How to Spend a Long Weekend in Salem and the Mid-Willamette Valley
72 Hour Weekend Adventure
You could spend weeks crisscrossing Salem and the Mid-Willamette Valley, and you’d still only scratch the surface of what makes the area so special. We’re lucky to host dedicated farmers, passionate winemakers, devoted historians, and others who are eager to share their experiences with curious visitors.
But if you don’t have weeks to spare, we’d invite you to spend three days checking out the farms, tasting rooms, restaurants, and local attractions for a deeper understanding of—and appreciation for—the Mid-Willamette Valley. We’ve even put together a thorough guide to help you do just that.
Here are our suggestions for enjoying a long weekend in Salem and the Mid-Willamette Valley.
Day 1: Explore Salem
Your first day in the Mid-Willamette Valley shows off Salem, Oregon’s capital city and a thriving community bisected by the Willamette River.
Start your day with a piping-hot coffee, along with a bagel or creative breakfast sandwich, at The Governor's Cup Coffee Roasters. Since 1991, the shop has been roasting some of the city's favorite coffee in downtown—best enjoyed in a cozy, brick-lined dining room adorned with works from local artists. For more of an on-the-go start to the day, stop by Taproot Lounge & Café, a beloved local institution that serves juices, smoothies, and infused drinks.
Once you’re ready to start the day, get a feel for Salem’s fascinating history at a pair of museums and cultural institutions. The Willamette Heritage Center comprises 14 historic structures that host exhibits and artifacts covering the cultural and industrial history of the Mid-Willamette Valley; the visitor center is housed in a one-time warehouse, for instance, and visitors can stop by the oldest single-family house still standing in Salem. For a more personal look at Salem’s past, check out the Deepwood Museum & Gardens—where a Victorian home showcases artifacts from Salem’s earliest days and is surrounded by regal gardens.
You’ve likely worked up an appetite walking through the city’s museums and strolling through some gorgeous gardens, so head downtown for lunch. Popular stops include Bo & Vine Burger Bar (noted for filling burgers, homemade tater tots, and a bevy of 20 dipping sauces), Ritter's Housemade Foods (a popular spot with locals—beloved for its burgers, sandwiches, and brick-oven pizzas), and Fork Forty Food Hall (where you can sample worldly cuisine from six chefs—including bao, pizza, ramen, Syrian fare, and more—and enjoy local libations at an on-site bar).
For a little post-lunch culture, explore the Public Art Walking Tour in downtown Salem. The city core hosts dozens of pieces, with works that include intricate sculptures, vibrant murals, and even the Eco-Earth Globe—a towering globe that has been adorned with 86,000 tiles and 200 handmade ceramic icons in Salem's Riverfront Park. (As an added bonus: You can take part in the City of Salem Public Art Treasure Hunt, a kind of scavenger hunt that invites participants to solve a series of fun questions to help find specific pieces.) If your travels take you to Riverfront Park, kids are always fond of Salem’s Riverfront Carousel, which for more than two decades has been adorned with handcrafted horses, zebras, giraffes, and even a covered wagon.
Wind down after a busy day by exploring a pair of Latino-owned businesses at the southern edge of Salem’s downtown. Azuls Taco House dishes a globetrotting taco menu that includes Thai- and Korean-inspired tacos, as well as more traditional offerings (such as enchiladas, burritos, and more). The local chain’s downtown outpost shares a dining room with La Familia Cider Company, which crafts hard ciders inspired by aguas frescas—fresh fruit drinks that are popular in Mexico and Central America; in addition to La Familia’s offerings, the taphouse pours a variety of ciders from local purveyors.
Day 2: Head East—for History, Farm Fresh Food & Handcrafted Beverages
Head east of Salem—where you’ll enjoy a glimpse of the region’s farmland, sample its acclaimed wines, explore a Bavarian-themed community, and even sip a few brews crafted by Benedictine monks. So once you’ve put on your walking shoes and gassed up the car, here’s how to make the most of your trip.
You’ll start your day at E.Z. Orchards Farm Market, a local institution that since 1929 has showcased locally grown ingredients in a variety of ways—salsas, fresh produce, and more. And while it's all worth sampling, you’re here for fresh-baked pastries; one highlight is the market’s homemade donuts, featuring flavors that change with the season (which means raspberry and marionberry donuts in summer, apple cider donuts in fall, and so forth).
Fully sated, head northeast to the Bavarian-themed community of Mount Angel. The town began to take shape in the late 1800s and adopted its distinct, city-wide decor thanks to the large number of Bavarian immigrants that moved to the burgeoning town at that time. Today, you can connect with that history through a 3.5-mile walk along the Mt. Angel Heritage Trail; if you do the full loop, you’ll pass a dozen historic sites outfitted with interpretive panels.
At this point, it’s worth remembering: You’re in Willamette Valley, known the world over for outstanding wines. So spend your afternoon sipping pinot noir, chardonnay, and other coveted varietals at some of the dozen, family-run wineries that are part of the Cascade Foothills Winegrowers co-op. Hanson Vineyards, for instance, offers a friendly tasting room and leafy patio—while Vitis Ridge is open weekends, with a dog-friendly tasting room mere feet from where your next favorite wines are currently aging in barrels.
If a refreshing craft beer sounds good, head to the Benedictine Brewery at Mount Angel Abbey. It’s one of only a few monk-owned breweries in the United States—and has earned acclaim for Old World-inspired beers, including farmhouse ales, a potent Belgian triple, and a wholly original dark ale that doesn’t conform to any particular style—but which boasts Belgian and Pacific Northwest influences. The taproom is devoid of televisions or piped-in music for a more relaxed vibe, and a patio offers plenty of outdoor seating (some of which is covered).
Back in Salem, treat yourself to some of the city’s freshest Italian fare. The elegant DaVinci Ristorante serves a variety of pastas, seafood dishes, flatbreads, and seasonal salads that reflect the agricultural bounty of the region, while Basil & Board serves Neapolitan pizzas, creative panini, and other Italian dishes in a casual environment. (The latter even hosts a rooftop bar that’s open May-September.)
Day 3: Head West—and Onto the Great Oaks Food Trail
Today’s adventures offer a mix of outdoor adventure, local history, and fresh fare—all around Salem and in quaint communities. Here’s a guide to a full day of fun.
As you head west, fuel up with breakfast at Annette's Westgate Cafe. The local hangout specializes in hearty breakfast and lunch dishes with all the traditional favorites—including omelets, chicken-fried steak, and eggs Benedict.
Following breakfast, enjoy a quiet morning in nature with a trip to Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge. Nestled at the eastern edge of the Coast Range foothills, the wildlife refuge hosts easy hiking trails and several viewpoints where you may spot some of the 230 species of bird that have been recorded at the refuge.
Next, it’s time to check out the Great Oaks Food Trail, a self-guided culinary tour through U-pick farms, markets, eateries, and more along the western flanks of the Mid-Willamette Valley. With nearly 50 stops to choose from, we don’t expect you to travel the whole trail—but a few stops will deepen an appreciation for the region’s agricultural output.
Perryhill Farm, for instance, offers U-pick opportunities for ripe blueberries, cherries, peaches, and apples (depending on the season). And if you’re hankering for lunch, stop into Left Coast Estate; the award-winning winery is known for sustainable winemaking practices and a tasting room (surrounded by regal oak trees) where you can enjoy a tasting flight paired with charcuterie, panini, or (on weekends) wood-fired pizza. For more ideas, check out the official Great Oaks Food Trail brochure and map.
After lunch, make a beeline to the Polk County Museum to learn about the area’s early European settlers. Continue your Polk County history lesson with a stop at one of Oregon’s oldest, largest, and best-loved wineries: Eola Hills Wine Cellars. The winery is known for using sustainable practices to grow and harvest pinot noir and chardonnay (among other varietals)—and its Legacy Estate Vineyard hosts a summertime concert series, as well as year-round hiking trails through the vineyards.
From Eola Hills, head southwest to the charming college town of Monmouth, home to Western Oregon University. Dive into the community’s fascinating past with the Historic Monmouth Walking Tour, which is actually three separate tours; the quick trips head through Monmouth’s East Main Street Historic Neighborhood, the Western Oregon University campus, and the city’s downtown core.
As your three-day excursion winds down, reflect on all the fun you’ve had over dinner at Crush Wine Bar & Tasting Room in downtown Monmouth. The chic bistro boasts an evolving food menu, a fun atmosphere and more than 100 wines available by the glass!
If your energy level and appetite allows, grab a late-night drink at one of the craft breweries in West Salem on your way back into town. Xicha Brewing is Oregon’s only Latino-owned craft brewery, producing a lineup of ales and lagers that reflects a Latin American-influence—and Gilgamesh Brewing (whose outpost in West Salem is called The Woods) is fond of brewing with Willamette Valley-grown ingredients such as hazelnuts, blueberries, pumpkins, and mint.