When people from other parts of the country think of Oregon, they usually think of Portland. Thanks to films, the Portlandia TV show, and news headlines, the state’s most populous city has a reputation for its hipsters, its politics, and, yes, its self-proclaimed weirdness. However, the state of Oregon is a state of contrasts.
Geographically, Oregon boasts dramatic Pacific coastlines as well as volcanic mountain ranges. Its climate spans from rainforests along the coast to semi-arid conditions in the central and southeastern regions. The Beaver State is home to both Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the U.S., and Mount Hood, the second-most-climbed mountain in the world (next to Japan’s Mount Fuji). It has medium-to-large cities dotted along its I-5 corridor, but small towns, rural areas, and wide-open spaces compose most of the state.
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What Oregonians have in common, though, is their fierce love of their state’s natural beauty and the Oregonian way of life. An Oregonian can spot a newcomer if they do any one of these things:
a) Use an umbrella. (Waterproof hooded jackets with hoods are standard gear.)
b) Say Ore-gone (instead of Or-ih-gun)
c) Try to pump their own gas. (State law requires attendants to do the pumping, except in rural areas.)
d) Ask how much the sales tax is. (There is none.)
e) Refer to the state’s wine country, the Willamette Valley, as WILL-uh-MET- instead of the Will-AM-it
f) Can’t taste the difference between Starbucks and Dutch Bros coffee.
g) Go to the beach expecting to swim. (Not without a wetsuit-the water is cold year-round. But the coast is fantastic for hiking and exploring tidepools.)
Another contrast throughout the state is the cost of living. As you might expect, Portland has the highest in the state, coming in at nearly 30% above the national average. However, there are many Oregon towns and cities that come in well below the national average while offering proximity to some of the nation’s most breathtaking scenery. For our list, we compared cities with a population of at least 10,000 according to housing costs and overall living experience.
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Table of Contents:
1. Coos Bay
With a population of more than 16,000, Coos Bay is the largest city on the Oregon coast. Located where the Coos River enters the Pacific Ocean’s Coos Bay, the city is a regional hub for the area known as the South Coast. Coos Bay has a mild marine climate with an average annual rainfall of 64 inches. Most of the rainfall occurs between November and January, and snow is rare.
The town itself offers stunning views of the bay, and residents are within a few minutes from oceanfront activities as well as hiking and fishing. Cape Arago State Park, which is just one mile south of Coos Bay, frequently teams with tidepool life, and it is an excellent place to spot whales, seals, and sea lions.
The nearby Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area offers some of the best ATV riding you can find anywhere, and the nationally recognized Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is less than a half-hour away.
The median home value in Coos Bay is around $190,700, and monthly apartment rentals are around $636.
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Located at the northern end of Oregon’s rolling Willamette Valley, Woodburn has all of the beauty without all of the high cost of living of some of its neighboring towns.
The same climate that makes the valley good for wine also makes it good for flowers, and Woodburn residents love their flowers. There are several long-standing flower and plant operations around town, such as Al’s Garden Center, a local family-owned business since 1948. Woodburn hosts the annual Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival. The Oregon Garden, an 80-acre botanical garden that is open to the public, is only 20 minutes away from town.
Woodburn’s popular annual Fiesta Mexicana event dates back to 1964, when it was first held to celebrate farm workers and the end of the harvest season.
With a diverse population of 26,078, Woodburn also is home to the huge Woodburn Premium Outlet Mall, which features brands such as Nike, Adidas, Guess, and Coach.
The median home value in Woodburn is $264,800, and monthly apartment rentals are around $935.
If we look beyond the best-known cities, we will find many communities where you can own a piece of the Sunshine State and stay within our budget. Many of these offer not only affordability, but also low crime rates, good employment opportunities, housing availability, recreational opportunities and educational facilities…
3. Baker City
Once dubbed the “Queen City of the Mines,” Baker City was the first northeastern Oregon town established along the Oregon Trail. It became a major frontier trading center in the late 19th century. Whether you’re a history buff or just remember facing the perils of playing the Oregon Trail computer game as a kid, you’ll enjoy visiting the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center. This 23,000-square-foot museum with many hands-on exhibits is located six miles northeast of town.
Today, with a population of just over 10,000, Baker City has a charming downtown that includes the historic Geiser Grand Hotel. Built in 1889, the hotel features stained glass ceilings, mahogany columns, and crystal chandeliers. Baker City is nestled in a fertile river valley and surrounded by forests and mountains. Numerous year-round outdoor recreational opportunities are nearby, as well as scenic train rides and drives.
The median home value in Baker City is around $155,000, and monthly apartment rentals are around $495.
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Probably best known for the distinctive Hat Rock, a hat-shaped rock formation that Lewis and Clark mentioned in their journals, Hermiston is the largest city in Eastern Oregon. Now if you think that means it’s a big town, think again. Remember, Oregon’s populous cities are on the other side of the state.
This city of 18,415, however, has a lot to offer. For one thing, there are watermelons—a lot of them—and a big water tank shows off that fact with a giant watermelon painted on it, along with the motto “Hermiston—Where Life Is Sweet.” About 1,200 acres of land in the area are devoted to watermelon farming, and the town climate allows for Hermiston melons to be hitting peak flavor just as those from other states are all but gone for the year.
In recent years, the Hermiston area has become a hub for logistics and data centers. Located near the intersection of Interstates 84 and 82, Hermiston residents are within a few hours’ drive of Seattle, Portland, Spokane, and Boise.
The median home value is around $206,900, and monthly apartment rentals are around $710.
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The city of Dallas is part of the Salem metropolitan area and sits about 15 miles west of the state’s capital city. However, the comparison mostly ends there. Dallas’s quaint downtown, which features antique shops, boutiques, cafés, and murals depicting its history, has the quintessential hometown feel.
Hard to miss because of its 95-foot clock tower is the Polk County Courthouse, which was built in 1900 and is one of the state’s oldest courthouses. The 35-acre Dallas City Park has an 18-hole disc golf course, a Japanese garden, a swimming hole, and a suspension bridge.
A creekside trail for pedestrians, bicyclists, and bird-watchers connects several of the city’s 11 public parks. Dallas is also home to the Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge and The Delbert Hunter Arboretum and Botanic Garden.
In case you’re wondering, the town is not named after that other one in Texas. Dallas was named in honor of George Mifflin Dallas, who served as vice president under U.S. President James K. Polk. Dallas, Oregon was incorporated with that name as a town in 1874 and then as a city in 1901.
The median home value in Dallas is $301,700, and monthly apartment rentals are around $809.
Michigan is the only state in the United States with two separate peninsulas and five surrounding Great Lakes. Its landscape is diverse, ranging from industrialized skylines to sweeping sand dunes to gorgeous waterfalls. Once home to Henry Ford, it’s also considered the epicenter of America’s automotive industry with the headquarters of The Big Three: Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler…
Since, as we have said, many Americans associate Oregon primarily with Portland, we will end our list with the least expensive of Portland’s suburbs, McMinnville. Some would say that McMinnville is not really a suburb, and you could definitely argue that point, since it is more than an hour’s drive away from the City of Roses. As Portland has grown, however, so has its sprawl. Either way, McMinnville is a pretty nice town in its own right.
Home to about 32,000 people, McMinnville is set in the heart of Oregon’s green, rolling wine country. Residents love that they are a short drive away from the coast, Portland, and Salem. But they also rave about their historic downtown, their farm-to-table restaurants, and the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. McMinnville also is home to Linfield College, a private university that also has a Portland campus. In addition to its focus on local wines, McMinnville has a thriving arts scene, and it’s the host of an annual UFO festival.
The median home value in McMinnville is $321,100, and monthly apartment rentals are around $848.
Once a farming and milling community, Edina has blossomed into a preferred suburban city with all the most desired amenities. From upscale, boutique shopping and exquisite dining to consignment shops and casual bistros, residents and visitors are enamored with the all-American lifestyle. You can enjoy the many parks, golf courses…
Ontario lies along the winding Snake River at the border between Oregon and Idaho. With a population of 11,366, it is the largest community in the far eastern Oregon region that is known as Western Treasure Valley. Ontario is nicknamed the Gateway to Oregon, and it offers stunning views of the desert landscape.
Just northwest of town is the Farewell Bend State Recreation Area, an important and scenic point on the Oregon Trail. The wild and scenic Snake River, which, at 1,078 miles long, is the largest tributary to the Columbia River. The Four Rivers Cultural Center—named for the area’s four rivers (the Snake, the Malheur, the Owyhee, and the Payette)—offers arts, culture, and civic events as well as a small hands-on museum.
The median home value is around $159,300, and monthly apartment rentals are around $413.
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8. Klamath Falls
One of the first things visitors ask when they enter Klamath Falls in the southwestern part of the state is, “Where are the falls?” The surprising answer is that there aren’t any, and why the city changed the name of the town in 1893 from Linkville (for its Link River) to Klamath Falls is a little uncertain. But once you get that disappointment out of the way, you can concentrate on all the things KFalls (its local nickname) does have to offer.
The city sits on the southeastern shore of Upper Klamath Lake, about 25 miles north of Oregon’s border with California. In addition to fishing, canoeing, hunting, and cross-country skiing, KFalls is known for bird watching. In fact, it is home to one of the Pacific Northwest’s largest populations of bald eagles.
With a human population of 21,536, Klamath Falls is surrounded by natural beauty. Crater Lake National Park is 60 miles away, and Mount Shasta, a massive volcano and recreational area in northern California, is a 70-mile drive away.
KFalls itself is home to The Oregon Institute of Technology, a public polytechnic university with bachelor’s and master’s degree programs.
The median home value is around $168,300, and monthly apartment rentals are around $547.
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Oregonians love their flannel shirts, and Pendleton is one of the main reasons why. Although the company is now based in Portland, the original Pendleton Woolen Mills was founded in this namesake town in 1909. You can still tour the mills today as well as watch someone handcrafting a Western saddle at the Hamley & Co. store.
Located in the foothills of Oregon’s Blue Mountains, Pendleton has many businesses that have been operating for more than a century. For example, you can still grab a hearty breakfast at Rainbow Café, which opened in 1883 as the State Saloon and Banquet.
With a population of 16,612, Pendleton takes its western roots seriously, as you can tell from the names of some of the other businesses in town: the Montana Peaks Hat Company, Heritage Station Museum, Happy Canyon Hall of Fame, and the Wildhorse Resort and Casino.
The median home value is around $193,700, and monthly apartment rentals are around $635.
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Located just east of Interstate 5 from Eugene, Springfield offers many of the same amenities as its neighbor at a more affordable price. Eugene is home to the University of Oregon, so nearby Springfield residents can take advantage of the educational, sports, and cultural aspects of a bustling college environment. Both cities also are close to Oregon wine country and are just a little over 100 miles from Portland.
Springfield, which has a population of about 63,000, is home to two of Oregon’s beautiful rivers, the Willamette and the McKenzie. The city offers many riverfront trails, parks, and the other forms of year-round outdoor recreation that mark an Oregon city. You’ll also feel a definite college-town vibe with craft breweries, art galleries, festivals, and performing arts. And, if you are a fan of The Simpsons, you won’t want to miss the “Unofficial Simpsons Tour.”
The median home value is around $260,200, and monthly apartment rentals are around $836.
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