Here in Forest Grove — just 25 miles west of Portland, not far from Willamette Valley wine country — farmland, vineyards and forest beckon you to hike, bike, fish, paddle and stroll. It’s also a hot spot for sipping and tasting: handcrafted wine, beer, cider and now spirits complement the Pacific Northwest’s only sake-brewing operation. The small-town, yet cosmopolitan vibe here makes for a friendly, easy-to-navigate downtown that flanks Pacific University, with a vibrant arts, entertainment, dining and craft beverage scene. Pack your bikes and kayaks — or books and board games. Here’s how to enjoy a relaxing family weekend in Forest Grove.
Day 1, Thursday: Downtown and heritage districts
It’s easy to explore Forest Grove by foot, bike (on quiet side streets) or car (there’s plenty of free parking). Today’s trip is within seven miles, round trip. Start with a hot breakfast treat and an international beverage in the cozy house of Telvet Coffee. Stroll through one of four of Forest Grove’s historic districts, where immaculate homes ranging from Queen Anne to Colonial Revival rise from colorful gardens and century-old buildings still house vibrant gift shops and restaurants. Cruise the tree-studded campus of Pacific University, whose stately wood and brick buildings date as far back as 1850. Browse shops like Main Street Mercantile, a shop housing many vintage and craft vendors, and pop into Valley Art Gallery, a local artists’ cooperative offering classes for children and adults. The Knotty Lamb draws knitters from as far as Seattle for its incredible yarn selection and classes, A Framer’s Touch offers local products as well as custom frames, and Guidetti’s Marketplace is an Italian foodie’s paradise.
Indulge in a hearty Hawaiian plate lunch at Kama’aina, then head 1.5 miles to McMenamins Grand Lodge, an artfully resurrected former Masonic rest home. You did book a massage at Ruby’s Spa & Salon, didn’t you? Check out the grounds, the bars and the soaking pool. The kids can catch a movie; it’s also a great time to sample McMenamins’ famous spirits, beer and wine. Follow dinner at their Ironwork Grill with live music around the property or check out the area’s newest summer concert series, Concerts in the Grove.
Day 2, Friday: Local parks, sake tasting and farms
Today’s all about doing whatever makes you happy; there’s so much to choose from. Located in the north part of town, Lincoln Park has a BMX course and skatepark. You can also meander along the 6-mile Emerald Necklace circuit or spot birds and nutria at Fernhill Wetlands. Or, tackle a portion of the 21-mile Banks-Vernonia State Trail, a former rail line converted into a forested (and car-free) paved walking and biking trail — one of the best in the region. You can rent bikes at the trailhead.
To fuel up, start with a tasting and tour at SakeOne (there’s a kid- and-dog-friendly patio) and lunch on Asian fusion at Bites Restaurant. If you prefer a refreshing pint, kick back at Ridgewalker Brewing — a beautifully renovated church with a menu of hearty pub fare and 34 taps of beer, wine, cider, kombucha and cold brew coffee. Hop in the car and crisscross the countryside — you can find wineries, farm stores and U-picks in all directions. Back in town, Biscuitology offers Southern comfort food with a Pacific Northwest twist, including “El Monte,” a breakfast sandwich featuring Carver ham, Tillamook cheddar and raspberry preserve all on a sweet vanilla shortcake biscuit. You can enjoy your breakfast outside or in a rabbit warren of cozy rooms and balconies in the former historic Forest Grove First National Bank. The kids’ menu includes the “Little Monkey” French toast. After a great day of adventure seeking and nature, a must stop is Zesti Carts, a food truck village with nearly 30 food trucks and at least that many taps of beer, wine and cider. Often on the weekends there will be music or special events with vendor booths.
Day 3, Saturday: Lake fun, golf and wine tasting
Diversity Cafe‘s menu of omelets and breakfast classics will keep you cranking for your morning at one of the four golf courses in the area. Before you head out for your day’s excursion, stop by the Friends of Historic Forest Grove Museum, located in an old train depot. Grab a panini to-go at the Forest Grove Sandwich Shop. Then head out to Henry Hagg Lake for afternoon fun on land or water. Dogs on leashes are allowed. Enjoy this 1,100 acre lake via kayak, stand-up paddleboard or boat. Bring a fishing line; it’s stocked with fish and flanked with beaches. (Just remember to always wear a personal floatation device, whether you’re wading, swimming or boating. If you don’t have one, you can borrow one for the day at six handy kiosks around the lake.) There’s also 14 miles of mountain biking and hiking trails as well as an 18-hole disc golf course.
Just two miles north of Hagg Lake, Tree to Tree Aerial Adventure Park is too fun to resist. Zip lines for the whole family, six aerial obstacle courses and an adventure village for the little ones will challenge your strength and balance in the backdrop of the majestic forest canopy. Treat yourself to a little wine tasting on the return trip at Montinore Estate and the historic farmhouse tasting room at David Hill Vineyards & Winery, which still produces pinot noir from some of the first grapes planted in 1965. Dogs are welcome on portions of each property. Back in Forest Grove, walk down the hill on Main, say “hi” to the locals at Waltz Brewing, and kick back for some top-notch live music. Urban Decanter is another choice for a hip vibe; don’t miss their new wood-fired balsamic glazed portobello mushrooms.
Day 4, Sunday: Tillamook Forest outing
Snag a cup of coffee for the road at Telvet Coffee (they’re famous for their Sea Cream Vietnamese iced coffee), and head to L.L. Stub Stewart State Park. Just a 30 minute drive, Stub Stewart is perfect for a day trip. Located on 1800 acres, you’ll find nearly 30-miles of trails, mountain biking and two disc golf courses. Spend the day enjoying wildlife viewing and beautiful scenery too.
Stop for dinner on the way back at the upscale OutAZABlue in Gales Creek for gourmet entrees prepared by Chef Gabriel Barber and served on their river-view deck or indoors. Appetizers can be delivered right next door — Slowdrift Brewing Company offers a selection of home-brewed beers and local ciders. Need a nightcap? The Gales Creek Tavern is a locals’ favorite, with pizza and jukebox tunes.
If You Go:
Find Forest Grove lodging options here. Time your visit with one of the many cultural events at Pacific University, or one of the city’s annual community events. Favorites include the All Northwest Barbershop Quartet Contest (March), Hawaiian Luau (April), Forest Grove UnCorked (August), Historic Home Tour (September), Sidewalk Chalk Art Festival and Corn Roast (September), and the Verboort Sausage Dinner (November).