With its famous carousel, late-1800s architecture and location in the heart of the Willamette Valley about 70 miles south of Portland, Albany makes for a prime getaway, especially for history buffs. The town’s four historic districts, museums and stunning covered bridges convey the storied past of the Willamette Valley. Here we’ve laid out the ideal two-night itinerary, with plenty of time for exploring, tasting and absorbing the rich past that lives on among Albany’s residents.
Day 1: Visit a Museum, Taste Spirits and See a Movie
Arrive in the afternoon, and start with a visit to one of Albany’s lovely museums; the city is home to three. The Monteith House Museum — the city’s first frame house, built in 1849 — served as a meeting place for religious, political and other activities as well as the town’s first store. In addition to exhibits, check the museum’s website for “living history” activities like woodworking and biscuit baking. Families will love the Historic Carousel & Museum, featuring the city’s hand-carved and painted carousel that runs year-round. The Albany Regional Museum lets visitors stroll through for a taste of Albany’s early days, with exhibits detailing milestones like the city’s development and the Timber Carnival of the mid-20th century.
Next, hit up happy hour at one of Albany’s stellar combination brewery-distilleries. Calapooia Brewing is also the locale of Vivacity Spirits; visitors can stop by for porters and stouts or Turkish coffee liqueur paired with a Cascade Farms beef burger. Just a few blocks away at Deluxe Brewing/Sinister Distilling, guests can try pre-Prohibition pilsners or hopped gins, plus a series of experimental spirits made from some of Deluxe’s beers.
In the evening, catch a movie at the Pix Theatre, a first-run theater in an ornate historic building. The theater also serves local beer and wine alongside pizza, and crowd-pleasers like chocolate dipped frozen bananas or apple pie a-la-mug handmade from scratch.
Day 2: Explore Historic Districts on Foot, See Covered Bridges and Savor Local Cuisine
Start your morning with single-origin coffee at Margin Coffee Roasters, a cozy cafe with espresso drinks and breakfast sandwiches. When the craving for something sweet emerges, Natural Sprinkles bakery in downtown Albany sells cute cupcakes, gorgeous croissants and more.
Once you’re fed, take yourself on a self-guided walking tour of Albany’s historic districts using the free Albany Explorer app. Visitors can find four distinct historic districts in Albany — pick one or two that seem interesting to you.
The app includes videos on several notable buildings and profiles of six pioneering women of Albany who were recently added with a grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust. Those who prefer something tactile can print PDF maps found on the Albany Visitors Association’s page.
The Monteith District features jaw-dropping Gothic churches, plus the 1906 Georgian Revival residence known as the Cathey House. The Hackleman District is home to more than a dozen architectural styles, as well as the home of former Oregon Governor and former U.S. Senator George Chamberlain. The downtown Commercial District is a nice spot for those who want to shop between stops, with its mid-1800s commercial buildings like the beautiful Queen Anne-style Straney and Moore Livery Stable. Aviation aficionados may prefer the Airport District, named for the oldest airport in the Northwest and the second-oldest airport in the world.
Once you’ve finished your tour, pop by the Gallery Calapooia, a cooperative art gallery featuring 21 local artists. Then head to Frankie’s for lunch to enjoy braised-beef sandwiches and Cajun shrimp scampi before heading out on a tour of eight nearby covered bridges, guided by the Albany Explorer app.
Sit down for dinner at Sybaris Bistro, located in a historic building built by the founding fathers of Albany. Beard-nominated chef Matt Bennett sources meat and produce from Albany’s surrounding farms for hyper-seasonal menus (dishes rotate monthly) pulling culinary inspiration from around the world. It’s a popular spot, so call ahead for a reservation. After dinner, see a play at the Albany Civic Theater, which originally housed a restaurant and billiards hall, and later the Rialto Theater.
Day 3: Eat Waffles and Hunt for Antique Treasures
Before you head out, begin the day with a hearty breakfast. Brick & Mortar Cafe on First Avenue is the ideal spot for house-made biscuits smothered in sausage gravy or steak and eggs with horseradish creme. Alternatively, Jo Jo Macs serves fun treats like caramel-apple French toast or southern beignets. After breakfast, visit the Albany Antique Mall, with two floors and 20,000 square feet of displays, to take a piece of history home with you.
If You Go:
Book a room at the Best Western Plus Prairie Inn, which is located near Timber-Linn Memorial Park, where visitors can enjoy picnicking, walking paths near a pond for viewing wildlife or a trip to the Linn County Veterans Memorial.
Other seasonal adventures include events associated with Preservation Month in May, which includes the annual Tweed Ride and Vintage Bicycle Show & Swap Meet. Those interested in architecture are invited inside during the Historic Interior Home Tour in July or the Christmas Parlour Tour in December. And in October, be sure to check out the popular Trolley of Terror spooky tour and Halloween Ghost Walks, both fundraisers for the Monteith House.