Editor’s note: Ask Oregon is a program that allows visitors to connect with local Oregon experts about traveling throughout the state. We’d like to introduce you to our expert on the Willamette Valley, Janel Bennett.

What’s your favorite thing about living in Oregon?
My favorite thing about living in Oregon is that there is something for everyone. The possibilities are endless. Sometimes I would like to be out in the wilderness and smell the trees or the ocean. Other times, I prefer to smell coffee and brioche and enjoy the sounds of the city. I am an hour from any type of experience I would like to have.

What’s your favorite way to enjoy Oregon?
I have two ways that I go about my Oregon adventures. One is to research an area before I go. I find information about activities, restaurants, points of interest and history of the area. The other way is to pick out a town that we know almost nothing about and spend the day talking to the locals and seek out the places that they love in their town. A person can really have two completely different trips to the same place this way. I have found that my daughters really enjoy the “play it by ear” approach.  We took a trip to Brownsville and the locals sent us to the Living Rock Studios, Linn County Historical Museum, the Moyer Home Museum and Pioneer Park.  The locals are proud of their towns and will give you good guidance on what not to miss.  And who knows, you just might make a new friend along the way.

What’s the one tip you always give to visitors?
Be flexible and spontaneous. If the opportunity to see something comes up that wasn’t on your list of things to do, go for it! If it sounds fun, it probably is.  Once, on our way back from Bend to Albany, we heard that the Santiam Pass was open.  We had never driven it before and thought, “Why not?”.  Our family saw old growth forests, lava beds, mountains, rivers and the incredible Dee Wright Observatory.  It is possibly the most amazing stretch of road in the U.S. and we would have missed it if we had taken the shorter way home.

Describe your perfect Oregon vacation.
Gathering up the husband and kids and getting on the road. We like to try new restaurants and check out what our state has to offer and enjoy tying in Oregon history along the way.  We’ll read about different events in Oregon history and then take a field trip to the area it took place.  Once we drove to Fort Yamhill State Heritage Park and learned about the lives of Native Americans, Oregon settlers and the military during the 1850s.  Later, we visited near the sight again to attend the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Pow Wow.  I highly recommend attending the Pow Wow and would suggest that you are there to witness the Grand Entry.  Make sure you bring your camera.

I am happy as I can be at the beach, mountains, desert or city with my family in tow. As long as they are not fighting in the back seat.

Have a question for Janel? Ask her in the comments below, or visit our Ask Oregon page to send her an email.

Curious about our other experts? Meet our other Ask Oregon ambassadors.

About the Author: Emily Forsha

Emily Forsha is Travel Oregon’s content editor and a runner, hiker and biker of many Oregon trails. When she’s not road tripping around the state with her husband and two little boys, this proud native Oregonian is cooking up new recipes in her kitchen, sampling the latest craft brews and cheering on her beloved Oregon Ducks.

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These maps and directions are for planning purposes only. You may find that construction projects, traffic, or other events may cause road conditions to differ from the map results. For travel options, weather and road conditions, visit tripcheck.com, call 511 (in Oregon only), 800.977.6368 or 503.588.2941.

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