity, well they have specific areas for that.
Distance: 60 mi, 1 hr 20 min
Enjoy the simplicity of nature in Mount Hood, one of the most beautifully scenic places in all of America. Of course, you aren't limited to only viewing; hiking, boating, fishing, and camping are some of the most popular recreational activities to do here. Personally, I would love to just pack up a lunch and picnic by the lake.
Hood River and Hood River Valley Fruit Loop
Distance: 69 mi, 1 hr 9 min
No this doesn't have anything to do with the deliciously fruity cereal. Spend the day picking locally grown organic fruit and sampling goods at Hood River Valley Fruit Loop. Changing seasons throughout the year produce a variety of different fruits, like berries in the summer and apples in the fall. Some farms even have fresh lavender available for harvesting.
Distance: 162 mi, 2 hr 59 min
Bend is perhaps one of the best little towns around to take a day trip to. It has spectacular blue-green lakes, ski resorts, miles of trails, an inactive volcano, a lava tube, caves, and of course the typical tourist to-dos like shopping, eating, museums and wildlife exhibits.
Distance: 97 mi, 2 hr 10 min
Not to be confused with the Lost Lake in Sisters, Oregon, this Lost Lake is in Mount Hood National Forest in Hood River County. The vast forest makes for the perfect spot to view the night sky thanks to the low light pollution. Maybe instead of a day trip, this could be a spontaneous night trip?
Distance: 49 mi, 55 min
Forget a Portland restaurant wine tasting, go straight to the source. Willamette Valley is considered Oregon's wine country, probably because they house two-thirds of the state’s wineries and vineyards (that's over 500 wineries). It goes without saying that there is plenty of grape-related to-dos in these parts like facility tours, tastings, hot air balloon/helicopter rides over the vineyards, and fancy art exhibits. Remember, pinky up!
Ghost Town Gulch
Distance: 135 mi, 2 hr 36 min
Go urban exploring in one of Oregon's ghost towns. Much of the town has held onto the Old West decor, making it feel extra eerie and authentic, much like you just walked back in time 100 years. There are a few businesses still in the town, but overall there is not much going on here at any given time.
Mount Rainier National Park
Distance: 137 mi, 2 hr 15 min
One of Washington's most iconic landscapes consists of an active volcano 14,410 feet above sea level, known as Mount Rainier. This park is great to visit any time of the year, but many argue that the absolute best time to go is when the wildflowers are in bloom. Judging by the photos, I have to agree.
The Sloth Center Sanctuary
Distance: 54 mi, 1 hr 3 min
Do you love sloths? Of course you do! The world's largest captive sloth center is only an hours drive south, and with a reservation, you are able to get up close and personal with the adorably slow mammals - they even offer a sloth sleepover, and if that doesn't sound like a dream come true I'm not sure what is.
Enchanted Forest Amusement Park
Distance: 54 mi, 54 min
If you have ever dreamed of being in a fairytale, the Enchanted Forest Amusement Park will definitely take you there. From a statue of Humpty Dumpty cockily sitting on a wall to The Land of Snow White and The Seven Dwarves, this park offers not only a fun fantasy experience for kids but also a bit of nostalgia for adults - and let's not forget the dozens of thrilling rides.
Distance: 169 mi, 2 hrs 37 min
While we are on the topic of enchanted fairytales, how about a visit to the Shire? Ok, so maybe it's not exactly Middle-Earth, nor the film set in New Zealand, but it's still a hobbit house, and it's one that Tolkien himself would be proud of! This cute little representation sits hidden behind a plant nursery, built in 2015 by the store owners. And to answer your question, yes you absolutely can go in it and look around.
Distance: 68 mi, 1 hr 25 min
Just as it sounds, Clear Lake is a fantastic body of water filled with see-through clear blue water. The lake is so clear that from any point the bottom can be easily seen from the surface. The good news is that you can swim here, and for many people, it's more appealing than the ocean because well, there are exactly 0 sharks and if there were any you would clearly see them. Humans 1, sharks 0.
Smith Rock State Park
Distance: 142 mi, 2 hr 39 mins
If you enjoy Oregon's rocky western terrain, a trip to Smith Rock State Park should be in your very near future. Not only does the park offer breathtaking views of the large rock formations and deep river canyons, but you can also spend some time rock climbing, wildlife watching, and taking cool AF photos to make all of your friends jealous.
John Day River
Distance: 130 mi, 2 hr 4 min
Did you ever want to strike it big in the gold industry? Me too, and that probably won't happen, but you can still enjoy doing some old fashion gold panning at several spots on the John Day River, known as one of the few Eastern Oregon rivers that have produced a decent amount of gold.
Cape Lookout State Park
Distance: 83 mi, 1 hr 54 min
Hang out on a scenic sand spit between Netarts Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Gather some driftwood, skip some rocks, hike the lush trails, or just stroll along the sandy beach and listen to the waves crash into the rocky shoreline - no matter what you do you can be certain you will be surrounded by peace, tranquility, and nature for miles.
Maryhill Museum and Stonehenge
Distance: 115 mi, 1 hr 57 min
Don't bother going all the way to England, just drive 2 hours away and into Washington to view a very interesting replica at the Maryhill Museum of Art.
Distance: 183 mi, 2 hr 50 min
If you do end up going to Seattle, you should make it a point to stop at Treehouse Point, only 20 miles away from the city. These are literally everything you ever wanted as a child (that you never got) but now you can experience them in real life.