Looks like you’re heading off to Oregon, huh? Or maybe you’ve just been whittling down your list of potential new home states and are still trying to make the final call. Either way, you've stumbled into the right place. We’ve scoured blogs, chat rooms, and encyclopedias and phoned a few friends to help put together this guide to Oregon, just for you. It’s got statistics, factoids and even some goofy stuff to help properly prepare you for the road ahead.
A Bird’s-Eye View of Oregon
Oregon was nicknamed "The Beaver State" back in the early 19th century when beaver hats and pelts were way chic. Local streams were a gold mine for fur trappers, completely packed with these adorably buck-toothed rodents. Those trappers’ routes actually became the well-known Oregon Trail, the key route out to the West Coast back in the 1840s. The beaver is actually Oregon's official state animal, and is even featured on the state flag—though on the back of it (Oregon’s the only state to have a double-sided flag).
Though Oregon is the ninth-largest state in the country by landmass, it's only the 27th most populous overall. About 4,199,563 currently live here and refer to themselves as "Oregonians," according to worldpopulationreview.com. And in 2018, USA Today ranked Oregon as the sixth-fastest-growing state in the country.
Let’s move on and find out why.
Job Market in Oregon
Whether you plan on bringing your current career along for the ride or you’re looking for a complete net-new gig, we want to walk you through a few important job-related details.
Now, although Oregon’s only the 39th-densest state in terms of population (according to worldpopulationreview.com), there’ are still a lot of people here—and it’s growing all the time. So how does that play into the job availability and opportunities here?
For starters, Oregon's unemployment rate currently matches the national average, at 4.1%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the local minimum wage is $10.75/hour, which is quite a bit above the federal minimum of $7.25/hour. We'll check out some specific career fields that are hot in the area next.
Zippia.com lists some of the fastest-growing jobs as health claims examiner, physical therapist, web developer, operations analyst, registered nurse practitioner, industrial mechanic and interpreter/translator. But if you prefer an more lavish lifestyle, the highest-paid positions at the moment are OB/GYN, psychiatrist, nurse anesthetist, surgeon, dentist and CEO.
So if you’re looking for something new, the medical world looks like a real winner here in Oregon. But heck, if you do anything really, really well, you can make a great living doing whatever you want.
Housing in Oregon
Whether you’re looking for a nice cabin deep in a mossy forest, or a split-level out in the Portland suburbs, there’ are plenty of great housing options in Oregon. And if you finally decide to make the move, you'll join about 56,787 others who moved here in 2017 alone, according to worldpopulationreview.com. So, what does that all mean for the local housing market? Time to find out.
For starters, zillow.com states that the median home value in The Beaver State is currently $336,600, with home values having increased 6.8% over the past year. Homes are currently listed on the market for an average of $375,500, and are selling for an average of $328,100. If renting a home is more up your alley, however, you can expect to pay around $1,800/month.
And when it comes to purchasing a home, you’ll find the majority of Oregon homes were built in the ‘70s, as stated by zillow.com. So if you’re looking for beaded curtains, the shaggiest shag out there or just a nice little project, you’re in luck. But if the retro look ain’t your thing, there’s plenty of new development going on around the state, including western Oregon from Portland to Salem and down to Ashland. There’s also a bit more going on around the central part of the state, around Bend.
Now, if apartments are more your game, you’ll see options all across the spectrum around here. According to rentcafe.com, one-bedroom apartments in Portland are going for around $1,428/month these days. In Bend, you'll find one-beds for about $1,165/month, in Eugene it’ll run you about $1,251/month, and in the state's capital, Salem, you’ll only pay about $971/month.
Oregon's Culture and Natives
Now, if all you know about Oregon is what you’ve seen on episodes Portlandia, you might be surprised to learn that the hipster lifestyle really only pertains to the weirdness inside Portland. Outside Portland, you'll find farmers, ranchers and a number of more rural-style Oregonians. There are also music lovers, artists, emos, punks, liberals, conservatives, athletes and "mountain folk.” Basically, there's a wide range of folks around here.
Locals describe their neighbors as being nice, friendly, open, inviting and accepting of all kinds of people. Residents here have to be accepting, considering how Portland is famous for embracing "weirdness" and artistic/self-expression. You'll meet lots of outdoorsy types, who enjoy everything from whitewater rafting to bicycling to windsurfing. There are also plenty of people here who are mushroom hunters—they seek out various species of wild mushroom and put together the ultimate fungus sampler platter. Within the mix you'll also find thrift shoppers and big environmentalists. Plastic bags are actually illegal in the state, so it's easy to be inspired to go green here.
One word used to summarize the people of Oregon, especially in the Portland metro area, is "progressive." There are many unique fashions and other trends emerging here, which makes it difficult to pin down what one Oregonian is like. You'll see people wearing top hats or Darth Vader costumes while riding unicycles (seriously), depending on where you go. There's also a group of lit nerds who can be found at the state's Shakespeare Festival. But no matter the type of Oregonian, they're all pretty much unanimously joined in their animosity towards transplants from California. According to locals, Californians have infiltrated their state to the extent that home prices are soaring. They also blame native Californians for clogging their roadways with drivers who can't handle Oregon's rainy or snowy weather.
Beaver State Trivia
In our research, we came across a ton of great info that we just had to share. So here we’ve compiled a bit of rapid-fire trivia, just for you. Grab a helmet, this is gonna come at you fast.
If you remember the ‘80s, then you no doubt remember the pop-culture phenomenon game The Oregon Trail. You know the one, where you travel from Independence, Missouri to Oregon’s Willamette Valley, buying oxen and wagon wheels and hoping not to die from dysentery. Well, there’s a real Oregon Trail, too. It spans more than 2,000 miles and was widely traveled by thousands who were moving out west in the 1800s. It was one of the longest trails used by pioneers during the westward expansion, and definitely the most famous.
The Beaver State has more ghost towns than any other state in the nation. Oregon is known for its beautiful coastline, and all the state’s beaches are open to the public. It's also home to the deepest lake in the country, Crater Lake, which runs a massive 1,900 feet deep. Similarly, Hells Canyon, which is partly housed within Oregon, is the country's deepest river gorge—at 8,000 feet deep.
It does rain a lot in Oregon, but perhaps not as much as you'd think. Natives say that there are many long stretches of "overcast dampness," rather than continuous downpours. In fact, 42 inches of rain accumulates in the state annually, and there are 155 rainy days. The months of October to May make up the bulk of the rainy season. However, locals assert that all the rainfall is what leads to the beautiful, lush, green scenery that Oregon is famous for. Oregonians are so used to the rain that they don't use their umbrellas, they just pull up their hoods and walk a bit faster when a shower comes. It's said that non-natives are easy to spot when they anxiously reach for their umbrellas at the sign of the first raindrop. Temperatures stay mild here, which is another thing locals love. Annual high temperatures average 63 degrees Fahrenheit, and lows average about 45 degrees.
There is no state sales, liquor or restaurant tax in The Beaver State. There's also no pro NFL or MLB team. There is, however, the world's largest independent bookstore, Powell's Books, located in Portland. This city is also said to have started the country's food truck movement. Speaking of food, Oregonians are crazy about Dungeness crabs, which come straight from the coast. They're also crazy about hazelnuts, which are a big thing in the state.
Aside from Portlandia, Oregon has enjoyed its share of fame on both small and big screens. Oregon was officially (and finally) declared to be the location of the "real" Springfield featured on The Simpsons by the show's creator, Matt Groening, in 2012. Further, the famous house from the '80s adventure film The Goonies is located in the town of Astoria, and still stands today—though it is now owned by private residents (but apparently they'll let you take a photo, if you're nice). Many scenes in the film were shot along the Oregon coast in Cannon Beach. Additionally, the 1996 satirical novel Fight Club was written by Chuck Palahniuk while he lived and worked in Portland. Could this place get any more famous?
Can't-Miss Oregon Fun + Activities
Whatever you're into, Oregon’s got it all. And more. So we've compiled a list of a few of the top local must-sees to add to your growing to-do list.
Here are just a few of the state's main attractions:
- Multnomah Falls: In the Columbia Gorge, about 30 minutes outside Portland, you'll find this natural gem of a waterfall. Standing at 611 feet tall, Multnomah Falls is like a double-decker waterfall, with two stages of roaring beauty. According to Native American folklore, the waterfall was created in attempt to win over the heart of a young princess who desired a hidden place to bathe. Regardless of its origin, Multnomah Falls is a view that’s totally worth your time.
- Portland Rose Festival: This annual event runs for a few weeks each June. The spectacle features three parades, including the Grand Floral Parade. Visitors can enjoy concerts, rides, roses and more.
- Voodoo Doughnut and Wedding Chapel: Truly a Portland-bred establishment, locals absolutely swear by this place. Where else will you find a unique donut shop that doubles as a wedding venue (probably nowhere)? Decorated with newspaper clippings about local figures and velvet paintings, Voodoo Doughnut holds monthly donut-eating contests. Of all the unique flavors, one native favorite is the "Cap 'n' Crunch"—a vanilla-iced donut topped with the favorite cereal of every child’s Saturday mornings. There are currently two Portland locations, with a third in Eugene—told ya, they love their Voodoo around here.
- Enchanted Forest: Located in Turner, this amusement park opened in 1971 to bring a "fairytale wonderland" to the people. The park features sections, rides and attractions themed after classic fairytales, including Alice in Wonderland and Mother Goose. There are log rides, roller coasters and medieval-themed attractions, as well as shows and a haunted house. You'll be greeted by a giant Humpty Dumpty upon arrival, as well as some psychedelic mushrooms, which are a hint about the good, but strange, time ahead.
- Museum of Whimsy: You'll find this "delightfully quirky blend of oddities" in Astoria, in an old bank from the 1920s. You'll find artifacts from all over the world, thanks to the owners' travels and passion for collecting strange and unique items. Vintage clothing, dolls and taxidermied creatures are just a few examples of featured finds. The oldest item dates back to the 1850s—a Native American chair set made of porcupine quills. The museum first opened in 2005, and is still whimsying visitors today.
Pros and Cons of Living in The Beaver State
Now, as with any other state, Oregon life has its pros and cons, too. But we’ll let native Oregonians tell you all about them.
Pros (as told by authentic Oregonians):
- Lush environments: All that Oregon rain has a major upside—beautiful, lush, green environments. From the waterfalls, to the mossy forests, to the sparkling lakes. Anywhere you go, you'll find a picturesque scene just waiting to pose for the perfect picture. The environment here is almost like another world, and it's just one major reason locals love their state so much.
- A truly green state: Now we're not talking about the scenery—we're talking about environmental friendliness. Oregon was ranked by WalletHub as the second-greenest state in the country in 2018, coming behind only Vermont. The state ranked highest, however, in its use of renewable energy. Way to go, Oregon.
- No sales tax: Another major benefit to living in Oregon? No sales tax. The price you see on the tag is the price you'll pay at checkout. How nice to know that you'll spare yourself some extra cash, and mental math.
- Self-expression and weirdness: One favorite local catchphrase is "Keep Portland Weird"—and natives certainly do just that. If there's a better city for people to express their artistic talents, tastes and styles, we've yet to find it. You'll see people here in all kinds of unique fashion—an eclectic blend of whatever they feel most comfortable in and whatever they could scrounge up from the top of the hamper.
Cons (as told by authentic Oregonians):
- Bad drivers: Waze ranked Portland the nation's fifth-worst place for driving. With the influx of so many new people moving to Oregon and especially the Portland metro area all the time, the traffic (and bad driver) problem is only getting worse. Of course, you could always bike or ride the bus.
- Pollution: Despite being one of the greenest states in many ways, Oregon apparently has a bit of an air quality issue. Portland's air quality was ranked in 2018 as the second-worst among major cities worldwide—second only to Dubai—according to KGW8. Part of the problem is caused by smoke from California wildfires, but the many people living in the area also contribute to the smog. All the more reason to live out by the coast for some fresh Pacific air.
- Climbing cost of living: According to cnbc.com, Oregon is facing a "home affordability crisis" that has only gotten worse in recent years. The median home price in Portland is more than twice the national average. Residents struggle as the cost of their rent keeps increasing, and out-of-staters moving to the area have a hard time finding an affordable place to live.
Now, just for giggles, we've compiled a few of the most bizarre and outdated laws still in existence in the state. So please enjoy.
Here are just a few from onlyinyourstate.com:
- You can't walk down the street backwards while eating a donut in Marion. We know how crazy Oregonians are for their donuts, but they're really in trouble if they try to pull a stunt like this. We can’t even imagine anyone being able to do that in the first place.
- It's illegal to box with a kangaroo in Myrtle Creek. Well, that’s just for safety’s sake.
- No roller-skating in Portland bathrooms. After all, what if you fell…
- You can't have your car door open for "longer than necessary" in Portland. Not sure what length of time is “longer than necessary,” but you should probably look into that before making the move.
Oregon, Your New Home
Well, there you have it—your all-access, backstage pass to Oregon, including some of the most important things to keep in mind to make your move go swimmingly. Now, we probably weren’t able to cover all the important concerns you may have, but we hope to have set you forward on the right path, or dare we say “trail.”
If eating some of the most creative donuts around, embracing the weirdness and taking in the breathtaking scenery is your scene, then you’re all set. Good luck, and don’t even bother packing an umbrella, you want to fit in, right?
NOTE: if you decide Oregon isn't right for you, we've covered all the other states, too, to help you find YOUR spot. If 155 days of rain isn’t your thing, have you thought about New Mexico?