In the suburbs southwest of Portland, Oregon, the Tualatin Valley is home to adorable towns aplenty. Planning an escape to this friendly northwest corner of the Willamette Valley is exciting and entertaining.
The Tualatin Valley is world-famous for the favorable cool growing conditions and rich soil of the pinot noir grapes, which provide diverse winemaking opportunities. However, there is much more to discover in the region.
The area allows you to go at your own pace. Whether you want to make a leisurely day of wine, saké, or beer tasting, enjoy nature hikes or bike riding, search for public art, or dine at some great restaurants or food trucks, each of these adorable towns is close together and have many opportunities to experience diverse cultures.
I’m always up for a good scavenger hunt. Tualatin Valley is a public art hunter’s delight, from murals to sculptures to musical benches and quilt barns. My husband and I explored the main and side streets in these adorable towns and drove leisurely through the curving hilly backroads.
Note: While the Washington County Visitors Association hosted me, all opinions are mine.
How To Get There
Portland International Airport (PDX) is only 30 minutes away by car. Located on the Oregon side of the Columbia River (Washington is on the north side), Interstate 5 provides easy access around Portland and from the north or south and drops you off quickly into the Tualatin Valley.
It wouldn’t be the Pacific Northwest if you missed a food truck experience. BG’s Food Cartel in Beaverton is well organized and immaculate. BG’s was the first food cart pod in Tualatin Valley and features almost 30 food carts. With lots of seating inside and outside at picnic tables, this pet-friendly destination gives you many cuisine choices. Clean restrooms and plenty of parking across the street meet high standards.
Always on the lookout for good vegan meals, I tried the grilled cheese sandwich at The Mocking Bird, a food truck at BG Food Cartel. The sourdough bread was crisp from the grill, and the sandwich was flavorful.
Have you ever been served your meal by a robot? The fun and unusual dining experience at Top Burmese Bistro Royale in downtown Beaverton was quite memorable.
Fascinated by the agility and accuracy of the robots, I learned how the robots knew where to deliver the food. Poe, the owner, pointed to the ceiling where transmitters were attached and guided each robot. The human staff is friendly and fun and keeps the robots moving.
Musical Benches And Other Public Art
While we were in Beaverton, we found two musical benches worth mentioning. The Tubus Musica, located in Timberland Park, and Rest Note, located in downtown Beaverton, are interactive public art installations. The Portrait of Resilience mural is a timely commentary of our times.
Like an Easter Egg hunt, the quilt barns in the Cornelius countryside seem to pop up unexpectedly. With 19 Quilt Barn Blocks on Quilt Barn Trail #2, it takes an estimated 2 hours of driving time to see them all on the 36-mile route. This hunt is an engaging activity for families, seniors, and solo travelers.
The Quilt Barns are a project of the Westside Quilters Guild. The 60 hand-painted quilt blocks are mounted on buildings or barns, highlighting Washington County’s historical and agricultural heritage. The quilt barns is a privately funded project that provides “public art in unexpected places.”
3. Forest Grove
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at McMenamins Grand Lodge. The preserved history, whimsical art, comfortable bed, sitting rooms with overstuffed couches to read and relax, and tables for working made our stay delightful.
Interesting tapas-style food is served by Suda, the owner of Bites Restaurants in downtown Forest Grove. Suda is a lovely lady who takes excellent care of all her customers.
We experienced an enjoyable wine tasting at David Hill Vineyards & Winery. We learned how to taste the difference in old vines wine from their Estate Wine offerings. Their Discovery wines are noteworthy and carry the Tualatin Hills label.
Saké brewing is like wine and beer making but has distinct differences. A tour of the Saké One Forest Grove facility allowed us to see the process firsthand. Afterward, we enjoyed a charcuterie platter with our saké tasting and newfound knowledge. The staff was friendly, willing, and eager to share their knowledge and skill — such a unique and entertaining experience.
Hillsboro introduced me to my favorite spot in the region. It’s in the Chehalem Mountains, which make up the southern border of the Tualatin Valley, on Eggers Road just up the hill from Ruby Vineyard. You can see four mountain peaks in the Cascade Range on a clear day. There are three mountains in Washington — Mount Rainier, Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams — and Mount Hood in Oregon. While it was not a clear day when we visited and tasted wines at Ruby Vineyard, this is definitely a destination for our return trip.
Wine tasting at Ruby Vineyard, with stunning views of the vineyards, was a terrific experience. We learned more about the soil and its effect on the grapes from the friendly staff.
Just around the corner is the quilt barn at Hummel Farm on Quilt Barn Trail #3, entitled Moon Over Mountains, which depicts four seasons of the four mountains in the Cascade Range.
The Grand Tasting of champagne and wines produced by Blizzard Wines was an exceptional experience. Fortunately, the winemaker, Dana, and her husband, Nick, guided us. We felt so special!
The Rice Museum of Rocks and Minerals is housed in a mid-century ranch-style house built in 1953. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the home of a world-class collection of rocks and minerals. It is recognized as the finest in the Pacific Northwest and is one of the best in the United States.
Rice NW Museum of Rocks & Minerals is a Smithsonian-affiliated Museum with many unusual specimens. Captivated by the glow-in-the-dark rocks, I revisited this room twice. The fossilized logs were impressive. I particularly liked the Superman rods in the Gift Shop, although I doubt they were Kryptonite.
ABV Public House offers a wide selection of fresh, refrigerated beer. A long list of local & far-flung craft beers meets eclectic tavern fare in a warm, rustic setting. The service is excellent, and they are conscientious about delivering the best food to their customers.
I enjoyed seeing all the taps to their wide selection of beers at Deep Space Brewing. They put together an exciting flight of craft beers for us to try and is one stop on the Ale Trail.
Reminiscent of historic brownstones in New York City, The Orenco offers temporary or extended-stay lodgings in an upscale, quiet, and safe neighborhood. Our room was spacious, the bed was very comfortable, the bathroom included toiletries with bathrobes, and the kitchenette was fully equipped.
Even though Salam Restaurant was short-handed when we dined in, the service was outstanding, timely, and delicious. We enjoyed the traditional Lebanese/Persian meal.
The South Store Cafe is a quaint and colorful restaurant set amidst the rolling hills and wineries. The decor is fun and functional. An interesting menu and giant homemade cookies make this eatery a must-try.
La Provence at Orenco Station makes inventive and unique tastes with brilliant color combinations on the plate. My husband ordered his favorite strawberry cheesecake pancakes, and I chose the risotto patties and butternut squash with poached eggs. The portions were large, and I had to take half for another meal. What a great way to start the day!
Public Art In Hillsboro Parks
The Seeds of Orenco sculpture in Orenco Woods Nature Park memorializes the association with the Oregon Nursery Company and this historic acreage. The Orenco Apple is a high-quality dessert apple that went to market around 1840.
The Dancing Chairs sculpture in 53rd Avenue Community Park represents “an abstraction of ourselves.” The four chairs are dancing as people dance. This was Hillsboro Arts and Culture Council’s first public art installation.
We enjoyed tasting wines and sparkling wines at Ponzi Vineyards in Sherwood. The stunning northwest view facing the Chehalem Mountains slope from the picture windows of the tasting room was the perfect accompaniment to the wine education. The winery was founded here in 1970, and Ponzi now produces old vine wines. My favorite was the 2017 Old Vine Pinot Noir Laurelwood District that we compared to the 2018 vintage from the same district.
The Fanno Creek Trail is a 15-mile walking and regional biking trail that extends from Tualatin to Portland, passing through unincorporated Washington County, Beaverton, and Tigard. On our walk along the Fanno Creek Trail, we encountered many people on their morning walks and with their dogs.
Exploring downtown Tigard, we discovered untitled murals at Tigard Station and a delightful untitled musical bench that played Big Ben tones. A couple of pipes were flat, making an incomplete range, but still fun to play.
The corylus sculpture adorns the Welcome to Downtown Tigard monument. With this plus the decorative glass baskets, murals on the stormwater drain and the sides of buildings, the Tigard Outdoor Museum, and free-standing steel sculptures, the streets of Tigard tell a powerful story of this area’s history and dedication to beauty and art.
There is so much to see and do in this friendly region of the Pacific Northwest. I look forward to another visit to these adorable towns in the Tualatin Valley.
For more on this lovely area, consider: