College Town Weekend: Corvallis invites for river, farm and campus exploration

By JENNIFER BURNS BRIGHT

Long live college days in Corvallis, home of Oregon State University and a historic downtown built on the banks of the Willamette River. If you’re visiting a graduating senior or just enjoying a spring day, there’s plenty to explore on a weekend in this agricultural area in the heart of the Willamette Valley—farm-to-table restaurants with the finest local produce and meats, birdwatching and kayaking, and a vibrant arts and culture scene.

Sights

Man and boy enjoy orchard on a weekend in Corvallis
Picking apples at Peoria Road Farm Market.

OSU’s annual commencement ceremony takes place on June 11 at Reser Stadium, likely the last one before the stadium renovation is completed in 2023.

Visit the Saturday and Wednesday farmers market near First and Jackson, and stop at farms and markets along the Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail.

For art and history buffs, the Benton County Historical Society oversees two museums as different as can be. The modernistic Corvallis Museum—which opened downtown in 2021 after pandemic delays—houses local history artifacts within its angular glass walls, including a whimsical display of hats and chairs, a giant stuffed moose and glowing rocks. The Philomath Museum’s stately galleries located about five miles west of town offer a range of temporary exhibitions; their look at “Consumer Culture” runs from May 13 to September 10.

Eats

You’ll feel cherished by the impeccable service at farm-to-table Castor Kitchen & Bar downtown, which showcases creative cocktails and local wine pairings with a seasonal tartine or creamy farro risotto. Fans of Philomath’s gluten-free classic diner, Eats and Treats, will be thrilled to know Corvallis now has another wheat-free eatery. Allergen-friendly Ants on a Log Café opened in 2021 alongside Valley Rock Gym, with house-baked goods, snacks, smoothies and coffee with non-dairy add-ins. Any Corvallis weekend celebration deserves a toast with a pint of locally brewed beer. Enjoy the sunset with panoramic views on the rooftop bar at family-friendly Sky High Brewing and Pub. Pro tip for parents: on Wednesday evenings, kids’ meals are half off.

Outdoors

Woman with binoculars explores wetland area on a Corvallis weekend.
Birdwatching at the Jackson-Frazier Wetland.

Meander for miles along the Willamette River bank path, enjoying public sculptures along the way at Riverfront Commemorative Park. Inspired by the rippling current? Launch your kayak—or rent one at Peak Sports to launch—into the river itself on the 187-mile Willamette River Trail. To the northeast, Jackson-Frazier Wetland occupies a wetland conservation area traversed by a two-third-mile wheelchair-accessible boardwalk, designed thoughtfully to include viewing platforms with pond and meadow views, with dog-friendly areas too. Scan for migrating songbirds there and on a wildflower hike at peak May bloom at William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge south of town.

Shops

For your multicolored sock, glittery sleepwear or funky décor needs, the super cute Mod Pod on the edge of downtown has the gift for you. Worth a stop on your weekend in Corvallis! Headed to graduation? Stop by the OSU Beaver Store on campus to buy a Benny the Beaver sweatshirt for your favorite alum. For pickles, flowering plants and farm-fresh fruit ripe for snacking, head out to Peoria Road Farm Market just off the route to I-5.

Sleeps

It’s almost impossible to resist the cute animals at Leaping Lamb Farm when you stay at either the 1895-vintage farmhouse or 720-square-foot cottage overlooking the hay field and orchard in this working farm in Alsea, a rural area about twenty miles from Corvallis. They’ll put you to work doing chores, or you can simply enjoy onsite amenities like baby lambs, a shaded deck and Pendleton blankets. Closer to campus, the recently remodeled, dog-friendly Hotel Corvallis features chic retro furnishings that spruce up this mid-century boutique lodging for guests seeking unique accommodations. There’s even a place to plug in your Tesla.

Plan your Visit

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