A charming town with waterfalls, art and history
Located less than 30 minutes from downtown Salem, Oregon, you’ll find the picturesque town of Silverton. With well-maintained homes, a historic downtown area with local, one-of-a-kind businesses and dozens of hand-painted murals, Silverton is brimming with small-town charm.
1. Cross the Gallon House Covered Bridge
The Gallon House Bridge is one of the oldest covered bridges in the state. Built in 1916, it separates the towns of Mt. Angel and Silverton and dates back to a time when Oregon was a dry state.
While the prohibition on the sale of alcohol was strictly followed in Silverton, the residents of Mt. Angel got around the law by “gifting” each other alcohol – hiding the money that made it a sale. A gallon house was set up on the Mt. Angel side of the bridge, where Silverton residents would go to “purchase” whiskey by the gallon. This is how the bridge earned its name.
Having survived major flood damage and being repaired multiple times, the bridge remains open to the public and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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2. Try local brews
Far from the days of being a dry city, Silverton is now home to Silver Falls Brewery. Named after the iconic state park, the brewery tries to capture the essence and beauty of the park in every pint. The ale house is a family-friendly spot to try the brewery’s ales and lagers and order barbeque.
Although they don’t have a taproom of their own, Belgian Underground Beers brews out of Silverton. Their Belgian-style beers can be found in taprooms throughout the Willamette Valley, including several spots in Silverton and Salem.
3. Find your new favorite restaurant
If you’re heading to Silverton, make sure you are hungry! A handful of top-rated restaurants are located in the quaint town.
You’ll find some of the best Willamette Valley cuisine at the Silver Grille. Only open for dinner, the restaurant uses seasonal, local ingredients and changes its menu every four weeks. Remember to save room for dessert!
If you’re not in town for dinner, grab breakfast or lunch at Gather. The bistro-style restaurant sources as many ingredients as possible from the valley. From spiced pear and cornmeal hotcakes to chicken and waffles and pork belly banh mi, the eatery’s vast menu is impressive.
4. Explore Silver Falls State Park
With Silver Creek running through the town, a visit to nearby Silver Falls State Park is a must when visiting Silverton. At 9,200 acres, it is the state’s largest state park and is often referred to as the “crown jewel” of the Oregon State Park system. The park boasts 10 waterfalls, more than 25 miles of backcountry trails for mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding and breathtaking scenery.
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5. Spend a day at the Oregon Garden
No trip to Silverton is complete without a stop at the Oregon Garden. The 80-acre botanical wonderland features 20 specialty gardens, showcasing the diverse vegetation of the Pacific Northwest. In warmer months, the garden bursts with color as the plants flower, while berries and conifers steal the spotlight during the winter.
You can choose to tour through the garden at your own pace or take a guided trolley tour. After exploring the garden, stop by the garden restaurant for a meal or stay the night at the onsite resort.
6. Admire the architecture of the Gordon House
Oregon’s only Frank Lloyd Wright designed structure, the Gordon House, is located right outside of the Oregon Garden. Wright was one of the most famed architects of the twentieth century.
The Usonian-style home was originally built in 1964 in Wilsonville, Oregon. Facing demolition, the home was moved to its current location in Silverton in 2001. It maintains its original design, materials, setting, furniture, appliances and fixtures.
Tours of the home are available by reservation.
7. Take a tour through the town’s murals
Public art can be found on almost every corner in Silverton. The town boasts around 30 outdoor murals. The brightly-colored paintings depict everything from a beloved Scotch Collie to a Norman Rockwell replica, with each telling a story of the town’s history, well-known residents or national events.
Started in the 1990s, the town’s mural collection continues to grow. Visitors can download an app to their iPhone to take a tour of the murals.
8. Shop in the historical downtown
With buildings dating as far back as the 1800s, downtown Silverton has quite the history. Having been restored through the years, the buildings now sport eye-catching facades and house dozens of local stores and restaurants.
Find a piece of Silverton’s history at one of the town’s handful of antique stores, stock up on sweets at The Chocolate Box or catch a film at the iconic Palace Theatre. You can spend an entire afternoon exploring the downtown area.
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For more information on Silverton and other locations in the Mid-Willamette Valley, click here.