When it comes to location, Silverton is in a league of its own. With the Oregon Garden and Silver Falls State Park in the neighborhood — the jewel in the crown of the Oregon State Park system — Silverton has more than enough to offer for a weekend excursion. But it also boasts a lively downtown, the only Frank Lloyd Wright home in Oregon, a thriving art scene, and, of course, the occasional sofa race.
Located in the countryside — 45 miles southeast of Portland and 16 miles northeast of Salem — Silverton draws its name from Silver Creek, which flows through downtown Silverton. The town served as a hub for banking and commerce in its early days. By the 1920s, water from the creek powered sawmills, flour mills, and manufacturing. Today the stream flows past the terraces, behind the buildings and along Water Street, where restaurant guests can enjoy a view along with their meal.
Silverton embraces its rural roots, natural surroundings, and colorful history. Here’s what you won’t want to miss:
1. Downtown Silverton
Silverton’s lively and walkable downtown is full of historic buildings that house boutiques, antique shops, and eateries. Many of the restaurants along Water Street offer seating overlooking Silver Creek. Don’t miss the covered pedestrian bridge by the Silverton Coffee Station — a great spot to sit and enjoy your coffee and the shallow creek.
Apples to Oranges stocks souvenirs, yarn, chocolate, tea, books, puzzles, and toys for the kids. Nearby, Serenity Home and Spa Shoppe offers divinely scented candles and bath indulgences, as well as chic home accents. Gorgeous sculptures, photographs, wall hangings, jewelry, and more are displayed at Lunaria Gallery on Water Street. Next door, Beloved Cheesecakes serves up creamy, rich cheesecake by the slice or the whole cake. Savor a piece of the chocolate, Key lime, or another decadent flavor while you read the inspirational quotes that crowd the walls.
2. Silver Falls State Park
South Falls has become synonymous with Silver Falls State Park and its trail behind the curtain of cascading water enchants and delights hikers. With a parking lot and lodge just steps from the falls, it’s also the most popular and crowded part of the park. But venture away from South Falls and you’ll discover that the crown jewel of the Oregon State Parks system boasts no less than 10 waterfalls, all connected by the 7.2-mile Trail of 10 Falls and other connecting trails that crisscross the canyon.
Three trailheads provide access to different sections of the trails, and some have steep portions or wooden stairs. Dogs are permitted on a leash on the Rim Trail, bike path, and backcountry trails. Located just 14 miles from Silverton, the park features day-use areas for hiking, swimming, and picnicking, as well as a campground. An Oregon State Park annual pass or day pass is required. If you wish to explore other state parks in the area, take a look at these beautiful Oregon state parks.
3. Oregon Garden
With 80 acres of plantings, fountains, and paths, the Oregon Garden draws visitors year-round. The state’s premier botanical garden fulfills its mission to inspire and educate visitors through 20 themed gardens, such as a children’s garden, a pet-friendly garden, and a market garden (vegetables). Other gardens include stylized axis and bosque gardens, a water garden, conifer garden, Northwest garden, medicinal garden, and rose garden. Among the most unusual gardens are the Lewis & Clark garden, planted with species noted in the explorers’ journals, and the sensory garden, which is filled with scents and textures. Together, the themed gardens demonstrate the incredible variety of flora that thrives in the Willamette Valley.
The Oregon Garden is only a mile from downtown Silverton and is open year-round. Some paths in the garden are paved; others are gravel. A tram provides rides for a small fee. Leashed pets of all kinds are welcome. During the holiday season, the garden glows from a million colorful lights, lighting the way to food and drink vendors, as well as a skating rink. If one day isn’t enough, the adjacent Oregon Garden Resort offers lodging, dining, and a spa. An admission fee is required for the garden. For those with a true green thumb, be sure to check out some of these gorgeous gardens near Salem, Oregon.
4. Gordon House
There’s only one Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home built in Oregon, and it’s in Silverton. Named after Conrad and Evelyn Gordon, the 2,133-square-foot Gordon House was designed in 1956 and reflected a budget of $25,000. Construction bids, however, were much higher, so building was delayed until 1963. The house was on the verge of being demolished in 2001 when it was rescued and moved from a farm in Wilsonville to a grove of white oaks at the Oregon Garden.
The Gordon House demonstrates famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s affection for blurring the lines between the indoors and outdoors with floor-to-ceiling windows and doors that lead to balconies and terraces. Cherokee red-stained and heated concrete floors, built-in furniture and storage, natural materials, and unique fretwork throughout the house are just a few of Frank Lloyd Wright’s signature details. The Usonian home features an open floor plan, a fireplace in the living room, and western red cedar wood paneling throughout the second floor. To tour the reconstructed mid-century modern home, reserve a spot and pay admission (separate from the Oregon Garden admission) online at the Gordon House website.
Antique lovers will find several shops in downtown Silverton in which to indulge their love of treasure hunting. You’ll find a farmhouse chic theme at The Red Bench antique shop, where vintage jewelry, antique glass, furniture, books, and much more fill the nooks and crannies. Northstar Antiques and Collectibles offers glassware, jewelry, furniture, collectibles, and other vintage wares. Two more shops to visit include Finds That Shine and Daylight Vintage.
Turn a corner, and you’re likely to encounter one of more than 30 murals that enliven the buildings in downtown Silverton. They’re seemingly everywhere. Most of them depict the town’s people and history. Photographer June Drake, who lobbied to establish Silver Falls State Park in 1931, and Silverton’s favorite astronaut, Don Pettit, are local celebrities immortalized in murals. Don’t miss the long mural along Water Street that tells the story of Bobbie the Wonder Dog, who was lost in Indiana in 1923 and found his way back home to Silverton, a distance of more than 2,500 miles. The murals are kept in top shape by the Silverton Mural Society.
Pro Tip: You’ll find a model of Bobbie the Wonder Dog and his elaborate yellow dog house between the Silverton Coffee Station and the covered pedestrian bridge on Water Street.
7. Gallon House Covered Bridge
In 1916, when the Gallon House Bridge was built over Abiqua Creek — a mile northwest of Silverton — a municipal law made it illegal to sell liquor in Silverton. The neighboring town of Mt. Angel, however, had no such law. As a result, bootleggers did a thriving business selling “white lightning” by the gallon out of a shack on the Mt. Angel side of the bridge to “dry” Silverton residents. Today the Gallon House Bridge is the only covered bridge remaining in Marion County and one of the oldest in Oregon.
8. Vitis Ridge Winery
Located in the countryside only 2 miles from downtown Silverton, Vitis Ridge Winery entices wine lovers with 28 wines ranging from dry whites to bold reds and sweet dessert wine. The estate vineyard grows pinot noir, pinot gris, riesling, chardonnay, Marechal Foch, Gewürztraminer, and muscat on nearly 150 acres. The winery also sources grapes from other Northwest vineyards. One of the most popular wines is the GSM Rhône Blend crafted from grenache, syrah, and mourvèdre grapes. A boutique winery that outgrew the garage, Vitis Ridge invites visitors to a tasting room that is as warm and welcoming as it is casual. So choose a glass of wine or tasting flight, give the friendly pup Tannin a pat, and relax for a spell on the patio.
For more than 70 years, the community of Silverton has gathered to eat strawberry shortcake made with local berries for the annual Strawberry Festival in June. The town also hosts the Wine and Jazz Festival in May and the Silverton Arts Festival in August, which features music, theatre, poetry, artist booths, and workshops on all things artistic, from documentary filmmaking to graphic novels.
If you’ve ever contemplated putting wheels on your sofa and racing it down the street, then you won’t want to miss the Homer Davenport Community Festival in August. Sofa racing may be the hilarious highlight of the festival, but there’s much more to enjoy. Held in honor of Silverton native Homer Davenport — a cartoonist for Hearst newspapers — the festival’s events include a cartoon contest, arts and crafts fair, parade, international food court, music, invitational brewfest, fun run, community breakfast, a cruise in with the local automobile club and more.
Pro Tip: Sofas big enough to lay down on became known as “davenports” around 1900, when they were designed by furniture manufacturer A.H. Davenport. If you’re traveling and left your sofa at home, the festival organizers have a few race-ready davenports available to borrow.
If you enjoyed learning about Silverton, be sure to check out these charming Oregon towns within 2 hours of Portland.