13 best things to do in the Willamette Valley

Oregon’s Willamette Valley, home to over 500 wineries, is recognized as one of the “premier pinot noir producing regions in the world!” With charming accommodations, a delicious culinary scene, outdoor activities, a craft beer trail and wine tastings, you can enjoy a long weekend exploring the area. Fall is the perfect time to visit during the harvest season.

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Introduction to Willamette Valley and Tualatin Valley

The Willamette Valley is a vast area stretching from Portland to Eugene, over 160 km. I suggest you visit the northern part (Tualatin valley) in a 3-day visit and the southern part in a second 3-day visit.

Aerial panoramic view of the hills and valleys of the Tualatin Valley near Bald Peak State Park, Oregon.
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The Tualatin Valley is located just 20 miles west of Portland, on the northern edge of the Willamette Valley, midway between the Cascade Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. The rich Laurelwood soil in the Tualatin Valley is unique to this region and produces fabulous Pinot Noir wines.

This article focuses on the Tualatin Valley portion of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

The Tualatin Valley includes more than a dozen towns, villages and neighborhoods, including Forest Grove, Beaverton, Hillsboro, Sherwood and Cornelius.

A digital visitor guide is available via this link.

Pro tip

Although a short distance from Portland, traffic can be very slow. I always prefer to stay a night or two in the Tualatin Valley and enjoy all that the valley has to offer. I made some suggestions for accommodation and food.

My tour was sponsored by Tualatin Valley, the Washington County Visitors Association, and the wineries listed here. All thoughts and opinions are mine.

Here are my 13 fantastic experiences in the world’s leading Pinot Noir producing region.

1. Taste wines from some of Oregon’s oldest vines at David Hill Vineyard & Winery (Forest Grove)

David Hill Vineyard & Winery boasts some of the oldest vines in the Willamette Valley. Three flights are offered: “Estate Tasting”, with whites and a pinot noir. “Discovery Series Tasting” highlights old grape varieties. The ‘Reserve Tasting’ includes reds and includes the 2019 Estate Blackjack Pinot Noir. There is also a food menu with charcuterie platters, crackers and hummus.

The tasting room is in a restored farmhouse from 1883. Outdoor seating is also available.

In spring and summer, hikers can take advantage of the Vineyard Walk. You can download the information at the link. The recommended time for the hike is at least 1 hour.

David Hill Vineyard & Winery is also very proud of its B-Corp certification, balancing purpose and profit.

2. Sip award-winning wines at Tualatin Estate (Forest Grove)

The Tualatin Estate is one of the wineries of Willamette Valley Vineyards. Owner Jim Bernau has won various awards and honors, including the Industry Founders Award and the Governor’s Gold. Wine spectator named Willamette Valley Vineyards as one of the “100 Best Wines in the World”. It is recognized as one of the best wineries for pinot noir in Oregon.

Two flights are offered for tasting. The “daily flight” includes red and white wines. The “Reserve Flight” offers small lots of Pinot Noir and Griffin Creek wines. Indoor and outdoor tastings are available. Charcuterie platters are available.

The winery is proud to use agricultural practices that respect the environment and participated in the founding of the LIVE program (low-input viticulture and oenology).

Tualatin Estate was established by two Oregon wine pioneers, Bill Fuller and Bill Malkmus, in 1973. Tualatin Estate also has a history of awards and honors, including Best Of Show for red and white wines the same. year at the London International Wine Competition and the Oregon Governor’s Trophy two years in a row.

I was delighted that Bill Fuller joined me for my tasting!

3. Taste world-class pinot noir at Ponzi (Sherwood) vineyards

Ponzi Vineyards is another of Oregon’s pioneer wineries. Today at the helm are two second generation Ponzi women: Louisa and Anna Marie. Ponzi is one of the few sister-run wineries in America. Noted for world-class pinot noir production, Ponzi Vineyards was one of the first wineries in Oregon to receive LIVE certification. Its installation is a four-level gravity flow installation.

Two tasting flights are offered. The “Signature Flight” offers four current release wines, while the “Specialty Flight” offers Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. “Chef pairings” are also offered, which pair fresh, seasonal dishes with Ponzi wines. The pairings change every month.

Cave & Vineyard Ardirie
Jo-anne bowen

4. Stunning Team Views with Wine Tasting at Ardiri Winery And Vineyards (Cornelius)

Marvel at the breathtaking views of Mount Hood as you enjoy a tasting at Ardiri Winery and Vineyard, one of Oregon’s “10 Best Wineries with Scenic Views”. Two tasting flights are available. The “Classic Flight” offers white, rosé and red wines. The “Sunshine in a Glass Flight” offers white and rosé wines. One of its most popular wines is the Oregon / California blend with grapes from its Napa Valley and Willamette Valley vineyards.

The beautiful, open tasting room features floor-to-ceiling panels and fireplaces. Outdoor seating is also available. There is a charcuterie board available, or you are welcome to bring your own food.

Wine events include quiz nights and pizza nights. Check out the link for more information.

5. Watch for the annual Tualatin Valley wine events

Click on this link for more information on events and festivals in the Tualatin Valley.

Watch for the Valentine’s Day Wine Loop (February), Memorial Day Wine Weekend (May),

Sherwood Wine Festival and Artisans Fair (June), Drink Pink Rosé Festival (July), Canines Uncorked (August), Forest Grove Uncorked (August) and Thanksgiving Weekend in Wine Country (November).

6. Taste some craft beer on the craft beer trail

Oregon is known as the land of artisanal microbials. Order the Ale Trail Passport or pick one up at one of the 22 participating breweries.

Stop by Ex Novo Brewing in Beaverton to sample some of its 16 craft beers made at its Portland brewery. Pair it with delicious Detroit-style pizza and you’ve got a winning pair! Seats are available inside and outside.

Another local favorite is Vertigo Brewing & Taproom in Hillsboro, brewing innovative and creative craft beers since 2008. Tastings are available in the taproom located next to the brewery. Although it does not serve as food, you can bring your own. Look for quiz nights, weekly themes, and special events.

People stand with their backs looking at the produce at the Beaverton Farmers Market.
Jo-anne bowen

7. Visit the Beaverton Farmers Market

Located in the heart of downtown, the Beaverton Farmers Market is recognized as one of Oregon’s largest and best Farmers’ Markets. Take the time to wander the stands, savor excellent cuisine and live entertainment. For a list of suppliers, click on this link.

Beaverton downtown historic district plaque.
Jo-anne bowen

8. Stroll through the historic district of downtown Beaverton

North of the Farmers Market, stroll through the historic city center and look for plaques on historic buildings. There are eight plaques which provide interesting information about the history. This is the plaque on the Cady Building 1914. Notice the architectural detail as well as family and business information.

Are you interested in historic Beaverton homes and period trees? Here is a link to a hiking guide.

9. Explore history by hiking the Quilt Barn Trail

Travel through rural areas of the Quilt Barn Trail to learn about history through the art of quilting. Each block has a certain meaning for the family. Four trails range from 1.5 hours of driving to 2.5 hours of driving. You can download a map and directions from this site. You can find a list of the 59 barns here.

Eagle's nest rescued at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve.
Jo-anne bowen

10. Enjoy nature at Johnson Bottom Wetlands Preserve (Hillsboro)

Enjoy nature as you walk the trails around the 635-acre Johnson Bottom Wetlands Preserve. Choose from eight trails ranging from 0.11 mile to 1.43 mile. The Upland Trail is accessible by ADA. More than 150 species of birds are observed there each year. Also enjoy the native plants and flowers.

Map of Jackson Bottom Wetlands Reserve.
Jo-anne bowen

Download the trail map here or pick up a hard copy on site.

11. Watch for the annual Oregon International Air Show (Hillsboro and McMinnville)

Held annually since 1988, the Oregon International Air Show is Oregon’s largest aviation event. The airshow’s mission is to provide a family-friendly event that promotes aviation, honors military and veterans, involves the community, and contributes to Oregon charities. Check out this link for more details on past artists.

Delicious Vietnamese cuisine at Saigon Bowl, Beaverton
Delicious Vietnamese cuisine at Saigon Bowl, Beaverton (Photo credit: Jo-Anne Bowen)

12. Enjoy dining at area restaurants

In search of Thai cuisine, Thai flower in Beaverton is a local favorite that I visit often. Thai Bloom has a reputation as one of the best Thai restaurants in the area.

Stop by Saigon Bowl, a Vietnamese restaurant in Beaverton. I enjoyed the Saigon combination: a winning combination of vegetables and grilled meats.

Another restaurant I recommend is the Reedville Cafe, also in Beaverton. The Reedville Cafe is another local favorite serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Look for specials of the month such as German October Pancakes and Apple Pancakes served with Bratwurst.

13. Sleep in charming accommodation

Aloft Hillsboro-Beaverton is a Marriott boutique hotel conveniently located in Beaverton.

I also enjoyed my stay at the Holiday Inn in Hillsboro.

The Willamette Valley and Tualatin Valley in Oregon offer many fantastic experiences – explore the countryside, farming, winemaking, craft beer trails, and nature preserves, making the area one of the destinations. must-sees in Oregon. Schedule a visit soon. You will be glad you did!

More things to do in Willamette Valley:

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