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Willamette Valley City Trip

The Willamette Valley is one of the most beautiful destinations in Oregon

72 Hours in Willamette Valley

by W. Gordon

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Located less than an hour from Portland, Oregon, the Willamette Valley beckons with its lush, pastoral beauty. This 110-mile expanse, stretching south to Eugene, nestles between two mountain ranges: the low, thickly wooded Coast Range that stands to the west and the lofty peaks of the Cascade Range to the east. The protective cradle formed by these mountain ranges provides the distinctive temperate, climate and rich soil that defines the Willamette Valley, where vineyards thrive and hundreds of wineries make a living. From boutique producers to world-renowned Pinot Noir growers, the Willamette Valley is a slice of heaven for anyone with a thirst for the grape.

View of the Willamette Valley at sunset


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 or a fluffy omelet, then stop by the McMinnville Downtown Association for a printed walking map that identifies the significance of the Historical District's Third Street buildings. From there, spend the morning poking around McMinnville's many delightful shops and galleries. And if the season is right, the McMinnville Farmers Market may be in full swing, offering a chance to witness the valley's harvest and letting you rub shoulders with area chefs stocking their kitchens for the night.

The Willamette Valley is one of the most beautiful destinations in Oregon

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 and hearty sandwiches. A visit to Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum will have you gazing in wonder at Howard Hughes' immense Spruce Goose, a "flying boat" with a wingspan wider than a football field. The museum also offers a variety of aviation displays, along with a separate museum devoted to space exploration, plus an IMAX theater and a wine tasting room featuring Evergreen Vineyards' own Spruce Goose Wine.

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, including the Hotel Oregon and Scotte's Imbibery, a friendly, although sometimes rowdy, bar on the north side of town off Highway 99.

Continue to Day 2

* Willamette Valley image courtesy of the Willamette Valley Visitors Association.


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