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Willamette Valley City Trip

Willamette Valley is known for its lush and pastoral beauty



Day 1 Day 2 Day 3
Where to Stay Where to Eat What to See & Do

WILLAMETTE VALLEY TOUR DAY 3: Silver Falls State Park, Oregon Garden and Brigittine Monastery

Prepare for today's road trip with a caffeine-fueled breakfast at Cornerstone Coffee Roasters; the strong java here will also serve to kick-start any brain cells still sleeping off yesterday's wine binge. You might also pick up a to-go box lunch at Harvest Fresh Grocery & Deli — complete with organically grown ingredients — although there are some charming lunch spots to discover farther afield.

Nature lovers will want to head east to Silver Falls State Park. Tucked into the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, this is Oregon's largest state park. There are more than 25 miles of trails, including the Canyon Trail, which winds through fragrant forests of Douglas fir and cedar, and past 10 stunning waterfalls — half of them more than 100 feet tall.

A gushing waterfall in Silver Falls State Park

If a hike seems too strenuous, drive the Silver Falls Tour Route. This 55-mile loop winds through the park, as well as through Mount Angel, a picturesque Bavarian village famous for its Oktoberfest celebration and the stately Mount Angel Abbey and Seminary built in 1883. Further down the road, stop in Silverton, a charming town known for its building murals and eclectic sofa races honoring hometown hero cartoonist, Homer Davenport. If you elected not to bring lunch, Gather is a pleasant place to stop for a wide range of sandwiches and brunch specials, including many vegetarian options.

The Bosque at the Oregon Garden

The Oregon Garden, south of Silverton, is a 240-acre bucolic amusement park especially appealing to gardeners. Stroll through 20 specialty gardens, a working tree farm and a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house. On the way back to McMinnville, detour to the Willamette Valley Vineyards for one final wine tasting. This impressive compound was founded in 1983 by Oregon native Jim Bernau, who sought to make a classic Pinot Noir. He succeeded magnificently at this goal, continuing on to become an influential leader in the sustainable wine movement.

History lovers will enjoy driving south from McMinnville on scenic Highway 99 to Albany, where they'll find Oregon's most varied collection of historic buildings. Tour the Monteith House Museum, built in 1849 and authentically restored as Albany's first frame structure. Don't miss stopping at Tyee Wine Cellars, a valley mainstay that has won awards for their salmon-safe viticulture practices.

Some of the delicious fudge made by the Brigittine Monastery monks in Amity, Oregon

On the drive back to McMinnville, detour to Amity. The monks at the Brigittine Monastery, in service since 1870, make heavenly chocolates. The free samples of truffles and fudge are a sweet accent for the day. And while you're in the neighborhood, why not visit one more winery? Amity Vineyards, founded in 1974, is considered one of Oregon's pioneer wineries.

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.

One more tip: Be sure to bring some wine home with you to share Oregon's winemaking magic with the rest of the world — each sip will remind you of this lovely, verdant valley.

by W. Gordon

Contine to Willamette Valley Attractions

* Hay bales courtesy of the Willamette Valley Visitors Association.

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