At the end of the last ice age, rich, diverse soils were deposited in the 150-mile stretch between Portland and Eugene. Today the Willamette Valley’s abiding allure has everything to do with these soils — its farm-to-fork food scene, a world-class wine industry and the pioneering nature of its people, who come here to build, to make and to live the good life. Discover what happens in a place where land and people pair so well together.
Cheers to New Lodging in Oregon Wine Country
As if historic downtown McMinnville wasn’t charming enough, now its newest downtown resident is the luxury lifestyle Atticus Hotel. Built from the ground up, no detail has been overlooked in this ultra-chic hotel. Not only is it gorgeous and thoughtfully designed, but there are so many unique details highlighted throughout. Although they follow a common theme, not one of the 36 rooms is alike. Each room features original local artwork, in addition to a selection of books (and suggested day itineraries) curated from locals around the community. When it came time for owners/business partners (and local McMinnville residents), Erin Stephenson and Brian Shea, to source interior furniture, fixtures and décor, they went with the philosophy of “start in McMinnville—if we can’t find what we’re looking for here, slowly expand the search.” This resulted in almost all Oregon-made products in the hotel. And don’t forget to hop on the complimentary cruiser bikes to visit a few of McMinnville’s 20 walkable wine tasting rooms!
Track Town USA: Painting a Pretty Future
The 2021 International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships are right around the corner—the first time this event will take place in the U.S.—so it’s guaranteed to draw a crowd. And because of that, Eugene is getting ready: sprucing up streets, opening new hotels and making the city even more accessible for visitors to explore. The 20X21 mural project is an initiative that aims to create 20 (or more) unique outdoor murals throughout the city between now and 2021. Currently they’re more than half way done with 11 installations from artists around the world beautifying the streets. Of course, an event like 2021 is bound to draw a few fitness fanatics—and they’ll be right at home in the new EVEN Hotel, just one mile from Autzen Stadium. One of eight in the U.S., this hotel focuses on the wellness and health of its guests, with amenities ranging from guestrooms stocked with yoga mats and balance balls, a state-of-the-art fitness center, local running routes from the hotel and gentle reminders to stay active (like the “don’t think of them as stairs; they’re little hurdles” at the base of the staircase). And, next month, the city will have a bike-share program up and running. It’s easy to see why Eugene is called Track Town, USA.
Eat (and Drink) Your Grains
Although the Willamette Valley is synonymous with wine, this bountiful region also produces hazelnuts, hops (and beer!), olives and honey—just to name a few. This regional bounty helps feed the Camas Country Mill, which produces whole grain and artisan flours from grains grown near their Junction City Schoolhouse Store. As if delicious wholesome baked goods aren’t enough, the site is also home to the historic Lower Fern Ridge Schoolhouse. This 1888 building was rescued from being demolished and moved to Camas Country Store where it now serves
as a place to snack on a scone while marveling at the
history preserved inside its walls (literally…the walls
are marked with names of children who attended the
school more than 100 years ago).
The Camas Country Store sells its products to local bakeries, and also to Thinking Tree Spirits—one of only five true “farm to flask” distilleries in Oregon (which is huge considering the state has more than 100). Thinking Tree is owned and operated by a husband and wife team that focuses on crafting smooth, drinkable vodka, rum and gin
An oldie but goodie, the Cascade Raptor Center has one of the largest collections of native raptor species in the Pacific Northwest and is a must-see on any visit to Eugene. This year-round volunteer-based nonprofit’s focus is on rehabilitation and education—when possible, they work to reintroduce their majestic inhabitants into the wild. Visitors can view nearly 50 birds of prey— hawks, eagles, owls and vultures, oh my! The center recently purchased four- and-a-half additional acres with the goal of expanding their parking, adding a new visitors center and some additional enclosures in the coming years.
The Albany Carousel—Ride on!
All you need to do is see the Albany Carousel to know how special it is—but then you hear its backstory and you can’t help but fall in love. Half grassroots effort funded by private donations/half labor of love, completing the restoration of the historic 1909 Dentzel Carousel was a project 15-years in the making. Though the framework is all original, each rideable creature— from a giraffe to a mermaid-horse to a giant bunny—is new and hand-carved by (amateur) volunteers from the community. The Carousel has already attracted more than 150,000 visitors since its August 15, 2017 opening.
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