Fantastical beasts, pioneer homes, nature hikes, culinary adventures – the city of Albany and its environs offers all this and more, an affordable Willamette Valley destination perfect for a day trip or weekend getaway from the Portland area. Straddling the I-5 corridor, Albany is located about 70 miles south of Portland.
The best place to get your bearings – and get a taste of 19th century life – is with a visit to the c. 1849 Monteith House. Originally built by Albany’s founding family, the house is both a museum and one of the most authentically restored homes in the Pacific Northwest. While touring the two-story house, you’ll encounter live reenactments, period artifacts, hearth-cooked cornbread, and a pioneer gift store. Even better, it’s free.
For another taste of Albany’s history (and maybe some fresh popcorn and a first-run movie) check out the plush 200-seat, single-screen Pix Theater. The c. 1892 Victorian Queen Anne building – one of many found in the city’s historic downtown core – was originally built as a livery stable. Though it’s been completed renovated and rebuilt, you can still find original details like stained glass windows, a pulley system, and nine-foot front doors.
Albany’s Historic Carousel, photo by Kirt Edblom via Flickr Creative Commons
Next, head to the town’s newest attraction, the Historic Carousel & Museum, and check out the menagerie of 52 wooden animals – including prancing unicorns, snarling dragons and a splashy Orca whale – on the 50-foot carousel. After taking a spin (or two), you can walk three blocks to explore the museum’s memorabilia and carving studio.
Ready for a spot of lunch? From authentic Hungarian cuisine to Northwest-style barbecue, Albany offers some great options. Our favs include Ivy Garden Tea Room, Novak’s Hungarian Restaurant and Bo-Mack’s BBQ.
Walk off lunch at the 50-acre Talking Water Gardens wetland, situated in a former industrial area on the east end of town. As you stroll along the two miles of walking trails, there are plenty of areas to view native plants, fish, and wildlife. Also look for the series of waterfalls and weirs, which naturally treats wastewater by oxygenating and cooling it before it flows into the Willamette River.
Also well-worth a visit is Oregon’s last water-powered mill, Thompson’s Mills State Heritage Site, located 14 miles south of Albany in the small town of Shedd, which ran for 143 years. Along with touring the still-functional mill, you can feed the on-site chickens and turkeys and walk along the Calapooia River. If possible, take a guided tour so that you can see (and hear) those gears and turbines in action. Free.
Craving a fine dining spot in Albany? Look no further than Sybaris Bistro, where Chef Matt Bennett serves up an eclectic, rotating menu of hyper-seasonal dishes, from wild boar ribs with Korean-style cucumbers to grilled Chinook salmon with masa and guacamole. Almost everything is made in-house, including the desserts. Chef Bennett has been a visiting chef twice at the James Beard House in New York City.
When You Go
Albany is accessible by car, train, and bus. Parking is free in downtown Albany. Amtrak Cascades, Bolt Bus, and the City of Albany Public Transit Service all offer service to Albany Station, which is located at the southern edge of downtown. For more Information, visit albanyvisitors.com.