: Nicolette Bailey

Luxury Getaways in the Willamette Valley

June 15, 2021

Editor’s note: Oregon’s COVID-19 restrictions have eased, but businesses may ask you to wear a face cover – bring one along and be patient and kind if asked to wear it. It’s also wildfire season – plan ahead and do your part to prevent wildfires.

Whether you’ve got some extra money socked away or have a special occasion approaching, there’s never a bad reason to treat yourself to a little bit of luxury. In Oregon you don’t have to travel far for wow-inducing experiences. Here are some splurge-worthy trips in the Willamette Valley that will have you itching to book your next excursion.

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A hot air balloon rises over a field of crops
Book a flight for one-of-a-kind views of Mt. Hood, the Portland cityscape and the sweeping countryside. (Photo courtesy of Portland Rose Balloons)

Ride in a Hot-Air Balloon

Play: You’ve probably taken a drive through the Willamette Valley, but have you ever floated above the patchwork landscape? The experience of riding in a hot-air balloon is unforgettable — drifting along at a relaxed pace in a basket suspended underneath a colorful, majestic balloon. You can book a sunrise flight with Portland Rose Balloons for one-of-a-kind views of Mt. Hood, the Portland cityscape and the sweeping countryside. Flights launch from the Aurora Airport and start off with a Champagne toast. 

Eat: End the day with the tasting menu at the Painted Lady Restaurant in Newberg, a memorable food journey meticulously crafted by executive chef Allen Routt. 

Stay: Rest your head at the wellness-focused Allison Inn & Spa. Located in the heart of wine country, the resort is the ideal place to launch a wine-tasting adventure in the valley or take in the vineyard views while getting a therapeutic massage. 

Horseback riders ride between vineyard rows
You can trot alongside the vineyards in Dundee with an experienced guide, all while stopping at a few of the area’s stellar wineries to taste their latest releases. (Photo by Sionnie Lafollette)

Wine Country by Horseback

Play: No two visits to the Willamette Valley are the same — especially when you’re pairing your pinot noir with an afternoon of riding from winery to winery via horseback. This unique guided adventure by Equestrian Wine Tours allows you to trot alongside the vineyards in Dundee with an experienced guide, all while stopping at a few of the area’s stellar wineries to taste their latest releases. If you’d prefer, the company offers wine tours by carriage ride, too. 

Eat: After you’re done, head to Dayton to dine at the Joel Palmer House Restaurant, which features the family’s hand-foraged wild mushrooms and truffles as well as a list of more than 500 individual pinot noirs to choose from. 

Stay: Finish the day diving into the high-thread-count sheets and cozy bathrobes at Atticus Hotel in nearby McMinnville, where you’ll experience a dash of local history with your night of luxury.

A paddlewheel boat glides across the river at sunset
Enjoy a romantic evening with your loved one aboard one of Oregon’s most iconic sternwheelers, the Willamette Queen. (Photo courtesy of Travel Salem)

Dinner Cruise on the Willamette

Play: Take in the sunset while gliding on the river at a romantic pace aboard one of Oregon’s most iconic sternwheelers, the Willamette Queen. Sitting on the deck as the paddle wheel propels you forward will have you feeling as if you’ve taken a step back in time. Reservations are required for this two-hour adventure that leaves from Salem Riverfront Park. Arrive in style or end your excursion with a bang by adding on a ride in the Willamette Queen Lincoln Limousine, where you’ll enjoy chilled Champagne as you’re chauffeured around. 

Eat: For dinner, it doesn’t get much better than Rudy’s Steakhouse, where fresh oysters, clams and crab accompany a menu of hearty beef classics. 

Stay: Stay at the deluxe Grand Hotel in Salem, which is in the middle of downtown, mere walking distance to shops, bars, restaurants and the city’s beautiful riverfront. 

Tables are set up in a vineyard as the sun sets
Treat yourself to a magical evening at Eola Hills Wine Cellars' Twilight in the Vines, which come complete with a checkered picnic blanket, complimentary wine glasses and a fresh bundle of flowers. 

Gourmet Dinner in the Vineyard

Play: What better way to experience wine country than a gourmet meal with each course expertly paired with locally crafted wine? The only thing that could make the meal better is live music from top-rated musicians. This magical evening is what you’ll get at Eola Hills Wine Cellars’ Twilight in the Vines dinner series. The meal is served as a picnic at their Legacy Estate Vineyard and comes complete with a checkered picnic blanket, complimentary wine glasses and a fresh bundle of flowers. 

Stay: Once you’re properly satiated and serenaded, drive 7 miles southwest to end the evening at The Independence, a charming boutique hotel located on the banks of the Willamette River. 

Eat: Continue your gourmet-food excursion with a home-cooked Italian meal at Mangiare Italian Restaurant, located in the 1913 former Sperling Hotel building in Independence. 

A yellow raft hits a river rapid
Let the expert guides pamper you in an all-inclusive rafting trip on the McKenzie River, complete with a gourmet dinner, prepared campsite and sleeping under the stars. (Photo by Lillian Howard / Eugene, Cascades & Coast)

All-Inclusive Rafting on the McKenzie

Play: Spending time in the great outdoors doesn’t mean you have to rough it. Enjoy an overnight rafting trip on the McKenzie River while getting pampered by the expert guides at High Country Expeditions. The two-day itinerary will allow you to see the upper and lower sections of the river, and you’ll end your first fun-filled day with a gourmet dinner prepared for you at a campsite that’s already been set up. There’s enough downtime built in for fly-fishing or a nature walk, and each trip is customizable to your group’s desires. 

Stay: After your night under the stars, head back into town for a night of luxury with a stay at the artist-inspired Gordon Hotel in downtown Eugene. 

Eat: Walk to dinner at Marché, an award-winning French bistro that tops Eugene’s fine-dining scene with its seasonal cuisine and covered outdoor patio. 

The entrance to a brick building
The Excelsior Inn, an historic Italian villetta bed-and-breakfast, is a lovely basecamp for wine touring in the South Willamette Valley. (Photo courtesy of the Excelsior Inn)

Take a Chartered Flight

Play: Though you might think it’s an experience meant only for celebrities and dignitaries, taking a private chartered flight is a luxurious experience you can claim as your own. Forgo the security lines and cramped rows of passengers for a comfortable jet experience with Eugene’s Valkyrie Air Charters. It offers scenic flights, transportation to Pacific Northwest vacation destinations and even organized wine tours to Walla Walla for a day or a weekend. 

Eat: After your afternoon above the clouds, tuck in at one of Eugene’s premier fine-dining experiences, Rye, where you’ll find decadent dishes like wild boar bolognese and smoked duck breast. 

Stay: Find your way to the Excelsior Inn, an early 1900s fraternity house that has been thoughtfully transformed into an Italian villetta bed-and-breakfast. 

About The
Author

Emily Gillespie
Emily Gillespie is a travel writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, CNN Travel and Afar magazine. She’s lived in three of Oregon’s seven regions, currently calling Portland home. She and her husband look for every opportunity to hike to a view, bike through wine country and eat their way through a new city.

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