Fantastic things to do in Albany

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I was walking towards the Farmers Market in historic downtown Albany, Oregon when the mascot-style platypus in the bright orange Volkswagen convertible started to wave.

Albany is that kind of town – where friendly people relish the bounty of the Willamette Valley farm, cherish the past, and revel in the light community fun. The riverside town (population 53,500) offers exceptional farm-to-table dining, four National Historic Districts, a vintage carousel, boutiques, and a calendar teeming with fun events and festivals (including The Great Platypus Drop).

Located approximately 70 miles south of Portland, Albany is in the heart of the rural Willamette Valley. The now historic downtown area came into being in the 1850s when the city’s founders, Thomas and Walter Monteith, developed a 60-acre subdivision on the banks of the Willamette River and named it after the capital of New York State, their birthplace. One of the first businesses was a general store operating from their living room.

As the city grew, it became the valley’s transportation and communication center. Steamboats in the 1850s, stagecoaches in the 1860s, and trains from the 1870s carried mail, goods, goods, and people to destinations throughout Oregon and beyond.

Today, Interstate Highway 5 (or I-5) stretches 3 miles east, bypassing the historic district where it all began. But the river still runs through it, and the thriving city center is still the heart of Albany. Here’s how to get the most out of it.

Activities in Albany

The historic carousel is the pride and joy of Albany, but there is much more to see and do in this pedestrianized town. Shop for antiques, attend free concerts in the park, stroll through neighborhoods filled with vintage architecture, or take to the skies in a hot air balloon.

June Russell-Chamberlin

Lions, a Bengal tiger and two bears are part of the menagerie walking through the carousel and historical museum in downtown Albany. Fifty-two animals, real and mythical, spin on the Dentzel carousel of 1909. Riders can choose from a variety of cats, dogs, horses and dragons, or jump on an orca, salmon, rabbit, frog, quail, buffalo, rooster, zebra, unicorn or any other unusual mount. Each creature is hand carved in the downstairs workshop and adorned with unique details, such as books, butterflies or George Washington. Entrance to the carousel, gift shop, downstairs museum, and sculpture studio is free. Rides cost $ 2.

Ralston House, one of the houses on the Historic Architecture Tour.
Stephanie Low / AVA

Historical architecture tours

Architecture enthusiasts can explore over 700 historic homes and buildings with self-guided tours of Albany’s four National Historic Districts. The free ‘Sems Like Old Times’ guide, available online and at the Albany Visitors Association, includes route suggestions, construction stories, and information on architectural details. The homes date from the 1840s to the 1920s and feature different styles including Queen Anne, Italianate, Craftsman Bungalow, French Second Empire, Colonial Revival, and American Foursquare, among others. Summer and Holiday Events offer self-guided walking tours and information on a selection of historic homes.

General store at Monteith House Museum.
June Russell-Chamberlin

Monteith House Museum

Brothers Thomas and Walter Monteith arrived west on the Oregon Trail, arriving in the Willamette Valley in 1847. When they decided to build a sturdy two-story wood-frame house two years later , they made sure it straddled their two land claims and included a chamber on each end – thus fulfilling the government’s requirement that a man sleep on his newly acquired land. The two men founded Albany, named after the capital of New York. Today, the Monteith House is a living history museum showcasing life in the mid-1800s. Original furnishings, leftover wallpaper and other details bring the pioneer era back to life. Baking cookies on the fire, beating butter and playing pioneer games are just a few of the living history activities held throughout the year. Check the Albany Visitors Association calendar for living history events. Free entry.

Colorful dog biscuits at Sniffany's Pet Boutique.
Sniffany Pet Shop (Photo credit: June Russell-Chamberlin)

Shop the historic downtown

Albany’s bustling city center features historic buildings filled with unique local shops, galleries and restaurants. Chat with an artist and discover beautiful pottery, paintings, jewelry, textile art, photography and more at the Calapooia Gallery, an artist-run cooperative. Find all-natural food, toys, and essentials for your furry friends at Sniffany’s pet shop (and say hello to Sunny, the resident Maine coon cat). Down the street, Emma Downtown is the place to find a special gift among the many books, candles, handbags, clothing, jewelry, baby items, toys, newspapers, housewares, and kitchen supplies. During the holidays, the whole shop becomes a winter paradise. Over 25,000 square feet of vintage treasures await you at Albany Antique Mall.

Close-up of an orange and yellow hot air balloon taking off at the Northwest Art and Air Festival.
Northwest Art and Air Festival (Photo credit: June Russell-Chamberlin)

Festivals and Events

The free summer concerts in the park are just one of the many fun-loving community events held throughout the year. The Great Platypus Drop (a raffle involving rubber ducks and a target), Carousel Carnival, and Street Antiques and Classic Car Show are among the summer events. Also, don’t miss the Northwest Art and Air Festival in August with performers and hot air balloons. Other events include ghost lantern rides (the pre-COVID version was the Chariot of Terror) on Halloween, Christmas carols, and horse-drawn carriage tours. Check the Albany Visitors Association calendar for events and details.

Vibrant green water scape with two ducklings at the center at Talking Water Gardens in Albany, Oregon.
Talking Water Gardens (Photo credit: June Russell-Chamberlin)

Wildlife observation

Western turtles, great blue herons, bobcats and other wild creatures roam the wildlife areas near Albany. Three to explore include the Luckiamute Landing State Natural Area along the Willamette River; the EE Wilson wildlife reserve of 1,788 acres (requires a parking permit for the ODFW wildlife reserve); and Talking Water Gardens, a man-made wetland 10 minutes from downtown. Talking Water Gardens offers nearly 2 miles of trails and viewpoints primarily accessible to the ADA.

Pro tip: For the best chance of seeing wildlife, go early in the morning when the animals are most active.

Dining table, sink, stove and cabinet at the Albany Regional Museum.
June Russell-Chamberlin

Albany Regional Museum

This small museum in a historic Italian-style building houses exhibits on local history and economic drivers, such as special metals. An exhibition on firefighting traces the development of fire services from 1869. Another exhibition recreates a period station and details various local locomotives. Among the most interesting exhibits are the kitchen recreated from the 1920s and 1940s, the shoeshine store and the music store. Do not miss the permanent waving machine to curl the hair. Entrance to the Albany Regional Museum is free; a donation is appreciated.

Top restaurants in Albany

From the farmer’s market to bistros, bakeries and farm-to-table meals, Albany offers a variety of tasty dishes and international flavors.

Close-up of kale for sale for three dollars at the Albany Farmers Market.
June Russell-Chamberlin

Farmers market

On Saturday mornings, the freshest fruits, vegetables, meats and fish can be found in the town hall parking lot at the Albany Farmers Market. From April to November, local farmers and artisans sell a range of products, as well as honey, nuts, fresh bread, croissants, beeswax candles and more. What’s available at the Albany Farmers Market varies throughout the season. Located at Fourth and Ellsworth Street, the market is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Bistro Sybaris

Chef Matt Bennett prepares almost the entire menu (which changes monthly) at Sybaris Bistro from scratch – even the ketchup – with fresh ingredients and sustainably farmed in the Northwest. The bistro offers a full bar, eclectic Northwest cuisine and divine desserts. Indoor and outdoor seating are available. Reservations are strongly recommended.

Chocolate cupcakes at Natural Sprinkles Company.
June Russell-Chamberlin

Natural Sprinkles Company

Shimmering, sparkling and colorful decorating sprinkles without artificial colors or flavors – the mainstay of local Natural Sprinkles Company – add a festive touch to vegan and gluten-free cupcakes from the company’s bakery. Biscuits, brownies, croissants and other sweets complete the bakery’s offer.

Pro tip: Stop by early for the best selection of goodies.

Close up of bay Benedict shrimp at the Brick and Mortar Cafe.
June Russell-Chamberlin

Brick and Mortar Coffee

One of the best places in town for breakfast and lunch, the Brick and Mortar Cafe offers classic fare and a fresh take on old favorites. Omelets, a variety of hashes (including smoked salmon), pancakes, Egg Benedict (try the Oregon Bay shrimp version), pancakes, chicken, and waffles are all part of Petit’s offerings. -breakfast. Burgers, sandwiches and salads complete the lunch menu. Indoor and seasonal curb seating are available. The restaurant is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays (closed Mondays) and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends.

pepper plant

Homemade sausages fill the menu and meat cases at the Pepper Tree sausage house. Part sausage maker and restaurant, the Pepper Tree offers a variety of sausage sandwiches as well as a handful of sausage-free breakfast and lunch options, such as waffles, omelets, burgers and snacks. sandwiches. The breakfast burrito stuffed with sausage, eggs, potatoes, cheese, salsa and sour cream is a local favorite. The Pepper Tree also sells over 20 traditional and specialty sausages.

Pastry at Little Wuesten Café.
Small cafe Wuesten

Small cafe Wuesten

German-style bread, pretzels, cakes and pastries – less sugar and more seasonal fruit – fill the menu at Little Wuesten Cafe. It’s also a local favorite for a hearty breakfast with eggs and potatoes or a soup, salad and sandwich lunch. The ingredients are locally sourced, organic and non-GMO.

Pro tip: Don’t miss out on tarts, brownies and other gluten-free treats at the coffee stand at Farmers Market.

There are places in Oregon that are well worth a day trip. To consider:


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