Weekend Itinerary: What to Do in McMinnville, Oregon

Most tourists head to McMinnville for the dozens of wineries that dot the hills here and across Yamhill County. But there is much to discover in the small town at the foot of the hills, from avant-garde restaurants and cafes to historically preserved theaters and a hopping arcade.

Considering its proximity to Portland (45 minutes, if you turn on the traffic lights through Sherwood just to the right), exploring the Mac proper, beyond the grape, makes for the perfect weekend getaway. Here’s what to put on your itinerary.

Where to stay

Before you start to play and before you eat, you must stay. On the outskirts of historic downtown McMinnville, A ‘Domaine Toscane Bed and Breakfasts offers rooms with old-fashioned courteous charm, as if you had just woken up in a Jane Austen fairy tale. These accommodations have indeed captivated us body and soul. (Also check out their chalets.)

For a more urban and modern atmosphere, check out Apartments 3e Rue and the Atticus Hotel, both in the city center. At 3rd Street Flats you will find 11 self-service and full-service apartments with amenities including free wine and chocolate or local tea and coffee. At Luxury Atticus, the emphasis is on local pride; works by area artists hang on the walls, book selections were curated by locals, and the adjoining restaurant and lounge originate from Red Hills Kitchen, a long-standing hangout for residents. (Pro tip: don’t forget to ask reception for the secret lounge.)

If all else fails, there’s always McMenamins. Their four floors Oregon Hotel opposite the historic Mack Theater has 42 rooms, a restaurant, concert hall and rooftop bar.

Where to play

No trip to McMinnville is complete without a stop at Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, which features a huge collection of planes and spaceships, a flight simulator, a cafe and tons of exhibits. The museum is also home to the Spruce Goose, a huge flying boat built by Howard Hughes. (November 2, 2022 marks the 75th anniversary of the Spruce Goose.)

Stretch your legs as you explore the trails Trappist Abbey of Our Lady of Guadalupe for a contemplative hike. (The monastery also allows visitors to rent our rooms when they retire for the day.) In the meantime, Joe Dancer Park features a small network of trails near the Yamhill River, as well as a fun skatepark. Watch the planes take off at the Galen McBee Airport Park while you perch on one of its many picnic tables on the forest trails. (Don’t forget to visit the mushroom house while you’re at it.) Finally, put on Miller Woods Conservation Area. Throughout the 130 acres of wooded meadows you will find an array of ecosystems, with over four miles of trails. If you are a cyclist, there are plenty of routes in the region to explore. Just be sure to pay a visit to Tommy bike shop if you need tune-up.

Open that piggy bank, we’re heading to Joysticks, an arcade room reserved for quarters. (Don’t worry, they have an ATM in the back.) From retro classics to a wall of pinball machines, make your mark on the leaderboards while sipping something from their rotating tap list.

Vinyl heads can find a hidden gem at Vortex, the best (well, alone) independent record store in the county, and literary nerds can find another book to add to their ever-growing ‘Must Read’ list at Third Street Books.

Where to eat / drink

Breakfast

Your day in McMinnville starts with a good breakfast. For a high end, try Café des Bois Sauvages, a delicious country restaurant adorned with vintage signs on the walls and kitchen utensils hanging from the ceiling. The food is pretty good too. Try the Wildwood French Toast, topped with their homemade granola. Bakery & Cafe Red Fox offers simple breakfast options as well as stellar pastries and breads. Don’t forget to take a box of macaroons.

Breakfast

Up Highway 99W in the Grocery Outlet parking lot, Antojitos La Gordita The food cart serves deliciously inspired Mexican cuisine: tortas, flautas, tamales, burritos, esquite, and more. Wash it all off with a large horchata. For mouth-watering Thai cuisine, Thai country restaurant is a local favorite. (Note: in the middle of the coronavirus, this restaurant only offers take-out.) Open Tuesday to Saturday, Mac Market has served house chef Kari Shaughnessy’s small rotating plates, coffee, cocktails and the community in its refurbished 10,000 square foot warehouse since 2019.

Having dinner

Taste pizzas, by the pool and Pinot Noirs at the Oak, a full-service, two-story bar with seasonal cocktails and rotating draft beer. After bumping into a few strangers at the pool table, proceed to HiFi Wine Bar for a post-match victory wine. There’s a lot to like here, but the space will particularly resonate with music nerds for its selection of vinyl records, surround sound system, and live music. For Spanish-inspired cuisine, a trip to La Rambla is a must.

nightcap

Blue Moon is the kind of place you end your night out, the kind of dive bar where locals chat to heavy-handed bartenders while Tom Petty plays on the radio. (It’s cash only at this establishment, friend.) For cocktail lovers, Conservatory bar has a high PNW concentration, with handcrafted cocktails constructed from local ingredients.

Joshua B. Speller