15 Best Things to Do in McMinnville, Oregon

|   Last Updated on May 21, 2021

— MCMINNVILLE, OREGON — McMinnville lies in the heart of the Willamette Valley in Yamhill County, halfway between Portland and Salem. The town is in the heart of wine country, so the area boasts excellent wine, especially Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Although Pinot Geeks love to visit, there are many other things to do. McMinnville’s most famous resident is the Spruce Goose. The city is home to many Oregonian artisans, winemakers, and purveyors of locally sourced food.

McMinnville’s charming downtown area dates to the late 1800s when William T. Newby, the town’s founder, built a grist mill, first platted the town, and named it after his hometown of McMinnville, Tennessee. He later donated the land to a higher learning institution that became Linfield University.

McMinnville brings out the old-world charm and warmth of small-town living for those who want to get away from the hustle of big cities like Portland, Salem, or Eugene.

You do not have to be a wine lover to visit McMinnville because, as you will discover, the area has many exciting things to do both in town and in the nearby vicinity.

1. Step on Board the Flying Boat

Spruce Goose Interior - McMinnville OR
©Ken Bornstein

A trip to McMinnville must include a visit to the Spruce Goose. While displayed in Los Angeles, many never got to see Howard Hughes’ omnipotent plane when it was moored in Long Beach next to the Queen Mary. When the aircraft or flying boat, as some call it, moved to the Evergreen Aviation Museum, they restored the plane.

The Spruce Goose, known as the H-4 Hercules, is a prototype strategic airlift flying boat. Designed and built by the Hughes Aircraft Company, it was intended as a transatlantic flight transport for use during World War II. Unfortunately, the plane was not completed in time. The plane officially flew one time in 1947.

Not only can you view one of the largest planes ever constructed, but you can go onboard. It is amazing to see the wingspan. During restoration, they found the cargo area filled with beach balls. Hughes packed hundreds of them into the wings and tail. He considered them a special flotation device in case the plane started to sink.

2. Aviation & Space Museum

Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum McMinnville
©Cori Solomon

If you love aviation and space museums, the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum is an outstanding example of what an air and space museum should be. Its only rival is the air and space museum in Washington D.C.

The museum features aircraft starting in the early 1900s continuing through WWI, WWII, and Vietnam. The highlights are the Blackbird SR-71 and, for space lovers, the Titan II SLV.

The museum divides the exhibits into two buildings. One contains aircraft from commercial and military aviation. The other building is dedicated to space exploration.

Looking up at the immense size of the Titan II SLV brings back memories of days in the 1960s and 1970s when space exploration was novel and not as routine. The Titan represents the beginning of the Gemini program that launched two men into earth orbit, practicing everything they needed to go to the moon. 

3. Stroll Main Street McMinnville

Main Street McMinnville, OR
©Cori Solomon

Take a step back in time as you walk the main street of downtown McMinnville. Pop into a restaurant, curio shops, antiques, art galleries, bookstores, wine tasting rooms, and bars, or just window shop as you enjoy the charm and quaint old town atmosphere of 2nd and 3rd Street.

4. McMinnville Farmers Market

McMinnville Farmers Market
© Cori Solomon

You can tell a lot about a city by the farmers markets, especially in a town known for serving fresh and local cuisine. It is an opportunity to meet the locals, both farmers and those living in the surrounding community. Have fun looking at the displays, finding food items local to the region that differ from other areas.

McMinnville’s Farmers Market is open from noon to 6 pm on Thursdays, May through October at First and Cowl street, right adjacent to McMinnville City Hall.

5. Linfield University

McMinnville Linfield University
©Timothy Sofranko

Founded in 1858, the university hosts many cultural events, including concerts, art exhibits, and shows, all open to the public.

6. Spooks Come Alive

McMenamins Hotel Oregon is one of the oldest in Oregon, dating back to 1905, and features a hotel and pub. This family-owned venture serves its hand-crafted beer, wine, cider, spirits, and coffee alongside wholesome pub food. Think English pub meets the state of Oregon. Visit the rooftop bar and garner a breathtaking view of the region.

The hotel is steeped in history, and they say some of the ghosts of days gone by might pay a visit. The hotel is one of Oregon’s most haunted spots. Of note, some of the rooms share a bath.

7. Breakfast With Locals

Community Plate
©Visit McMinnville

Find the perfect place to start your day with a hearty breakfast at Community Plate. It’s the local hangout for friends and family as they sip their coffee and enjoy the daily breakfast or lunch fare. The restaurant features classic Americana cuisine, all sourced with local ingredients from area farmers, growers, and artisans. Try any form of eggs, and you will not go wrong or hungry.

8. Bring Bubbles to Life

Rob and Maria Stuart share their love of wine as you sip at their R. Stuart and Co. tasting room. Rob’s first love is Champagne, and he creates a sparkling wine you will not want to miss. It started as an experiment but became a hit. If you do not want to bring some sparkle into your life, you might want to check out their Pinot Gris, Rosé, or Pinot Noir.

9. For Wine Lovers

If wine tasting is your thing, enjoy visiting the tasting rooms of McMinnville. Some of these tasting rooms represent wineries located in the McMinnville AVA, and others chose to locate their tasting room in McMinnville. However, the winery is situated in another AVA. McMinnville wineries include Brittan, Winderlea, Elizabeth Chambers, and Willamette Valley Vineyards. Many wineries have tasting rooms outside of the city limits.

Brittan Vineyards: Winemaker Robert Brittan’s career took him from Stags’ Leap winery in Napa to Oregon. He creates his favorite cool climate wines, Pinot Noir and Syrah. He has made a name for the McMinnville AVA.

Brittan shares a tasting room in McMinnville with Winderlea, a winery with vineyards in the Dundee Hills specializing in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

10. Going French

Bistro Mason - McMinnville
©Cori Solomon

As you walk into this charming cottage, find classic provincial décor both inside and on the patios. Chef Jean-Jacques and his wife Debbie Chatelard make you feel right at home at their Bistro Mason. The atmosphere is friendly and the food superb—classic French cuisine. Often the chef uses a chestnut base for his soups, including the creamy butternut squash soup. The chestnut base adds a different dimension to the soup.

Save some room at the end of your meal for the hazelnuts, which are harvested locally. You will need to save your strength for cracking the fresh hazelnuts that come with your bill.

11. Think Italian—Think Nick’s

A local’s favorite is Nick’s Italian Café. This family-owned restaurant has been a fixture in McMinnville since 1977 when Nick Peirano opened the restaurant. Now his daughter, Carmen Peirano, runs this James Beard winning restaurant. They serve many family recipes, handed down through three generations. They still serve grandma Giorgia’s minestrone recipe.

12. Pacific Northwest Dining

Red Hills Kitchen
©Cori Solomon

The Red Hills Kitchen is the ultimate in Pacific Northwest dining. Located in the Atticus Hotel, the atmosphere is casual modern décor. The food features fresh seasonal farm-to-table cuisine highlighting the best of local purveyors.

13. Discover a Secret Room

Atticus Hotel Hidden Room
©Visit McMinnville

One of the more recent hotels to open in McMinnville is the Atticus Hotel. It is a charming luxury boutique hotel with all the accouterments of a relaxing stay while enjoying your visit to McMinnville. The hotel features 36 rooms that preserve the historic demeanor of the city while offering modern-day luxury. Each room is designed uniquely different from the others. There is even one room that features bunk beds and can host six people.

The hotel’s best-kept secret is the secret drawing-room hidden behind a false wall in the lobby. Designed with the assistance of community members who created gilded silhouette artwork and other wall coverings out of old McMinnville newspapers. The walls are lined with photos and paintings of historical community leaders. It is an excellent room for a party or gathering.

14. Wine With Your B&B?

Youngberg Hill Inn and Winery
©Youngberg Inn and Winery

If you are looking for a charming combo B & B and winery with magnificent views, the Youngberg Hill Inn and Winery offers a pastoral setting with a rustic ambiance. About 20-minutes from downtown McMinnville, the inn sits perched on a hill overlooking the valley and the winery vineyards.

Youngberg Hill Inn is known for its scrumptious gourmet breakfasts. Hopefully, you will stay on a day they serve the Cornished baked eggs and honey baked bacon.

The Youngberg Hill Winery features some outstanding wines, especially their Pinot Noirs. The best way to enjoy a tasting is sitting out on the balcony overlooking the valley, sipping a glass of Pinot Noir, watching the gorgeous colors at Sunset. Wines to consider: Aspen Chardonnay or the Cuvee Pinot Noir.

15. Beyond McMinnville

Beckam Estate Vineyards Amphorae
©Cori Solomon

Within 15-minutes and one hour in any direction from McMinnville, discover numerous day adventures to nearby areas. Here are some favorites.

  • Architectural buffs can drive an hour to Silverton to view Frank Lloyd Wright’s Gordon House. At the same time, visit the Oregon Garden, an 80-acre botanical garden with beautiful sculptures.
  • For Sake lovers, drive about 30-minutes north of McMinnville is Sake One, the home to the largest Sake producer in the United States. Sake One offers tours of their facility along with a tasting.
  • If you are interested in amphora winemaking, it is 35-minutes to Beckham Estate Vineyard, where ceramist Andrew Beckam now winemaker, utilized his skills in ceramic to make amphoras. He now sells his Amphoras to wineries in Oregon and the United States.
  • Rice Rock Northwest Museum of Rocks & Minerals is about an hour north of McMinnville. It features a prestigious collection of gems, fossils, and minerals. The collection of meteorites and petrified woods is impressive.


McMinnville’s central location makes the city the perfect base of operations for anything Willamette Valley. Whether it is a wine-centric trip, weekend adventure, or seeing the sights between Portland and Salem, it offers a destination giving the traveler the ability to experience everything Yamhill County and its surrounding areas have to offer.

*Opening photo ©V Estelle Travel


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Last Updated on May 21, 2021