15 Best Things to Do in Albany, OR

Albany, OR
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Sitting in the heart of the Willamette Valley, where the Calapooia and Willamette Rivers meet, is the city of Albany, Oregon.

It is the 11th largest city in the state, and it is known by various nicknames.

As the “Hub of the Valley,” Albany is also the “Grass Seed Capital” and the “Rare Metals Capital.”

The city got its nicknames because of its economic dependence on manufacturing and farming.

The Native American Kalapuya peoples once lived on the land that became modern-day Albany.

When they lived there, they named the place Takenah. During the 19thcentury, Europeans came and settled the area.

The city got its name from one of the early settlers, Walter and Thomas Monteith.

They had arrived from New York, and they bought 320 acres from another early settler, Hiram Smead.

Once the settlement had grown, they decided to call it “Albany” after their New York hometown.

Today, Albany hosts several attractions for locals and guests alike.

It has more than 30 parks and hiking trails, a senior, and various cultural festivals.

Likewise, the city has begun to revitalize its downtown shopping area.

Do you want to know more about Albany, OR?

Here’s a list of the best things to do in the city:

Explore Pioneer History at The Monteith District

Exterior of the Whitespires Church at The Monteith District.
M.O. Stevens, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Remember the Monteith House?

That house stands inside one of Albany’s major historic areas, the Monteith District.

This area gets its name from the Monteith brothers, who built the first frame house in the city in 1849.

When you explore the rest of the Monteith district, you’ll find other historic buildings.

One of them is the Whitespires Church, constructed in 1891, the tallest building in the district.

A yellow victorian house at The Monteith disrict.
M.O. Stevens, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can easily find it because of its distinct Carpenter Gothic architecture, complete with a towering spire.

Likewise, another historic church in the district is the United Presbyterian Church, completed in 1912 and modeled after a Gothic cathedral.

The district also hosts more historic houses, such as the 1906 Georgian Revival-style Cathey House, located at 730 Washington.

People also call it “The White House” because it looks similar to the White House, with its two-story portico and square columns.

Entrance of the library along The Monteith District.
Underawesternsky / Shutterstock.com

This unique museum and amusement center has developed thanks to the generous support of the Dentzels, America’s first carousel-makers.

They had opened the first carousel-making business in Philadelphia in 1870.

Today, this museum’s main attraction is an original 1909 Dentzel Carousel Corporation mechanism, a donation from William Dentzel.

William is a great-grandson of the Dentzel Carousel Corporation’s founder, Gustav.

After a decade of restoration, the Dentzel carousel is now in working order.

You can visit the museum to watch its team of craftsmen creates and restore the carousel animals to fill out the ride.

Likewise, you can admire the hand-carved carousel animals and decorations made back in 1895.

See the Waverly Duck on Waverly Lake

If you want to enjoy some water activities in Albany, you better head to Waverly Lake, where the giant Waverly Duck floats in wait.

The lake offers paddle boats to visitors from Wednesday to Sunday.

What can you do on the lake?

You can explore the lake on your boat, and you can also fish there.

Likewise, you can paddle along the huge Wood Duck decoy, which has become Albany’s unofficial mascot.

Since the 1980s, the Waverly Duck has welcomed visitors to the lake.

The city removed it in 2007 because it needed restoration.

After getting repaired and repainted, the city returned it to the lake in 2017.

You’ll never be lonely while you wait for the trout to bite.

Learn Local History at the Albany Regional Museum

Name sign on the building on Albany Regional Museum.
M.O. Stevens, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Since Albany overflows with historic buildings, it only makes sense to visit another museum.

You can head to the Albany Regional Museum to learn more about the city and the surrounding areas.

During your visit, you’ll find rotating and permanent exhibits featuring thousands of photographs and artifacts telling the city’s story.

Many of these artifacts also come from the specialty metals industry that dominated the city’s economy for many years.

This metals industry also helped the United States launch the first nuclear submarine in the world.

The museum also features exhibits recognizing the timber industry.

Likewise, the museum also features dioramas of historic businesses in the city, such as the Hale Deluxe Shoe Shine exhibit.

You’d also be happy to note that the museum itself operates out of a historic 1887 Italianate building.

Try Fine Wines at the Springhill Cellars Winery

Between May and November, the Springhill Cellars Winery is open to serve you top-quality wines straight from the vineyards.

In 1988, Mike and Karen McLain founded Springhill Cellars, together with Karen’s dad, Merv Anthony.

They source their grapes from an estate vineyard planted between 1978 to 1990.

Likewise, they get more grapes from the 12-acre McLain Vineyard, planted between 1997 to 2000.

The winery is famous for its Pinot noir and Pinot Gris wines.

Their philosophy of “growing, not making” wine allows them to produce 1,000 to 1,200 wine cases annually, depending on the weather.

You can visit the winery for their tasting room, where you can try their specialty wines for yourself.

Likewise, you can celebrate special occasions at the winery by renting their barn and outdoor areas.

Relax in “Albany’s Living Room” at Margin Coffee

Why don’t you let life slow down a little by hanging out with friends or special persons at Margin Coffee, “Albany’s Living Room”?

The café’s Third Wave Coffee philosophy lets them prepare high-quality cups of coffee for every order.

Behind this process is nurturing strong relationships with traders, growers, and roasters.

If you’re a coffee nut, you’ll appreciate the thought and care put into every cup.

You can try their pour-overs, specialty drinks, and single-origin espresso shots.

You can still enjoy the coffee shop even if you’re alone.

Bring a good book, take a deep breath, and savor this little room away from the pressures of life.

See a Show at the Albany Civic Theater

Exterior of the Albany Civic Center.
M.O. Stevens, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you fancy a night at the theater in Albany, visit the Albany Civic Theater, the oldest community theater in the entire state.

The theater has staged live productions since the 1951 season.

Today, the all-volunteer and the non-profit theater continues to produce plays all year long, from comedies to dramas and musicals.

Exterior and shows at Albany Civic Theatre.
Visitor7, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The theater also chooses the most appealing stories, so you’ll never have a dull time here.

Located in the historic district of downtown Albany, the Civic Theater is also near some deluxe restaurants, pubs, and cafes.

See a show and talk about it with your buddies over some delicious food or satisfying ice-cold beer.

Sample German Snacks at the Little Wuesten Café

You might not expect it now, but the Little Wuesten Café in Albany started as a humble farmer’s market pretzel stand.

Back then, you could find them at the Lebanon Farmer’s Market and the Sweet Home Farmer’s Market.

Due to customer demand, the owners also decided to offer German pastries and German bread, which became a hit.

People flocked to buy their soft pretzel, which they paired with a hot cup of Longbottom Coffee.

When the café got bigger, they moved to a commercial space to handle increasing customer demand.

All their products are handcrafted using only fresh and authentic ingredients.

They also follow old-school baking techniques to ensure excellent quality.

Besides bread and pastries, you can also try their filling breakfast options.

For example, you can order their Wuesten Breakfast, comprising toast with butter jam, mettwurst, sauerkraut, cheese, and a hard-boiled egg.

Try Craft Beer at Calapooia Brewing

If you want to drink the best microbrews in Willamette Valley, drop by Calapooia Brewing.

The brewery’s taproom offers burgers and beer, as well as entertainment options like darts and live music.

You can also take your beer outside and enjoy your drink at their heated outdoor seating.

Besides darts and music, Calapooia also hosts weekly games tournaments.

If you find yourself in town, don’t hesitate to sign up!

You can play darts, corn hole, and disc golf.

Otherwise, you can participate in their community events.

Their microbrews include porters, stouts, pale ales, pilsners, and IPAs.

Explore Aviation History at The Airport District

Exterior of the Albany Municipal Airport.
Ian Poellet, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Visit Albany’s airport district to find the oldest airport in the world and the second-oldest airport in the world, the Albany Municipal Airport.

The city built the airport in 1909, recognizing the impact of the Wright Brothers’ successful first powered airplane flight six years earlier at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

It’s only younger by months than the College Park MD airport, which the US military established in August 1909 to help the Wright Brothers’ research.

A ramp area at Albany Municipal Airport.
Ian Poellet, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Today, the Albany Municipal Airport also holds the distinction of being the oldest continuous-service airport in all western Oregon.

The airport is still operational, too.

Moreover, it’s the only airport in the state listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Farther view of the exterior of Albany Municipal Airport.
Ian Poellet, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

While you explore downtown Albany, you might as well pop in the Gallery Calapooia and check out some pretty artwork.

A cooperative of local artists owns the place, and they display art in various media there.

For instance, you can find several oils, watercolor, and acrylic paintings displayed inside.

Likewise, you can also check out the gallery’s collections of finely crafted jewelry, pen and ink drawings, fabrics, and photographs.

You’ll never tire of looking at these works, especially since the gallery changes displays regularly.

Located at Flinn Block, Gallery Calapooia is a great place to immerse yourself in the wonders of art.

The gallery itself is near restaurants, shops, and historic buildings, so you’ll end up spending a good part of the day downtown.

Get Messy at Splatter Box

Bring your family to Splatter Box, and don’t be afraid to make a mess because the mess is its mission.

This family-owned business wants visitors to get wild and messy by letting them splatter paint all over each other.

You’ll find this unique studio inside a historic ironworks warehouse. Once you enter the splatter box, you can do whatever you want.

You can make an abstract masterpiece on the walls, or you can spill paint all over yourself.

Likewise, you can even start a paint war and splatter paint all over your family or friends.

This fun, family-friendly adventure will surely make you come back for more.

Revisit the History of Commerce at the Downtown Commercial District

Buildings at Downtown Albany.
M.O. Stevens, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1848, the Monteith brothers opened a general store on the edge of modern-day downtown Albany.

This general store marked the beginning of the city’s commercial history.

Downtown Albany now hosts various buildings completed in different periods of its history.

Some of these buildings have stood since the early 1900s, and many of them follow a variety of architectural styles.

These historic buildings are now homes to restaurants, offices, and shops.

If you want to find the building that has the Northwest’s most elaborate French Second Empire Façade, go to the downtown commercial district.

This building is the Flinn Block, located at First Avenue, constructed in 1887.

Likewise, you can also check out the Straney and Moore Livery Stable, an 1892 Queen Anne-style building.

Admire the Buildings in The Hackleman District

This historic district gets its name from an Iowan settler named Abner Hackleman, who arrived at Albany in 1845.

Likewise, the district is huge, covering 28 square blocks, with nearly every building representing about a dozen different architectural styles.

While exploring, you might find St. Paul’s Methodist Church, the oldest existing church in Albany.

After a while, you’ll also pass the Goltra House, built in 1893, the city’s first plaster-walled house.

The tallest house in the city is also in the Hackleman District.

It’s the Chamberlain House, where former Oregon governor and US Senator George Chamberlain once lived.

His house stands 40 feet high.

On the opposite corner, you’ll see the Ralston House, a stylish house with stained glass windows, an angled balcony, and sunburst detailing.

Revisit the Pioneer Years at the Monteith House

With 320 acres of land along the Willamette River, the early pioneers Walter and Thomas Monteith built the town in their visions, which became the city of Albany.

They took the name from the capital of their home state, New York.

You can revisit their tireless effort at the Monteith House, a testament to the brothers’ pioneering spirit and energy.

In 1849, the brothers completed the house with the help of Samuel Althouse.

The building became the first frame home in the region and one of the first houses that used sawed lumber.

During the 19th century, many firsts also occurred in the house.

For example, Dr. Kendal delivered the first sermon in Albany there in 1850.

Likewise, citizens founded the Republican Party of Oregon in the house.

Today, you can visit the museum for a tour or join its living history events where you can learn about several pioneer-era activities.

The restored house also looks nearly the same as it did when the Monteiths lived there, thanks to the use of original period furnishings.

During the living history events, you can do woodworking, biscuit-baking, butter-making, and even doll-making.

Final Thoughts

Albany, Oregon, is a city that offers delights to history enthusiasts and casual travelers.

There is plenty of fun and unique things to do in town, such as splattering your family in paint.

You can also explore the city’s four historic districts to satisfy your curiosity.

Book your Albany trip today!

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