The Tamástslikt Cultural Institute offers a lesson in cultural traditions of the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla tribes.
Virgil’s at Cimmiyotti’s, first opened in 1959, is unforgettable for its steaks of all cuts.
For a one-of-a kind saddle, visit the craftsmen at Hamley Western Store.

A brisk wind blows down the sidewalk outside The Prodigal Son Brewery and Pub in Pendleton (pop. 16,935). But the cavernous interior of this brewery housed in a former Packard dealership is warm, welcoming and unaccountably packed on a weekday afternoon. An inside wall retains the remnants of old advertisements, and large windows draw in the Eastern Oregon sunshine to cast a happy glow around the rustic room. With a pint of Splendor in the Glass IPA, you’ll feel like you’ve discovered a well-kept secret. Located 209 miles due east of Portland in Oregon’s cattle country, the entire town of Pendleton feels that way, and it’s definitely worth the road trip.

Old West Traditions
Best known for the annual Pendleton Round-up, the town has hosted this larger than life rodeo every September since 1910. The classic Western rodeo includes steer roping, barrel racing, parades, Native American dancing and kids’ competitions. Take home more than memories: Get fit for a custom cowboy hat at Mountain Peaks Hat Company or a pair of handmade boots at Stapleman’s Custom Boot Shop. For a one-of-a kind saddle, visit the craftsmen at Hamley Western Store or Beckman Saddles. Stop in at Pendleton Woolen Mills, founded in the 19th century and world famous for its blankets designed with Navajo, Hopi and Zuni and other Native American patterns.

Dinner, Drinks and Decadence
Rainbow Cafe is that lively bar you hope to find at any Western town and has been serving the public for more than 125 years. Don’t miss the roast beef dinner. Virgil’s at Cimmiyotti’s, first opened in 1959, is unforgettable for it’s steaks of all cuts (try Virgil’s Oscar — beef medallions topped with crabmeat, Béarnaise sauce and bacon) and a lively whiskey cocktail menu designed around Pendleton Whiskey. Hamley Steakhouse offers its own delights in the way of an 18th-century bar, tin ceilings and authentic Western artifacts (though the place has only been open since 2007). Menu items are big and varied, and the specialty War Paint cocktail — huckleberry vodka, huckleberries, grape juice and lime — is one for the record books. The offerings at Alexander’s Chocolate Classics are many and delicious. Choose from truffles, toffees, drinking chocolates and chocolate-covered fruits.

History and Story
The Tamástslikt Cultural Institute offers a lesson in cultural traditions of the Cayuse, Umatilla and Walla Walla tribes. A series of exhibits — We Were, We Are, We Will Be — walks visitors through 10,000 years of history, including the tribe’s meeting the Lewis and Clark expedition and travelers on the Oregon Trail. The center is operated by members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. The Pendleton Underground Tours take visitors on a tour of the town’s racy past; Pendleton once housed 32 bars and 14 brothels in a four-block stretch. The two-hour tour covers the area’s dark past in the realms of high-stakes gambling, bootlegging, opium and prostitution.

Arts and Culture
Housed in a 1916 Carnegie library near the Umatilla River flowing through the center of town, the Pendleton Center for the Arts showcases the work of established and emerging artists from around the region and world-class traveling exhibits. The center offers classes, live music and a writers’ series as well. Crow’s Shadow Institute for the Arts includes both gallery and studio space to cultivate the artistic talent of Native American artists. The institute’s primary focus is printmaking in varied mediums, including monotype, woodcut and linocut.

about author Eileen Garvin

Eileen Garvin lives and writes in Hood River. When she’s not hunched over her keyboard or digging in the garden, you can find her mountain biking, kiteboarding, hiking, skiing or camping somewhere in Oregon.

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These maps and directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, or other events may cause road conditions to differ from the map results. For travel options, weather and road conditions, visit, call 511 (in Oregon only), 800.977.6368 or 503.588.2941.

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  1. cathy flynn says…

    Thank you for the article on Pendleton,Or..We were there last year in May and your article reminded me of how much fun we had while there. I loved staying right in the heart of town. I loved the fact that there also is a beautiful riverwalk right in town. The river walk was an easy walk and paved. It was just a few feet from our motel. They also had a wonderful Farmer’s Market just a couple of blocks from our motel on a week night evening. We had a fun time at the Wildhorse Casino on the outskirts of town. We plan on returning for a fabulous time.

    Written on May 6th, 2015 / Flag this Comment
  2. Doug Barnett says…

    Prodigal Sons hand made craft beer-battered onion rings are worth the trip, the sandwiches are excellent also!!

    Written on May 7th, 2015 / Flag this Comment
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