A press release today (5/6) from Billings Logan International Airport was a nice reminder of the new direct flights from Billings to Portland on Allegiant. The seasonal, twice-weekly budget flights start on Friday, May 7th and will run throughout the summer months.

Kevin Ploehn, Director of Aviation at Billings Logan, noted that all the carriers that service Billings have added additional flights for what is expected to be a busy travel season in Montana. Ploehn said,

We are excited to see how the public responds to all of this available service to and from Montana. There are still a lot of hurdles to overcome to get the air transportation system back to normal. We believe that a lot of leisure travelers will be taking to the skies for the first time in over a year looking for an adventure away from the doldrums of the COVID world.

Portland has received a lot of negative attention in the media over the last year, but my friends in Oregon have assured me that the protesting and riots you've seen on news reports are largely contained to one small area. Leaving literally millions of acres and thousands of places for you to safely explore and enjoy in the Beaver State. Here are some idea starters.

Getty Images/Craig Mitchelldyer

Visit Mount Hood National Forest

Towering 11,239 feet above sea level, the iconic peak provides a dramatic backdrop to the Portland area. Miles of trails are available for hiking, biking, horse back riding and ATV use.

Michael Foth - Townsquare Media

Search for Bigfoot

The Pacific Northwest is a Bigfoot hotspot, based upon alleged sightings. The Argus Observer ranked Oregon the #2 spot in the nation for sighting the elusive creature. Perhaps you'll be the person to finally get a clear photo during your visit?

Michael Foth - Townsquare Media

Go crabbing

That opportunity to catch fresh crabs straight out of the ocean is something that many land-locked Montanan's might enjoy. It's super easy and fun. You basically just toss the traps into the water, then sit back and wait while you take in the coastal views. Ideally, you'll be doing this while enjoying one of Oregon's fantastic microbrews or wines. Most beach towns in Oregon have convenient places to purchase fishing and crab licenses/permits and you can often rent gear at the same place. These shops will helpfully inform you about size limits and regulations.

Michael Foth - Townsquare Media

Take a whale watching tour

Up and down the coast you'll find opportunities to hop on guided boat tours where you can get offshore and - hopefully - see some Gray whales. Oregon State Parks say you can spot them anytime of year, but the best times are December to January and March to June, when as many as 25,000 of the massive creatures swim by on their migration. Summer and fall can bring them closer to shore. Don't forget the Dramamine if you're prone to motion sickness.

Michael Foth - Townsquare Media

Check out the lighthouses.

There are 11 lighthouses on the Oregon coast, some private and some open to the public, according to the Oregonian. I'm sure there are organized tours, but you can easily grab a map and discover them at your leisure.

Michael Foth - Townsquare Media

Explore a tiny coastal town

There a dozens of small towns and communities along the ocean where you can easily spend a day exploring art galleries, coffee shops and mom-n-pop restaurants. If fresh seafood is your thing, you'll be in the right place. You could start your drive at famous Cannon Beach and work your way south on the Pacific Coast Highway, hitting fun little spots like Newport, Coo's Bay, and Rockaway Beach along the way. Give yourself more time than you might think. Speed limits slow dramatically when passing through towns.

Michael Foth - Townsquare Media

Find solitude on a beach

I took this picture while enjoying a mid-morning cup of coffee. I think I saw maybe two other people on the beach. There is something incredibly peaceful about the windy, largely deserted coast. Don't plan on swimming much. Even in the middle of summer, daytime temps are cool and the water is freezing.

Photo by Kym Ellis on Unsplash

Tour Willamette Wine Country

If you dig wine, then you need to head to Willamette Valley. Tucked between the Oregon coast and the mountains of the Willamette National Forest, wine country begins just south of Portland and there are literally dozens of award winning, independent wineries you can visit. Consider taking a tour so you don't have to drive.

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Remember, Oregon's COVID-19 restrictions are probably still much different than Montana. Check ahead if you're concerned about attractions being open. Find out more at TravelOregon.com

Planning your summer vacation? 14 other places to visit with direct flights from Billings

While people in Montana may find it hard to travel anywhere from Billings because it usually requires flights with multiples stops, we found great opportunities just in the cities where Billings flies direct.