For an affordable day trip or weekend escape filled with nature walks, fantastical beasts, living history, and culinary adventures, hit the road and head some 70 miles south of Portland to the city of Albany. Located in the heart of the Willamette Valley, this vibrant community has done a wonderful job preserving its historic roots while retaining an authentic, family-friendly vibe. Read on for your personal guide to this great getaway.

photo: Carrie Uffindell

Must-See Attractions

Monteith House
The best place to get your bearings – and give the children a taste of 19th century life – is with a visit to the c. 1849 Monteith House, located in downtown. Originally built by Albany’s founding family, the house is both a museum and one of the most authentically restored homes in the Pacific Northwest. While touring the two-story house, you’ll encounter live reenactments, period artifacts, hearth-cooked cornbread, and a pioneer gift store.

Cost: Free
Summer Hours: 12-4 p.m., Wed. through Sat.
Location: 518 Second Ave., Albany
Online: albanyvisitors.com/historic-albany/museums/monteith-house

Talking Water Gardens
For a lovely nature walk that also helps the environment, head to this 50-acre wetland, situated in a former industrial area on the east end of town. As you stroll along the two miles of walking trails, there are plenty of areas to view native plants, fish, and wildlife. Also look for the series of waterfalls and weirs, which naturally treats wastewater by oxygenating and cooling it before it flows into the Willamette River. Don’t forget the binoculars!

Cost: Free
Hours: Open daily, sunrise to sunset
Location: 577 Waverly Dr. NE, Albany
Online: cityofalbany.net

photo: Carrie Uffindell

Historic Carousel & Museum
Next, head here to watch a menagerie of wooden animals (including prancing unicorns, snarling dragons, hopping toads, and a splashy orca whale) being hand carved and painted for an ambitious city project: a 50-foot carousel. After self-touring the carving studio, walk the three blocks to check on the construction of the 22,000-square-foot carousel facility, which is projected to open in late July.

Cost: Free
Hours: Mon.& Tues., Thurs.-Sat. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Wed. 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Location: 250 SW Broadalbin St., Albany (carving studio and gift shop)
SW Washington St. & W 1st Ave. (carousel building)
541-791-3340
Online: albanycarousel.com

photo: Kirt Edblom via Flickr

Cool! Pool at Swanson Park
For 81,800 gallons of fun on a warm summer day, grab those swimsuits and head to Swanson Park Action Center. Kept at a comfy 84 degrees and only 4.5 feet at its deepest, the pool features such as a 36-foot slide, a waterplay structure, a gentle river ride, and a zero-depth entry. The pool is open from mid-June (typically the first Saturday after school is out) until Labor Day.

Cost: $4.25-$5.25/adult; $3.75-$4.75/ages 6-17; $2.75-$3.25/ages 0-5
Hours: Swim times vary, check website
Location: 705 Railroad St., Albany
541-917-7751
Online: cityofalbany.net

photo: Carrie Uffindell

Thompson’s Mills State Heritage Site
Located 14 miles south of Albany in the smaller town of Shedd, Oregon’s last water-powered mill, which ran for 143 years, is also well-worth a visit. Along with touring the still-functional mill, you can feed the on-site chickens and turkeys and walk along the Calapooia River. If possible, take a guided tour so that you can see (and hear) those gears and turbines in action.

Cost: Free
Hours: Mill and grounds are open 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. daily, year-round
Location: 32655 Boston Mill Dr., Shedd
541-491-3611
Online: oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=parkPage.dsp_parkPage&parkId=186

Pix Theater
After a busy day exploring Albany, kick back with some fresh popcorn and a first-run movie at this plush 200-seat, single-screen theater. The c. 1892 Victorian Queen Anne building – one of many found in the city’s historic downtown core – was originally built as a livery stable. Though it’s been completed renovated and rebuilt, you can still find original details like stained glass windows, a pulley system, and nine-foot front doors.

Cost: $6/matinee; $8/general admission
Location: 321 SW 2nd Avenue, Albany
Online: albanypix.com

photo: Oregon Department of Transportation via flickr

Getting There

Albany is accessible by car, train, and bus. Parking is free in downtown Albany. Amtrak Cascades, Bolt Bus, and the City of Albany Public Transit Service all offer service to Albany Station, which is located at the southern edge of downtown at 110 10th Avenue SW.

Eats

From artisan coffee roasters to Northwest-style barbecue, Albany offers some high-quality eats for families. Our favorites include the Ivy Garden Tea Room, Novak’s Hungarian Restaurant, Bo-Mack’s BBQ, and Allann Brothers.

Sleeps

Most of Albany’s comfy sleeps are located just off I-5. Our faves that welcome kids include Best Western Plus Prairie Inn, Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, and Phoenix Inn Suites.

Note: there are currently no hotels located in downtown Albany. For more Information, visit albanyvisitors.com.

What does your family love to do in Albany? Tell us in the comment section below.

—Carrie Uffindell