Here in The Dalles, visitors can walk into what used to be an old, vacant 1910 Colonial-style building downtown — a former Elks Temple, now beautifully refurbished — and see neon signs from past eras light up the space. From the tasting rooms and dessert shops housed in historic buildings to the trails for walking, biking and paddling, so much here blends the old with the new. The Dalles has been popping lately with all sorts of new energy and creative enterprise. Here’s what’s fresh and exciting to explore on your next Columbia River Gorge road trip to The Dalles.
If you’ve seen the colorful sails in the Gorge and wondered how people maneuver a kiteboard, now’s your chance to take a guided lesson from certified instructors at The Dalles’ new Oregon Kiteboarding school. If kayaking is more your speed, you can rent one at the new outdoor equipment shop, Rugged Soul. They also provide the unusual service of backpack rentals — for day hikes (comes with a basic first aid kit, compass, flashlight and other essentials) all the way up to everything you need for a backpacking trip (tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, water purification system, cookstove and gas and more). Finally, The Dalles’ new Gorge Adventure and Supply is a one-stop shop for adventuring in the Gorge. Their guides can help plan outdoor day trips or weeklong excursions including activities such as Segway tours, electric bikes, mountain bikes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, with shuttle vans offered for easy transportation.
Dig into history and culture
See a show at the brilliantly restored Granada Theatre, a 1929 art deco Moorish revival-style building that hosts concerts, local music groups, films and other events year-round. (A Beatles tribute group, the Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, performs Oct. 12, 2018.) An on-site cafe and gift shop at the theater add an extra convenience. Next door, the new Columbia Gorge Veterans Museum, which opened in 2017, you can walk through the exhibits designed to inspire and educate visitors about the region’s military heritage through stories of local veterans. Two blocks away in the walkable downtown, the nonprofit National Neon Sign Museum, which opened in summer 2018, is a hands-on, family-friendly collection of displays featuring the best of neon signage through the decades that’s sure to inspire nostalgia for some.
You can easily tour The Dalles with the city’s murals as your map. Eighteen murals tell the stories of this historic community, with several offering audio narration recorded by historians, Native Americans or the artists themselves. In 2018 a new mural will be added to the famed collection; follow Explore The Dalles on Instagram to see the painting in progress.
Treat your taste buds
When hunger strikes, grab lunch at Taqueria Las Pelotas, a new Mexican food truck known for their cherry tamales. Fuel up on a fresh roast at Kainos Coffee (which also serves woodfired pizza), and indulge in a stop at the Sweetheart Bake Shop, a renovated historic house on the hill where everything — from the decadent panna cotta to cinnamon rolls, cobblers, pies, cookies and cupcakes (gluten-free and vegan available) — is scratch-made each morning with farm-to-table ingredients. (Ask the owners about the haunted history of their historic building, the 1865 Edward French house.)
Cheers to happy hour
When it’s time to unwind, Tierra de Lobos Winery joins a growing enclave of breweries and wineries here, including Sunshine Mill Winery, Freebridge Brewing and Sedition Brewing Company. At Tierra de Lobos, you can sip a flight in the tiny tasting room (run out of a 500-square-foot garage) in a park-like setting, with views of the Columbia River and The Dalles Dam. The two-man operation uses no chemical or fungicides in their vineyards in order to reflect the terroir of their grapes. From their 12-acre estate they produce sun-loving varietals including cabernet franc, malbec, barbera, tempranillo, syrah and muscat canelli.
For more inspiration, read up on how to bike, go birding, try SUP yoga, take a historic walking tour or spend two days here in The Dalles. Crafty types will appreciate the Knot Another Fiber Festival (Oct. 26-28, 2018).