Oregon Summer Day Trip: McMinnville

Home to a charming Main Street, farm-to-table restaurants, tasting rooms galore and the Spruce Goose, this is where you’ll find the heart and soul of wine country.

McMinnville (Michael Raines)

With some 250 wineries within 20 miles of its city limits, McMinnville is often just a pass-through point on the way from Portland to the rolling hills of pinot grapes in the heart of Willamette Valley wine country. But the city of 35,000 residents and seat of Yamhill County—long referred to as “Mac” by pretty much everyone living west of the Chehalem Mountains—is not just worthy of a stop. You should devote a full day to exploring its offerings, which include more than 20 in-town tasting rooms, a dive bar that can’t be beat, an aerospace museum, and secondhand finds.

While it takes just over an hour to get there from the metro area, it’s best to start your day trip early to make sure you’re packing in everything the historic downtown has in store.


Take Flight

The fleet of planes outside the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum (500 NE Captain Michael King Smith Way, 503-434-4180, evergreenmuseum.org) has always been a point of visual intrigue as you head west on Highway 18, but this time, you won’t just get a glimpse of it from the road. Open at 9 am, stop on your way downtown and take in the impressive collection of aircraft and hop in the flight simulator. The museum’s main draw is undoubtedly the Spruce Goose—the world’s largest wooden airplane, with a wingspan of more than 300 feet. Built by eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes in the 1940s, the flying boat only made it off the ground once in California. The massive Goose now nests in a hangar at the Evergreen and is worth the $22 price of admission.

Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum (Visit McMinnville)

Brewed Awakenings

After an hour or two at the museum, reward yourself for waking up early by grabbing coffee and a pastry at Flag & Wire Coffee Co. (755 NE Alpine Ave., #200, 503-857-8066, flagandwire.com). The cardamom oat milk latte has precisely the right blend of sweetness and spice, while the cold brew is guaranteed to perk you up. If you’re ready for an adult beverage, hit up Heater Allen Brewing (907 NE 10th Ave., 503-472-4898, heaterallen.com) in the Granary District. Head brewer Lisa Allen makes some of the best lagers in the country, and it’s always nice to get a Pils from the source.

Heater Allen Brewing (Molly Baily/Visit McMinnville)


Step It Up and Chow Down

There’s a lot of eating and drinking to be done in McMinnville, so get some cardio in to help justify your calorie intake for the day. In town, the 100-acre Joe Dancer Park (1650 SE Brooks St., 503-434-7310, mcminnvilleoregon.gov/parksrec/page/joe-dancer-park) has an easy 1.2-mile perimeter pathway that follows the bend of the South Yamhill River.

Joe Dancer Park (Dan Hinmon/Visit McMinnville)

After that, head to 3rd Street, the historic, bustling downtown hub, and stop at Pura Vida (313 NE 3rd St., 503-687-2020, puravidamac.com). It’s a favorite among locals since opening in 2013, where chef Ricardo Antúnez offers his take on Pan-Latin American cuisine. Order the barbacoa tacos, tender braised beef with pickled red onions served in housemade corn tortillas, as well as the signature paella swimming with shrimp, scallops, clams and little chunks of chorizo that lend both salt and spice to the dish.

Shop and Sip

Third Street is a whirlwind of antique stores, tasting rooms, restaurants and boutiques. Plan to burn the hours between lunch and dinner intermittently stopping for wine flights and then impulse buying at least a few things thanks to your lowered inhibitions. Start at the in-town tasting room of Troon Vineyard (620 NE 3rd St., 503-852-3084, troonvineyard.com), where you’ll get a bit more than the usual lineup of pinots. Based in Southern Oregon’s Applegate Valley, Troon specializes in biodynamic wines, and here you can taste complex Oregon-grown orange wines and lesser-known red varietals like tannat. Call ahead for a reservation, but walk-ins are OK, too.

Next, walk down to The Vortex Record Store (314 NE 3rd St., 503-472-7444). Independently owned and delightfully quirky, it offers a great selection of new and used vinyl, along with some rare and unique prints and posters for sale. We walked away with a new T. Rex album and a used Redd Foxx comedy recording. Right next door is Third Street Books (320 NE 3rd St., 503-472-7786, thirdstreetbooks.com). This is where your favorite local chef will send you, thanks to the well-stocked cookbook selection just to the left of the front door.

McMinnville (Michael Raines)
McMinnville (Michael Raines)
McMinnville (Michael Raines)

Head back up 3rd Street for your next wine stop. Pike Road Wines (701 NE 3rd St., 503-852-3185, pikeroadwines.com) is a new tasting room for this label, launched in 2016 by the founders of acclaimed Elk Cove Vineyards in Gaston. You can book ahead or walk in, and a flight will run you $20, a fee that’s waived if you buy two bottles. That’s no problem here, where a bottle of very drinkable pinot noir rosé will run you $17, and a fantastic, fruity pinot noir made in collaboration with Corrine Vineyard in the Chehalem Mountains is underpriced at $35.


Indulge in Humble and Pies

Make a reservation to secure a table at Humble Spirit (411 NE 3rd St., 503-472-6148, humblespirit.love). The warm service makes the light-bathed space even more inviting, and the dishes, including pasture-raised meats and vegetables from Tabula Rasa Farms in Carlton, are stellar. A roasted carrot salad with cumin yogurt, pumpkin seeds, and carrot top pesto was a textural delight, and the cut of rare prime rib was a sharing sensation. Be sure to split the housemade twist on Oreos, served on a platter with local milk.

No reservations? No problem. There’s almost always a wait for the excellent Pizza Capo (318 NE 3rd St., 503-472-8040, pizza-capo.com), but you can pass the time in shops and bars nearby. The wait is also worth it: Run by two alumni of Oven and Shaker, Capo offers a menu that takes a Pacific Northwest-meets-Italy approach, so keep an eye out for specials. The dough is charred and chewy, the crimini and oyster mushroom pizza, finished with fried sage, is bursting with flavor, and don’t skip the farm greens salad.

Pizza Capo (Sionnie LaFollette)

Jump Over the Moon

Finally, grab a nightcap, or even just a soda water and bitters, and digest at the Blue Moon Lounge (310 NE 3rd St., 503-472-3045, bluemoonmac.com). While it’s on the main tourist drag, this cash-only dive is believed to be the oldest continually running bar in Yamhill County and is very much a local favorite. Enjoy a cheap, stiff vodka soda and watch a Gen X woman enthrall a crowd as she absolutely murders the video poker machine while a Fast & Furious movie plays silently above the bar. This, my friends, is living.

McMinnville (Michael Raines)

Make it an overnighter: There’s a lot of drinking to be done in McMinnville, so day trip responsibly. Your best move is to have a designated driver. If that can’t be arranged, stay overnight. One quaint and moderately priced option? The brand-new Boutique Retreat (910 NE Alpine Ave., 503-563-0505, theboutiqueretreat.com) is made up of nine tiny houses with distinct themes. You can kick back in the shared courtyard with a fire pit or relax in your own detached, well-appointed cottage.

Top Scoop in Town

Serendipity Ice Cream

502 NE 3rd St., 503-474-9189, serendipityicecream.com. Noon-8 pm daily.

In McMinnville, the ice cream game is dominated by Serendipity. Located on the ground floor of the 1886 Cooks Hotel building, Serendipity delivers all that old-timey parlor charm and then some—we’re talking well-burnished wood floors, stained glass and brocade wallpaper. There’s also an old self-playing piano that I swear was plinking out Lorde’s “Royals” while we perused our scoop choices. The ice cream was a mixture of Umpqua and Blue Bunny, so expect more standard flavors, like rocky road and sherbet, than bourbon blueberry. But Serendipity makes cookies in house for ice cream sandwiches, and a scoop of chocolate brownie in a cold brew float was a twist on an affogato I never knew I needed.

McMinnville (Michael Raines)
McMinnville (Michael Raines)


Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum - Admission $22

Pura Vida - Barbacoa taco trio $15

Pike Road Wines - Bottle of rosé $17

This story appeared as part of Oregon Summer, our annual free magazine out now all over Portland. See where to pick one up here.

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