The summer months in Eugene are relaxing and peaceful. The days are longer and the air is warmer. Even the rains grudgingly ceasefire and call a temporary truce for the duration of the season. Life is good. And just as surely as the wax dries on the psychedelically swirled candles at the Saturday Market, in a strange sort of hippified way even summertime in Eugene can be reminiscent of a nostalgic Country Time Lemonade commercial. But as these lazy days draw all too quickly to an end, or to a screeching halt for that matter, this Emerald City is prepared for its annual rebirth as football games and frat parties begin and the University of Oregon (U of O) embarks upon yet another school year.
Just as certainly as the golden leaves that crunch beneath our feet manifest the changing of the seasons, so does the arrival of the University’s student body. And after an easygoing, slightly lackadaisical summer, this city seems to get a new breath of life every day, now paralleling a balloon on the verge of breaking point. “The energy level in Eugene is completely opposite when all the students are back,” said senior Dustin Popkin “It’s still a laid-back city, but everything’s definitely a lot more lively.” Chris Boyd, the Main Floor Supervisor at the U of O Bookstore similarly contends that “the pace is dramatically different” when school is in session.
Located in downtown Eugene, any local resident will tell you that the U of O is the heart and soul of this city. Especially as the Duck’s, U of O’s college football team, start their season. Indeed the green and gold flags flying from cars and houses alike accurately depict the “Duck pride” of the Pac-10 (a group of 10 west coast schools and their football teams) that obstinately surges through the veins of almost everyone here. In fact, with the Ducks ranked as one of the top 10 in the nation this year and quarterback Joey Harrington as a Heisman Trophy contender, Autzen Stadium, the Ducks stomping ground, has seen a drastic increase in ticket sales this season in comparison with previous years. Unfortunately for those who are out-of-towners hoping to catch a game this season, all general admission tickets have been sold. However, local radio stations such as KDUK 104.7 give tickets away on the air quite frequently. The majority of the games are also televised.
Nonetheless, although football is a huge incentive for out-of-towners to visit the U of O and the Eugene area in general, it is definitely not the only reason. Both the women’s soccer and volleyball teams have been known to draw crowds as well, especially volleyball for those who are weather-wary.
All sports aside though, the U of O campus is just a great place to visit, especially during the fall. After a virtually lifeless summer, the University is once again thriving with a pulse of almost 17,000 students. And the brunt of this energy is often released on 13th Avenue, the main drag of campus. Whether school’s in session or not, 13th Avenue always has something to offer.
From restaurants to tattoo parlors and bookstores to bars, there’s not much you can’t find on this stretch of pavement. Coffee houses such as Espresso Roma, Starbucks and The Duckstop! are almost always open and ready to serve the Northwest’s finest ground brew. But if coffee’s not the brew you had in mind, bars such as Taylor’s and Max’s have dozens of local and imported beers on tap.
And as far as places to eat go, 13th Avenue offers and eclectic mix of hometown favorites such as the Glenwood, with their famous tomato cheese soup, and Caspian, a veritable heaven of Mediterranean cuisine. But if you’re looking for a place to really dress-up and dine, the Excelsior is your best bet. This elegant B&B also serves as a restaurant and lounge for intimate fine dining and award-winning desserts. And for the environmentally conscious, or just the car-less who can’t make it to the mall, 13th Avenue is full of trendy shopping centers and retro vintage boutiques such as West Moon, Delphina and Ipnosi.
For those seeking something a little more culturally enlightening however, the U of O Museum of Art is always a good place to begin. Although the museum is currently closed while the building is renovated and expanded, free offsite events such as antique roadshows and glass auctions are being offered at their courtesy. The University is also a great place for enriching entertainment. For a mere $12 ($5 for students), audiences can watch as whimsical plays are performed and hilarious improv is executed at Robinson Theater on campus.
All in all, the University of Oregon is really just a tourist trap masked in disguise as a two-tier school located in the lush, slightly dampened Willamette Valley. And although the autumn rainfall might be daunting at first to those who are not from the Northwest, the natural beauty of city and the vivacious atmosphere of campus life are well worth the visit.
If you want more information about this area you can email the author or check out our North America Insiders page.