Why everyone should visit Albany, Oregon
Northwest Americana at its best
BY: Linda Kissam
Many people get caught up in visiting large, popular cities around the world to sight see and explore new places and faces. I get that. I use to do that a lot myself. However, when I moved to the Northwest, my interest was immediately peaked by the often overlooked small towns dotting the coast and inland roads. If you want a different type of vacation this year that provides insights into local culture, in exceptional ways, think Albany, Oregon.
The city still qualifies for small town status with a scattered population of around 51,000. It’s beauty cannot be measured until you get off the freeway. Driving quickly by its exits on I-5 tells the wrong story. It is a farming community with a unique main street located in the heart of western Oregon’s Willamette River valley, on the banks of the Willamette and its tributary, the Calapooia River. From its modest river town beginnings, Albany has grown south and east with the railroads, state highways and Interstate 5, and across the Willamette into the farms and wooded hillsides of North Albany. You get the best of Americana everywhere you look.
If you ask an Albany local, “What do you do for fun around here?” the answers are plentiful. There’s enough to do in Albany for at least two days if you hurry- more like 5 days if you take your time.
Where to Stay
Best Western Plus Prairie Inn- 1100 Price Road SE, Albany, OR 97322. Right off the interstate near Oregon State University. Check out the local sights easily. Affordable suites. Indoor pool and daily breakfast.
If you can’t find someplace to love in Albany, you just aren’t trying. Albany has all types of dining from the Northwest favorite fast food Taco Time to innovative upscale local cuisine from Sybaris there are delicious surprises at every turn. Here are four of my favorites. For other suggestions talk to the Albany Visitors Association.
Ivy Garden Rea Room: Who knew high tea would be offered in a small town? This one is special and can hold its own with any big city version. Homemade treats baked daily, gift shop and enthusiastic owner Sue Gates makes this afternoon stop a must. 541-928-7330.
Bo-Mack’s BBQ: Yup, good old fashion BBQ. A true local’s favorite, bring your appetite and high expectations. Down home yum and friendly service. Bo-Mack’s BBQ products can be found in a yummy three-pack at some Costco’s. If you see it – grab it. Just sayin’…
Linn Benton Community College Culinary School: Lunch with the culinary stars of tomorrow. This comprehensive program based on classical and French and European cuisine is a knock-your-socks off effort. Students plan, cook, execute and serve. (Dessert photo above)
Sybaris Bistro: This is the place to go for local innovative cuisine. Chef/owner Matt Bennet takes an originalist’s view of what’s on the monthly menu. Digging deep into regional roots your meal is likely to memorably reflect season and local customs. My dinner featuring four-course Native Northwest Cuisine was like nothing I had experienced before. This is experiential dinning.
Stretch your expectations a bit by visiting these four unique places. I promise you, you will be thanking me for the suggestions.
Oregon Freeze Dry: If you’re a hiker, you’ll know these people for their Mountain Line of freeze dried goods. If you’re a military enthusiastic, you may have seen their packaged freeze dried packets in the backpacks of our brave soldiers. Call for a tour that takes you from conception, to research, to development, to packaging. A unique 2 hour tour.
4 Spirits Distillery: The fine unique premium taste seems to be terroir driven providing an intriguing tasting. The story behind the name will make you a fan. This is one young man’s vision dedicated to all U.S. war veterans and active service members. The backstory is best told by owner Dawson Officer, so make sure you ask to hear it when you are there, but don’t let it distract you from the elegant profiles of the product. Located in Corvallis. Featuring fine profile whiskeys, rum and vodka.
St Maries & Ankeny Lakes Wild Rice Co: Located in nearby Salem, this is what might be called a “versatile farming opportunity.” See where wild rice can be farmed and packaged. The beauty of the countryside combined with the passion of the family makes this a delicious afternoon out.
Springbank Blueberry Farm: Located in nearby Lebanon, this is quintessential family farming located on a 12-acre site. Drive up and taste the seasonal bounty of blueberries and asparagus. Tasty fruit vinegars and small lot blueberry wines are made on premise. Beloved by locals, come early for the best selection and a chat with the owners who send this invitation to participate,” We feel that a little physical, mental, and spiritual work in this setting is the perfect formula for deep fulfillment.”
Albany boasts the most varied collection of historic buildings in Oregon. The collection includes styles from the 1840s through the late 1920s and is concentrated in an area of about 100 square blocks. Four historic districts are listed in the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior. You’re going to drool over the restored Victorians.
At the end of looking up and down and all around the streets for architectural wonders, there’s one more treat in store. The Albany Historic Carousel and Museum. Located at 503 First Ave, this is a 10 year grass roots community project come to fruition.
Think 52 newly created, locally sponsored and crafted, personalized animals mounted on a 1909 Dentzel Carousel Corporation mechanism, housed in a mammoth thoughtfully planned museum. Breathtaking.
Carving is ongoing for replacement and repair of carousel animals and decorative pieces. The larger workshop is housed in the basement, but demonstrations are often staged on the main carousel floor. This is an integral part of the carousel project everyone should visit.
Additional places worthy of your attention
Marks Ridge Winery
2 Towns Ciderhouse
Mazama Brewing Company Nectar Creek Honeywine
Eats and Treats
Thompson’s Mills State Heritage Site
White Spires Church
Novak’s Hungarian Restaurant
Willamette Valley Vineyards