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Willamette Valley Tour
Exploring Central Oregon & the I-5 Corridor
The Willamette Valley is made up of the cities and towns surrounding the winding path of the Willamette River. The riverfront if often the centerpiece of the cities in the valley and offers an abundance of recreational activities as well as lush green forests. Wineries dot the fertile landscape and make up a rich culture of comfort and beauty. The Willamette Valley is also home to Oregon’s capitol and center of legislature, Salem.
The city of Forest Grove is the perfect place to enjoy the full Oregon Wine Country experience. Located thirty minutes outside Portland, it features the most wineries in the Portland metro area.
Wine Tastings: Many of the town’s wineries are family-owned and their more intimate nature makes it easier for you to meet the winemaker. For a unique experience, visit the only American-owned sake brewery in the U.S.A. and discover the exotic tastes and art of brewing sake.
Tree to Tree Adventure Park: Treat yourself to a one-of-a-kind experience in this playground of the trees, including aerial ropes courses, zip lines and tree-top obstacles. Enjoy three hours of fun in the trees any day between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Reservations are required. Call (503) 357-0109. Adults: $45, includes all 4 levels, maximum three hours; Lower/kid’s course: $25, maximum 2 hours. 2975 SW Nelson Rd, Gaston, OR.
As you drive on to McMinnville, you will pass through hundreds of acres of premium wine grapes and scores of small wineries that process more than 100,000 gallons of Vinifera wines into thousands of gallons of premium fruit and berry wines.
Evergreen Aviation Space Museum: One of the main attractions at the museum is the original Spruce Goose, the largest airplane ever constructed. Built entirely of wood, this massive airplane stands as a symbol of American industry during World War II.
The museum also offers interactive exhibits to learn more about aviation, from the educational water park to the IMAX Theater where you will feel like copilot. The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (503) 434-4185.
Valley Yields 300 Wineries: To plan a self-guided tour, pick up the handy map at the Washington Visitors’ Association, 5075 SW Griffith Drive, Suite 120, Beaverton. The locations of these wineries and vineyards range from Beaverton and Newberg to Hillsboro, McMinnville, and Forest Grove. Also ask for a copy of the annual Things to See and Do, containing detailed maps for visiting vineyards throughout the state.
Visit Dallas for a hometown feeling and join the locals to browse and purchase fresh fruits, vegetables and snacks at the local Farmers’ Market.
Continuing south toward the state capital, you will find Newberg nestled away among the many wineries. At the center of town is George Fox University which is surrounded by university housing.
The Four Graces Winery: Located just 1.5 miles south of Newberg, the 110-acre Black Family Vineyard is situated in the Red Hills of Dundee. Named in honor of the family’s four daughters, it offers great tasting hand-crafted pinots that are made in small lots. Tasting hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (503) 554-8000.
Red Ridge Farms: Just outside Newberg, Red Ridge Farms is worth the short drive to Dayton. The picturesque farms include a nursery, gift shop, and of course, wine. Oregon Olive Mill is also located there and serves as the largest commercial olive operation in the Pacific Northwest. Harvested in mid-late November, 13,000 olive trees grow over 17 acres of land in the Dundee Hills.
Tours and tasting are offered Tuesday through Sunday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. and available by appointment by calling (503) 864-8502. Basic tasting starts at $15/person with more in-depth tasting including food pairing available for $25/person.
Stop by Salem to walk through the stunning grounds of the state capitol. From the capitol dome, you can view the entire city, as well as the valley where the Calapooya Indians once lived. Salem is the epicenter for Oregon legislature and is chock full of fascinating state history. Salem is a great option for winter travelers as it boasts a variety of indoor entertainment.
Oregon State Capitol: Several tour options are available at the Oregon State Capitol building from a historical building tour to virtual tours. Tours can be scheduled by calling (503) 986-1388.
Exciting exhibits are also available including the Art of the Time – Art of the People exhibit, which features over 150 Oregon artists. Children may also enjoy the Oregon Rock & Mineral Exhibit.
Thomas Kay Woolen Mill: This restored mill, which was in operation from 1889 to 1962, now contains the Marion County Historical Society collections. Visitors can witness the process of changing fleece into fabric, join in a tour of the woolen mill and historical houses at the village, and browse historical memorabilia at the gift shop. The mill is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Oregon State Hospital Museum: You may think that museums are boring, and the prospect of a “Hospital Museum” may send you into a bout of sarcastic snores. But, this time, you’d be wrong. The Oregon State Hospital Museum tells the story of 120+ years of mental health history. This haunting campus was even the site for the filming of the acclaimed “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.”
Breweries & Wineries: The Willamette Valley’s fertile hills are home to a great many local wineries and microbreweries. Among the most notable are Gilgamesh Brewing, Raen Brew, McMenamins Boon’s Treasury, and Ram Restaurant & Brewery.
Local vineyards include Bethel Heights, Cubanisimo, and Bryn Mawr. No matter your taste, Salem is a great place to wet your whistle and sample excellent pub fare.
Salem Riverfront Park: This naturally beautiful venue is a hot spot for local events. Whether you’re in the mood for concert or local festival, or even just a lovely stroll along the picturesque Willamette River, The Riverfront Park can deliver. If you’re looking for a photo (that’s NOT just in front of the state capitol), take a walk down this hometown favorite.
Silver Creek Falls State Park: From Salem, consider making a detour from Interstate 5 east to Silver Falls State Park. Located in the beautiful foothills of the Cascades Mountains, it features 14 waterfalls that you will not want to miss.
The city of Corvallis, located near the campus of Oregon State University, contains many outdoor sightseeing spots, including Irish Bend Bridge, Avery Park & Rose Gardens, and Greengable Gardens. For additional information about the area, contact the Corvallis Visitor Information Center, 553 NW Harrison Boulevard (800) 334-8118.
Oregon State University: The home of the Beavers and one of Oregon’s largest state schools. Oregon State University is a school with nearly 150 years of history. Beautiful buildings are shrouded by large trees and surrounded by a charming and active college town.
Not to be outdone by The Ducks of the University of Oregon, the student body supports their academics and OSU Beavers sports programs with pride and enthusiasm. Take a day and soak in the youthful energy of this bustling city.
Found just south of Salem, also along the I-5 Corridor, you'll find Albany. Dubbed the Rare Metals Capital, this historic town yields plenty of recreation.
Montieth House: The nationally registered Monteith House is said to be the most authentically restored Pioneer Era homes in Oregon. Take a trip into the past and live as the early settlers did in this elegant and important Albany landmark.
Brass Ring Carousel Project: You’ve probably never wondered how the carousel animals are made, but after you’ve taken a tour of this studio, you’ll never see a fair the same. This unique experience is a great idea for children, as they are sometimes asked to help “test” the carved animals. Add a touch of fantasy to your children’s trip by calling ahead to visit this truly unique facility.
Willamette Valley Bikeway: This adventure is everything you could possibly want. The 127 miles of scenic biking gives you a unique view of cities like Salem, Lebanon, and Albany – and everything between them. With the coastal forests on one side and the mighty Cascades on the other, you’ll never find yourself counting lines in the ground or leaves in the trees.
Breathtaking vistas and rolling hills make this scenic bikeway a popular destination for travelers who like to pack light. With Best Western hotels dotting the valley, you can roll right in and out of each city, enjoying a comfortable bed at night and a hearty breakfast in the morning.
The lively Eugene is the second largest city in Oregon and home to the University of Oregon. With Eugene’s slogan being “A Great City for the Arts & Outdoors” it is no wonder that it is best known for its natural beauty as well as the many outdoor activities it offers, such as bicycling, rafting and kayaking.
Hayward Field: The University of Oregon is the alma mater of Nike founder, Phil Knight. Since the launch of Nike, he has been a supremely generous contributor to the Duck’s sports programs. Hayward Field is the state-of-the-art track and field facility that Phil Knight envisioned for the school. It was even the venue for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Trials. Some of the greatest athletes in modern history performed in those walls.
University of Oregon: If you are passing through the Eugene area during September or October, a walking tour of the University of Oregon campus is worth the stop. Not only is the campus beautiful this time of year, but visitors will also enjoy the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, as well as both the Dead and Villard halls, which have been designated as National Historic Landmarks.
Hendricks Park: Located at Summit and Skyline Drive, Hendricks Park is Eugene’s oldest city park. It boasts 70 acres of wildlife, including fir trees, ferns and wildflowers. However, it is best known for its world-renowned rhododendron garden, which includes 6,000 varieties of flowers.
Euphoria Chocolate Company: Chocolate lovers will be in heaven the moment they step foot in the Euphoria Chocolate Company, located at 6 West 17th Street, just off Willamette Street. Whether you are a fan of light or dark chocolate, there is a truffle calling your name. Fillings such as amaretto, peppermint schnapps, toasted almond, or Grand Marnier are sure to satisfy any sweet tooth (541) 343-9223.
Just to the west of Eugene, right across Interstate 5, lies the city of Springfield.
McKenzie Pass Scenic Drive: Head about 70 miles past Eugene by continuing east from Springfield via Highway 126 to access the McKenzie Pass Scenic Drive. After driving through the tiny communities of Vida, Blue River, and McKenzie Bridge, each hugs the banks of the McKenzie River. Turn onto Highway 242, just east of the McKenzie Ranger Station, for one of the best displays of fall colors in the region.
King Estate Winery: When staying in Springfield, you may want to take a trip back to Eugene to experience one of the best wineries in the area. King Estate Winery grows and produces exceptional Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and some Chardonnay using organic and sustainable farming methods.
The Restaurant & Wine Bar features wine tasting and winery tours of their 470 acres of organic vineyards, plus 30 acres of fruits, vegetables and flowers. Call (541) 685- 5189 to schedule a tour.
Continuing south on I-5 from the Eugene-Springfield area, exit at Cottage Grove and stop at the Forest Service ranger station to pick up maps and information about covered bridges and historic mining areas. There are also six area wineries in the area that provide a great taste of local wine and food.
Covered Bridges: Cottage Grove is known as the “Covered Bridge Capital of Oregon.” Take a couple hours to drive the 20 miles between the seven bridges.
Start at Currin Bridge, a covered bridge built in 1925 over Row River and make your way to view others like Office Bridge, the longest covered bridge in the state, spanning 180 feet across the north fork of Middle Fork of the Willamette River.