Oregon is a great getaway, no matter what time of year it is. But there’s something extra special about the cooler chimes of fall and winter in the Willamette Valley. It’s a cozy time to make memories — exploring art communities, tasting local food and even picking out a tree for the holidays.
Being from Seattle, I’ve visited Oregon many times on my own. I was excited to come back with my baby to experience the family-friendly aspects of it. It was time for weekend getaway in the Willamette Valley.
Our first stop was Albany, which is only about 4 hours south of Seattle. Founded in 1848, Albany is now the 11th largest city in Oregon, with more than 700 historic buildings throughout the community.
I loved walking around the charming downtown and peeking into some of the boutique shops. We stopped at the Historic Carousel & Museum to see a beautiful carousel made of over 50 different hand-carved animals.
It was time for a new memory to be made: My son went on his very first carousel ride. He was enamored watching all the other kids excitedly ride their animals.
After that, we headed down to Eugene to explore the city famously known as TrackTown USA. The University of Oregon Ducks had a football game that evening; it was fun seeing green and yellow everywhere you looked. The weather was gorgeous, so we decided to drop our bags off at the hotel and take a walk along the Willamette River Trail. We ended up at Skinner Butte Park, which has a giant playground for kids of all ages. There’s even a “town” where kids can pretend they’re at a hotel or a store.
On the walk we found WJ Skatepark + Urban Plaza, a large skatepark in Washington Jefferson Park surrounded by art murals.
As the sun started to go down and it got closer to dinner time, we walked over to ColdFire Brewery. They had a popular taco truck outside, plus indoor and outdoor seating. This was one of the best breweries I’ve ever seen for kids, as it has a decent-sized play area with dozens of toys and a play kitchen. Anyone who has kids who are old enough to walk will want to stop by here.
The next morning, we headed to Marché & Le Bar for a very filling breakfast. My husband and I both got the smoked salmon hash, while my son enjoyed his kid’s plate of fruit and eggs.
After that, it was time to visit the Eugene Science Center. My son’s eyes lit up as he saw all the different exhibits to play with and quickly walked away to explore them all. They also had a large play area if you need to get some of your kids’ energy out.
Our accommodation for the night was in Corvallis, so we began the 45-minute drive north to get there. On the way, we stopped for a late lunch at Long Timber Brewing, a new restaurant and brewery in Monroe. I liked the large selection of seafood, salads and sandwiches that they had.
We then settled into our lodging at Donovan’s Place Tree Farm in west Corvallis, just two miles from Oregon State University. The 13-acre Christmas tree farm includes a ceramic pottery studio and two guest houses that can be reserved year-round. My family loved having the whole 1800s farmhouse to ourselves, complete with a fireplace so we could have a relaxing evening.
In the morning, we headed over to the pottery studio on the property. We got to see how Dale, the owner and master potter, creates some of his beautiful pieces. I even got to try making a bowl, and while I’m not the most artistic person, it was fun trying!
After that, it was time to go out on the Christmas tree farm to find the perfect tree for our family. I’ve actually never had a real tree in my house for the holidays, so it was a new tradition (and memory) for my family. My son loved walking around the trees and watching my husband cut down the one we chose. Dale helped my husband tie the tree to the roof of our car and then we headed back on the road to go home. I loved our family getaway in the Willamette Valley and can’t wait to go back to explore more of the area.
More Willamette Valley holiday magic
The Willamette Valley is the perfect place to make memories and create new holiday traditions — from tree farms to ice rinks and light displays to holiday markets. If you’re ready to step it up this season, here are two more ways to celebrate the holidays in the Willamette Valley, specifically the Willamette National Forest:
1. Find your Christmas tree
The Willamette National Forest provided the 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree for good reason. The forest is filled with beautiful firs and pines. All you need is the right equipment and permits. Click here for more information.
2. Look for rare ornaments
Two hundred ornaments are hidden along hiking trails in the Willamette National Forest. From November 29 to January 1, those who find one of the hand-blown pieces of art can register to win an incredible getaway in the Willamette Valley. Click here for more information.