What’s the Word?In Washington County, Oregon

Best Camping in the Tualatin Valley

Posted on: July 2nd, 2015 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

A vacation doesn’t have to be expensive, elusive or exhaustive in planning (that doesn’t sound like a vacation at all!). Sometimes that respite you crave can be satisfied by throwing your tent in the back of the car, driving a few miles down the road to an area that looks a world away and camping yourself into a restful restoration. Enter, camping in the Tualatin Valley. In addition to your tent, what other toys will you bring on our camping getaway? We’ve picked out some of our favorite camping spots below, all designated by an awesome activity you will find at each one.


Gales Creek

Camp creekside at Gales Creek in the Tualatin Valley.



Camping in Tillamook is easy with Browns Camp along the Wilson River Highway. Adrenaline junkies map out this spot for dirt bike adventures—expect a messy, good time!
    Other area features: ATVs and 4x4s

Mountain Biking

Camping in the Forest Grove area means the gurgling of flowing water at Gales Creek Campground. If your two wheels doesn’t have a motor, then the trails here are perfect for a lush, green ride.
    Other area features: fishing, hiking, wildlife watching


Camping near the Banks-Vernonia State Trail, just west of the Tillamook State Forest, is clutch at L.L. Stub Stewart State Park, which offers a disc-golf course close to the site’s charming cabins, RV Park and campgrounds.
    Other area features: horseback riding, mountain biking, nature trails, geocache sites, dog
    -friendly  areas.

Horseback Riding

Camping in the small community of Timber, Oregon is a quaint experience at Reehers Camp. The area includes a day use trailhead accessible to horseback riders (along with horse camp sites to match).
Other area features: hiking, historical background

What are your camping tips? Happy trails!

Find places to stay. | Create a personalized itinerary. | Find places to eat. | View the digital visitor guide.

Quiz: What Oregon Winery Should You Visit?

Posted on: June 29th, 2015 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

Montinore Estate
It’s time to discover Oregon’s wine country. If it’s your first time visiting the northern Willamette Valley, then it can be daunting to choose which of the 30+ wineries to visit first. While we think every wine tasting trip should include multiple vineyard destinations, here’s a quiz to help you choose which winery to stop at  first.  

What type of wine do you gravitate toward?
A. Pinot Gris
B. Riesling
C. You trust a winemaker’s blend
D. Pinot Noir

Though, please note that each winery excels at multiple varietals!

What’s your favorite home décor style?
A. Sleek modernism
B. Traditional with lots of classic wood pieces
C. Open-concept with free flow between indoor and outdoor
D. Italian villa

What activity do you like to do—with a glass of wine in hand—most?
A. Bocce Ball
B. Nerding out about organic farming
C. Getting cozy by the fire
D. Discovering new herbs for creative recipes

What kind of view do you like?
A. Panoramic views of the Chehalem Mountains
B. Coastal mountain range
C. Mt. Hood
D. Colorful gardens

Who are your wine tasting companions?
A. A mellow bachelorette party
B. Someone who has only wine tasted in California before
C. Your valentine
D. Your extended family


Mostly A’s: Ponzi Vineyards
Ponzi Vineyards in Sherwood is an Oregon old-school winemaker with lots of new-school charm. The multi-generation winery serves its wines, like the 2014 Pinot Gris that was picked as an “Editor’s Choice” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, in its incredibly classy gray-hued tasting room.


Ponzi Vineyards

Ponzi Vineyards

Mostly B’s: Montinore Estate
Montinore Estate in Forest Grove has a tasting room as regal as many esteemed Napa wineries. The Oregon twist? The stately décor remains unfussy, encouraging tasters to relax, ask questions and learn about the biodynamic winemaking process.


Montinore Estate

Montinore Estate (photo: David Brunkow)

Mostly C’s: Árdíri
Árdíri Winery and Vineyards in Cornelius was voted one of the best vineyard views in Oregon, which it celebrates with lots of patio seating tucked around multiple fire pits. Try the 2011 Pinot Noir Due Stati, which blends the best of Willamette Valley and Napa Valley reds into one tantalizing sip.


Árdíri Winery

Árdíri Winery

Mostly D’s: Alloro Vineyard
Alloro Vineyard in Sherwood transports wine lovers into an Italian daydream. In addition to the winery’s standout Pinot Noir offerings, be sure to peruse the herb garden for heavenly scents and serene views.


Alloro Vineyard

Alloro Vineyard


Which winery did your quiz results reveal? Be sure to explore all of the area’s wineries, vineyards and wine shops!


Nature Passport: Tualatin Heritage Center

Posted on: June 26th, 2015 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

Tualatin Heritage Center

Historical photos on display at the Tualatin Heritage Center from the excavation of the mastodon skeleton.

In the heat of summer, you can still feel a chill with a visit to the Tualatin Heritage Center and its plethora of glacial facts about the Tualatin Valley during the time of the Ice Age Floods. With prehistoric artifacts, the Tualatin Heritage Center adds some colossal fun to our Nature Passport, a complimentary guide the Tualatin Valley’s 727 square miles of nature spots. Order a free Nature Passport now!

Head inside this spot’s public library for a mounted mastodon skeleton. Need a refresher on mastodons? That would be a massive, elephant-like mammal that tromped around Oregon back—way, way, way back—in the day. The mastodon skeleton’s ginormous tusks and teeth with be on display for your ogling pleasure, which will be helpful to see as you then learn about the other plants and animals of the Ice Age that these creatures ate and shared a habitat with.

The heritage center’s interpretative center flashes forward, as well, with lots of fascinating stories from the Atfalati Native American tribe and Oregon Trail settlers that called the Tualatin Valley home. Learn how the first human inhabitants of the Tualatin Valley interacted with the nature of their cherished land.

Tualatin Heritage Center
Location: 8700 SW Sweek Drive, Tualatin, OR 97062
Phone: (503) 885-1926
Hours: Weekdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Admission: Free

Past Nature Passport Blog Posts:
Banks-Vernonia State Trail
Cook Park
Cooper Mountain Nature Park
Fernhill Wetlands
Jackson Bottom Wetlands Loop
L.L. “Stub” Stewart State Park
Magness Memorial Tree Farm
Rood Bridge Park
Tillamook State Forest
Tualatin Hills Nature Park and Interpretive Center
Tualatin River
Tualatin River National Wildlife RefugeRice Northwest Museum of Rocks and Minerals

Order your Nature Passport and share your pictures with us on Twitter and Instagram. Tag your photos with the #tualatinvalley.

Tualatin Valley People’s Choice Award Winners

Posted on: June 24th, 2015 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

Do you use Yelp, Trip Advisor and the like? We’ve got one more authority to add to your go-to review resources. Enter, the results of the Tualatin Valley People’s Choice Awards. We put the power to the people with our open poll and received a whopping 858 votes. Check out our People’s Choice Weekend Getaway Itinerary, as well as get some extra tips on each winner below.

ABV Public House
Favorite Restaurant: ABV Public House
Why it’s so great: Housed in an unassuming Hillsboro business park, this spot is like a modern-day speakeasy. Instead of whiskey in bathtubs, find hundreds of bottles of beers and ciders lining the perimeter of the restaurant.
What to try: Cheese curds and green chili poutine—‘nough said.
When to go: Happy hour falls 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day.
Who to go with: Take your in-laws as the brews and kitschy décor give lots of conversation fodder.

Vertigo Brewing in Hillsboro
Favorite Brewery: Vertigo Brewing
Why it’s so great: With just a seven-barrel system, this Hillsboro brewery crafts an impressive array of standout beer.
What to try: Friar Mike’s IPA is a quintessential Oregonian beer with lots of Northwest hops.
When to go: A few hours before the Hillsboro Hops game for a happy-go-lucky crowd of sports fans.
Who to go with: Your sports buddies!

Ardiri Vineyards in Cornelius, Oregon
Favorite Winery Experience: Árdíri Vineyards
Why it’s so great: This Cornelius vineyard is the perfect mix of elegance and romance—without the pretentious veneer.
What to try: The 2011 Due Stati is in its peak drinking years right now. Salud!
When to go: A clear day, mid-afternoon will bring you amazing views of Mt. Hood.
Who to go with: Cuddle up with your honey around one of the vineyard’s cozy fire pits.

wine tasting in the northern willamette valley
Favorite Attraction/Activity: Wine Tasting in the Tualatin Valley
Why it’s so great: Just minutes from Portland, immerse yourself in Oregon wine!
What to try: Everything. Just try everything.
When to go: The North Willamette Vintners Association provides fantastic wine events in the region.
Who to go with: Rent a car and driver with a group of friends for an unforgettable wine weekend.

Remember, our People’s Choice Weekend Getaway Itinerary shows you how to happily go from one standout attraction to the next in one awesome weekend. We dare you to try it!

Ask a Local: Nature Photography Tips

Posted on: June 22nd, 2015 by Jackie Luskey 2 Comments

Connecting with nature and connecting with your family is a simultaneous experience here in the Tualatin Valley. In the end, one of life’s greatest gifts is sharing what you love with who you love. Beaverton locals, the father-daughter pair of Gunnar Simonsen and Kira Simonsen, have a special tradition of exploring and photographing the Tualatin Valley via their stellar Instagram accounts, @GunnarSimonsen and @Hoopla68. We caught up with the two for their insider tips!

Gunnar Simonsen's drive by beauty capture of the Tualatin Valley.

Gunnar Simonsen’s drive by beauty capture of the Tualatin Valley.

What are your favorite places to photograph in the Tualatin Valley?
Gunnar: I absolutely love Cooper Mountain Nature Park. At sunrise, you can catch an amazing glow on the trails. Or an hour before sunset, the shadows that poke through the trees make for some incredibly emotive photography.

Kira: I have fallen in love with Dawson Creek. The reflection off the water is unreal. The chalkboard tunnel is so unique and brings a creative aspect to the park. It was very cool to be able to see the baby geese and ducks there this spring.

How did you begin photographing together?

Kira: In 2013, we both got iPhones and just started taking pictures. Once, we went to Rood Bridge Park and uploaded at least 15 pictures each onto Instagram. Photography has brought us closer together over the years. It’s good to get away from an internet and just experience what’s around you.

What tips do you have for novice photographers?
Gunnar: Seek to find the story in everything and tell it with photography. In this, think less and explore more. I love Cooper Mountain Nature Park. I walked those trails hundreds of times and I have taken hundreds of pictures and yet every time, there’s always a new story waiting to be told. So… tell it.

What are some non-nature favorites in the area?
Gunnar: Clark’s Bistro and Pub in Downtown Hillsboro is a new spot that we really like. Of course, Helvetia Tavern for the big burger is a must visit. I also love going to the Hillsboro Farmer’s Market. Then there’s the Intel Oregon International Air Show. I also have a lot of memories with my own father, who passed away in 2003, playing golf at Meriwether National Golf Club and Sunset Grove Golf Course.

We hope you’re inspired to take a photography getaway in the Tualatin Valley! Be sure to share your Instagram pics with the #tualatinvalley hashtag!

nature photography on instagram

Gunnar and Kira Simonsen choose photographing the Tualatin Valley as their father-daughter bonding activity of choice!


4th of July Events in the Greater Portland Region

Posted on: June 17th, 2015 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

What do you love most about the 4th of July? For some it’s the crackle-pop of fireworks lighting up the sky. For others, it’s a chance to get out and be active. Additionally, it’s hard to resist a kitschy Independence Day festival. No matter how you choose celebrate freedom this coming 4th of July, we’ve got the events and attractions to match it. Just a few minutes’ drive from Portland, the Tualatin Valley is a perfectly patriotic escape for the holiday weekend. See our ideas below!

Find patriotic colors at Smith Berry Barn's Annual Berry Festival this Independence Day.

Find patriotic colors at Smith Berry Barn’s Annual Berry Festival this Independence Day.

4th of July Weekend Fireworks, Festivals and Parades

4th of July Fireworks and Family Picnic
Tom McCall Upper Elementary School| July 4 | free

Hillsboro Rotary 4th of July Parade
Downtown Hillsboro| July 4 | free

Old Fashioned 4th of July Celebration
Tigard High School| July 4 | free

Wild West Celebration
Main Street, North Plains| July 4 | free

Annual Berry Festival
Smith Berry Barn| July 4 | free

4th of July Weekend Live Entertainment

Summer Concert – Ants in the Kitchen
Arnold Park| July 2| free

Thoroughly Modern Millie
Deb Fennell Auditorium| July 2-5 | $20-$44

Hillsboro Hops Game & Fireworks
Ron Tonkin Field| July 3 | $7-$16

4th of July Weekend Sport Events

Cook Park Marathon, Half-Marathon and 5k
Cook Park| July 3 | $30-$50

Stars & Stripes Marathon & Half Marathon

Fanno Farmhouse| July 5 | $15-50

4th of July Weekend Markets, Wine and Food Events

Beaverton First Friday
SW Broadway Street| July 3| free

Neighbors Night
Cooper Mountain Vineyards| July 3| $8

Beaverton Farmers Market
SW Hall Boulevard between 3rd & 5th| July 4| free

Wine & Watermelon
Plum Hill Vineyards| July 4-6| No cover charge

Hillsboro’s Sunday Farmers Market
Orenco Station| July 5| free

Tigard’s Sunday Farmers Market
Public Works parking lot| July 5| free

So, what’s it going to be? Parades, live music, an epic run or some good food—or why not do it up and experience it all in the Tualatin Valley? Have a happy and safe 4th of July Weekend!

Find places to stay. | Create a personalized itinerary. | Find places to eat. | View the digital visitor guide.

Festival of Balloons Trip Idea

Posted on: June 15th, 2015 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

While you don’t have to travel by balloon, you can travel to balloons with the annual Festival of Balloons coming June 26-28. Just like the giant balloons in the sky, the festival allows visitors to blow off steam. Our itinerary outlines a great weekend in the Tualatin Valley, split between two charming cities that are just minutes from Portland: Beaverton and Tigard.

Tigard Festival of Balloons
Check into a Beaverton hotel, with the Courtyard by Marriott being one of many great options.  

Now that your home base is all set for the night, journey to Neighbors Night at Cooper Mountain Vineyards (5-8 p.m.; $8). Take a taste of fantastic biodynamic wine while listening to the Americana tunes of Chris Margolin.

As the sky begins to transition from blue to the pre-sunset pink, head to the Fireside Grill for a great patio and outdoor fireplace, along with inventive cocktails and scrumptious bites.

Take advantage of one of Beaverton’s most beloved summer Saturday traditions, as well as one of its newest. First, create a breakfast spread at the Beaverton Farmers Market, which is the largest all-agricultural market in the state! With a full belly, walk to the Beaverton Flea to find treasures like refurbished furniture and sought-after collectibles.

Now that you’ve had your Beaverton fun, hop in the car and head to nearby Tigard—the Festival of Balloons is ready for you! In addition to multiple hot air balloon spectacles, you’ll be dazzled by the wide breadth of activities: craft fair, carnival games, beer garden and live music.

To prepare for a good night’s sleep, burn off extra energy at the festival’s Twilight Run 5k Run/Walk. Afterward, you’ll have earned your shower at one of the great Tigard hotels, such as The Grand Hotel at Bridgeport.

Before you cruise out of town, see some old school cruisers. There is the Festival of Balloons’ car festival—complete with a competition in 30 different classes—as well as the Classic Car Show at Bridgeport Village (where you c an take care of any tax-free shopping needs, too!).

Clearly, the Festival of Balloons is about oh so much more than balloons!

Cocktail Recipes: Berry Bourbon Bubbles

Posted on: June 12th, 2015 by Jackie Luskey No Comments
Berry Bourbon Bubbles (with varying amounts of berry elixir added to the mix!).

Berry Bourbon Bubbles (with varying amounts of berry elixir added to the mix!).

What makes bourbon a, well, bourbon? For National Bourbon Day (Saturday, June 13), we’re diving into this question. Unlike other varieties of whiskey, bourbon is always American-made. Think west of Kentucky as the makers culture of Oregon has brought some amazing bourbon-producers to the greater Portland region. Hillsboro’s Big Bottom Distilling is a perfect example of bourbon craftsmanship—earning tons of accolades in its first five years of business.

With tasting room hours Saturdays from noon to 4 p.m., take a visit to Big Bottom Distilling for a taste of its five bourbons, many of which are finished in a wine barrel for extra complexity and flavor. In addition to straight bourbon whiskeys, find other whiskey varieties, gin and brandy! Grab a bottle or two, and then make our Berry Bourbon Bubbles cocktail:

•1 shot of Big Bottom Distilling bourbon
•Chilled sparkling wine (such as the Shafer Cuveé from Shafer Vineyard Cellars or from our sparkling wine trail)
•¼ cup of Unger Farms jam in any variety (worth a trip to their u-pick farm and store to get!)
•¼ cup of water
•Berries for garnish

Combine sugar and jam in small pot. Heat on medium-low until jam is runny. Strain twice to remove seed and fruit bits. Let cool.

In a chilled glass (champagne flute for extra flair), add one shot of bourbon and two tablespoons of jam liquid. Top with sparkling wine. Add berries for garnish. Cheers!

We hope you enjoy this refreshing summer cocktail that creates a symphony of flavors between three of the Tualatin Valley’s prized food goods: bourbon, berries and wine!

Father’s Day Weekend Ideas in the Tualatin Valley

Posted on: June 10th, 2015 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

Celebrate Father's Day in the Tualatin Valley!

Celebrate Father’s Day in the Tualatin Valley!

Every year, are you stumped on what to get your dad for Father’s Day? For many, it seems like Dad just doesn’t want any more stuff. The solution? Plan a weekend trip to the Tualatin Valley. Whether your pops is visiting you for the weekend or you’re planning a few days where the whole family can get out of town, the Tualatin Valley is the perfect landscape for creating new memories with the first main man in your life. See our Father’s Day weekend ideas below!

Friday, June 19
If your father is a master of the “dad joke,” then take the cheeky humorist to Spamalot by Monty Python (7:30 p.m. curtain; $13-$17). This production from HART Theatre in Hillsboro takes a saucy twist on the Knights of the Round Table.

Saturday, June 20
Join the sweet Father’s Day weekend tradition of the Dixie Mountain Grange Strawberry Festival (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Free). With local strawberries—and more importantly, strawberry shortcake—fathers will feel the sweetness all around them.

Whether your father is a proud carnivore, wine enthusiast or both, take him to the Father’s Day Artisan Charcuterie Tasting at Alloro Vineyard (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; $15). Pair savory bites from Oregon’s best meat purveyors with Alloro’s best matched wines.

Recreate memories of camping with you father—without having to actually camp—at the OMSI Star Party: Summer Solstice at L.L. Stub Stewart State Park (sundown; $5 parking). Experts will be on hand with telescopes and binoculars, which will help you prove the point that the love from and for a parent can often feel other-worldly.

Sunday, June 21
Make a hullaballoo over good ol’ Dad with Pig & Pinot at Plum Hill Vineyards (1 p.m. to 4 p.m.; $15; reservations required). Nothing says thanks for everything, Dad like a full pig roast on a gorgeous vineyard patio!

How will you celebrate Father’s Day? As the Tualatin Valley is just minutes from Portland, we hope you’ll make a weekend escape to the vineyards, outdoors and entertainment of our charming towns and cities.

Find places to stay. | Create a personalized itinerary. | Find places to eat. | View the digital visitor guide.

Strawberries in the Tualatin Valley

Posted on: June 8th, 2015 by Jackie Luskey No Comments

strawberry banner1
So, you love strawberries. Good! So do we! And they’re one of the early gifts of summer. That said, do you know your favorite type of strawberries? There’s a big strawberry world out there and the farms and markets of the Tualatin Valley—located just a few minutes from Portland—are ready to offer you a taste of Oregon’s best strawberry offerings. First, let’s dive into the different strawberry varieties you will find in our fertile fields.

Strawberry Varieties

Albion Strawberries
Albion is a high-yielding strawberry crop known for producing large, juicy fruit that is the perfect sweetness for an everyday strawberry treat.

Benton Strawberries
Oregon Duck fans beware. This strawberry is named after the county where Oregon State University is located. Known for its winter hardiness, Benton strawberries tend to ripen later in the season.

Hood Strawberries
An Oregonian favorite! Pick the last of the season’s Hood strawberries while admiring views of Mt. Hood in the distant. This strawberry is beloved for a reason with its perfectly sweet taste.

Seascape Strawberries
As our farms are located between downtown Portland and the Oregon Coast, it only makes sense that you’ll find some Seascape strawberries. Lookout for this variety on roadside stands on the Vineyard and Valley Scenic Tour Route.

Shuksan Strawberries
Stock up on this variety for jam-making. The glossy-red fruit and its yellow seeds can be preserved in, well, preserves!

Okay, enough talking about strawberries. Now, it’s time to go get some! Here is a list of our favorite places to buy and u-pick strawberries in the greater Portland region:

Be sure to call ahead for varieties and availability!

Can’t make it out to a farm? Let the farms come to you at one of our farmers markets, which are located in the charming downtowns throughout the Tualatin Valley.

Strawberry variety facts provided by local farms and The New Sunset Western Garden Book.