Cool Things to Do in Oregon's Tualatin Valley for Food, Wine, & Outdoor Lovers
The Tualatin Valley (too-AHH-la-tin) in the northernmost part of the Willamette Valley in the Pacific Northwest state of Oregon seems the best of all worlds. Rural and bucolic, it's just 20 minutes from Portland, the largest urban hub in the state, and an hours drive from the scenic Oregon Coast. The valley-within-a-valley has been influenced for generations by immigrants establishing new wineries, working the local fields and vineyards, and building the country's booming tech industry at Intel in nearby Hillsboro. It's high tech and low tech, new and old school, urban and rural. As a result, the Tualatin Valley is infused with innovation and international flavor from restaurants and craft breweries, farming and viticulture. The "local" culture is often surprising and exciting. And there are more things to do in the Tualatin Valley than you could possibly cover in a week or two, with activities and tours for every taste.
We traveled there this summer from south Florida, and it was great to get out of the Florida heat and into the mountains. We landed in Portland with a map and a few ideas to start with including a visit to the Portland Japanese Gardens (see below), before picking up our rental car and heading to the Tualatin Valley. What we found at first was bucolic and almost nostalgic, small towns and country farm stands. Hand-painted signs for fresh blueberries right off the highway tempted us to stop and pick a few, but I opted to photograph them instead. Further along, the landscape changed to manicured high tech campuses and suburbs with upscale retail stores, high-end brands, and ethnic restaurants galore. Another turn here and there and suddenly there we were in the middle of gorgeous vineyard views.
Whether you're here to visit the Valleys (Tualatin and the rest of Willamette), the city (Portland), or the Oregon coast (Cannon Beach among others) Tualatin makes a great base to explore it all. Here's a glimpse of what's in store and what to do whether you're a Chowhound, Wino, Outdoor lover, or all three.
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Things to Do in the Tualatin Valley
Willamette Valley Wine Tours
First and foremost, this is Oregon wine country, known for their Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. If you love Pinot, you'll be in wine heaven! 12 Tualatin Valleywineries dot the countryside (of the nearly 550 Willamette Valley wineries) and most of them also produce Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and other varietals too. In addition to wine - and in keeping with the international draw to the area - Forest Grove is home to SakéOne, the largest producer of premium quality saké in the Pacific Northwest. We visited SakéOne and about half the wineries in the Tualatin Valley - Ponzi Vineyards, Apolloni Vineyards, Cooper Mountain Vineyards, Montinore Estate, and Ruby Vineyards, tasting and relaxing in their beautiful tasting rooms. We especially loved the tasting rooms at Ponzi, Apolloni, and Montimore, for their beautiful outdoor patio areas with various gathering spaces, including bocce courts. Whether you're a wine connoisseur or novice, we recommend doing a few Willamette Valley wine tours to experience the best wines of the Tualatin Valley.
The Pacific Northwest is arguably the Craft Beer Center of the Universe - or at least the United States - because of the excellent quality hops they grow. And while we're not huge fans of the hop-happy IPAs, we found some great examples of what's brewin' in the Tualatin Valley.
McMenamins is known for crafting delicious beers and we tried a few at our hotel, McMenamins Grand Lodge. I love a good radler, or summer shandy (half beer with half fruit soda or lemonade) so the fact I loved the Ruby Ale on draft was no surprise. It was crisp, light, and fruity.
In Forest Grove, Waltz Brewing and the newly opened Ridgewalker Brewing Company are making some good beer. Waltz' Kölsch, But No Cigar is a light German pilsner that could easily become a new favorite! Find yourself a good taproom in the Valley and see what the local beer scene is all about.
Whether you're into hiking, camping, cycling, paddling, sports, or a good old-fashioned road trip, the Tualatin Valley is all about the outdoors. Cyclists can see the beautiful valley along the 50-mile Tualatin Valley Scenic Bikeway which includes the 21-mile car free Banks-Vernonia State Trail. There's even a local baseball team you can root for when you want to relax but still be outside on a warm evening. Fans can cheer for the Hillsboro Hops, a farm team for the MLB Arizona Diamondbacks.
Tualatin River Kayaking
The Tualatin River flows through this part of Oregon, providing endless opportunities for paddlers with a canoe, kayak, or even a stand up paddleboard along the Tualatin River Water Trail.
Farms & Markets
Not every destination gets to show off their amazing rural personality and if you like this, the Tualatin Valley is chock full of fun places to explore from pick-your-own produce, farm stands and farmer's markets, livestock farms and lavender farms! There's even a Quilt Barn Trail to follow. We enjoyed our stop at the Smith Berry Farm market in Hillsboro. Along with fresh and mostly local seasonal produce, they have small livestock, fresh herbs for sale, all sorts of homemade jams and preserves, and the most delicious local honey around. They can also whip you up the freshest smoothies while you shop.
You can enjoy all this and more on a Vineyard and Valley Scenic tour route through the Tualatin Valley, wide open stretches of road passing mile after scenic mile of orchards, vineyards, and bucolic rural landscapes.
Where to Eat in the Tualatin Valley
The international scene of the Tualatin Valley extends to the local food in a big way, where you'll find big flavors in small towns. This area of the Pacific Northwest is one of the best food destinations in the US. In a few days, we ate at the most incredible Peruvian, Japanese, Indian, and Thai restaurants, and we hope you try them when you visit:
We're told the owner Hiro Horie started his Japanese bakery because he could find an authentic one he liked. The word Oyatsupan is an amalgam of two Japanese words: “OYATSU” meaning snack, and “PAN”, meaning bread or sweet roll. It knocked our socks off. If you don't know where to start like we didn't - ask the staff for suggestions. They helped us pick out some authentic pastry favorites - a little sweet and a little savory. 16025 SW Regatta Ln, Beaverton, OR
A good cup of coffee or tea in the morning can sometimes be hard to find. Kafé uses organic, natural, fair trade ingredients featuring specialty coffees, loose leaf teas, boba (tea shaken with milk), and lattes. We ordered two Americano coffees for breakfast - the darkest reddish-brown coffee we'd ever seen, including the slight foam - that was brewed from beans grown in Thailand. It was rich and creamy and not too strong. Our first order from their “Toast Bar” (avocado slices on thick0sliced organic whole wheat with Sriracha) was so good we ordered again (watermelon radish and avocado on organic whole wheat). Yum! 1832 Pacific Ave A, Forest Grove, OR
South Store Cafe
A quaint country store restaurant, the South Store Cafe is on the way to several good wineries, and across the street from Smith Berry Farm Market. They have a wide array of fresh and healthy soups, sandwiches, salads, and of course homemade muffins and desserts, so stop for lunch then browse the farmers market to your heart's content. 24485 SW Scholls Ferry Rd, Hillsboro, OR
Ironworks Grill at McMenamins Grand Lodge
Located at the McMenamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove, the Ironworks Grill is open to the public for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The Chef uses greens and other veggies from the Lodge's onsite gardens, and the eggs are from the resident chickens. Ask about their homemade giardiniera they make in their on-site Fermentation Chamber. 3505 Pacific Ave, Forest Grove, OR
THE place for Indian food in the Tualatin Valley, the food at Chennai Masala is traditional and delicious, with something to please everyone. Start with the vegetable tempura! 2088 NW Stucki Ave, Hillsboro, OR
This popular sushi restaurant is housed in the historic Hillsboro Old Library building, and is consistently high-rated for some of the best sushi in the Tualatin Valley. They also serve local saké like Momokawa from SakéOne. 209 NE Lincoln St, Hillsboro, OR
We enjoy Peruvian influenced dishes and the Yellow Llama had more than a few of our favorites on the menu. This new restaurant in the heart of downtown Forest Grove is casual and comfortable. You can order small tapas style plates or pick an entree like Lomo Saltado or Escabeche de Pollo. Most dishes here are cooked to order using fresh ingredients giving you time to have one of their house specialty cocktails, many made using Pisco from Peru. If you’d like to try a Peruvian or Latin American dish, we recommend the Yellow Llama. 2036 Main St., Forest Grove, OR
We love fusion cuisine especially when it’s done right. At Bites in downtown Forest Grove, the fusion of Thai, Korean, Mexican, and American cuisines is done very right. The a la tapas dishes are made from locally sourced ingredients. 2014 Main St, Forest Grove, OR
Day Trips from the Tualatin Valley
The Tualatin Valley is the perfect base from which to explore the bustling city of Portland if you feel like a bit more peace and quiet, and is just an easy hours drive to the Oregon Coast. Located just 20 minutes outside the city, towns like Hillsboro, Forest Grove, and Beaverton offer much to the visit without the congestion of city traffic.
Nearby Portland is one of the most interesting and vibrant cities in the Pacific Northwest. It gets mistaken for the capital of Oregon, when in fact it’s the city of Eugene to the south. Portland has great restaurants, breweries, nightlife and some pretty cool and unusual things to do. It's also home to the Portland Japanese Gardens, one of the prettiest Japanese garden settings in the country. And being the funky city that it is, you can imagine how good the shopping in Portland is — some great vintage stores and unusual buys.
We also found Portland to be relatively inexpensive to visit, since so many activities and things to do there are free or pretty darn cheap — perfect for family outings and vacations, where kiddos can run around the tons of green space and Mom and Dad can enjoy some kid friendly happy hours in Portland. Or you can spend an entire day exploring the parks, having a craft beer or two, noshing on some street food, and hanging out in Powell's Bookstore, the largest bookstore in the world — all for the low, low price of about $15.
Cannon Beach is perhaps the most popular of the beach towns along the Oregon Coast, but with good reason. The famous Haystack Rock that dominates Instagram pics is located near the center of town. Ecola State Park is minutes away from town and well worth a day of hiking and exploring - and it offers some of the area's most beautiful photo ops as well. There are some good restaurants and coffee shops, and one very fun dining experience that foodies will love. The EVOO Cannon Beach Cooking School holds Cooking Demonstration Dinners that are information and fun, with a delicious 4-course dinner too.
Where to Stay in Portland, the Valley, and the Beach
Where to Stay in the Tualatin Valley
We absolutely loved our stay in the quiet town of Forest Grove, at McMenamins Grand Lodge. It's centrally located so you can explore the best of the Tualatin Valley, from wineries and the scenic countryside to the great restaurants we mentioned above. The hotel may be the most unique place you've ever stayed - it was for us. It's perfect for romantic getaways and a great place for families. Check rates and availability.
Where to Stay in Portland
We were so impressed with our stay at McMenamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove that we were eager to see what their other properties were like. We booked a last minute room at McMenamins Crystal Hotel, which was a perfect choice to be in the heart of Portland. It's walking distance to parks, great restaurants, craft breweries, and has an amazing subterranean soaking pool. Check more details and availability.
Where to Stay in Cannon Beach
Cannon Beach has a rustic, beachy feel which extends to much of the lodging, from beachside bungalows to local hotels. We stayed at The Hearthstone Inn, a homey lodge-style inn built with local cedarwood, which is part of the Cannon Beach Hotel lodgings group. The Inn is set on Hemlock Street, the main street that runs through town, but we found it to be very quiet, even during the busy summer season. It was perfect for two people and we loved the fireplace next to the comfy bed. Check rates and availability.