Study: Best Cities to Live in Oregon

Finding the right city to call home is never easy, and whether you're moving to Oregon for the first time or you're just trading one zip code for another, it helps to know which cities have the most to offer. Fortunately, the CreditDonkey experts have done the hard work for you by compiling a list of the top ten best places to live in Oregon.

The West Coast is typically associated with sandy beaches and perpetual sunshine, but as you head north, the geography and the climate undergo a dramatic change. Nestled between Washington and California, Oregon features dense evergreen forests, the rugged terrain of the Columbia Plateau and the towering peaks of the Cascade Mountains where Mt. Hood stands more than 11,000 feet above sea level. The Oregon coastline is not so much a beach as it is a showcase for the state's natural beauty.

Aside from these natural wonders, the Beaver State also features a booming economy, a rich cultural and entertainment scene and cost of living that's lower than neighboring states. While it may be unknown territory for newcomers, current residents already know the secret of its appeal.

10 Best Cities to Live in Oregon

Study Methodology

The following five factors were used to rank each city:

  1. Crime Rate
  2. Commute Time
  3. Income
  4. Education
  5. Restaurants Per Capita

One of the biggest challenges of moving to a new area is finding a neighborhood where you and your family feel at ease. For your peace of mind, we considered the safety level of each city in our rankings based on the odds of becoming the victim of a violent crime.

The star city of Oregon – Portland – is known for being bicycle-friendly. Workers biking to work are not uncommon there, and for the purposes of this study, we considered average commute times for residents of each city. After all, no matter you where you end up, you want to minimize your time in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Over time, Oregon's economy has transitioned its focus from natural resources such as lumber to the manufacturing and industrial trades. As the economy continues to expand, new and current residents alike should be able to find plenty of job opportunities. To help you narrow down your job search, we ranked each city based on the median household income as well as what percentage of residents have some college experience.

Seafood is a major staple of Pacific Northwest cuisine, but we know that not everyone has a taste for crab legs. To find those cities that offer the widest variety of dining experiences, we looked at the number of restaurants per capita for each location.

Tip: Eating out? Use a credit card with restaurant rewards to save money.

10. Central Point

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 670.4
  • Commute Time: 16.5 minutes
  • Income: $47,859
  • Residents Who Attended Some College: 32.8%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 829 inhabitants

Central Point, just a few miles north of Medford, began as a crossroads for two major pioneer roads and has become an active center for tourism, agriculture and the timber industry. Situated in south central Oregon, this city houses the Jackson County Fair, and Southern Oregon University is a short drive away. More than a third of its residents are college educated, and the drive to work takes an average of 16.5 minutes.

Did You Know: Central Point is close to Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the U.S. and Oregon's only national park.

9. Sherwood

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 1,699.9
  • Commute Time: 26 minutes
  • Income: $82,257
  • Residents Who Attended Some College: 26.6%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 417 inhabitants

Approximately 18 miles southwest of Portland, Sherwood ranks as one of the safest places to live in Oregon and the most affluent city on our list. Just over 26 percent of its residents attended college, and the median household income exceeds $82,000. Violent crime rarely occurs and the average commute takes less than 30 minutes. Known as a family-friendly city, Sherwood exudes small-town charm while offering residents convenient access to the metro area.

Did You Know: Sherwood was originally called Smockville in honor of J.C. Smock, who helped to plan the city's first streets.

8. Milwaukie

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 826.6
  • Commute Time: 23.9 minutes
  • Income: $52,192
  • Residents Who Attended Some College: 31.7%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 487 inhabitants

Milwaukie sits on the banks of the Willamette River, less than a 15-minute drive south of Portland. Named after Milwaukee, Wisconsin, this city of just over 20,000 residents is composed of seven distinct neighborhoods as well as two industrial districts. One of the largest employers is the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Transit Project, which will create a 7.3-mile rail system connecting the two cities.

Did You Know: The city was first settled by the Luelling family, orchardists who are credited with developing the Bing cherry.

7. Hermiston

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 710.8
  • Commute Time: 15 minutes
  • Income: $47,279
  • Residents Who Attended Some College: 28.6%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 450 inhabitants

In the late 1800s, Hermiston served as a rest stop for travelers heading west. The expansion of the railroad and the construction of the Umatilla Army Depot resulted in widespread growth, making Hermiston one of the largest cities in northeast Oregon. Commutes take an average of 15 minutes, and the low crime rate contributes to an overall sense of safety. Agriculture continues to be the cornerstone of the local economy, with many residents employed by ConAgra Foods.

Did You Know: Hermiston sits close to a number of outdoor attractions, including the Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge and the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

6. Tualatin

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 922.3
  • Commute Time: 21.7 minutes
  • Income: $64,330
  • Residents Who Attended Some College: 23.2%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 343 inhabitants

Just a stone's throw from Sherwood, Tualatin is one of the larger cities on our list and it continues to grow. A close proximity to the Portland metro area, combined with a very low crime rate and moderately priced homes, make it particularly suitable for families and professionals alike. Median household incomes are at the higher end of the scale, topping $64,000, and the typical commute takes less than 22 minutes.

Did You Know: In the 1960s, two University of Portland students unearthed the remains of a mastodon near the town library. Dubbed the "Tualatin Mastodon," the fossils of this elephant-like mammal are now on permanent display in the library.

5. St. Helens

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 1,083.1
  • Commute Time: 33.1 minutes
  • Income: $53,151
  • Residents Who Attended Some College: 31.3%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 369 inhabitants

Good things come in small packages, and the city of St. Helens is no exception. Tucked away in the northwest corner of Oregon on the shores of the Columbia River, this city of nearly 13,000 residents offers breathtaking mountain views as well as a scenic waterfront district. The city's unique location makes it ideal for hiking and fishing, and for the less adventurous, there are also a number of shops, galleries and historical sites to explore. After a day of sightseeing, head to the historic St. Helens Hotel for a steak dinner at the Klondike Restaurant.

Did You Know: The city's historic Olde Town district was the backdrop for a number of scenes from the first "Twilight" movie.

4. Tigard

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 736.7
  • Commute Time: 22.7 minutes
  • Income: $62,576
  • Residents Who Attended Some College: 25.3%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 319 inhabitants

With a population of nearly 50,000, Tigard, one of the largest suburbs of Portland, is also one of the largest and fastest-growing cities in the state. Just 10 miles from the metro area, Tigard has earned a reputation for being a family-oriented community where violent crime is rare. The median household income is over $62,000 and the cost of living is reasonable, making it an affordable choice for retirees.

Did You Know: The Tigard Daffodil, which features white petals and a reddish-orange center, is the city's official flower.

3. Wilsonville

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 2,481.9
  • Commute Time: 22.5 minutes
  • Income: $55,443
  • Residents Who Attended Some College: 25%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 320 inhabitants

Wilsonville began as a small farming community but has transformed into one of the busiest towns in the Portland metro area. Just north of the Willamette River, Wilsonville's economy is bolstered by the presence of major employers like Xerox, Mentor Graphics and Sysco. The abundance of jobs, top-rated schools and one of the lowest crime rates in the state contribute to Wilsonville's status as one of the best places to live in Oregon.

2. Pendleton

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 444.8
  • Commute Time: 13.7 minutes
  • Income: $47,976
  • Residents Who Attended Some College: 28.8%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 330 inhabitants

Pendleton sits adjacent to the Umatilla Indian Reservation, and the area's Native American heritage is woven closely into the town's history. The Pendleton Woolen Mills, one of the oldest textile manufacturers in the U.S., began here in 1863 and continues to produce woolen blankets that honor Native American traditions. The town's residents enjoy the shortest average commute time, at less than 14 minutes, and a median income that approaches $50,000.

Did You Know: Originating in 1910, the Pendleton Round-Up is one of the largest rodeo events in the state.

1. The Dalles

  • Odds of Being a Victim of a Violent Crime: 1 in 596.9
  • Commute Time: 13.9 minutes
  • Income: $41,639
  • Residents Who Attended Some College: 29.8%
  • Restaurants: 1 per 313 inhabitants

Widely considered to be the endpoint of the Oregon Trail, The Dalles, with deep historical roots, also plays an important role in the state's modern economy. Close proximity to Portland and the Columbia River solidifies its position as a center for distribution and manufacturing as well as major transportation link between Washington and Oregon. In summer, residents enjoy a variety of watersports along the river but come winter, it's time to hit the slopes of Mt. Hood.

Did You Know: One of The Dalles leading export products is sweet cherries.

A move to Oregon can literally be a breath of fresh air, particularly if you're used to living a warmer climate or a bustling urban center. While Portland is certainly one of the most popular places to live, the communities on our list represent the cream of the crop when it comes to income, commute times and safety. If you're looking for a new home base, each of these 10 cities is a worthy contender.

Data Sources:

  • U.S. Census Bureau, Population Estimates
  • FBI, Uniform Crime Reports
  • U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey
  • U.S. Census Bureau, Economic Census

Rebecca Lake is a journalist at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Rebecca Lake at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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Comments about Study: Best Cities to Live in Oregon
  • Linda Walls from Tennessee
    on September 2014 said:

    This is a great article on different towns and cities in Oregon. I live in St. Helens and it is one that is profiled in this article. We are close to Longview, Washington which has a mall and close enough to Astoria for a day trip. The best part is that we are a small community and yet can get into Portland in a bout 40 minutes.

  • salamane from Oregon
    on September 2014 said:

    Look, the Dalles may technically fit the criteria. But you have got to be kidding me. Have you been there? The downtown area is dying and despite vast efforts nothing has been able to revive it. Industry is also lacking and mostly moving elsewhere. The restaurants there are, with only a very few examples, terrrrrible. The houses are run down. The schools are so so at best. Community college is nice. The community theater has some great moments. But sorry, no way would I ever choose to live there given all of Oregon to pick from. The only reason to live there instead of Hood River, is cheaper. Nothing to do, town is run down, and dying...and I have no idea where you got that average income. Probably because there are some 'residents' with summer houses there who live elsewhere in the winter and tip the 'average' over. Mostly not a high wage town. And lots of homeless hanging out too.

  • John from Arkansas
    on September 2014 said:

    I have to agree with salamane. I live in The Dalles. Not by choice. My wife is from TD and her folks live here. We moved here from gorgeous Sonoma CA to this dump of a city. I have to see the rundown stores in "Historic Down Town". It looks like it hasn't been improved over 150 years. The school system is a joke. Northern CA school system is far better. The political makeup of the TOWN is horrible. The restaurants are too far apart to be of any use to tourists. The paddle wheel docks at the port every weekend. Over 75% of the stores in downtown are closed. What is a tourist to do? Close proximity to Portland? 85 miles is close?!? I commute to PDX for work, I know it's not close! $40,000 in average income? The average job is in the service industry! Fry cook, medical nurse, food server or mechanic. NONE of those jobs make more than $30,000 a year at best. There is no industry here. Google is here and it only hires tech savvy people. Good luck finding that home grown here. They bring in people from CA or elsewhere for those jobs and then they live across the river in WA and commute in over the bridge.
    The outdoor sports in summer and winter are about all it has going for it and that's still 40 -100 miles away from town. TD sucks. Take it from a local. This town is dying. The only difference between this town and a truck stop is the residential area.

  • Sperrystar from Arkansas
    on September 2014 said:

    The Dalles is an undiscovered gem. I love the way the neighbor hoods wrap around the basin walls and are in tact. All the commercial blight is restricted to the west end along the freeway. As for the downtown area it's poised for rejuvenation. So many beautiful old buildings just waiting for the next boom. I predict that when folks living under constant tornado or hurricane threats and yearly floods will realize how the Northwest seems pretty calm. No there aren't enough cultural opportunities, but that's getting better every year. I love living in The Dalles.

  • Keada from Wisconsin
    on September 2014 said:

    St. Helens was also the back drop of the iconic Disney movie Halloween-town and puts up the giant pumpkin in town square every year.

  • JM from Oregon
    on September 2014 said:

    Have none of the people that did this article been east of the Cascades? Central Oregon is alive and well ... and the best place to live in Oregon. Better weather, more outdoor opportunities, extremely low crime rate, great schools, very little commute time (and what there is rural highway with little traffic, both community college and university ... I could go on and on. On second thought, don't say anything about how great Central Oregon is. We like it just the way it is and would hate to have it ruined by too many people like the cities in the valley.

  • Maggie from Washington
    on September 2014 said:

    The Dalles is a beautiful, gorgeous place. It is suffering a little right now, but it is still an amazing place to live. It doesn't seem necessary to bash a place people live and call home.I grew up there, and I would love to move back someday. Thirty years ago it was Hoodriver that was struggling and The Dalles was thriving.

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