Hood River’s tidy and bustling Oak Street, lined with dozens of trendy art galleries, boutiques, home and clothing stores, bookstores, coffee shops, wineries and brewpubs, easily swallows up a day or two for ardent shoppers. The experience is made even better with achingly beautiful Gorge panoramas to the north and white-capped Mount Hood looming behind it.
This town of 7,167 souls has hung its touristic hat primarily on outdoor sports of the water and wind variety, plus a healthy assortment of leg-propelled activities like cycling, hiking and running.
Hood River’s sports bent is reflected in the plethora of sporting goods stores situated along Oak Street and adjacent blocks. Its concentration of sports shops easily rivals that of Seattle and Portland. Windsurfers, kiteboarders, stand up paddlers, kayakers, cyclists and mountain bikers, whitewater rafters, anglers, skiers, runners, hikers and campers will think they’ve reached outdoor sports heaven as they flit from one enticing, equipment-crammed store to the next, their wallets noticeably lighter and their backpacks heavier with more and more essential gear.
The town’s sporting goods shopkeepers are no amateurs either; they know their craft. I had discussions with Wes Swearingen, cycling fanatic and owner of Mountain View Cycles, about the Tour de France, local mountain biking spots, what sort of cycling equipment a beginner needs and sundry other cycling topics. Likewise, I had similar conversations with Steve Gates of Big Winds on all things paddling and windsurfing and again with a savvy young female kayaker at the Kayak Shed. And yet again with a running expert at Doug’s Sports. Phew. I felt exhausted after all this and I hadn’t run, paddled or surfed an inch!
There are several spots near Hood River where agile windsurfers and kiteboarders skim across the wide blue surface of the choppy Columbia River performing seemingly impossible aerobatics. Watching these performers is highly entertaining for spectators. On top of all the sports mania, Hood River has one other undiscovered world-class attraction. Vintage automobile and aeroplane aficionados will love the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum (WAAAM). It’s a quick, five-minute drive north of downtown by the airport. This cavernous museum features two large fleets of sleek, priceless classic cars and famous antique aircraft that would make the Smithsonian proud. Row upon row of 114 gleaming, highly polished classic vehicles stretches to the back of the huge 90,000 square-foot facility. It is a sight to bring any red-blooded classic car buff to his knees. Most of the vehicles and airplanes are still operational too!
For nostalgia buffs, an informative self-guided walking tour through the town’s historic district gives you a crash course in the town’s history. It was platted in 1881 for settlers who came for the area’s timber and fruit. Pick up your walking tour brochure from the Visitor’s Center down by the marina.
To complete your crash course in Hood River history, visit the Hood River County History Museum this summer when it reopens after a major remodeling project.
For the artistically inclined, Columbia Center for the Arts features an eclectic collection of for-sale artwork created by emerging and professional local artists. On-going art education classes and camps, a stage troupe, and monthly gallery shows are also held at the center. Book browsers will like the low-key Book Stop with its comfortable seating and easily reached bookshelves and Waucoma Bookstore, both on Oak Street. Among Hood River’s many fine restaurants, Celilo Restaurant and Bar on Oak Street is a standout, serving unique, delicious dishes. Another local favorite with outstanding food is The Sixth Street Bistro & Loft. You can’t go wrong with anything on their menu. You’ll find good home-style comfort food at Bette’s Place and Doppio Coffee & Lounge will satisfy your caffeine cravings to perfection. Eight local wineries have set up tasting rooms in Hood River with perhaps the most noticeable being the Naked Winery & Orgasmic Wine Company, billing itself as the world’s sexiest winery.
Other award-winning wineries and tasting rooms are dispersed throughout the Hood River area including Marchesi Vineyards, Cathedral Ridge Winery, Mt. Hood Winery, Pheasant Valley Winery and the Gorge White House. The brewpub scene is thriving in Hood River and a brewery tour is a fun addition to your visit. Be sure and check out Full Sail Brewing and Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom.
You may come to Hood River for its recreation opportunities, but clearly, it offers a whole lot more.
Photo Credit: Jeff Jones
Article by: Roy Stevenson
Some of the many local attractions include:
New theater, art shows, local artwork and gifts. 541.386.4512
Elegantly restored historic hotel overlooking the river.
Event Site and The Hook
Windsurfing and Kiteboarding. I-84, Exit 63.
Native American artifacts, pioneer, fruit and logging displays. Located at Port Marina Park. 541.386.6772
Hood River Hotel
Renovated historic hotel and resturant.
Community park, bandstand, picnic area and public swimming pool. Corner of 13th and May St.
Marina and Sailpark
Moorage, windsurfing, kiteboarding, picnic beach, picnic shelter, exercise trail, concessions. I-84, exit 64.
Mt. Hood Railroad
Built in 1906, this scenic train ride links the awe-inspiring Gorge with the foothills of snowcapped Mt. Hood. 541.386.3556
Situated in Hood River Heights next to the Ken Jernstedt Memorial Airport, this museum has one of the nation's largest collections of flying antique airplanes and is open year-round to the public (except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years). Open Mon-Sun 9am-5pm. 541.308.1600
- I-84 Exits 62, 63, 64.