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Vacation Willamette Valley

Weekend Getaway

Wandering the Willamette Valley
Oregon's Idyllic Destination for Wine and Food Lovers

Dundee is a true pastoral paradise
Hay bales near Dundee


Silver Creek Falls in the Willamette Valley is a popular tourist destination
Silver Creek Falls

The Willamette Valley is filled with surprises! Prepare for the day'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 that are still sleeping off yesterday's wine binge. You may also pick up a box lunch to go at Harvest Fresh Grocery & Deli, though there are many charming lunch spots to discover farther afield. No matter which direction you drive, the valley will provide historical riches, natural wonders, and breathtaking vistas — and plenty more wine tasting opportunities.

Nature lovers should head east to Silver Falls State Park, Oregon's largest state park, tucked in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. There are more than 25 miles of trails, including the Canyon Trail: it winds through forests of Douglas fir and cedar and past ten stunning waterfalls — half of them more than 100 feet tall.

If a hike seems too strenuous, drive the Silver Falls Tour Route, which is a 55-mile loop that winds through the park as well as Mt. Angel, a picturesque Bavarian village famous for its Oktoberfest celebration and the stately Mt. 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. Enjoy a classic road-trip lunch at the Home Place Restaurant before heading south to the Oregon Garden, a 240-acre bucolic amusement park for gardeners. Stroll through 20 specialty gardens, a working tree farm, and a Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house. The garden also offers tram rides. 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 at that goal and moreover, has become an influential leader in the sustainable wine movement.

The Bosque at Oregon Garden in the Willamette Valley is a great spot to bring the kids!
The Bosque at Oregon Garden

History lovers will enjoy driving south from McMinnville on scenic Highway 99 to Albany, home of Oregon's most varied collection of historic buildings ranging from the 1840s through the 1920s. Tour the Monteith House Museum, built in 1849, and authentically restored as Albany's first frame structure. Continue on to Corvallis, the heart of the valley, for a look around Oregon State University. OSU is one of the few U.S. colleges to offer aspiring winemakers a Bachelor of Science degree in viticulture and enology. Stop at Tyee Wine Cellars, a valley mainstay that has won awards for their salmon-safe viticulture practices — you can thank them for "saving" the fish you just ate for lunch. On the way back to McMinnville, take a detour to Amity. The monks at the Brigittine Monastery, in service since 1870, make heavenly chocolates. The free samples of truffles and fudge are worth the stop. 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.

Try a number of delicious wines at the Tyee Wine Cellars
Tyee Wine Cellars

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. Chef Nick Peirano, a founding director of McMinnville's International Pinot Noir Celebration, shows his inventiveness and skill with his fixed-price five-course dinner menu. Enjoy Italian dishes prepared from regional ingredients, not to mention Nick's hand-made pasta, and make a toast to the valley and its people.

Don't forget to bring some wine home with you to share the magic with the rest of the world — each sip will remind you of this lovely verdant valley

For more information, visit the Willamette Valley Visitors Association,, or call them at 866-548-5018.


Sokol Blosser Winery

* Hay bales courtesy of the Willamette Valley Visitors Association. Tyee Wine Cellars © Andrea Johnson Photography.

(Updated: 07/17/13 CT)

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