Since we’re all stuck at home these days we need to dream of what adventures we’ll be on when life returns to normal. Check out a few options for Oregon Wine Country!
The Willamette Valley in Oregon contains over 19,000 acres of vineyards, which has earned it the name “Oregon Wine Country”. However, there is much more to this beautiful 150-mile long valley than just vineyards. Here are 6 fun activities you and your family can enjoy while visiting
this interesting region.
#1. Explore the Willamette Valley by kayak
The easiest way to explore the whole Willamette Valley is by driving down Interstate 5. However, it is not the only way.
The easiest way to explore the whole Willamette Valley is by driving down Interstate 5. However, it is not the only way. There is also the Willamette Water Trail. This is a 185-mile nationally recognized water trail following the relatively gentle main stem of the
Willamette River. Paddling down the river from Eugene to Portland provides you with a unique view of the fertile valley. Passing remote riverbanks far from the roads, you’ll witness the hidden wildlife of Oregon. Watch out for bald eagles, beavers, deer, herons, and merganser ducks.
Much of the river is navigable by novices, but there are places where portage is necessary and it’s a good idea to go with an experienced kayaker and research the route well. The speed and depth of the river vary by season, so stay attentive and kayak safely.
#2. Go hiking through the wilderness
There are many beautiful places to enjoy hiking in the Willamette Valley. An especially wonderful location is Silver Falls State Park. Not only does this park boast 24 miles of hiking trails, but it also features 10 stunning waterfalls. One of the trails passes behind the flow of 4 of these waterfalls.
Silver Falls State Park is also a great place to enjoy mountain biking and horseback riding. It is the largest state park in Oregon, so you have over 9,000 acres of wilderness to explore, with cougars and bears in the more remote areas. If you intend to attempt the more strenuous routes, such as the Spencer Butte Hike ascending 2,000 feet to obtain beautiful views across the Willamette Valley, then please dress appropriately. Wear suitable hiking shoes and clothing appropriate to the season and conditions.
#3. Check out the covered bridges
If you’d rather explore the Willamette Valley by road, watch out for historic covered bridges. Oregon once had around 500 covered bridges but today only 50 historic covered bridges survive. Many of these unique historic structures can be found around the Willamette Valley.
For example, the Hannah Bridge in Linn County was built in 1936 and named after one of the earliest pioneers in the area, John Joseph Hannah who settled in Oregon in 1853. It is one of 3 surviving covered bridges that cross Thomas Creek, the others being the Gilkey Bridge and the Shimanek Bridge. All of them make for great photo opportunities.
#4. Explore the wineries
Of course, it’s impossible to visit the Willamette Valley and not visit at least one winery. There are many to choose from, but one of the longest established is the Ponzi Vineyards. Nancy and Dick Ponzi began their first vineyard there in 1970. If you want to sample their wine, visit their new visitors’ facility at the winery, which you can find 12 miles south of Hillsboro.
If you truly love wine, then you may decide you want to visit more than one winery. In the Tri-County region (Marion, Polk, and Yamhill counties) of the Willamette Valley, several wineries, communities, and attractions have formed a partnership to create the Tri-County Charm Trail.
This encourages you to visit as many of their 38 participating wineries and attractions as you can, which each offer unique wine charms you collect along the trail. It’s a fantastic way to
explore both the vineyards and community of the mid-Willamette Valley.
#5. Visit Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum
If you’re interested in aviation history, you’ll love this historic collection of over 45 historic aircraft and replicas from the earliest years of flight. Exhibits include a German V-2 rocket, a Titan missile, and Howard Hughes’ H-4 Hercules, called the Spruce Goose.
The Spruce Goose is the largest airplane in the world. It was built during WWII for use as a heavy transport flying boat. However, the project was not completed before the war ended, so only the prototype was ever constructed. It was made entirely of birch wood due to concerns about its weight and wartime restrictions on the use of aluminum.
Adjacent to the aviation museum, you’ll find the Winds & Waves Waterpark. This is an attraction your children will love, with aviation-themed water slides, including the Mach 1 and the Sonic Boom.
#6. Go to the market
If you like traditional outdoor markets, check out the Eugene Saturday Market. It operates every Saturday from April through November. You’ll find over 150 stalls, and it opens around 10 am. Here’s where you can buy local cheese, honey, and jams, as well as arts and crafts. With a small selection of food trucks and live music from 6 local acts each Saturday, you can make a day of it.
Just across the road from the Saturday market, you’ll find the Lane County Farmers’ Market, where you can purchase flowers, seedlings, and locally grown produce.
It’s impossible to fit all the interesting activities available in the Oregon Wine Country into one short visit. If you enjoy breathing fresh air and exploring the great outdoors, you’ll definitely love the Willamette Valley.