Oregon’s Willamette Valley is home to everything from hot air balloon rides to world-famous restaurants and the wineries in Dundee. The world-famous Willamette Valley Pinot Noir draws many who want to explore the wine region. But keep reading because we have 52 fun things to do in the Willamette Valley in addition to tasting wine!
The Willamette Valley is a 150-mile long valley with the Willamette River flowing the entire length of the valley. The valley is surrounded by the Cascade Range to the east, the Oregon Coast Range to the west, and the Calapooya Mountains to the south.
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52 Things to Discover in Oregon’s Willamette Valley
The Willamette Valley, Oregon’s leading wine region, has two-thirds of the state’s wineries and is recognized as one of the premier Pinot noir–producing areas in the world. While no first visit to the region is complete without visiting a tasting room to sip Oregon Pinot Noir and a crisp Pinot Gris, there is a lot of fun things to do in the surrounding area. Here are our favorite things to do in the Willamette Valley!
1. Wineries – the Willamette Valley is home to more than 700 wineries, with tasting rooms dotting the hillsides and lining the small-town main streets from Portland to Eugene. Plan a wine tasting trip and start exploring the wines and producers that have put this region on the map! Willamette Valley wine, especially a Pinot Noir tasting should be a must for anyone visiting the valley.
2. Stunning Views – rolling fields, towering forests, and snowy mountain peaks are but a few of the valley’s vistas. Visit a vineyard tasting room to soak it all in.
3. Pinot Noir – this flagship wine of Willamette Valley vineyards conveys nuance and terroir like no other variety can. If you’re not already a Pinot convert, we feel confident that a visit to the Willamette Valley can certainly change your mind. The Willamette Valley also has an ideal climate for Pinot Blanc, a delicate grape variety, that is becoming more and more popular and another good reason to explore the complex wines of the region.
4. Restaurants – talented chefs and farm-to-fork experts champion an ever-growing culinary scene in the Willamette Valley. With famed truffles, wood-fired pizzas, classic Italian food, laid-back BBQ and everything in between, you’re guaranteed to be well fed at plenty of area restaurants.
5. The Allison Inn & Spa – set on 35 hillside acres with adjacent vineyard views, meadows and gardens, The Allison Inn is your destination for a luxurious and relaxing wine country visit. From a Pinot burger at the signature restaurant JORY to a Pinot-therapy treatment at the spa, this is a wine country experience not to miss.
6. Farms & Orchards – from pumpkins to Christmas trees, melt-in-your-mouth strawberries to most of the country’s hazelnuts, crops grow in abundance in our fertile valley. Stop at a roadside stand or farmers market for fresh strawberries—but be ready to finish the pint before you even make it home.
7. Cycling – the Willamette Valley boasts the first official Scenic Bikeway in the United States. Pass vineyards, hop fields, hazelnut orchards and quaint country towns as you follow the path of the Willamette River from Champoeg State Park to Eugene. Take a leisurely ride to winery tasting rooms, or conquer the entire 132-mile stretch.
8. Flowers – each spring, more than 40 acres of tulips burst into color at the Wooden Shoe Farm in Woodburn, beckoning locals and visitors alike to marvel at the views and welcome the season.
9. Bed & Breakfasts – quiet country inns and B&Bs offer the perfect accommodations during a wine tour. Wake up to a hearty local breakfast, plan your day with your friendly host and start exploring the hidden corners of the valley.
10. Artisan Food – winemakers aren’t the only craftspeople mastering their art in the Willamette Valley. You’ll find jam, cheese, salami, bread, chocolate and more to tantalize your taste buds in between winery visits.
11. Running – crossing the finish line will never taste better than when a glass of Pinot awaits. Oregon’s Willamette Valley is home to two nationally recognized half marathons, drawing runners from all corners of the country to test their stamina over 13.1 miles of vineyard land. The Fueled by Fine Wine Half Marathon is a challenging course of steep hills and stunning vistas. The Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon offers a beautiful but less hilly course, and both races finish with a special wine tasting celebration.
12. Mushrooms – carrying on his family’s culinary tradition, fourth-generation Chef and Owner Christopher Czarnecki combines fine cuisine and world-class wine at the historic Joel Palmer House, famous for its local wild mushrooms and truffles.
13. Birds – Oregon’s wetlands, forests, marshes, lakes, and rivers provide the varied habitats for more than 100 different bird species. Washington County, in the northern part of the Willamette Valley, protects a section of our lush state in the Tualatin River National Wildlife Refuge, where visitors can scope out an abundance of wildlife. Bring your binoculars!
14. White Wines – while Pinot noir is our pride and joy, winemakers here also craft an impressive variety of cool-climate white wines. A Chardonnay renaissance and Riesling revival are sweeping the region as passionate producers become as well known for their stunning whites as they are for their Pinots. Wines.com offers a great selection of Willamette Valley wines
15. Hiking – trudging through the vines lends a new perspective to your wine experience. Get the dirt on Oregon wine during a vineyard hike at Sokol Blosser, offered during summer months and complete with picnic and wine tasting. Or stray east from the vineyards into the woods with a hike through towering fir trees and waterfalls at Silver Falls State Park.
16. Harvest Celebrations – each autumn, Oregon winegrowers come toe-to-toe with the elements as they work to ripen their vineyards to perfection. And each year, rain or shine, buckets and bins and trucks full of beautiful grapes make their way to the winery to begin the magic of turning into wine. It’s no wonder that the harvest season spreads feelings of bounty and revelry throughout the region. Dinners, tours, tastings and parties beckon visitors to join the celebration. Have a barrel of fun at the annual Carlton Crush Harvest Festival in September.
17. Art – the Chehalem Cultural Center and Art Elements Gallery, both in Newberg, display striking exhibits from Oregon artists that include paintings, ceramics, woodwork, sculpture, glass, drawings and photography.
18. Electric Byway – Oregon welcomes electric vehicle drivers with open arms to explore the Willamette Valley Electric Byway, even offering a robust EV itinerary to ensure you can always find a place to recharge.
19. Shopping – from a charming antique shop in a circa 1910 schoolhouse in Lafayette to clothing boutiques on McMinnville’s bustling Third Street, there are plenty of options for finding treasures to take home.
20. Craft Beer – as craft brewers in Portland and Eugene become known for their beer-making prowess, the entire region is jumping on the bandwagon at more than 40 breweries in the Willamette Valley.
21. New Tasting Rooms – With more than 400 wineries in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, it’s no surprise that new and remodeled tasting rooms are popping up left and right. A couple of must-sees include Brooks in Amity and Chapter 24 Vineyards in Dundee.
22. Solar Panels – wineries are strongly connected to the land around here, and stewardship of that land is a part of the lifeblood of our wine industry. Alternative forms of energy are some of the ways that wineries embrace sustainability. As you tour the Willamette Valley, you’ll see shining solar panels soaking up power from the sun to keep us running.
23. Memorial Weekend in the Wine Country – at this largest event of the year, visit vineyards that have burst into life, welcome warmer spring weather and kick off wine tasting season at more than 160 wineries.
24. Farmers Markets – with the overwhelming abundance of local produce in the Willamette Valley, it’s no wonder that farmer’s markets are a huge hit. McMinnville and Newberg welcome locals and visitors alike to stroll between stalls and stock up on fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy, flowers and crafts all summer long.
25. Wine Country Thanksgiving – round up the relatives, grab a Guide to Wine Country Thanksgiving, and go wine tasting! ‘Tis the season for delicious wines and holiday festivities. At this annual fall event, more than 160 wineries throw open their doors for special tastings, live music, food pairings, holiday discounts and more.
26. Raptors – as you travel through the valley, keep an eye out for gorgeous raptors like the red-tailed hawk perched on fence posts or soaring above the vineyard. Wineries encourage these predators to patrol the vineyard as an age-old method to protect the vines from migratory birds and pesky voles.
27. Hot Air Balloons – with the winding Willamette River cutting a path between forests and farmland, the hillside vineyards and mountain ranges beyond, a birds-eye view of this valley from a hot air balloon is unforgettable.
28. Oregon Wine Month – we proclaim Oregon wine all year round, but even more so during May, our official wine month. From special events in wine country to special pricing at local retailers, all of Oregon joins together in celebration of our beloved wine industry. And yes, it’s a perfect time to visit.
29. The Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum – located in McMinnville and displaying a variety of military and civilian airplanes as well as spacecraft, Evergreen is perhaps best known as the home of Howard Hughes’s Spruce Goose airplane, with a wingspan stretching longer than a football field.
30. Generosity – in the midst of the bounty and abundance of lovely wines, Oregon’s Willamette Valley community is dedicated to sharing resources with those in need. It’s a hallmark of the wine industry to take care of not only our land but also our people, and when you visit here it shows. The Willamette Cares Food Share, ¡Salud! Auction and Classic Wines Auction are but a few examples of a generous spirit shining through.
31. Other Oregon Wines – while Oregon’s Willamette Valley is the state’s largest region, our neighbors to the east and south are crafting an array of unique wines in their warmer-weather climates. Take your palate on an Oregon tour without the extra drive at local tasting rooms from Southern Oregon, the Columbia Valley and Walla Walla.
32. International Pinot Noir Celebration – McMinnville’s ultimate annual event for Pinot noir lovers world-wide!
33. Fishing – the Willamette River and its tributaries, including the Clackamas and McKenzie Rivers, are ideal waterways for fishers and fly-fishers seeking Chinook salmon, steelhead and rainbow or cutthroat trout.
34. Portland Urban Wineries – the Portland wine scene is absolutely surging right now. From quirky industrial spaces to hipster wine bars, downtown wineries welcome visitors to experience the Willamette Valley 750ml at a time, without ever leaving the city limits.
35. Horseback Riding – saddle up for a truly active wine tour exploring the natural beauty between the vineyards.
36. Fall Foliage – autumn’s colder weather bathes the valley in vibrant shades of gold and orange and red. Tree-lined streets, towering forests and sweeping vineyards display the colors for a stunning window before the late fall rains and wind clear away the leaves and usher us into winter.
37. Sub-AVAs – the Willamette Valley is Oregon’s largest AVA, or American Viticultural Area. But our 100-mile-long region also includes six smaller AVAs that are designated by unique geography, soil and climate. Each has distinct characteristics and is worth exploring.
38. Willamette Shakespeare – this critically acclaimed non-profit theatre company provides the classical Shakespeare experience to audiences of all ages in Portland and the Willamette Valley wine country. Willamette Shakespeare’s touring shows are enriching and entertaining, not to mention free of charge!
Note: as of September of 2022, Willamette Shakespeare is temporarily closed.
39. Universities – Oregon State University and University of Oregon bring a wealth of culture and education to their respective Willamette Valley cities of Corvallis and Eugene. Both have several winery tasting rooms in the area as well as that classic college-town vibe.
40. Golf – while golf aficionados may jump to Bandon Dunes when asked about world-class links in Oregon, the Willamette Valley also offers an array of nationally recognized courses, including Pumpkin Ridge, The Reserve and Langdon Farms.
41. Dog-friendly Wineries – bring your furry friend with you to wine country! In addition to a long list of pet-friendly wineries in the valley, each spring the North Willamette Vintners host a Canines Uncorked event catered to your dog and benefitting the Oregon Humane Society.
42. Soils – dirt matters in the Willamette Valley, where ancient floods and volcanoes deposited a plethora of unique soil types perfectly suited to developing flavor in vitis vinifera grapes.
43. Oktoberfest – celebrate the harvest season in true Bavarian style each September at Mt. Angel’s annual Oktoberfest.
44. Back Roads – your GPS might tell you to barrel straight down the freeway, but take the time to explore some back roads. Ask folks in the tasting room for the best route to your next destination—the views and discoveries are simply better off the beaten path.
45. Small Towns – Carlton, Lafayette, Amity, Dundee and more invite you to shake off the city stress and slow down for a day. These close-knit communities within the agricultural patchwork of the valley offer a weekend get-away or day retreat in the heart of wine country.
46. River Adventures – soak up the Willamette River. Paddle, float or boat your way along this remarkable water trail.
47. Olive Oil – for a tasting experience of some of the valley’s other fruits, visit Red Ridge Farms, the only estate olioteca in the Pacific Northwest and the first certified modern milling operation in Oregon.
48. Portlandia – a trip to Oregon is incomplete without some time spent exploring Portland, our state’s largest city at the northern end of the Willamette Valley region. Bikes, books, breweries, food carts, restaurants, shopping, gardens, coffee and arts… the list goes on and on.
49. Wine Clubs – as you tour and taste your way through the wine country, consider a wine club membership at your favorite wineries. Take advantage of member-only discounts, exclusive wine offerings and special event invitations, not to mention wines delivered right to your doorstep throughout the year.
51. Winery Collectives – The Carlton Winemakers Studio and Portland’s SE Wine Collective are two examples of the collaborative and eco-friendly nature of the wine industry. By sharing space, multiple wineries can reduce their costs and their footprint, in addition to offering visitors a plethora of unique wines to taste in a single location.
52. Wines Fly Free – it’s easy to take a taste of Oregon wine country back home with you. Check a case of wine for free on Alaska Airlines!
Willamette Valley Weather
The best time to visit the Willamette Valley and Dundee Hills is mid-August through early October. August highs are regularly around 88.5°F (31.4°C) with temperatures rarely dropping below 55.5°F (13.1°C) at night. The warmest months in the Willamette Valley are July, August, and then September. The valley is known for dry summers and wet winters with a fair amount of rain in spring and fall.
Hope you found this list useful. Oregon’s Willamette Valley featuring the wineries in Dundee.
Emily is a native Oregonian born and raised in the Willamette Valley. After studying communications at Pepperdine University in Southern California, she moved back to Portland for the mountains, rivers, trees and of course local food and wine. She works as the Associate Director of the Willamette Valley Wineries Association, a non-profit membership group of more than 200 wineries, and loves to tell Oregon’s story of stunning natural beauty, exquisite food and world-class wine.