Best Things to Do
Begin your valley tour by exploring McMinnville, a mid-sized town in the northern valley. Start the day at McMenamins Hotel Oregon's art-filled pub for homemade biscuits with gravy.
For lunch, duck into the Community Plate for homemade sandwiches and Stumptown coffee served in an attractive, wood-filled space, or check out Sage Restaurant for steaming bowls of homemade soup.
Dinner awaits you at one of McMinnville's outstanding restaurants celebrating the sustainable agriculture movement. The menu at the elegant and lively La Rambla features a vast array of Spanish tapas prepared from regional ingredients, or you may order their huge platter of paella. Another option: The Bistro Maison specializes in authentic French bistro fare such as steak au poivre or coq au vin. Thistle is another spot to make foodies salivate. Its small menu focuses on what's freshest and what's local — and it doesn't get more Pacific Northwest than elk, winter squash, kale and huckleberry.
Since the area is focused on the rural sensibility of "early-to-bed, early-to-rise," nightlife is nearly non-existent in the valley. However, there are a few spots with occasional live music, such as The Rooftop Bar at Hotel Oregon.
Other recommendations outside McMinnville include Dundee Bistro, a beautiful, light-filled spot that further defines Willamette Valley cuisine with entrées such as beer battered cod and beef ribeye. Or try the The Painted Lady in Newberg; its charming Victorian digs hide the innovative modern cuisine prepared inside.
While on the road, pick up a to-go box lunch at Harvest Fresh Grocery & Deli — complete with organically grown ingredients. Gather is a pleasant place to stop for a wide range of sandwiches and brunch specials, including many vegetarian options.
Back in McMinnville, end your visit to the Willamette Valley with a celebratory dinner at Nick's Italian Café, acclaimed since 1977 as the area's flagship restaurant. Nick's embodies the valley's convivial attitude by offering excellent Italian fare and the best wine Oregon has to offer — it's a gathering place for winemakers and wine lovers alike.