Seeing the beauty of Oregon takes time. This remarkable state has big cities and rural plains, vast forests and cold rivers. If you can bite off a weekend in any season, we have ideas for how you can start exploring this great state.
by Sheila G. Miller
Spring | Wine Country
The busiest time of year in Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine country is summer and fall, so the spring is a perfect time to visit. The Willamette Valley’s wineries are a beautiful piece of Oregon’s wonders and stretch from Chehalem in the north nearly to Eugene in the south. You could spend months trying to hit every winery in the region, but we’ve picked out a few of our favorites, plus plenty of other ways to entertain yourself while in the area.
If it’s a homebase in the middle of it all that you seek, stay at the Atticus Hotel in downtown McMinnville. The boutique hotel is walking distance from a variety of tasting rooms and has all the amenities you could dream of. If you’d prefer a luxe experience, The Allison Inn & Spa is a must. You won’t find nicer accommodations in the area, and you will have so many options on site you may not want to head into the hills for a tasting or two.
When you venture out, try a bubbles tasting at the modern Argyle Winery, or a flight of reds at Dobbes Family Winery, both in downtown Dundee. Or head away from the urban tasting rooms into the hills, where wineries with tiny tasting rooms appear around each corner. The views are tremendous, even if it’s a rainy day—some of our favorites are Colene Clemens Vineyards, Adelsheim and Penner Ash. Or go to Red Ridge Farms, home to both the Oregon Olive Mill and Durant Vineyards, which has a great view of Mount Hood.
If beer is more your thing, Wolves & People Farmhouse Brewery is the perfect mix of rustic charm and well-made beer.
Once you’ve had your fill of tasting, turn your attention to the fine restaurants of the area. Tina’s in Dundee is great for fine dining and an incomparable wine list. Thistle in McMinnville is the kind of place that epitomizes the term “farm to table.” Less than a mile away is Mac Market, an old warehouse transformed into a food, drink and community hall with food carts and vendors ready to offer all the bounty of the region.
SUMMER | Washington County
Washington County sometimes gets forgotten because of its proximity to nearby cosmopolitan Portland. But the second-most populous county, while serving as a bedroom community to Portland, has a lot to cheer about in its own right.
The busiest time of year in Oregon’s Willamette Valley wine country is summer and fall, so the spring is a perfect time to visit.
For starters, it’s an international foodie’s paradise. The county’s relative diversity means there are restaurant with cuisine ranging from Korean and Indian to Vietnamese and Salvadoran, with plenty of American tucked in as well. Try Chennai Masala in Hillsboro for an Indian buffet, or Du Kuh Bee and DJK Korean BBQ for noodles and tender meat. Gloria’s Secret Cafe in Beaverton makes legit pupusas and other Salvadoran fare (bring cash), and Best Baguette will surprise you with its banh mi. For the spice averse, Helvetia Tavern in Hillsboro is an old-school burger joint with a cult following.
Man cannot live on bread alone, and Washington County has plenty to keep you active between meals. The benefit of being slightly outside the big city means having plenty of biking and hiking opportunities—try LL Stub Stewart State Park in Buxton, which has 25 miles of trails and an 18-hole disc golf course. The area is known for wonderful road cycling as well, with the Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway and other loops. The area also has a variety of wetlands and nature preserves that allow you to get in touch with nature.
For those who prefer a chance to enjoy nature while also sipping wine, Washington County has you covered. Oregon’s wine country extends here and you’ll want to learn more about the new viticultural areas in the region. Try Apolloni Vineyards or Elk Cove Vineyards for a leisurely tasting with views.
Oregon really comes alive in the summer—Washington County has multiple wine and beer festivals in the summer months, including Drink Pink Rosé Festival at Patton Valley Vineyard in Gaston.
FALL | Eugene
When the leaves start falling, it can feel like it’s time to go back to school. Take that feeling to heart with a visit to Eugene, home of the University of Oregon. It’s a college town, yes, but it’s a lot more than that.
One of the best things about Eugene is its bike-friendly reputation, for good reason. Trails connect a great deal of the city (there are 46 miles of shared-use trails here) and people ride bikes year round.
If you find yourself on campus for a Ducks game, make sure to find time for a visit to the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. The museum’s permanent collection includes a variety of Asian art, as well as Russian icons, and will give you an extra dose of culture while back at college. You’ll also want to check out the revamped Hayward Field. This historic stadium was home to Oregon’s track-and-field program for almost a hundred years before a huge construction project that has helped it prepare for bigger international events. It is scheduled to be completed in spring 2020.
Fall in a college town means beer. Falling Sky Brewing House and Ninkasi Brewing both call Eugene home and are great places to stop for a tasting flight.
One of the best things about Eugene is its bike-friendly reputation, for good reason. Trails connect a great deal of the city (there are 46 miles of shared-use trails here) and people ride bikes year round. Bring your own on the train, use Eugene’s bikeshare program, called PeaceHealth Rides, or rent from one of a variety of bike shops in town.
Use your ride to check out some of the restaurants around town. Akira has tasty and fresh sushi, while Cornbread Cafe asks you to suspend your disbelief that vegan food can also be comfort food (it can!). Lion and Owl serves up a righteous brunch, while Provisions Market Hall has a variety of restaurants housed in one marché, and Party Downtown is the new hotspot on the weekends.
Finish your trip with a hike up Mount Pisgah for peace and comely views.
WINTER | Portland
While many think of rain when they think of winter in Portland, it’s actually the perfect time to visit Oregon’s largest city. What it may lack in hospitable weather it makes up for in the many cultural activities and events that are on hand. The bulk of those take place indoors, so you’ll be able to stay warm and dry while enjoying all the city has to offer.
The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, sitting along the Willamette River, has everything from a decommissioned submarine and brain teasers to a children’s water play area and constantly changing exhibits that the entire family will love. For some history, check out Pittock Mansion, a home hidden up in the West Hills that was the home of Oregonian publisher Henry Pittock in the early 1900s, and which has been lovingly restored to its full glory. Don’t forget a trip to Powell’s City of Books, where you can luxuriate in a city block full of the written word. Powell’s has signings, readings and other events all year round.
If you want to brave the possibly inclement weather or you get a mild day, visit Washington Park on the city’s southwest side. The huge park houses the Oregon Zoo, the Portland Japanese Garden and the International Rose Test Garden, as well as Hoyt Arboretum and other outdoor wonders. Solitude can also come in the form of a hike or run in Forest Park, the city’s muddy playground.
As you probably know, Portland has quickly become a hip place for fancy food, delicious drinks and swanky stays. There’s no way to visit all the culinary hotspots in one weekend, but it’s worth a shot. Try some of the city’s longtime favorites—Russian stick-to-your-ribs meals at Kachka, giant sandwiches at Lardo, charcuterie to rival them all at Olympia Provisions. Ataula, with its creative Spanish dishes, is one of the top reservations in town, and people snap up Departure’s famous Peking duck.
Portland’s famous breweries (and increasingly, its distilleries) are another great way to spend a rainy day. Swing over to Distillery Row to try some spirits, or check out some of Portland’s lesser-known breweries—Breakside is a hometown favorite, San Diego’s Modern Times just opened an Oregon outpost, and Ecliptic and Ex Novo are both trying to make new great beer—and succeeding.
Plan your trip
EAT STAY PLAY
Du Kuh Bee (on Yelp)
DJK Korean BBQ (on Yelp)
Gloria’s Secret Cafe (on Facebook)
Helvetia Tavern (on Facebook)
Akira (on Yelp)