Best Things to Do in McMinnville, OR

McMinnville is a charming Oregon town just an hour southwest of Portland. The town is well-known for its historic ties to the Oregon Trail and for the various wineries that can be found throughout the area. I recently spent a few days in McMinnville over July 4, and these are some of my favorite things I did while visiting!

Check out the historic homes

The town of McMinnville was first established in the mid-1800s, and the area’s rich history is still evident today. There are tons of historic homes throughout McMinnville, and many can be found on sidestreets near the main downtown area. A great way to enjoy these homes is taking a drive or walk through town!

Go shopping downtown

McMinnville’s downtown area, which primarily runs down NE 3rd St, is super cute and full of awesome shops. You can shop for everything from clothes to art and locally-made treats. I highly recommend taking a stroll down NE 3rd St and popping into any stores that catch your eye.

Learn about the local history

McMinnville is home to a number of museums that educate visitors on various facets of the town and its history. One of the most well-known museums in the area is Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, a huge museum that holds a number of civilian and military aircrafts. Another great option is the Yamhill Valley Heritage Center, which focuses on McMinnville’s agricultural history.

Taste some local wine

A visit to McMinnville would truly be incomplete without sampling some local wine! There are a lot of tasting rooms and wine bars in downtown McMinnville, and all offer unique blends and offerings. I was thoroughly impressed with my visit to R. Stuart, but you really can’t go wrong in McMinnville.

Keep your eyes on the skies

Did you know McMinnville is home to the country’s second largest annual UFO festival (with Roswell, New Mexico being the location of the first largest)? In 1950, a number of UFO photographs taken on a local McMinnville farm were published in the city’s newspaper. Since then, the small town has become a surprising hub for UFO-chasers. Whether or not you believe in aliens, it is fun to keep an eye on the skies during your visit. In fact, my dad is big into astrophotography, and he captured some amazing star photos during our time in McMinnville (though we didn’t spot any UFOs). Check out his website to see more incredible astrophotography!

I highly recommend a visit to this charming Oregon town, and if you’ve been before I’d love to hear what your favorite activities in the area are!

How to Explore Newport, OR

Newport is a quaint town on the coast of Oregon that is teeming with things to see and do. Located just 2 hours southwest of Portland and 5 hours south of Seattle, Newport is the perfect coastal escape. From rugged coastline to charming shops and some delicious food, Newport truly has it all. If it’s your first time visiting Newport, these are some of the top activities to make the most out of your trip.

Start your day with some coffee

Newport is home to a number of great coffee spots, so make sure to kick off your visit with a cup of Joe. If you prefer something quick, check out one of the coffee stands in town, such as Bonnie’s Espresso or Camp One. There are also a lot of roasters in town where you can enjoy a more laidback coffeeshop experience. My favorite is Surf Town Coffee – make sure to try their lavender chai!

Grab some treats

Another activity I recommend doing in the morning is paying a visit to Pacific Sourdough, which is technically 20 minutes down the road in Waldport. Pacific Sourdough is a legendary bakery that is well-known throughout the Pacific Northwest. They offer a wide variety of breads and both sweet and savory baked goods. I’ve sample the sourdough baguette, lemon rosemary sourdough, lemon bar, lemon poppyseed loaf, chocolate chunk cookie, marionberry muffin, and old-fashioned sugar cookie, and all were to die for! Warning: be prepared to wait in line if you don’t arrive before opening.

Go seal-spotting and explore some tidal pools

You can spot all kinds of animals throughout Newport, from eagles to whales and seals and so much more. One of the best places to do some wildlife-spotting is Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. Near the Yaquina Head Lighthouse you can find a set of stairs leading right down to the rocky beaches below. At low tide, countless tidal pools of all shapes and sizes are formed where you can spot anemones, starfish, crabs, and other marine life. You’re also likely to spot some seals in the distance! The Yaquina Head area is not only beautiful but also an incredible opportunity to experience Newport’s biodiversity firsthand.

Enjoy some local grub

Unsurprisingly, Newport is known for serving up some exceptionally delicious seafood. You can find everything from small hole-in-the-wall joints to upscale culinary experiences, and almost all are sure to impress. Clam chowder, oyster shooters, and fish and chips abound in Newport, and there are some amazing restaurant options to sample some of freshest and most flavorful seafood I’ve had in the PNW.

Buy fish straight from the source

For seafood-lovers, Newport is a true paradise. There are several great markets in town where you can buy some incredible seafood. One of the coolest options for purchasing seafood is Chelsea Rose, where you can buy a variety of items straight off the boat! Just head down to the pier off of Bay Boulevard and keep an eye out for the vessel. Right down the road is Local Ocean Seafoods, which is another awesome spot to purchase seafood as well.

Get high (in the sky)

Just 15-20 minutes north of Newport you can find Cape Foulweather, a beautiful land formation rising several hundred feet above the sea. There’s a stunning view from this point and you’re guaranteed to get some amazing photos. I also think this would be an amazing place to go stargazing or do some astrophotography, which my dad is really into (you can see some of photos right here).

Despite its small size, Newport offers a surprising amount of activities and sights that make it the perfect weekend destination. I hope you find this guide helpful as you plan your trip, and if you’ve been to Newport before I’d love to hear your top recommendations!

Pike Place Market: 5 Things to Know Before You Go

When you think of the city of Seattle, a few images probably come to mind: the Space Needle, rain, Starbucks, and, of course, Pike Place Market. Pike Place Market is the most popular tourist attraction in Seattle, and one of the most popular in the entire world! Every year, more than 10 million visitors from all over the world come to Pike Place Market to experience this iconic place for themselves. Pike Place Market is one of the few tourist attractions in Seattle that I actually consider worth the hype, and I think everyone who finds themselves in Seattle should make time to stop by. If you’ve never visited, here are 5 things to know about Pike Place Market before you go.

Pike Place Market is one of the oldest continuously-operated farmer’s markets in the entire country! Pike Place Market has an incredibly rich history dating all the way back to 1907, when the market first opened. The market presents the amazing opportunity for visitors to experience a slice of Seattle history firsthand as they walk through the various levels consisting of local vendors, shops, and restaurants.

The unofficial mascot of Pike Place Market is Rachel, a bronze piggy bank statue! This isn’t your average childhood piggy bank, though: Rachel weighs 550 pounds and receives anywhere from $6,000-$9,000 every year in the form of all different kinds of currency. Rachel can be found under the “Public Market Center” sign where she was first placed in 1986.

Image courtesy of Pike Place Market Foundation

Inside the market you can find Pike Place Fish Market, which is world-famous for its fish-throwing fishmongers! The quirky tradition first began in 1980 when the former owner decided it would be more efficient to toss the seafood rather than walk it over to his employees on busy days. Since then, the fishmongers – who can be identified with their signture orange waders – have become known for this practice which they do when a fish is purchased, a donation is made, or randomly for tourists who may be watching.

Pictured is Jack’s Fish Spot, another fish vendor in Pike Place Market

Just across the street from the market is the “original” Starbucks. Technically, the first Starbucks originally opened in another location before moving to this storefront on Pike Place. There is almost always a massive line out the door of visitors who want to experience the original Starbucks for themselves. I’ll be honest – it’s not too special, and resembles pretty much any other Starbucks you can find in the country. If you’re a lover of Starbucks, I recommend visiting the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, which is right down the street, instead!

Pike Place Market is truly a cornerstone of the Seattle community. For years it has been a place where locals and tourists alike can gather to support the local economy by purchasing from small businesses. Pike Place Market has undergone a number of renovations and restorations over the years, but its original purpose has remained through it all. When you go to Pike Place Market you’re not just visiting any other tourist attraction: you’re supporting the community by putting money directly into the pockets of local business owners!

Skyline Trail – Mt. Rainier National Park

With summer quickly approaching, I want to highlight one of my favoite hikes in Mount Rainier National Park: Skyline Tail. Skyline Trail, also know as Skyline Loop Trail, is a 5.5-mile-long loop in the Paradise area of the park. Skyline Trail is a challenging hike, but along the way you’ll experience some of the best features that Mount Rainier National Park has to offer, from glaciers to alpine meadows and waterfalls. If you only have time for one hike in Mount Rainier National Park, and you’re up for the challenge, I highly recommend the Skyline Trail.

The Skyline Trail begins at the Jackson Visitor Center in Paradise. If you choose to hike the loop clockwise, as most do, you’ll immediately begin gaining elevation as you make your way to Panorama Point. Panorama Point is an amazing viewpoint, and some even choose to turn back here after stopping to rest and enjoy the views. It was actually along this section of the trail that we encountered a bear, which was my first ever run-in with a wild bear!

If you choose to continue your hike past Panorama Point, you’ll head east on the Skyline Trail. You’ll soon come across the junction with Golden Gate Trail, which can be used to shorten the hike. To complete the full loop, continue heading east and you’ll eventually reach the Stevens-Van Trump Memorial. You’ll begin to descend into Paradise Valley, with a brief uphill portion taking you Myrtle Falls, before finally arriving back at the Jackson Visitor Center.

All in all, Skyline Trail is an amazing hike that highlights some of the most beautiful natural features of Mount Rainier National Park. I highly recommend adding this hike to your summer bucketlist, and I would do it again in a heartbeat! Let me know in the comments what your favorite hike is in Mount Rainier National Park.

Seattle Bucket List: 10 Must-See Sights and Experiences

Seattle is an amazing town with so much to offer, it can often feel overwhelming when you’re trying to decide what to do and see. If you need some inspiration for your Seattle bucket list, here are 10 must-see sights and experiences to add ASAP!

  1. Journey to the top of the Space Needle – you can experience this iconic Seattle landmark through general admission or by grabbing a cocktail in their revolving lounge
  2. Do some shopping at Pike Place MarketPike Place Market is full of unique shops, vendors, and restaurants, making it a great place to wander around for an afternoon
  3. Visit the Museum of Pop CultureMoPop is truly one of the coolest and most unique museums I’ve ever visited
  4. Picnic at Gas Works ParkGas Works Park is one of my top recommendations for first-time visitors to Seattle because you’ll get fantastic views of the skyline and Lake Union. Plus, you may recognize it from the movie 10 Things I Hate About You
  5. Hike through Discovery Park – an outdoor-lovers oasis right in the heart of the city! The Discovery Park and Lighthouse Loop Trail is a great day hike
  6. Take in views of the city skyline at Kerry ParkKerry Park is a gorgeous spot to enjoy sunrise or sunset
  7. Sample some coffees at the Starbucks Reserve Roastery – the Starbucks Reserve Roastery is a great alternative to the Original Starbucks
  8. Pay a visit to the Ballard Locks – the Ballard Locks are interesting and educational, truly the best of both worlds
  9. Admire the architecture of Seattle Central Library – visiting the Seattle Central Library is the perfect rainy day activity: check out my photo diary from a recent visit by clicking right here
  10. Go sailing or paddle-boarding in Lake Union – enjoying Lake Union is a classic summertime activity

Seattle Central Library – Photo Diary

Looking for a unique (and free!) activity in Seattle? Consider paying a visit to Seattle Central Library. Seattle Central Library is a public library in the heart of downtown Seattle that features some stunning architecture. The building, which is constructed largely out of glass and steel, has a very geometric and striking appearance, giving you plenty of great photo opps. The library is also massive with 11 stories and capacity to hold over 1 million books. Seattle Central Library is well-known for its unique architecture and is visited by millions of people every year. I love wandering around the library and people-watching on a rainy day, and I highly recommend a visit if you’ve never been.

Deception Falls

Despite the ominous name, Deception Falls is a beautiful waterfall and hiking area located near Skykomish, Washington. At only half a mile roundtrip, the hike to Deception Falls is a great spot to stretch your legs, take some photos, or bring friends and family who are visiting from out of town.

The Deception Falls Recreation Area is located along the north side of US Highway 2 by mile marker 56. There is a large parking lot with restrooms and picnic tables, making it a great lunch spot, and an interpretive trail that leads you through the forest and to the falls.

Even though the falls are located right off the highway, you’ll feel as though you’re worlds away from civilization. When I visited Deception Falls in late October/early November, the water was incredibly high thanks to a lot of recent rainfall.

Deception Falls is a great option for those seeking beautiful waterfall views without a significant hike, and is well-suited for hikers of all ages and experience levels.

5 Fun Seattle Date Ideas

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner and whether you have a significant other in your life or not, it’s always a fun excuse to celebrate and share the love. Even if you’re celebrating solo, I encourage you to take yourself out on a date and really treat yourself, because you deserve it! If you need some inspiration for Valentine’s Day or otherwise, here are 5 fun date ideas in the Seattle area.

Dinner and a show at The Pink Door

Image courtesy of ThePinkDoor.net

The Pink Door is a well-known, speakeasy-style restaurant located along Post Alley in Pike Place Market. The restaurant is cozy and eclectic, with gorgeous waterfront views. I took myself on a date here a few months ago and thoroughly enjoyed their antipasto of the house and linguine alle vongole (pasta with baby clams and garlic in a white wine sauce), though the menu does change regularly to feature fresh seasonal ingredients. The Pink Door is also known for providing some spectacular entertainment ranging from aerial performances to jazz bands and burlesque shows.

Catch sunset at the top of the Space Needle

Image courtesy of Trip 101

I know, I know – the Space Needle has a reputation for being a major tourist trap in Seattle. But sometimes it pays to be a tourist in your own city, and experiencing sunset from the top of the Space Needle is truly incredible. You’ll be rewarded with stunning 360-degree views of the Puget Sound and surrounding mountain ranges that are hard to find anywhere else in the city. You can enjoy the Space Needle through general admission or by sipping on some drinks at the Loupe Lounge, a rotating cocktail bar located at the top.

Walk through the Volunteer Park Conservatory

I recently visited the Volunteer Park Conservatory for the first time (enjoy my photo diary here!) and was blown away by how beautiful this spot is! Volunteer Park is located in the heart of Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood and the greenhouse pictured above is over 100 years old! The conservatory is very peaceful and features all kinds of trees, flowers, cacti, and everything in between. This is a great spot to go solo or with a loved one, especially on a rainy day.

Hike to West Point Lighthouse in Discovery Park

Discovery Park is a gorgeous area of hiking and walking trails, and one of the highlights is West Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse is perfectly picturesque, and the hike there will lead you through forests, meadows, and sandy beaches. At 4.4 miles roundtrip, it’s definitely a solid hike to get there, but the stunning views will make the effort well worth your time. While the trail is especially beautiful in the spring and summer when wildflowers are abundant, you’ll still catch some beautiful sights if you go before then.

Picnic at Gas Works Park

For first-time visitors to Seattle, Gas Works Park is always at the top of my recommendations list. The park, which used to be Seattle Gas Light Company plant, is a super cool spot that mixes industrial with the outdoors. The park offers fantastic views of Lake Union and the Seattle skyline, and is an awesome place to fly kites, walk, bike, or picnic. I love visiting Gas Works whenever I’m in town, and have enjoyed several picnic dates on its rolling hills.

Volunteer Park Conservatory – Photo Diary

Seattle’s Volunteer Park Conservatory is a stunning botanical garden and conservatory in the heart of the city. The iconic glass greenhouse has been a fixture of the park since 1912, and is a beautiful piece of architecture. If you’re looking to escape the rain and enjoy a slice of Seattle history, a visit to the conservatory is a great option. Tickets are $4 for adults 18+ and $2 for kids 12-17 (free for children under 12).

5 Seattle Tourist Traps to Avoid, and Where to Go Instead

Seattle has so many activities and attractions, it can be overwhelming to decide what to do and what to skip on your first visit. Here are my recommendations on five Seattle attractions to avoid, and five definitely worth the visit instead.

Skip: The Gum Wall

The Seattle Gum Wall is exactly what it sounds like: a wall. Covered in gum. If you happen to be walking in the area, it’s a fine stop to add to your route, but I wouldn’t go for the sole purpose of seeing it. Plus, the wall is frequently flooded with people wanting to take selfies or add their own chewed-up bubblegum.

Instead try… Pike Place Market

I know, I know – Pike Place Market is probably the quintessential tourist trap when it comes to Seattle. But I have to say, you should visit at least once. The market itself has a lot of interesting history, and I thoroughly enjoy walking through all the stalls and vendors. You can get some great views of the water, and there are lots of options for shopping, eating, and drinking. I would recommend trying to visit on a weekday or earlier in the morning/later in the evening to avoid the massive crowds that tend to form.

Skip: Original Starbucks

Fun fact: the “Original Starbucks” at Pike Place Market is actually considered the second Starbucks store, because the true first store was located in another location! Sure, it’s cool to walk by, but there are always extremely long lines and unfortunately, it is literally just another Starbucks store. Not worth the hype, in my opinion.

Instead try… The Starbucks Reserve Roastery

Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Seattle without paying homage to Starbucks in some way. The Starbucks Reserve Roastery is a really cool spot I’d recommend visiting. The building itself is historic with gorgeous architecture, and you can actually book tours to see how everything works. Plus, the menu has some unique items you won’t find at other Starbucks locations, like a flight of cold brew to sample three different flavors and ice cream/coffee concoctions.

Skip: Seattle Aquarium

Confession: I haven’t actually been to the Seattle Aquarium myself, but I don’t plan on visiting anytime soon either. I’ve heard mixed reviews on the aquarium, and pricing tends to be quite expensive, so I wouldn’t say you have to visit it while you’re in town. Of course, if you especially love aquariums you may have a good time, but there are so many other unique spots you could visit instead that the aquarium would be low on my list of must-visits.

Instead try… MoPop

MoPop, or The Museum of Pop Culture, is a really unique museum located in the heart of Seattle. MoPop features different exhibits on books, movies, bands, and pop culture movements. I’ve been twice now and thoroughly enjoyed each visit, especially the exhibits on Nirvana and the history of horror movies. Plus, the MoPop building itself has some interesting architecture, and is located right by the Space Needle which makes for good photo opps. I would recommend MoPop more for older crowds, as little kids may not be super interested in the types of exhibits they host.

Skip: The Seattle Great Wheel

The Seattle Great Wheel is a large Ferris wheel that will give you a birds-eye view of the downtown skyline. Unfortunately, tickets to the ferry will cost you $11-$16 a person, depending on age. I’d prefer to head somewhere else for free views of the skyline, and just admire the Ferris wheel from the ground. I will say that seeing the Ferris wheel lit up a night is a pretty sight, but again, I’d recommend enjoying it from the ground than paying for tickets to go up.

Instead try… Kerry Park

Kerry Park is a small park located in the historic Queen Anne neighborhood. The park offers sweeping views of the city, and is completely free! Sure, the view will be different than if you were in the Ferris wheel right downtown, but I personally prefer to see the city, water, and the mountains beyond all in one view. The Queen Anne neighborhood is a beautiful area to drive through as well, with lots of older homes and mansions.

Skip: Alki Beach

Alki Beach is a strip of sand that runs along Elliot Bay. You’ll get some decent views of the skyline, but given the beach is only about 2.5 miles long, it can get overcrowded and kind of dirty. If you’re looking for a quick stroll through the sand, Alki Beach will do just fine, but it isn’t a must-see in my opinion.

Instead try… Discovery Park

Discovery Park is a large public park located right in Seattle, with 10+ miles of walking trails through forests, bluffs, and along sandy beaches. I highly recommend the Lighthouse Loop Trail which will take you to West Point Lighthouse. Discovery Park is a great area for hiking, wildlife-watching, and photography. Because some of the areas within the park are protected, the trails and facilities are well-kept and you’ll really feel like you’ve stepped into another world. As a bonus, the park is completely free to visit!