Awesome days in AlbanyHow to spend your next long weekend at Oregon's best kept secret

First published 15 July 2022

One of the best kept secrets in Oregon - Albany

Albany is the best-kept secret in Oregon, and it makes sense.

The town’s charms are easily overlooked if you spend time looking at the collection of chain stores and strip malls, but if you take the time to walk through the city’s historic downtown, a different picture takes shape.

Albany is home to three historic districts with buildings dating back to the 1850s in more than six different architectural styles. It’s the kind of place where smiling faces greet their neighbors as they pass on the sidewalk, heading to their favorite independent businesses. Add in a lovely location at the confluence of the Calapooia River and Willamette River, amazing restaurants, a historic carousel, and proximity to wine country, and you’ll be glad you took a weekend or longer to explore Albany.

The compact, beautifully revitalized downtown, a National Historic District, makes it possible to spend days adventuring without traveling more than a few miles from the Amtrak station.

Here’s some ideas on how to spend your next long weekend. For more on the best spots to stay, eat, drink and play in town, download the Albany Explorer App to your mobile device. It’s free and an easy way to navigate the city’s historic districts and covered bridges, listen to audio and watch video narratives of the city’s tours, and then experience them in person.

Paddle, concert and nature stroll

For the outdoorsy folks, head to the sparkling Waverly Lake, where you can rent a paddleboat by the hour (life jackets included; open Thursday through Sunday, Memorial Day to Labor Day).

  • Cyclists will want to check out all or part of the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway, which heads south to Brownsville or north to Salem.

  • If walking trails are more your speed, there are plenty to choose from: The 3.9-mile out-and-back soft-surface trail at Takena Landing Park on the north side of the Willamette River features peaceful views and is great for all skill levels (also friendly for dogs on leash).

  • Simpson Park is another forested retreat along the river, with 10 shorter trails to choose from. And across the street is Talking Water Gardens, a 50-acre wetland site (open ‘til sunset) with walking paths and plenty of wildlife viewing — more than 100 species of birds.

  • If you can swing a visit on a Thursday, you’ll be right in time for the River Rhythms concert at Monteith Riverpark, which features nationally known entertainers every July and August on the bank of the Willamette River.

  • After your evening concert, head back downtown and settle into a comfy booth at Vault 244 for small plates, craft cocktails (and more live music) in this historic bank building, built in 1895 — look for the namesake bank vault doors.

  • Or, if you prefer, sit down for a cold beer at the delightfully old-school Deluxe Brewing Company — a “brewstillery” and tasting room where the owners make their own gin, grappa and single-malt whiskey. You can bring your own snacks in when the food trucks are not there (check their weekend schedules), and kids are welcome in for a game of ping pong.

Visit Willamette Valley Wine Country

Springhill Cellars is located within the Albany city limits and typically open to the public for tastings from May through December. It’s small, family-owned, and most of the grapes are sourced from their own estate vineyards. The tasting room is cozy, charming, and friendly.

But once you get outside Albany, you’ll find the surrounding area is dotted with wineries.

Willamette Valley Vineyards in Turner is less than 20 minutes away. They’re a large-scale operation with spectacular views and a gorgeous, posh tasting room with indoor and outdoor fireplaces.

Standouts include Bluebird Hill Cellars, a winery and bed-and-breakfast where you can bask in stunning views as you sip a glass of award-winning wine on a lovely wrap-around porch.

Treat Yourself to an Incredible Meal

Albany is home to a surprising number of incredible restaurants.

  • Start with a power breakfast at downtown’s Brick & Mortar Cafe, where carnitas benedict with chipotle hollandaise goes nicely with the weekend bloody mary bar.

  • Fill your belly with a hearty plate of chicken paprikas over homemade spaetzle for lunch at Novak’s Hungarian Restaurant, which specializes in traditional Hungarian fare sourced from local ingredients, many of which are grown in the restaurant’s own hydroponic garden.

  • For a local favorite, head to Frankie’s, for inspired farm-to-table fare such as shepherd’s pie featuring ground lamb from the nearby Wahl Family Farm.

  • During your trip, definitely include the James Beard Award-nominated Sybaris Bistro. This should be a must-stop on your visit. The food is fantastic, fresh, and just as good, if not better, than anything that will cost you twice as much in Portland. The service is friendly without being overbearing, and they also have fantastic cocktails.

  • Margin Coffee offers irresistible local coffee, tea, quiches, and pastries if you're just looking for a quick bite.

  • Find evening entertainment with a movie and beer on tap at The Pix Theatre. If you’re feeling artsy, end your jam-packed weekend with a splash at Splatter Box, where you can use squirt bottles, brushes and squirt guns to paint on their graffiti wall and take your own Jackson Pollock-inspired work home.

History, art and architecture

  • If you want to learn more about what life was like in Albany in the early days, be sure to stop by the Monteith House, which served as a store, private home, and community worshipping and gathering place in the mid-1800s. Since it’s rumored to be haunted, tours of Monteith House are especially popular around Halloween.

  • Next, it’s four blocks east to the Albany Regional Museum, which shares local lore where kids can play dress-up in the children’s section. Check the museum’s event schedule for fascinating events like the Albany Street Railway History Tour, a narrated ride on a vintage city streetcar.

  • Peruse the Gallery Calapooia, a cooperative effort of area artists, for a gift to take home.

  • Walk two blocks to the free Albany Historic Carousel & Museum, the city’s biggest attraction, where you can watch woodcarvers craft the carousel animals and hop on the lovingly restored 100-year-old ride, carrying colorful figures including Hope, the giraffe; Chinook, the sockeye salmon; and Daisy, the elephant. (Ride tokens for the carousel itself cost $2 but entry to the building is free.)

  • Any time of year, set out on a self-guided tour of Albany’s three historic districts — a detailed brochure explains architectural styles and history.

  • If you want to rub elbows with locals, pop by Two Rivers Fly Shop to talk fishing, then toss your line out at Bryant Park for bluegill, trout or crappie. For dinner, enjoy burgers and pints on the patio at Calapooia Brewing.

Albany Farmers Market & Shopping

Rise and shine early for a stroll through the local vendors at Albany Farmers’ Market (open Saturdays, April through November) and make sure to fuel up for adventure for the day. Places to shop in Albany range from quirky, unique boutiques, to nationally-known names filled with your favorite brands.

Explore the Downtown Commercial District

Albany’s commercial history began in 1848, when the Monteith brothers opened a general store in their house on the edge of the present downtown. Today’s downtown features a collection of buildings dating from that time up through the early 1900s, and includes a variety of architectural styles. Historic buildings remain in use today as restaurants, shops, and offices.

Notable buildings include the Flinn Block, 222 First Ave. W. (1887), known for having one of the most ornate French Second Empire Facades in the Northwest; and the Straney and Moore Livery Stable, 321-323 Second Ave. W (1892), a fanciful Queen Anne style building.

Historic Downtown Albany

Albany’s vibrant downtown commercial district is home to dozens of local businesses unlike any you’ll find elsewhere. The Albany Antique Mall is a two-story haven for antique-lovers. Emma Downtown sells high-quality womens’ clothing and home decor, and The Natty Dresser provides menswear, shoes, and hats. Other downtown shops include toys, kids clothing, quilt shops, and art.

Heritage Mall

Heritage Mall is a shopping destination for clothing, footwear, electronics, crafts, home decor and more. National brands like Target, Old Navy, and the state of Oregon’s only Hobby Lobby store, can be found at Heritage Mall. Heritage Mall is also home to a variety of restaurants and holds fun events year-round. Free wi-fi, a children’s play area, and tasty food court are available. Visit for a store directory and more information.

Albany’s annual Northwest Art & Air Festival

In August, Albany’s annual Northwest Art & Air Festival celebrates hot air balloons, visual arts and music. Rock legends Joan Jett, 38 Special, Chris Daughtry, Blue Oyster Cult and Bachman & Turner have come to perform in the past.

Looking for a place to stay?

Check out the Albany lodging page to choose from the hotels and motels, bed and breakfasts or review the Amtrak Cascades options and discounts.