What to Do in Oregon in May

Celebrate UFOs in McMinnville, toast rosé season in the Willamette Valley's wine country, and ride a fat-tire bike in Cannon Beach.

By Shannon Daehnke, Katherine Chew Hamilton, Michelle Harris, and Margaret Seiler May 2, 2022

The annual Cannon Beach Fat Bike Festival returns to the coast May 20–22.

With the run-up to the Rose Festival, the return of many seasonal farmers markets every week, the Portland Garden Club's Floratopia transforming the World Forestry Center May 21–22, and TEDx on May 28, there's so much happening in town that it might be hard to remember there's a whole state to explore. Get a jump on summer before school lets out, everyone else gets the travel bug, and things get crowded.

Kam Wah Chung Interpretive Center and Museum

Free tours through Oct 31, John Day 
Once a Chinese apothecary and de facto community center serving immigrants in the surrounding mining camps, this Oregon State Parks–run heritage center in John Day comes out of its winter hibernation this month and will be open for tours through October. Built in 1865 and run by Ing “Doc” Hay and Lung On from the 1880s well into the 20th century, the old shop once held one of the largest collections of Chinese medicinal herbs in the US. Capacity is limited, so book tours through the park store—Margaret Seiler

World Tour Paddling Film Festival

7 p.m. Sat, May 7, Egyptian Theatre, 229 S Broadway, Coos Bay
Show some love to the kayak, paddleboard, canoe, or other paddling vessel collecting dust in your garage by living vicariously through the paddlers featured in this weekend’s World Tour Paddling Film Festival—a showcase of “the very best paddling films,” marking the long-awaited reopening the historic Egyptian Theatre, a Coos Bay civic treasure. The promise of BBQ and brews is all the more reason to paddle out (a.k.a. make the four-hour drive) to Coos Bay—not to mention that ticket proceeds ($10 each) go to support the work of the Surfrider Foundation, an ocean-focused environmental nonprofit. —Shannon Daehnke

UFO Festival

Fri–Sat, May 13–14, McMenamins Hotel Oregon, 310 NE Evans St, McMinnville 
Founded in 1999, this annual McMenamins-based event celebrates the infamous sighting that took place on May 11, 1950, when Evelyn and Paul Trent apparently spotted a strange flying object hovering near their farm outside of McMinnville. The couple quickly got their camera and managed to capture a couple of snapshots before the mysterious spacecraft floated off. The whole incident resulted in a media frenzy at the time from believers and skeptics alike. But whether you believe all the hype or just enjoy a good alien theme party, it’s nice to know that Oregon is home to the second-largest UFO festival in the entire country (after the one in Roswell, New Mexico). Time-honored shenanigans include an alien costume contest (plus one for pets), a UFO parade, and an alien costume ball. There are also speaker panels with noted UFO experts, live music, and vendor booths where you can purchase all kinds of extraterrestrial memorabilia. Tickets for the entire weekend event are $125, which includes all speaker panels, express entry into presentations, and two drink tokens. —Michelle Harris

Reach the Beach

Sat, May 14, starting times and locations vary 
Individual cyclists or teams can choose from different routes, depending on how far you want to ride and how early you want to get up. The hard-core can opt for a 100-mile starting in Tualatin and winding through wine country, while the less ambitious can register for a shorter option and start in Carlton (75 miles), Amity (50), or Grand Ronde (25). The routes all "reach the beach" at Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City in this fundraiser for the American Lung Association. Have a pal pick you up, or get a ticket to be shuttled back to your starting point by bus. —MS 

Cannon Beach Fat Bike Festival

Fri–Sun, May 20–22, Cannon Beach 
The ATVs of the bicycle world come together annually in Cannon Beach. Their tires, typically at least four inches wide, are designed for riding on sand and snow without sinking in like you might on narrower tires, making the beach the ideal place to show off the fat bike’s terrain-conquering capabilities. Events include a sunset beach ride, a waterfall ride, a scavenger hunt by bike, and a beach bonfire with fat bike races and games. Online registration is $40, and note that if you’re not already a proud owner of a fat bike, you’ll have to borrow or rent your own for this event. —Katherine Chew Hamilton

Prefontaine Classic

May 27–28, Hayward Field, Eugene
See why Eugene is dubbed “Track Town” at the 2022 Prefontaine Classic—the well-known track and field meet is the only stop in North America on this year’s Wanda Diamond League World Athletics Tour. The meet is named after the late, great, Steve Prefontaine, an internationally acclaimed runner, Olympian, and UO alum. In Pre’s memory, the meet is intended to highlight the greatest track and field athletes in the world. This year’s event hits the newly reconstructed, quite extra (coming from a recent UO grad who had to put up with the construction), yet undeniably cool-looking, Hayward Field, the last weekend of May. —SD

Memorial Day Weekend in Wine Country

Sat–Mon, May 28–30, various Willamette Valley locations 
Wineries and vineyards including Rex Hill, Lemelson, and Flaneur hold special tastings and tours over Memorial Day in this traditional kickoff to summer in the Willamette Valley. —MS