Photo and article by Meg Drake
This article originally appeared in the summer 2018 Ranch House Journal.
Late summer or early fall is the perfect time to visit the Pacific Northwest. For rodeo and western enthusiasts, it’s also the perfect time to take in all the sights and sounds of the Pendleton Round-Up. This annual event attracts visitors from across the country to Pendleton, Oregon, a sleepy little town that comes alive during the Round-Up. This year’s event is scheduled to take place September 12th through the 18th.
But, there’s more to Pendleton than just the rodeo. Fine dining, one-of-a-kind shopping and wine tasting are all items you must add to your trip to-do list. When I traveled to the area, I took advantage of all three.
So let’s start with the obvious, the Pendleton Round-Up rodeo. As one of the larger rodeo events of the season, Pendleton attracts professional rodeo cowboys and cowgirls from across the U.S. and even the world to Oregon every September.
The annual event is rich in history and excitement, so it’s no surprise that locals treat it much like the superbowl. They proudly display “Let ‘Er Buck” flags from their porches and kindly greet visitors who have traveled far distances to witness the festivities.
The very first Round-Up was held September 29, 1910. What originally attracted 7,000 spectators, now draws a crowd of more than 50,000 people to the rodeo each year.
So why all the fuss? Aside from daily rodeo performances, the Round-Up has several other events for the family to enjoy. Parades, concerts, Indian pageants and shopping to name a few.
Plus, the rodeo grounds are rich with Native American history. Take a stroll around Tipi Village and witness indian dancing competitions, purchase items from vendors or watch the annual Junior Indian Beauty Pageant. Also, make sure to catch one of the Happy Canyon Night Shows. This theatrical reenactment of the settling of the west first by the Native Americans and then by the settlers, is sure to entertain the entire family.
But, if you’re planning an adults only trip, make sure you and your friends visit the Let ‘Er Buck Room. Not only does this room house one of the longest continuous bars in the U.S., but it’s an iconic spot where those 21 and over can enjoy a nice cold adult beverage. It’s known to get pretty crowded, so insider’s tip: plan on getting there before the rodeo ends.
To plan your rodeo visit, checkout pendletonroundup.com.
OUT AND ABOUT IN PENDLETON
Take a historic city tour.
If history is your thing, be sure to reserve your spot on one of the Pendleton Underground Tours. Featured on television and radio shows, the Pendleton Underground allows visitors a deeper look into the city’s more questionable past.
As a hub for things like gambling and bootlegging, these tours drawback the curtain on Pendleton’s outlaw and western history. Needless to say, you’ll probably learn a little more about the wild west than what they taught you in school.
To book your tour, visit pendletonundergroundtours.org.
Plan a dining excursion
Yes, you read that correctly, a food excursion! Pendleton is known for its hospitality and ability to entertain. Throughout town there are several dining experiences that you simply cannot pass up. So if you’re a foodie, this one is for you.
Start your day on the west side of town with a hearty breakfast from Oregon Grain Growers Brand Distillery. Then travel over to Hamley’s SteakHouse and enjoy a drink while you tour the historic building. Before dinner, grab a snack at Great Pacific and either head back to Hamley’s for a delicious steak or try something new and visit Cimmiyotti’s for a five star meal.
Pendleton is home to the world famous Pendleton Woolen Mill. Visit their storefront before the rodeo and try on beautifully crafted, one-of-a-kind jackets, shirts, vests, dresses and more. The mill also offers several home decor items. While you’re there, you can even take a tour of the mill and witness some of their items being made.
Another insider’s tip: checkout their discount room. There’s tons of beautiful rugs and throws for half the price!
Do some wine tasting
There are several beautiful wineries in the area, but my recommendation would be to head northwest to Walla Walla for some of the best wine tasting the Pacific Northwest has to offer. As you’re mapping out the different vineyards you’d like to visit, make sure to include Amavi Cellars on your list. Their sitting deck offers the best view of the valley.
If you’re planning on spending the day in Walla Walla or even the evening, be sure to take a stroll down Main Street. There you will find tons of great shopping and plenty of places to dine. If you’re in the mood for delicious breakfast foods, make sure to checkout the Maple Counter Cafe. You won’t regret it!
Whatever travel recommendations you decide to go with, remember to have fun and Let ‘Er Buck!
If you like Pendleton, you might also enjoy some of these Pendleton Woolen Mills items from Amazon: