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 and cider complement the Pacific Northwest’s only sake-brewing operation. The small-town 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 Thai espresso, pastry or toast at Kafé — try the new popular avocado toast. Stroll through Forest Grove’s three heritage districts, where immaculate homes ranging from Queen Anne to Colonial Revival rise from colorful gardens. Cruise the tree-studded campus of Pacific University, whose stately wood and brick buildings date as far back as 1850. Browse shops like Daniela’s on Main gift boutique and 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 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, 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 or an evening film.
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. Half a mile north, 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-less) 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 the pulled pork, roasted tomato and fried egg “Country Benny.” 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.
Day 3, Saturday: Lake fun, golf and wine tasting
Diversity Cafe‘s menu of benedicts and omelets 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 leash 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.
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 Plum Hill Vineyards, 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 regional bluegrass. Urban Decanter is another choice for a hip vibe; don’t miss their new wood-fired Burrata Piadizza and Sicilian Camponata.
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 into the Coast Range. Stop at Slow Rise Bakehouse, then continue on to the Tillamook Forest Center (temporarily closed) where you can hike easy trails or grab a guide to longer hikes such as the Wilson River Trail, a 20.6-mile trail with multiple trailheads.
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, jukebox tunes and $1 tacos every Tuesday.
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), North Willamette Vintners Wine Trail Weekend (March), Hawaiian Luau (April), Gales Creek Strawberry Festival (June), Forest Grove UnCorked (August), Historic Home Tour (September), Sidewalk Chalk Art Festival and Corn Roast (September), and the Verboort Sausage Dinner (November).