Which Willamette Valley sites are not-to-miss or off the beaten path?

Glad to hear you’ll be visiting the Willamette Valley! An early welcome to you. Wineries, historic sites, scenic spots, good food, and off the beaten path experiences–those are some of my favorite things too and you’ll definitely find them here! Here are some of my favorites:


  • Here are seven wineries that are known for having gorgeous views.
  • There were four Willamette Valley wineries that made Wine Spectator’s top 100 list this year: Evening Land, Big Table Farm, Bergstrom, and Solena Estate
  • A few others that are personal favorites of mine: Brooks Winery in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA of the Willamette Valley–great wines, beautiful views, and a gorgeous but relaxed tasting room that makes you want to linger there all day; Brick House Vineyards, a small producer that’s open by appointment only. When you get an appointment, it’s a private tasting around the “tasting table” in their winery, which is a beautiful old converted horse barn right next to the vineyard.

Historic Sites:

  • Thompson Mills State Heritage Site, Shedd: A real, working flour mill from pioneer days that’s been turned into a state park.
  • Oregon State Capitol, Salem: The capitol building in downtown Salem is fun to visit, especially if you hike all the way to the observation deck at the top, right beneath the “Golden Pioneer” statue
  • Evergreen Aviation Museum, McMinnville: If you like aircraft or the history of flight even a little bit, this is a fun museum. It’s the home of Howard Hughes’ famous “Spruce Goose,” which still to this day has the largest wingspan of any aircraft ever built.
  • Aurora Colony, Aurora: In the 1850s, a group of German and Swiss immigrants crossed the Oregon Trail and built a commune; today, it’s preserved a historic site full of beautiful old buildings built by German craftsmen.
  • End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, Oregon City: The Willamette Valley was the “promised land” at the end of the Oregon Trail; this historic site is devoted to telling the pioneer story.


Off-the-eaten-path experiences:

  • Farm Loops–drive a farm loop and you can take a cooking class in a converted cattle barn, stop and pick your own berries, meet an alpaca, or get up close and personal with a herd of elk.
  • Albany Historic Carousel Carving Studio–watch woodcarvers bring wooden carousel animals to life before your eyes! Hundreds of volunteers have devoted thousands of hours to hand-carving and hand-painting 52 truly stunning wooden carousel animals to re-populate a historic carousel. I love visiting the carving studio and watching the artists create lions, unicorns, horses, dragons and more.
  • Cascade Raptor Center–visit a rescue facility for wild birds and you’ll see eagles, owls, falcons and more
  • Wine-tasting or Beer-tasting via the Willamette River — Book a trip with Cascadia Expeditions and you’ll get to go for a lovely guided raft, canoe, or kayak trip down the Willamette River with stops for local beer or wine.
  • Unusual overnighters–Spend the night in a vintage trailer, or a grain silo, or a tipi, or sleep in a treetop–there are several off-the-beaten-path places to stay overnight.
  • Camp Dakota–Ride a zipline, throw a tomahawk, do a high-ropes challenge course–you can find all kinds of adventurous fun at Camp Dakota.