Small Town Wonders of Albany, Oregon


By Linda Kissam ‘Food, Wine & Shopping Diva’


From restaurants and breweries to parks and historic sites, travel writer Linda Kissam ‘Food, Wine & Shopping Diva’ shares her adventures exploring Albany, Oregon, including Albany Historic District, Albany Historic Carousel and Museum, and Thompson’s Mills State Heritage Park, on Big Blend Radio.

America was built upon small towns. Many of them have grown up to become grand urban centers. But fortunately, many of them are still thriving and waiting for you to see what they have to offer. Coast to coast adventures await the open-minded traveler who wants a taste of what it’s like to live a small town lifestyle.  One of the most beautiful small towns to visit in the U.S. is Albany, Oregon.

Albany and its surrounding areas summon travelers from every corner of the world to experience grand rivers and majestic mountains. From the misty farm valley, engaging heritage sites and trending culinary scene it never fails to charm, providing stories to tell and memories to hold dear. If you’re looking to plan your next trip to a place whose strengths include history, visual arts, learning, food, spirits, wine, and theatre, this would be the place. It Americana at its best.

Places to get to know local history and culture:

The Albany Historic District (also known as Monteith Historic District) is home to four historic districts and more than 700 historic buildings.  You can easily walk the district or drive it in your car.  Albany was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) in 1980. The Monteith district contains a number of churches. A former United Presbyterian Church, now known as “Whitespires” is located at the corner of Washington and Fifth. It was built in 1891 and showcases unique stained glass windows and Carpenter Gothic details. Its spire is the highest point in Albany. Be inspired by the many Victorian homes and the 1849 Monteith House which is recognized as the most authentically restored pioneer era home in Oregon.

Do not miss the Albany Historic Carousel and Museum.  A 10 year grass roots project has finally come to fruition with 52 locally crafted and sponsored animals set atop a donated 1909 Dentzel Carousel mechanism.  Animals were designed by each sponsor and represent one of a kind dragons, unicorns, cats, zebras, dogs and a seven foot tall giraffe.  The spectacular one of a kind carousel is housed in a custom two story wood building.  Tourists can ride on the carousel, buy souvenirs, catch a bite to eat and see animal carving demonstrations year round.

Local restaurants where visitors can find unique menus and regional pampering:

Eats and Treats Café located in the tiny town of Shedd, may be an entirely gluten free restaurant, but it will be the BBQ food and desserts that will win you over. Be ready to taste love on a plate created by a family whose entire members are all gluten intolerant.  This is foot stomping, lip smacking, big portion cuisine that will likely be tagged for franchising because it’s that unique and good.

Novak’s Hungarian Restaurant located in Albany is a place that has legions of local loyal followers.  The food is authentic, the service is amazing and the Chicken Paprikas is a signature dish not to be missed. Truly a sparkling gem amongst the jewels found in this tasty town’s culinary offerings. Absolutely enjoy the killer desserts.

Every small town has at least one story of the home town boy who made it big in the big city, but returned home to start another legacy.  This would be that restaurant.  Frankie’s chef and co-owner Cody Utzman has brought his New York success to Albany. A two-time champion on Food Network’s Chopped, Cody brings his farm to table menu in a casual setting.  Watch out for this guy, he’s starting his own bakery and cultivating his own 2-acre farm to make sure everything served in the restaurant is prime-time good.

Beautiful scenes in nature:

Thompson’s Mills State Heritage Park chronicles 150 years of Oregon rural life as it honors the owners who adapted the mill to the ever changing world around it.  The Oregon State Park Department purchased the property for $856,547 and paid an additional $15,000 for artifacts and historic equipment associated with the mill in May 2004.  After 3 years of safety and structural upgrades Thompson’s Mills State Heritage Site is now open to the public.

Interestingly, work continues every day at the Mill – from minor repairs to major rehab or waterworks projects.  The adjustable dam has been installed allowing the Mill to do milling demonstrations year round and it also allows for fish passage.  The removal of Sodom Dam, the removal of Shearer Dam and finally the construction of the adjustable dam have allowed the Calapooia River to once again be free-flowing, yet the function and appearance at Thompson’s Mills is preserved for tourists to experience.

 It’s a lovely, serene property. The grounds are open from 9am until 4pm every day of the year except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Private tours are available or take the well planned self-tour.  It’s a beautiful spot for picnics or artists wishing to paint pictures of the mill.

Chances to taste locally made adult beverages:

The Willamette Valley is known for its entrepreneurial spirit.  This can be seen in its unique beer, wine, cider and spirits, starting with Marks Ridge Winery nestled on a 58-acre site in the picturesque Cascade Foothills region of the Willamette Valley. The tasting room is run by owners Jay and Janet Westley and has one of the most memorable views in the Pacific Northwest.   Planted in Riesling, Gewürztraminer, and both Pommard and Wädenswil Pinot Noir, the wines are worth the drive.

In Corvallis, stop in the industrial center at 33930 SE Eastgate Circle.  Make three tasty stops for unique brews done right. 2 Towns Ciderhouse features some of the best cider on the West Coast.  Young owners have brought new ideas and fanciful names to the trending cider scene such as “Ginja Ninja” and “Naughty and Nice”. A pioneer manufacturer of artisanal old world-style cider, the company is one of the largest makers of hard cider in the Pacific Northwest.

Just next door, the Mazama Brewing Company is a family owned brewery specializing in Belgian and American beers.  Smooth and refreshing.

In the same center is Nectar Creek Honeywine, a welcome surprise to the mead market.  This is not your sickly sweet mead of old.  It is light, clean and definitely refreshing. They’re growing by leaps and bounds, and for good reason. You can find many of the meads in Whole Foods Markets.

Up the street a ways is Vivacity Fine Spirits creating small batch, award winning vodka, gins, liqueur and rum using a bit of modern innovation to make its beverages while working alongside time treasured techniques. Vivacity released its first bottle in 2011 and now has a premium line up of 5 spirits. Be sure to try the Turkish coffee.  It’s a rich, deep, and dark coffee liqueur with a little sweetness and spice.  Sip slowly to savor the complex intensity.  Vivacity Fine Spirits uses locally roasted coffee and freshly ground cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks in the mix.  The result is an intoxicating liqueur that will be especially favored by coffee lovers. Certainly worth the visit to this tiny distillery and its innovative offerings.

The term Americana has been largely associated with nostalgia of an idealized life in small towns and small cities in America.  You can find that spirit going on in Albany, Oregon allright.  It’s a great 3-5 day stay.

Linda Kissam ‘Food, Wine & Shopping Diva’ is a professional travel, food, and wine writer based out of Southern California, who specializes in easy, breezy destination stories sharing her favorite things about the places she visits. Visit

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About the Author:

Linda Kissam 'Food, Wine & Shopping Diva' is a professional travel, food, and wine writer based out of Southern California, who specializes in easy, breezy destination stories sharing her favorite things about the places she visits

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