Dream Big on National Plan for Vacation Day

By Matt Wastradowski

If you feel the need to get away from it all, you’re not alone: According to the U.S. Travel Association, 63% of Americans feel they desperately need a vacation, and more than nine in 10 Americans say it’s important to use their paid time off each year to travel.

That’s why National Plan for Vacation Day is coming up on Jan. 26, 2021—to inspire Americans to look ahead, get inspired, and start dreaming about travel in the year ahead.

So as you think about day trips, weekend getaways, and longer travels this year, consider the Willamette Valley for your next adventure; you already know us for wine, but we’re also happy to host some of the region’s best fishing, family-run farms, quiet natural escapes, and passionate producers. And when you need a good night’s sleep after a long day in the woods or on the road, several bed & breakfasts in the Willamette Valley are offering a 20% discount when you book a future stay between Jan. 26 and Jan. 29, 2021.

So while you’re daydreaming about travels in the year ahead (and flipping through the pages of our free Oregon Wine Country travel guide), here’s a look at a mix of fun, under-the-radar, and classic experience throughout the Willamette Valley and West Cascades.

Fishing is a popular pastime on the McKenzie River. (Photo by Brittany Rossman)

Angling in Eugene and Lane County

There’s plenty to do around Eugene and Lane County all year long—but its spring, summer, and fall runs of bass, sturgeon, rainbow trout, Chinook salmon, and steelhead are all worth planning an outing around.

And fortunately, plenty of fishing and river guides travel the eight rivers and 249 lakes throughout the region. These guides have spent entire lifetimes fishing Oregon’s remote rivers and streams, and can help anglers navigate its many waterways—including the McKenzie River, perhaps the region’s most popular fishing destination.

Fishing is just one of 52 adventures to try this year in Eugene and the surrounding area. And as you get ready for spring or summer vacation, check out Travel Lane County’s Planning page for relevant and timely information to help make the most of your next trip.

Touring the Farms and Wineries of Oregon’s Mount Hood Territory

When the weather warms up, tour the Canby Farm Loop, a self-guided route that comprises 10 stops in the Canby-Aurora area.

The loop offers plenty of fun all year long, but it’s in spring and summer that the loop really comes alive at farms, nurseries, chocolatiers, dairies, wineries, and other stops that share the handcrafted bounty of the region. There you can learn about how your favorite foods are made and grown, what it’s like to craft some of the state’s best-loved wines, and more—all from the farmers and producers themselves.

Some of the Canby Farm Loop’s most popular stops include TMK Creamery, where visitors can see how cheese is made, and Morning Shade Farm and Nursery—where visitors can pick blueberries, marionberries, pears, apples, and other crops.

Several hiking paths crisscross Miller Woods Conservation Area just outside McMinnville. (Photo by Jim Fischer)

Forest Bathing in McMinnville and Yamhill County

In recent years, the concept of “forest bathing” has taken off around the world. The idea of “shinrin-yoku” (literally translated as “forest bathing”) began in Japan in the early 1980s and has since become a peaceful way to commune with nature in a way that benefits one’s mental and physical health.

Fortunately, visitors need not travel far from McMinnville—roughly four miles—to get a quick dose of nature therapy at Miller Woods Conservation Area.

The 130 acres of woodland and prairie that comprise Miller Woods Conservation Area are home to a grove of large oak trees, ponds, streams, and more—with hikes ranging from one-third of a mile (around one of the ponds) to a 4.5-mile loop that circumnavigates the area.

Along the way, interpretive panels educate visitors about forestry, soils, native plants, and more. Visitors might even see a variety of wildlife—including deer, porcupines, cougars, black bears, several species of bird, and other animals that either live on (or pass through) the property.

If you make plans to forest bathe at Miller Woods this spring or summer, keep a few things in mind: Pets are not allowed on the area’s trails, a $5 donation is suggested, trails may be muddy and slippery, and reservations may be required—so check ahead to plan your next visit to Miller Woods.

Learn more from Visit McMinnville on enjoying a healthful tour of McMinnville and Yamhill County.

Minto Island Tea Company cultivates its tea varieties on one of Oregon’s only dedicated tea farms.

Meeting Makers in Salem and the Mid-Willamette Valley

Part of what makes Salem and the Mid-Willamette Valley so charming is that you’re never far from rubbing elbows with some of the area’s most popular makers. 

At Minto Island Tea Company, for instance, visitors can sip green, oolong and black varieties from one of Oregon’s only dedicated tea farms.

Visitors with a sweet tooth, meanwhile, should check out Willamette Valley Pie Company, which processes some 12 million pounds of strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, marionberries, and other fruit every summer; at the company’s farm and cafe, visitors can sample that fruit in pies, scones, muffins, and more—and pick their own blueberries at the height of summer, as well.

And when you need to cool off, crack open a cold one from La Familia Cider, which was founded in 2017 by a family of first-generation Mexican immigrants; La Familia’s ciders are largely inspired by aguas frescas (fresh fruit beverages popular in Central and South America).

Learn more about the many makers and producers throughout Salem and the mid-Willamette Valley.

Enjoying Family Fun in the Albany Area

Indoors or out, Albany offers a little something for everyone—all year long.

In the heart of downtown, Splatter Box bills itself as “the ultimate art recreation destination” and gives visitors a new outlet for expressing their creativity; the colorful outfit lets groups throw, drip, fling, and brush in its paint throwing studio—and, yes, adults can join the fun, too. What visitors do with their paint is limited only by their imagination: Feel free to paint the walls, splash your friends, or even paint on a canvas.

Families also love Iron Water Ranch, roughly 10 minutes southwest of Albany. The ranch raises a flock of sheep and brings visitors into the heart of the operation all year long: Families can hold and bottle feed newborn lambs, take classes on raising sheep, and browse a variety of products made from wool in the ranch’s on-site shop.

Cascadia State Park is a popular campground along the Over the Rivers & Through the Woods Scenic Byway (Photo by Rick Obst).

Seeing the Sites of the West Cascades

(Cascadia State Park photo courtesy Rick Obst/Flickr)

Travel the Cascade foothills, and get off the beaten path with a trip along the Over the Rivers & Through the Woods Scenic Byway. The 66-mile byway starts in the Willamette Valley’s farmlands before climbing into the heart of the Cascades; along the way, there’s plenty of year-round recreation for a long day trip or a fun-filled weekend.

The byway starts in Brownsville, which was settled in 1846 and is Oregon’s third oldest town; bald eagles spend winter in the fields around town, and several historic buildings line Main Street today. Further east is Foster Reservoir, where anglers fish for trout and kokanee salmon, Cascadia State Park (a quiet campground in the heart of the byway), several pullouts for spying wildlife, and old-growth forests where some trees are more than 500 years old.

Two backpackers hike the Corvallis to the Sea Trail. (Photo courtesy of Visit Corvallis)

Hiking, Backpacking, and Riding in the Corvallis Area

Hearty hikers have something to look forward to this spring, with the grand opening of the Corvallis to the Sea Trail (also known as the C2C Trail).

The trail is exactly what it sounds like: a roughly 60-mile trail connecting the community of Corvallis and the Oregon Coast—specifically, a quiet stretch of shoreline between Seal Rock State Recreation Site and the community of Newport.

The trail has been in the works since the 1970s and has just recently opened its entire length to hikers, mountain bike riders, and equestrian riders who’d like to explore the forests and vistas of the Oregon Coast Range. The C2C trail follows public roads, private roads, U.S. Forest Service lands and wooded trails through wide-open meadows and lush forests. Highlights along the trail include local farms, wineries, historic sites, small towns, campgrounds, salmon-spawning grounds, and a myriad other attractions that could extend your trek anywhere from a few days to a week or more. 

Wherever you travel in the Willamette Valley this year, order your free Oregon Wine Country visitors guide. The full-color guide includes travel inspiration, routes, and local outings to stay, sip, and eat.