While some visitors to Oregon's Willamette Valley end their road trips in foodie-friendly McMinnville, rich rewards beckon farther south. There, along winding back roads between Salem and Eugene, five towns flanked by seed farms and silos deliver history, wildlife, and killer blackberry pie.
Albany brings back old times. You can ride a hand-carved dragon on the 1909 merry-go-round at the Historic Carousel & Museum. Or treasure hunt at Albany Antique Mall, where 85 vendors sell vintage postcards, embroidered handkerchiefs, and much more. Continue the flashback by touring the covered bridges around Scio.
With at least six surrounding wineries and some 4,600 people, Philomath promises uncrowded tasting opportunities. At Lumos Wine Company or Cardwell Hill Cellars, you can enjoy local pinot noir along with views of Mary's Peak. You might pair your tipple with lunch at the Gathering Together Farmstand Restaurant, where the pasta, bread, and doughnuts are made from scratch. Just don't dally: The eatery typically serves its last meal of the year in mid-November.
Brownsville exudes such small-town charm that the team filming the '80s classic Stand by Me chose to shoot here. Catch a free screening at the history museum's Box Car Theatre. Don't miss the Moyer House, a restored 19th-century home, and the nearby Living Rock Studios, where Howard B. Taylor's colored rock tableaux are lit from behind and displayed in an 800-ton edifice Taylor and his family built.
At the foot of forest-fringed Fern Ridge Lake, Veneta boasts first-rate winter birding. The lake attracts hundreds of species annually, including tundra swans and bald eagles. In town, savor marionberry-orange scones beneath stained glass windows at church turned eatery Our Daily Bread Restaurant.
Come winter, tiny Alsea lures anglers with excellent salmon and steelhead fishing. Refuel at Deb's Cafe, a wood-paneled dining room where fisherfolk and food lovers alike tuck into burgers and homemade blackberry pie. Or dive into rural life at Leaping Lamb Farm, where overnight guests can explore forested trails, feed the chickens, sleep in a farmhouse, and visit the miniature donkey.