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A Weekend in Dayton, Oregon

Once a busy river port, this sweet Willamette Valley town is also where Oregon's pinot craze began.

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  • vineyards at Sokol Blosser in Dayton, Oregon, picture
    Photo credit
    Photo: Andrea Johnson
    Photo caption
    In 1970, Sokol Blosser replaced a cherry orchard with vineyards.
  • olive oil and black lava salt products from Red Ridge Farms in Dayton, Oregon, picture
    Photo credit
    Photo: Shawn Linehan
    Photo caption
    Red Ridge Farms offers tastings of its own estate-milled olive oils.
  • murals examined by woman and child along Ferry Street in Dayton, Oregon, picture
    Photo credit
    Photo: Shawn Linehan
    Photo caption
    Murals brighten Dayton’s Ferry Street.
  • Fort Yamhill blockhouse exterior in Dayton, Oregon, picture
    Photo credit
    Photo: Shawn Linehan
    Photo caption
    The Fort Yamhill blockhouse was angled to provide 360-degree views.
  • colorful rock and mineral specimens from C&H Family Jewels in Dayton, Oregon, picture
    Photo credit
    Photo: Shawn Linehan
    Photo caption
    C&H Family Jewels sells more than 200 types of rocks.
  • cinnamon teal swims in a slough along the Yamhill Loop in Dayton, Oregon, picture
    Photo credit
    Photo: Jim Leonard
    Photo caption
    A cinnamon teal swims in a slough along the Yamhill Loop.

Sights and Events

Named for a hall of justice that was never actually built, Courthouse Square Park is a window on Dayton's history. Within its leafy confines, you'll find a white bandstand, a gurgling fountain, a World War II–era cannon, an antique fire bell, and the mossy-roofed Fort Yamhill Blockhouse. The latter was built in 1856 on the Grand Ronde Reservation and moved to the park in 1911.

In the mid-1960s, David Lett planted 3,000 pinot noir cuttings from California at his Eyrie Vineyards in the Dundee Hills. It was the beginning of Oregon's love affair with the pinot grape, and the rest is garnet-colored history. The area's hillsides are now studded with vineyards, many of which operate tasting rooms—either on-site or in the neighboring towns of Dundee, McMinnville, Newberg, and Dayton.

Shops

Coppery sunstones, swirling geodes, and craggy spheres of pyrite: A trove of crystals, minerals, and more await at C&H Family Jewels Rock and Lapidary. Started by a married couple of rock hounds, the friendly shop caters to both serious collectors and the merely curious. 4270 NE Blanchard Ln.

The inventory at Dayton Mercantile ranges from quirky to tasteful, with an emphasis on things made in the state. Keep an eye out for vintage-inspired dish towels with Oregon-themed designs; the wooden wine stoppers pair nicely with bottles from the Seufert Winery Tasting Room next door. 303 Main St.

The lavender fields of Provence meet the olive groves of Tuscany at Red Ridge Farms. Exotic salts, oil produced at the state's only currently active olive mill, fragrant lavender, locally made soaps, and bottles from the farm's own Durant Vineyards fill the estate's store. 5510 NE Breyman Orchards Rd.

Eats and Drinks

Every small town needs an ice cream shop, and Dayton has Archie's Ice Cream and Eatery, a cheery spot where hearty scoops of Oregon's Umpqua and Tillamook brands of creamy deliciousness fill fresh waffle cones. Homey soups, salads, and sandwiches satisfy cravings for savory fare. 401 Ferry St.

The old steeple on the edge of Courthouse Square is now a beacon for bacon. Located inside the town's renovated 1886 First Baptist Church—one of 40 Dayton sites on the National Register of Historic Places—the Block House Cafe also serves up cinnamon roll pancakes, towering burgers, and piquant Cajun tots. 301 Main St.

At Joel Palmer House, a Willamette Valley culinary institution is tucked inside a stately revival-style building. Oregon white truffles and other local fungi plucked from forest duff by chef Christopher Czarnecki are the focus of dishes such as wild mushroom risotto and elk rib eye with fresh chanterelles. 600 Ferry St.

Outdoors

If the names red-breasted sapsucker and cinnamon teal set your heart aflutter, the Oregon Birding Trails' Yamhill Loop is a must-drive. The route's 10 stops include some of the region's best places to add to your birding life list.

Get a close look at the vineyards of Yamhill County with Pedal Bike Tours. Starting in Newberg (about eight miles northeast of Dayton), the wine country excursion weaves through the scenic viticulture region, with stops at three tasting rooms. The five-hour tour suits intermediate riders.

The Yamhill River flows just blocks from downtown Dayton. From the weatherworn planks of the Ferry Street footbridge, gaze down at the waters on which steamboats carried passengers and goods to and from Portland in the late 1800s. Alderman Park occupies the river's northeast shore; the southwest bank has a boat launch with summer kayak rentals.

This article was first published in Spring 2018. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.