The Willamette Valley may be known for wine, but it’s so much more. Thanks to the Willamette Valley Visitors Association, we explored Oregon Wine Country outside the vineyards. See what happens when you send five women (Emma, Kate, Jenn, Marissa, Ashley and me, Adria) on a girlfriends’ getaway in the valley. Get ready for glamping, hiking, a hot air balloon ride and, yes, some world-class wine too.
4 p.m. – Check into The Vintages Trailer Resort
After a 3.5-hour drive from Seattle or 50-minute drive from Portland, we checked into The Vintages Trailer Resort in Dayton. We immediately noticed that this isn’t your typical trailer park. The lobby is more of a posh convenience store, with local Oregon wine, snacks and s’more kits lining the walls.
Keys in hand, we drove up a tree-lined street dotted with restored vintage trailers. It’s not uncommon to see people lounging in Adirondack chairs outside their trailer, laughing over wine while waiting for the food on their grill to be done; others may be casually riding by on the two vintage bikes that come with each trailer.
We were hard-pressed not to squeal a bit when walking into the trailer. Each one is uniquely designed with stylish vintage decor, but all of them have memory foam mattresses, air conditioning, a heater, kitchenette, TV and pour-over coffee from nearby Caravan Coffee, which will make even the most elite coffee drinkers happy.
Each trailer also has a snug bathroom with a toilet and shower, but there are also bathrooms at the pool house. Besides a pool, there is also a cozy fire pit next to the pool house which is perfect for s’more making with a glass of wine in hand.
7:00 p.m. – Dinner at Pura Vida
Ten minutes away from The Vintage Trailer Resort is downtown McMinnville. It’s relatively small, but the charming main street has cute shops, restaurants and winery tasting rooms.
Pura Vida is a favorite among locals. It’s a casual dining spot that could moonlight as an art gallery. Colorful paintings and sculptures from local artists line the white walls, creating a vibrant backdrop for a casual atmosphere buzzing with lively conversations.
The menu features local ingredients transformed into authentic Latin American cuisine. I recommend getting the arepas. These hand-pressed corn cakes are bursting with flavor and are topped with an addictive onion relish.
6:00 a.m. – Hot air balloon ride with Vista Balloon Adventures
I can’t think of a more memorable way to kick off a girlfriends’ getaway than with a view of Willamette Valley from the sky. Vista Balloon Adventures offers hot air balloon rides that launch about 10 minutes away from The Vintages.
After checking out of The Vintages, we headed to the launch site to enjoy coffee and watch the magnificent balloons inflate before our very eyes. You can also help inflate the balloons if you’re feeling up to the task.
I’ve taken a hot air balloon ride before and can tell you that Vista Balloon Adventures know what they’re doing. They had the balloons up and ready to ride in less than 45 minutes. (Not to bring up old wounds, but in the past I waited more than two hours in the blistering cold before being able to go up on my past hot air balloon adventure.)
We rode in the air for about an hour, with plenty of time to take in the views. Everyone in the basket was silent as the balloon gently glided through the air. The only interruption was the short blast of fire that helps the pilot navigate toward the landing spot.
If you haven’t been on a hot air balloon ride before, Kate from All Things Kate answered 21 questions about riding a hot air balloon on her blog. Emma from Emma’s Edition also shared seven surprises about hot balloon rides.
After we landed, we helped the crew roll up the hot air balloon. I remember laughing and laughing as we scrambled to control the free-flowing balloon. I highly recommend getting in on the action because most people will never see a hot air balloon up close, let alone touch it.
When the balloons were all packed up, Vista Balloon Adventures drove us back to the launch site and served a substantial brunch. We grabbed our food, shared a champagne toast and heard more about how Vista Balloon Adventures got started.
11:00 a.m. – Lunch from Red Hills Market
At first it wasn’t easy to think about food after the brunch we had, but we were soon very glad that we stopped at Red Hills Market to grab some lunch to go. It’s a cafe and convenience store that serves baked goods, breakfast and sandwiches. We found carefully-curated products from local artisans lining the shelves. They also have wood-fired pizza served out back on the weekends.
Red Hills Market has a few lofts you can stay in above the cafe. They remind me of the lofts you might find in an uber-cool metropolitan city with a slightly industrial vibe. You can read more about the lofts in my roundup of unique hotels in Oregon.
We grabbed sandwiches and artisan goodies for a picnic. And we might have purchased some gifts too. After all, this is the perfect stop for grabbing some local Oregon goodies.
12:30 p.m. – Hike Silver Falls State Park
This trail is beginner-moderate and weaves past two different waterfalls. There are a few steep parts, but they mostly include stairs.
My favorite of the two waterfalls is the Lower South Falls because you can go behind the waterfall through shallow caves. This allows for a lot of different vantage points for capturing that perfect photo.
3:00 p.m. – Check into Tipi Village Retreat
We had time to relax on the 1.5-hour drive from Silver Falls State Park to our next destination, Tipi Village Retreat, and took a fun self-guided tour of covered bridges. Oregon has the most covered bridges out of any western state, so it makes a fun photo opportunity.
Thirty minutes northeast of Eugene is Tipi Village Retreat. Owners Ken Froebig and Janet Becker transformed their secluded property into the ultimate glamping destination. Fern-lined paths weave through the forest and lead to giant teepees. Each tent is built on top of a cement patio and features a comfortable bed and simple, chic furnishings.
All the paths lead to the heart of the property around Ken and Janet’s home. There is a serious outdoor kitchen stocked with a pizza oven, grill, sink and ample counter space. There is also a fire pit and grassy knoll overlooking the creek that meanders along the property line.
This is the main area where hearty breakfasts are served. It also has the shared bathrooms, outfitted with all the toiletries and towels you may need. There is also a loft and garden cottage available for those who would prefer a little more creature comforts.
6:30 p.m. – Dinner at George + Violet Steakhouse
Next to Eugene is Springfield, the town that inspired “The Simpsons.” But that’s not its only claim to fame. Along Main Street we found an incredible restaurant called George + Violet. It’s inspired by the classic American steakhouse, but there’s nothing overly fancy or stuffy about this place.
They transformed an old dive bar into a space that looks like where the chicest of grandmothers would live. There is floral wallpaper, marble bistro tables, enviable vintage light fixtures and cool portraits.
Make sure to get one of their steaks served with your choice of fancy butters. The rib-eye steak was one of the juiciest steaks I’ve had to date.
8:30 p.m. – Get a Drink at PublicHouse
Right across the street from George + Violet is PublicHouse. This place is cool. It’s an old church complex that has been restored into the ultimate hangout spot.
The main cathedral was transformed into a beer hall. The stained glass windows beckon toward a grand bar serving mostly local beers, wine and cider. Turn around and see the upper level that once housed additional pews, now full of additional tables.
We stepped out toward the main courtyard to discover a small food hall with different street food options. Through the door is the outdoor beer garden and the path toward the whiskey lab, which has a darker, moodier vibe than the rest of the space.
On the other side of the food hall area was an AstroTurf beer garden set up for outdoor concerts. If you’re lucky when you visit, a band might be playing.
No matter the beverage of choice, this is the perfect place to unwind after a long day of outdoor adventures.
9:00 a.m. – Hike Spencer Butte
Spencer Butte is an 1.7-mile hike that can get popular on the weekends. While short, it’s quite steep the last 1/4 mile up to the summit. But once there, we were rewarded with unobstructed 360-degree views of Eugene and the surround areas.
11:00 a.m. – Eugene Farmers Market
If you’re traveling between April and November, head to the Saturday Farmers Market and neighboring Eugene Saturday Market in downtown Eugene. You’ll find more than 100 vendors organized into sections: produce, crafts, and food stalls. Also a short walk away at Kesey Square, Voodoo Doughnut Tres is the third location of the famed Portland treat-maker.
1:00 p.m. – Wine tasting
No trip to Willamette Valley would be complete without a stop at some wineries. Most people stay in northern Willamette Valley when visiting Oregon Wine Country because it’s closer to Portland, but you’ll find a lot of award-winning wineries in southern Willamette Valley just outside of Eugene.
We started at Oregon Wine LAB, an urban winery just a few blocks from the Saturday Farmers Market. They serve their own label, William Rose Wines, plus wine from local producers.
Next we went to Iris Vineyards on the bucolic outskirts of Eugene. The road winds up a long driveway past rows of vineyards before ending at their tasting room. We happily ordered a flight and took it out into their courtyard to enjoy the views overlooking their grounds.
The afternoon finished with tasting biodynamic wine at King Estate Winery. They’re the largest out of the three wineries and have castle-like grounds atop a hill surrounded by vineyards.
If you want to do even more tasting, check out more of my favorite wineries in Willamette Valley.
6:00 p.m. – Dinner at King Estate Winery
King Estate Winery also has a full-service restaurant. Many of the ingredients come from their 30-acre grounds. We were sure to get some of their house-made bread and charcuterie.
10:00 a.m. – Take a mural tour in Silverton
After checking out of Tipi Village Retreat, we headed 1.5 hours north to the tiny town of Silverton. It’s been around since the 1800s thanks to its creek, which makes it the perfect location for mills.
The downtown area is less than a square mile, but it’s full of shops and restaurants. We checked out the antiques at Red Bench and grabbed coffee at the Silverton Coffee Station (which also doubles as a florist).
Tucked between the shops are more than 20 murals. These colorful paintings tell the history of Silverton and make a great self-guided walking tour. My favorite mural is the one called Adventures of Bobbie, a collie that lost its family in Indiana so it walked all the way back home to Silverton to find them.
1:00 p.m. – Spa treatments at the Oregon Spa Resort
The best way to wind down after a long weekend is at a spa. After strolling through the beautiful Oregon Gardens, a stunning 80-acre botanical garden, we headed to the Oregon Garden Resort for a treatment or two at the Moonstone Spa.
By then, we were well rejuvenated after for the trip back home. There are so many things to do in Oregon Wine Country besides drink wine and this itinerary is a mix of it all.