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But its proximity to Willamette Valley—Oregon’s wine country, with more than 19,000 acres of vineyards—isn’t the only reason to visit McMinnville. This town also boasts a charming center with a thriving shopping district, award-winning restaurants, family-friendly destinations—like the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum—and yearly UFO festival. (Yes, you read that right.)
“A warm, inviting, and friendly atmosphere is what visitors find in McMinnville,” says Jeff Knapp, executive director of Visit McMinnville, adding that, “whether it’s the nostalgic feeling of walking below the maple trees lining the historic downtown’s shopping district or sensation of drinking some of the world’s best Pinot Noir grown at a vineyard just down the road, McMinnville is for those who appreciate the laid-back style of a small town with great taste.”
But for wine lovers, of course, wine will be McMinnville’s main attraction, and the town stands ready to answer the call. It has its own American Viticulture Area, in the foothills of the Coast Range. It’s “a wonderful place to explore many amazing wineries at a quieter pace,” says Knapp.
There, don’t miss Maysara, a family-owned, low-impact, biodynamic winery. You’ll come for its range of price points—its tasting flight is just $20, and it offers wines from $18 up to $126, according to its website—but stay for its stunning architecture and sprawling, rolling vineyards.
At Couer de Terre—a 31-year-old vineyard that specializes in estate-grown Pinot Noir—you can expect not only succulent and award-winning wine and a knowledgeable staff, helmed by owners Scott and Lisa Neal, but also a visit from the vineyard’s adorable, friendly Labrador Retrievers.
Yamhill Valley Vineyards stands as the 2019 Wine Press Northwest Winery of the Year, and it’s the oldest vineyard in the McMinnville AVA, producing its first vintage in 1983. The vineyard is just a 10-minute drive from McMinnville, and offers an afternoon’s worth of activities: You can play lawn games, take a tour and a tasting, or simply lounge on its lawn with a bottle of wine.
To get from winery to winery and to take in Oregon’s stunning scenery—from McMinnville, you can spot the Cascades, including views of Mt. Hood on the clearest of days—you may decide to trade in a rental car for a bicycle built for one or two. Tommy’s Bike Shop in downtown has all the cycling supplies you need, including safety gear, to help you set out on a scenic adventure.
Exhausted from a wine and bike-filled day, relax at the Atticus Hotel, located in McMinnville’s downtown. Its moody and modern décor are perfect for Instagram-worthy photoshoots—but its in-room fireplaces, soaking tubs, hand-crafted furnishings, and live plants make it feel like home.
On a second day, if you can resist the call of McMinnville’s wineries, then take time to explore its many art galleries, all within walking distance of the Atticus Hotel. Sculpture, acrylic, wood, glass, and other medium work are on display and for sale at dozens of shops. Or indulge again, but this time in craft breweries: Five craft breweries, including Allegory Brewery, a local favorite, are within four blocks of one another, and just steps away from the center of town.
For children, the town’s Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum—where you can see the world’s largest wooden “flying” boat and a Titan II SLV Missile—and its Wings & Waves Waterpark, with multi-story waterslides constructed around a Boeing jumbo jet, may hold special appeal.