Lebanon is a great little town that has undergone some big changes in the last decade; it’s gone from being mostly dependent on the timber industry to being the home of a small medical school and regional health care facilities — the growth due to this new development has brought some great amenities to the town. Here are my top picks for Lebanon and the surrounding area.
- Cheadle Lake: This is a 100-acre lake and park surrounded by trails, home to lots of geese and ducks and turtles. It’s a great place to go for a walk or a run, and lots of fishermen and kayakers use it too. Only small electric-motored boats are allowed, no jet skis or other high-powered boats. Last weekend my husband and I took our canoe out to Cheadle Lake paddled around at sunset; it was absolutely beautiful and we saw a family of geese and their goslings swimming together.
- Japanese Garden at Boulder Falls Inn: This Japanese-inspired garden is adjacent to the Boulder Falls Inn in Lebanon, but you don’t have to be a guest there to visit the garden. It’s small (about 1 acre), but absolutely gorgeous, and is open year-round. It was designed by Hoichi Kurisu, the same internationally-known designer behind Portland’s Japanese Garden.
- Restaurants: Lebanon is a small town but has several restaurants I’d highly recommend:
- 1847: This is adjacent to the Japanese garden; you can eat there and look out at the pond and flowers. Northwest cuisine with an extensive Oregon wine list. 1847 recently won awards from Open Table and was named to the Oregon Wine A-List for its food and wine.
- Kris’ Kitchen: A little family-owned bakery on Main Street with amazing made-from-scratch breads, cinnamon rolls and pie. You won’t find any fancy lattes here, but if you want to sit down with a mug of hot coffee and a mouthwatering homemade treat, this is the place to do it.
- Growler Cafe: This is a delicious little downtown cafe with tons of craft beer on tap. Their seating area is on the small side, but the food (extremely tasty sandwiches and pub food) is top-notch, and the folks who work there know their craft beer and have a good variety on top.
- Conversion Brewing: Just opened recently — Lebanon’s very first brewery! Family-friendly, with wood-fired pizza and high-quality craft beer. When I went, I tried the beer sampler and didn’t find one that I didn’t like.
- Victorian Chocolate Company: This tiny, bright-purple spot doesn’t look like much from the outside, but go on in and you’ll find dozens of varieties of delicious hand-made chocolates from the extremely friendly master chocolatier who runs the place. Absolutely worth a stop.
- McDowell Creek Falls: One of my favorite hikes in the area. Three miles of trails take you to two different waterfalls. It’s in the hills just a few miles outside of Lebanon. Bring your camera — lots of great photo opportunities on this hike.
- Marks Ridge Winery: If you do the hike at McDowell Creek, reward yourself with wine-tasting at Marks Ridge! It’s a small winery up in the hills just a few miles past McDowell Creek Park. It’s normally open only on weekends, but if you know in advance when you’re coming they are happy to make appointments for other days. The views from here are incredible, and they have live music on summer weekends.
- Day trip to Brownsville: About 15 minutes from Lebanon is one of the cutest little towns in the Willamette Valley: Brownsville, Oregon. It’s got less than 2,000 people and a charming, walkable downtown. It’s famous for being the filming location for the 1986 classic “Stand By Me” with Wil Wheaton, Jerry O’Connell, River Phoenix and Corey Feldman. If you happen to be there this July, they’re celebrating the 30th anniversary of the movie!
- Foster and Green Peter Reservoirs: If you like water sports and swimming and you’re here in the summer, visit Foster and Green Peter Reservoirs. Formed by dams that generate hydro-electric power, these lakes are also great for boating and water-skiing, and there’s a county park on the shore with a nice swimming area for families. (You can rent a boat for the day at the lakeside marina).
- Downtown Albany: About 15 miles west of Lebanon is Albany, which has a beautiful historic downtown. I’d highly recommend a visit to the Historic Carousel Carving Studio & Museum, where you can watch volunteer wood-carvers create beautiful carousel animals right before your eyes. There are a number of great restaurants in downtown Albany, but my favorite is Sybaris Bistro. They’re only open for dinners Tuesday-Saturday, plus a Saturday brunch, but if you can make time to eat there you won’t be disappointed. The chef, Matt Bennett, is incredibly creative, and the food is new and delicious every single time.
One more thing: here’s a nice map put out by the city of Lebanon that shows all the city’s parks and trails, plus lists annual community events.