Staycations are becoming a thing. They are growing increasingly popular to the more spendy, more stressful alternative of a full-blown vacation.
With the recession fading in our rearview, it’s high time we start venturing to some of the up-and-coming, local hot spots which boast that “vacation” feel, without the price tag or anxiety level. While I’m obviously biased to my hometown of Salem, there are plenty of quaint and exciting cities in the greater Salem area that are excellent adventuring locations.
I’ve had a sweet spot for the charm of Silverton since I first visited after a hike through Silver Falls some years ago. Since then, the town has added new shops, continued to beautify its historic downtown, and increased their abundance of year round activities. Known as Oregon’s “Garden City,” Silverton boasts lush greenery and waterfalls, hiking, fishing, and horseback riding. Downtown is a bustling hub of rich history and culture, radiating with a small-town vibe of ma-and-pop shops, eclectic restaurants, colorful murals and galleries.
For this particular adventure, I took advantage of a quick day-trip, although I typically prefer an overnighter, but you take what you can get when your schedule permits. (However, be sure to check out Silverton Inn & Suites, or the Edward Adams House Bed & Breakfast if you’re looking for intimate, rustic lodging options.)
My travel partner and I set off, driving east from Salem on Silverton Road NE/OR-213, which is the popular, straight-shot to Silverton. However, there are also a number of gorgeous, winding country roads which spiderweb through the farmland spanning the distance between Salem and Silverton. You can choose to take any of them, going east, to get you there—most of them will have helpful signage to point you towards Silverton, but I still strongly suggest GPS assistance if you’re not familiar with this countryside. (Think endless labyrinth-of-fields-that-look-the-same.)
First things first, we hung a hard right on 81st Avenue and followed the signs to Willamette Valley Pie Company, because who doesn’t love pie? WV Pie has a little something for everyone—food, dessert, cornhole, a playground, U-Pick berries, and indoor or outdoor seating. I’ve spent hours here before, slowly enjoying my pie, but we had places to go, people to see. We nabbed a slice, inhaled it, and were back on the road with a luscious sugar high.
Parking in downtown Silverton is a dream compared to Salem (let’s be honest). Granted, it’s a small city, with a smaller downtown radius, but a quarter goes a long way in their parking meter. And even if you forget to plug it, or run out of time, you’re only risking a teensy parking ticket, which most Silverton residents consider as their monthly “donation” to the City of Silverton. How fantastic. We parked near one of the murals Silverton is well-known for, and started our downtown stroll by hunting down a few of the others. Silverton’s Mural Tour is a great way to get to know the historic district while peeking into shops and eateries along the way.
With stomachs groaning for more than pie, we stepped into “Gather,” a newer bistro-style restaurant which serves locally-sourced breakfast and lunch options. As we ate, my partner quipped, “this place rivals Word of Mouth,” and I couldn’t disagree. While loyalty to WOM remains strong, Gather certainly puts forth a notable effort to serve fresh food, nodding to momma’s homemade flavor, but without the side of regret.
With the promising late-afternoon light, we meandered our way to the Oregon Garden. There’s a reason (or seven) why this gem is so ridiculously popular. For those who have never been, or haven’t visited in a while, the Oregon Garden and Resort (home to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Gordon House) is a modern-day Eden. An 80-acre Utopia, it hosts over 20 specialty gardens, and is fully committed to sustainability and education in the community. We took the tram for a 25-minute tour before setting out on our own to explore the gardens. Now is an excellent time to visit during their Art in the Garden event, ongoing through September. And, if you’re looking to make a weekend of it, the Oregon Garden Resort is the perfect way to spoil yourself and round out your staycation.
Endless options make it easy to customize your own mini getaway to Silverton. This charismatic city never fails to recharge my low battery, and remind me just how lucky we are to live in the heart of the Willamette Valley. With exquisite destinations like Silverton just a hop, skip, and a jump away, the notion of planning a vacation isn’t so challenging anymore. We’re positioned in a geographical paradise, and Silverton will continue to be one of my all-time favorite places to escape to when I’m in need of a vacation or an adventure. Sometimes we just need a change of pace to shake things up and remember how downright awesome it is to live here.