Oregon is easily one of the most naturally beautiful, unique, diverse, and livable states in our country. It spurred the show “Portlandia”; it is the namesake of the best computer game ever, “Oregon Trail”; and the state motto is even beautiful: Alis volat propriis (she flies with her own wings).
So as a part of Movoto Real Estate’s ongoing series exploring some of the best places to live in America, state by state, we turned our analytical eyes toward Oregon. Here is our list of the 10 best cities in Oregon, ordered from amazing to simply excellent.
Where exactly is Bend and why is it sitting atop our list? What is Portland doing at No. 7? And how happy is Happy Valley? Keep reading, because we Sherwood like to tell you. The following paragraphs will explain how we got our list and will focus on the best parts of each city and just what makes them so special.
What Makes an Awesome City?
A lot of things make a city awesome, but in order to find these best cities in Oregon, we needed a list of measurable criteria across the board. So we came up with these eight:
- Cost of living (percent above or below state’s average)
- Crime rate
- Median household income
- Home value
- Distance to closest 5-star rated hiking
- Distance to closest ski resort
We started with a list of the 50 most populous cities in Oregon and ranked them from one to 50 in each of the criteria above, with one being the best. Then, we averaged the numbers for each city, gave them an overall Big Deal Score—the lower the number, the higher the city ranked.
Now that you know how we did it. Read on to find out just why each of our top 10 cities are so special and where they excelled.
This city certainly didn’t have to bend over backward to make it to the top of our list—it won outright. Bend is not only just a few miles away from some of the best hiking trails and ski resorts in Oregon, but it also has a stellar education system, with a high school graduation rate 10 percent higher than the state average, and some of the highest home values in the state as well.
Over the past five years, Bend’s population has been booming. Outdoor enthusiasts flock from far and wide for parks like Pilot Butte State Scenic Viewpoint, skiers to Mount Bachelor, and runners to the Haulin’ Aspen Trail Marathon. It truly is a wonderful place to raise a family—or at least, raise your heart rate.
Just southwest of Portland lies the little gem that is Sherwood. Sherwood may be a few miles further away from the closest five-star hiking trails and ski resorts, but it more than makes up for it with its other features. It is one of the safest cities in Oregon, with a crime rate 67 percent lower than the state average, it is one of the best paid cities in the state with an average household income of $83,000, and their kids are smart! High school graduation rates in Sherwood are 15 percent higher than the Oregon average.
And if that doesn’t do it for you, just stop by Crazy Sushi. The food is so good, you might not need another reason to move to Sherwood.
Beaverton’s sheer level of awesomeness is no secret; in fact, it has been hailed for years as one of the best cities in the U.S., let alone in Oregon. Over the past few years, Forbes has named it not only one of the best places to retire, but one of the 100 best places to live in general.
It’s no wonder. Beaverton has plenty of local amenities, it has a crime rate 31 percent lower than the state’s average, and it is only a few miles away from the highly rated trails at Washington Park. And if going for a hike isn’t your thing, don’t worry—Beaverton was ranked of the most walking-friendly cities by Prevention Magazine.
Milwaukie comes in at No. 4 for its top rankings, not just in outdoor activities like Mount Talbert’s trails or Mount Hood’s slopes, but also for its absolutely awesome annual income and safety. Milwaukie residents make six percent more, on average, than the rest of the state, and with a crime rate eight percent lower than average, residents won’t even need to worry about guarding their purses.
They also rank high when it comes to amenities, with delightfully idyllic and delicious places like the Painted Lady for some hot cocoa, Bob’s Red Mill for some potato soup, and the North Clackamas Aquatic Park– in the summer of course.
5. Oregon City
Imagine a land where you’re just five miles from some of the best hiking in the state at Mount Talbert Nature Park; where you get paid—21 percent higher than the rest of the state, at that—to live amongst some of the most breathtaking nature in the country. Well, for residents of Oregon City, this is a reality.
Of course if you’d rather hike your clubs over your shoulder and head to a golf course, Oregon City offers one of the state’s finest, the Stone Creek Golf Club, and if you’d rather just leave hiking out of it, you can simply take the elevator—the Oregon City Municipal Elevator, that is. It’s a wonderful piece of Oregon history—plus, the view is incredible.
Tigard, home of Cook Park and land of the well paid. But let’s start with the latter. The median household income here is a healthy $62,000—34 percent higher than the state’s average. What can residents do with all that extra cash? Well, they can go to the city’s largest park, Cook Park, for starters. But there are also little gems like the Tigard Farmers Market and Tigard Bowl.
For a day to appreciate beauty indoors, residents can hop over to Live Laugh Love Glass, and for a day of natural beauty, they’re just a short drive away from some of the best trails in the state at Mount Talbert Nature Park.
In recent years, Portland has become everybody’s favorite hipster city, due to shows like “Portlandia” and, well, all the hipsters there. But there is so much more to Portland. For one—did you know that the cost of living in Portland is actually pretty low compared to a lot of other cities in Oregon? And that their home values are 35 percent higher than the Oregon average?
Portland is breathtaking. St. Johns Bridge, the Lan Su Chinese Gardens, the Portland Japanese Gardens, and Pittock Mansion are just a handful of the man-made attractions in the city. And as far as natural beauty goes, there is Forest Park, the Aspen Trailhead trail, Mount Hood for skiing, the Hoyt Arboretum… And the list goes on and on. In fact, the only reason Portland didn’t come in closer to the top seems to be its crime rate– 79 percent higher than the state’s average. But hey, it’s a big city. No hard feelings, Portland.
8. West Linn
What West Linn lacks in big city livin’, it more than makes up for with its low crime rate (64 percent lower than the state average!), its stellar education system (a high school graduation rate 16 percent higher than Oregon’s average!), and its median household income (an average of $84,000).
This is a town of holiday parades, fairs, and music at Tanner Creek Park. It is a great place to raise a family and a quiet town to come home to.
8. Lake Oswego
Lake Oswego might be a suburb of Portland—but this town stands on its own just fine, thank you. It is a cultural hub, home to the Lakewood Center for the Fine Arts and the Art Council of Lake Oswego; it is a family’s fantasyland with its farmers’ markets, Players game/entertainment center, the best high school graduation rate, and the best home values in Oregon.
So if you’re looking for a nice, quaint, and picturesque vacation spot, visit Lake Oswego. If you want a great place to raise your family—move there.
10. Happy Valley
Rounding out our list is the happiest-sounding place in Oregon. And it turns out, residents have a reason to smile here. Happy Valley is rated the safest city on our list, with a crime rate 74 percent lower than the state average. Their high school graduation rate comes in second only to Lake Oswego’s, and their median household income is a whopping 124 percent higher than the state’s average. That’s a median household income of over $100,000 per year.
And if Happy Valley’s high income, virtual absence of crime, and excellent schools don’t quite do it for you, don’t you worry—there is more. Happy Valley is home to great shopping at the Clackamas Town Center, and if you happen to prefer a golf bag to a shopping bag, head over to Eagle Landing Golf Course—surely one of the happiest in the state.
The Best Cities in the State OR in the Country
There you have it, Oregonians and future Oregonians alike. After doing the research, averaging the numbers, and, yes, ogling over some photos of your parks, these 10 cities turned out to be the greatest cities within your great state. No ifs, ands, or Bends about it.