As a lifelong local and proud advocate for my beloved home state, I often get asked about the best places to live in Oregon.
I’ve spent a lot of my time exploring the state and decided it was time to draft up my personal list of the best cities to live in Oregon. Now, before the smart-assy responses start rolling in, allow me to explain that I haven’t personally lived in all these Oregon cities (who has?).
Rather, this list is a collection of the most beautiful towns in Oregon, coupled with helpful information about daily life. I also have a lot of friends that have moved out of Portland and now enjoy living in various cities in Oregon and asked them to chime in.
Without further ado, let’s jump into this list of the best places to live in Oregon. I hope you enjoy (and don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, I’m at your disposal).
Best Places to Live in Oregon
Remember this popular kids book? It rings true today. No two people are created alike, as such, I’ll divvy up this list of the best places to live in Oregon by city size.
Best Small Towns Oregon
For this list of the best small towns in Oregon, I’m highlighting places with a population of up to 35,000 residents.
#1. Hood River
- Population: 8,350
- Median home price: $820K
Personally speaking, if I were rich (married for love, learn from my mistake), I’d buy a home in Hood River. This is easily one of the best places to live in Oregon and locals know it (especially if home prices are any indication).
The reason is simple, Hood River is one of the most beautiful cities in Oregon. Mt. Hood serves as a striking backdrop to a charming downtown core where outdoorsy locals buzz around before schlepping off on an outdoor adventure.
The area is ripe for exploration, offering panoramic mountain views and tons of hiking trails, this Oregon city attracts active folks in hordes. The activity of the hour seems to be wind surfing (Hood River is the wind surfing capital of the world!), but you’re bound to find a new-to-you activity to pick up.
The city doesn’t let locals go thirsty either. Home to a plethora of great breweries and top-notch wineries, there’s always something happening on the weekends.
My favorite part about Hood River are the charming farms. I have a tradition of driving over in the fall (for apples), spring (for blooms) and summer (for wineries). This is definitely one of the most charming towns in Oregon (by a country mile).
#2. Happy Valley
- Population: 25,700
- Median home price: $693K
Some argue that Happy Valley is one of the best places to live in Oregon for the name alone (and I can’t say I disagree). Located a stone’s throw from Clackamas, Happy Valley offers an escape from the bustle of the city while still being well-connected.
Residents have access to an abundance of restaurants and big chain stores, all while being a mere 30-minute drive to downtown Portland. With average household incomes clocking in at $125K, median home prices are reflected accordingly (these bad boys are steep).
Happy Valley is a good place to live for folks that want a big house with a yard in a nice neighborhood. Seems like many locals end up move to area when looking for the best places to retire in Oregon because it has a very calm vibe.
- Population: 34,600
- Median home price: $450K
A place where the state’s applauded wine country meets the panoramic views of the Pacific Coast Range mountains, McMinnville is considered one of the best Oregon small towns and it’s not hard to see why.
Being a stone’s throw from award wining wineries will do that! A city for foodies, wine enthusiasts and nature nuts — this small town in Oregon can satiate any palate.
One of my best friends was born and raised in McMinnville, so we often talk about the differences between city vs. small town living in Oregon. He moved to Portland eight years ago but is toying with the idea of buying a home in McMinnville because houses are way more affordable.
I asked him to elaborate on what he loves so much about McMinnville and — without a beat — he dove into the charming small town feel. He believes that locals look out for each other and there’s a sense of community that most major cities lack.
Chock-full of friendly locals, great restaurants and access to the state’s breathtaking wine country, this place is a gem, which is why I consider it one of the best places to live in Oregon.
You may enjoy reading: 10 Memorable Wineries in the Willamette Valley
#4. Lincoln City
- Population: 10,000
- Median home price: $500K
No list of the best places to live in Oregon would be complete without mentioning a coastal town.
I feel like this should come with a qualifier though — Lincoln City is gray and rainy most of the year, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the best places to live in Oregon. Located along the central coast, the scenery of this popular Oregon city can’t be beat.
Home to some of the most beautiful spans of beaches (and one of my favorite recreation areas in the state, Devil’s Lake!), you’ll seldom want for much. And that’s mostly who this coastal town attracts, retirees content with watching the formidable Pacific Ocean without skipping a beat.
The average age of residents in Lincoln City is 50 years old, making it evident that many locals consider the coast as the one of the best places to retire in Oregon. The biggest complaint seems to be lack of access to healthcare (most local hospitals are tiny and severely understaffed).
You May Enjoy Reading: 15 Charming Oregon Coast Towns You Can’t Help But Love
Best Medium-Sized Cities in Oregon
This list of the best places to live in Oregon is limited to medium-sized cities (population between 35,000 – 100,000 residents).
- Population: 98,000
- Median home price: $500K
Beaverton is a popular place to live in Oregon because it houses the world headquarters of Nike. But between me and you, the Costco around the corner from Nike is my biggest reason for popping over.
My friend Marissa recently bought a home in Beaverton (we were neighbors in NW Portland, here’s photos of our apartment), because she was ready to start a family. Located less than 10 miles west of Portland, the city of Beaverton seems like a beautiful (and calm) alternative to the City of roses.
Alas, the city is charming, I’ll give them that. The area was used for farming not that long ago, but as with most places, folks from Portland started moving to the outskirts of town for larger homes and lawns.
Today the area is full of tech companies and offers ample employment opportunities. Plus, our friend Marissa lives there and she’s pretty great too.
#2. Lake Oswego
- Population: 40,500
- Median home price: $782K
Lake Oswego is where the wealthy congregate. Most of the Trail Blazers own homes in this affluent Oregon city (and so does my landlord, so that’s how I really know). The median household income is $122,000, which makes the obnoxious housing prices somewhat more palatable.
Built around Lake Oswego, the area is gorgeous (the homes equally so), has great schools, feels safe and is a short commute downtown. The biggest disadvantage of living in this Oregon city is the lack of diversity (less than 1% of the population identifies as black).
Likewise, some folks view Lake Oswego as an uppity, out-of-touch with reality place. This doesn’t surprise me much. I’m beginning to think that every city has to have at least one neighborhood that people view as snobby and exclusive (alas, we have Lake Oswego).
So prepare for that stigma, but don’t let it sway your decision too much (people always have opinions, no matter what you do).
- Population: 86,400
- Median home price: $710K
Tucked neatly into the picturesque rolling hills of southern Oregon, Medford is often considered one of the prettiest cities in Oregon. And damn, it’s not hard to see why.
Just a stone’s throw from the California border and less than 80 miles from the coast, Medford offers respite and easy daily living for those that don’t shy away from being self-sufficient (there’s a lot of farms around here).
You’ll also never feel too far removed — this Oregon city has its own airport (Rogue Valley International Airport). Sure layovers are practically guaranteed, but hey — sure beats driving 3 hours to the nearest airport otherwise.
Medford seems to be most lively in the summer months when the nearby town of Ashland attracts visitors for the famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The area also swarms with Oregonians during the summer months, everyone eager to spend a weekend at the breathtaking nearby wineries.
If you plan to visit before decided on where to live in Oregon, I suggest popping over to Crater Lake National Park for the day. Boasting striking shades of deep blue water, this is one of the 7 Wonders of Oregon and warrants a detour.
- Population: 60,000
- Median home price: $508K
Home to Oregon State University, Corvallis is no stranger to the nightlife that comes with lively college towns. Vibrant and fun, the city is divided by the Willamette River, which swells with locals during the hot summer months.
But you don’t have to be a college student to enjoy the perks of Corvallis. I spend a lot of time in this area because it’s a great base for exploring Willamette Valley.
Corvallis has a marine west coast climate, with Mediterranean characteristics (which makes this area prime for vineyards). Temperatures are pretty mild year-round, but the winters are notoriously wet and gray.
Still, the weather can be tolerated when the views are as good as this (this is one of the most beautiful places to live in Oregon).
In terms of jobs, the largest employer in town is Oregon State University followed by Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center. So if you work in the education or medical fields, you may want to explore Corvallis and see if it’s a good place to live in Oregon for you personally.
#5. Grants Pass
- Population: 39,400
- Median home price: $380K
Sitting pretty along the banks of the Rogue River, Grants Pass is one of the best medium-sized cities in Oregon for nature lovers. With a population nearing 40,000 (14% increase over the last 10 years), the city seems to be gaining popularity.
A reliable mainstay in the wine community, Grants Pass attracts folks who can’t stay away from nature. You’ll be living in the heart of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, which offers a never-ending list of hiking opportunities.
In terms of jobs, the average household income in this Oregon city is $50K which leaves much to be desired (largest employers listed here). But outdoor recreation is the draw here and how much money do you need for that (outside of the first round of purchasing camping/hiking gear)?
#6. Oregon City
- Population: 37,500
- Median home price: $513K
Here’s the deal: Oregon City is one of the fastest growing cities in Oregon state, so it deserves mention. Located north of Clackamas, people are starting to move to the area because home prices are much more affordable. The drive downtown takes 25 minutes without traffic, but closer to an hour with.
The median household income hovers around $85K, with many folks commuting into Portland for work. The Willamette River is the draw of the town because it offers ample outdoor recreation opportunities. If you’re itching for more adventure, you’re about an hour from Mt. Hood and 1.5 hours from the coast.
All around, Oregon City is a great, calm place to live in Oregon. Your needs will be met (restaurants, stores, etc.) without having to trek into the city. Although the city is a mere 25-minutes away, should you want to pop over.
5 Best Oregon Cities to Live In
For this post, I’m categorizing Oregon cities that have a population greater than 100,000 residents. As you know, cities tend to offer more than rural areas in terms of activities, events and food culture. Likewise, cities tend to be gritter (read: dirtier) and come with disadvantages that some folks steer clear of.
You know yourself best, here’s the info you need to know when decided on the best large cities to live in Oregon.
- Population: 106,500
- Median home price: $515K
Most of my coworkers (I live in Portland) moved to Hillsboro in the past 2-3 years. The housing is more affordable (and the lawns are bigger, some say greener), so the recent influx of new residents checks out. I mean, this is the 5th largest city in Oregon for a reason.
Located 20 miles west of Portland, Hillsboro offers quick access to the city when needed, although let’s get real — that traffic is a bear. Regardless, this city is home to ample job opportunities, amenities and parks, making it one of the best cities to live in Oregon.
Hillsboro was pretty small (and largely overlooked) until the late 1980s when major tech companies moved to town, like Intel and Oracle.
Now the area is ripe with biomedical, telecom, banks and data centers. The area’s tech industry is so well known in fact, that the corridor between Hillsboro and Beaverton is referred to as the Silicon Forest.
With a median household income of nearly $92K, Hillsboro is one of the best places to live in Oregon for job seekers (and career ladder climbers alike).
- Population: 177,750
- Median home price: $425K
Those researching where to live in Oregon may be pleasantly surprised by Salem. The town is slowly shedding its sleepy vibe and attracting new residents annually (the population has grown by 13% over the past 10 years).
One of my favorite coworkers (am I allowed to say that?) moved to Salem before the pandemic. I missed her terribly and tried to annoy her into moving pack to Portland (which went as well as you can imagine).
She said that the busyness of city living was wearing her down and she wanted a change of pace. She researched the best places to live in Oregon and ultimately landed on Salem.
Her logic? She felt she could enjoy a slower pace of daily life while still getting access to big city amenities (like restaurants, events).
Seems like she’s not the only one that thinks so. Salem is one of the most populous cities in Oregon (second to Portland). This is largely thanks to Salem being the seat of the state capital, which means you’ll be rubbing elbows with government employees left and right if you choose to live here.
Career advancement (in the public sector) seems like a safe bet, as does the traditional 9-5 life that comes with government work. In this way, Salem is one of the best places to live in Oregon for families.
So yeah, good job opportunities, city amenities and easy access to the forests, mountains and the striking Oregon coast. It’s not hard to see why Salem is considered one of the best places to live in Oregon for nature lovers.
Hell, you don’t even need to leave the downtown core to get your fill of nature. Take a pleasant stroll down Waterfront Park and take in the scenery at Minto-Brown Park.
- Population: 175,000
- Median home price: $450k
Salem and Eugene often get compared to each other. The general consensus seems to be that Salem is what Eugene would be if it weren’t a college town.
And it’s true, the vibrant and youthful culture of the University of Oregon (birthplace of Nike) adds something special to the city. Hence, many people consider it one of the best places to live in Oregon.
If you like the idea of living in a university town but don’t want to be inundated with college students on the daily, you’ll be happy to learn that the university area is entirely avoidable. The neighborhoods are charming and make it easy to do everything you need without leaving a specific area.
The best part about living in Eugene, one of Oregon’s most populous cities, is the access to outdoor recreation. You’ll be spoiled for choice with epic nature and ample hiking trails. And when you find yourself getting the city itch? Well, Portland is a mere 2-hour drive away, making it an easy weekend destination.
Is Eugene’s neighbor, Springfield, one of the most famous cities in Oregon?
Fun Fact: Eugene neighbors Springfield, Oregon. Sound familiar? If you’ve seen the Simpsons then you’ll know why. For ages the creator of the show, Matt Groening kept folks on their toes about the real-life inspiration for the town. However, he finally spilled the beans in 2012.
“Springfield was named after Springfield, Oregon,” Groening, 58, told The Smithsonian. “The only reason is that when I was a kid, the TV show Father Knows Best took place in the town of Springfield and I was thrilled because I imagined that it was the town next to Portland, my hometown.”
#2. Bend (Best Oregon city for nature enthusiasts)
- Population: 102,000
- Median home price: $675K
I know some locals will have beef with my listing Bend as a large city, but with a population flirting with 100,000, it fits the description. And I’ll give credit with credit is due, Bend is one of the best towns in Oregon (as charming as can be). But it’s simply not, well not anymore at least.
Alas, now that I have that off my chest, let me explain why I think Bend is one of the best places to live in Central Oregon. For starters, this is where everyone kinda wants to live.
How do I know? Median home prices clocking in at a steep $675,000, what more proof do you need?
Bend is best know for two things: epic outdoor recreation and top-notch breweries, plus, there’s always something fun to do in Bend. Many locals (myself included) consider Bend one of the best cities to live in Oregon for nature lovers. Nature is in your backyard, you can’t escape it if you tried.
From fragrant ponderosa pine forests to some of the most striking mountains in the cascade range, the hiking possibility are endless. (If interested, my husband and I spent a year hiking every trail in the area and came up with a list of 20 Jaw-Dropping Hikes in Bend).
Folks can’t get enough of this beloved Oregon city, but don’t just take my word for it! According to WalletHut, Bend was the second-fastest growing city in America in 2020.
Bend is one of the best places to retire in Oregon, but expect to rub elbows with folks from all demographics because this is a wonderful town and the secret has been out for a while.
You May Enjoy Reading: 16 Honest Pros & Cons of Living in Bend, Oregon
Local’s Tip: Other Oregon cities to consider
Bend is fast becoming one of the most expensive places to live in Oregon. As such, I suggest exploring the neighboring city of Redmond. You’ll have unparalleled access to the great outdoors but with median home prices landing at $492K, you’ll save a pretty penny compared to living in Bend.
#1. Portland (best place to live in Oregon for city dwellers)
- Population: 640,100
- Median home price: $490K
Ah Portland. My little corner of the world. Colorful, beautiful and weird, what more could a gal ask for? I’ve lived in Portland my whole life, which is why I consider it one of the best places to live in Oregon.
The city is ripe for exploration. Full of nationally-recognized restaurants, epic hiking trails, never-ending list of events and access to the breathtaking outdoors. Beaches, forests, mountains — you name it, we have it.
The reasons for loving Portland are too many to list here, so I suggest popping over to my personal list of the 20 Honest Pros & Cons of Living in Portland, Oregon. This helpful guide will give you a thorough look into daily life in Portland (tip to the wise — the fun lives in the comments, tons of other locals chimed in as well).
Best Cities in Oregon to Live (Post Overview)
In sum, here’s a quick roundup of the best places to live in Oregon.
Best Large Cities in Oregon
Medium-Sized Cities in Oregon
- Lake Oswego
- Grants Pass
- Oregon City
Best Small Towns in Oregon
- Hood River
- Happy Valley
- Lincoln City
Where to live in Oregon (FAQ)
With a population of 640,100 residents, Portland is the most populous city in Oregon. Runners up include Salem and Eugene.
The Oregon cities with the highest crime rates include Madras, Ontario and Prineville.
The Oregon cities with the lowest crime rates are: West Linn (population 30,000), Sherwood (population 20,000) and Monmouth (population 11,000).
Oregon is home to 241 cities, around 71% of Oregonians live in cities.
The state of Oregon is home to 4.3 million residents, making it the 27th most populous state in the country.
Map of the best places to live in Oregon
What do you think?