9 best things to do in Silverton

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When it comes to location, Silverton is in a league of its own. With Oregon Garden and Silver Falls State Park in the neighborhood – the crown jewel of Oregon’s state park system – Silverton has more than enough to offer for a weekend trip. -end. But it also has a bustling downtown area, Frank Lloyd Wright’s only home in Oregon, a thriving art scene, and, of course, the occasional canape run.

Located in the countryside – 45 miles southeast of Portland and 16 miles northeast of Salem – Silverton takes its name from Silver Creek, which runs through downtown Silverton. The city served as a hub for banking and commerce in its early days. In the 1920s, water from the stream fed sawmills, flour mills, and manufacturing. Today, the stream flows past terraces, behind buildings, and along Water Street, where restaurant patrons can enjoy a view with their meal.

Silverton embraces its rural roots, natural environment and colorful history. Here’s what you won’t want to miss:

June Russell-Chamberlin

1. Downtown Silverton

Silverton’s bustling, pedestrianized town center is full of historic buildings with shops, antiques and restaurants. Many restaurants along Water Street offer seating overlooking Silver Creek. Don’t miss the covered pedestrian bridge near the Silverton Coffee Station – a great place to sit and enjoy your coffee and the shallow cove.

Chocolate cheesecake at Beloved Cheesecakes.
June Russell-Chamberlin

Apples to Oranges offers souvenirs, yarn, chocolate, tea, books, puzzles and toys for children. Nearby, Serenity Home and Spa Shoppe offers divinely scented candles and bath sweets, as well as chic home decorations. Beautiful sculptures, photographs, wall hangings, jewelry and more are on display at the Lunaria Gallery on Water Street. Beside, Beloved Cheesecakes serves a rich and creamy slice or whole cake cheesecake. Savor a piece of chocolate, lime, or some other decadent flavor as you read the inspirational quotes that fill the walls.

South Falls at Silver Falls State Park.
June Russell-Chamberlin

2. Silver Falls State Park

South Falls has become synonymous with Silver Falls State Park and its trail behind the cascading water curtain enchants and thrills hikers. With parking and a lodge just steps from the falls, it’s also the most popular and frequented part of the park. But step away from South Falls and you’ll find that the crown jewel of Oregon’s state park system has no fewer than 10 waterfalls, all connected by the 7.2-mile 10-Falls and D-Falls Trail. ‘other connecting trails that crisscross the canyon.

Three trailheads provide access to different sections of the trails, and some have steep portions or wooden stairs. Dogs are permitted on a leash on the Rim Trail, bike path and backcountry trails. Located just 14 miles from Silverton, the park includes day-use areas for hiking, swimming and picnicking, as well as a campground. Oregon State Park Annual Pass or Day Pass is required. If you want to explore other state parks in the area, take a look at these beautiful Oregon State Parks.

Close-up of a purple flower and a bee in the Oregon garden.
June Russell-Chamberlin

3. Oregon Garden

With 80 acres of plantations, fountains, and trails, the Oregon Garden attracts visitors year-round. The state’s first botanical garden fulfills its mission of inspiring and educating visitors through 20 themed gardens, such as a children’s garden, a pet-friendly garden, and a market garden (vegetables). The other gardens include stylized axes and bosque gardens, a water garden, a conifer garden, a North West garden, a medicinal garden and a rose garden. Some of the more unusual gardens include the Lewis & Clark Garden, planted with species noted in explorers’ journals, and the Sensory Garden, which is full of scents and textures. Together, the thematic gardens demonstrate the incredible variety of flora that thrives in the Willamette Valley.

Paved trail at Oregon Garden.
June Russell-Chamberlin

The Oregon Garden is just one mile from downtown Silverton and is open year round. Some garden paths are paved; others are gravel. A tram offers trips for a small fee. Animals on a lead of all kinds are welcome. During the holiday season, the garden shines with a million colorful lights, lighting the way to food and drink vendors, as well as an ice rink. If a day isn’t enough, the adjacent Oregon Garden Resort offers accommodations, dining, and a spa. An entrance fee is requested for the garden. For those with a green thumb, be sure to check out some of these beautiful gardens near Salem, Oregon.

Gordon House.
June Russell-Chamberlin

4. Gordon House

There is only one house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in Oregon, and that is in Silverton. Named after Conrad and Evelyn Gordon, the 2,133 square foot Gordon House was designed in 1956 and reflected a budget of $ 25,000. Construction bids, however, were much higher, so construction was delayed until 1963. The house was on the verge of demolition in 2001 when it was rescued and moved from farm to farm. Wilsonville towards a grove of white oaks at the Oregon Garden.

The Gordon House demonstrates famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s affection for blurring the lines between interior and exterior with floor-to-ceiling windows and doors that lead to balconies and terraces. Heated concrete floors stained in Cherokee Red, built-in furniture and storage, natural materials and unique fretwork throughout the house are just a few of Frank Lloyd Wright’s signature details. The Usonian House features an open floor plan, a fireplace in the living room, and western red cedar wood paneling on the second floor. To tour the reconstructed Mid-Century Modern Home, reserve a spot and pay for admission (separate from admission to the Oregon Garden) online at the Gordon House website.

The Banc Rouge antique shop.
June Russell-Chamberlin

5. Antiques

Antiques lovers will find several shops in downtown Silverton to indulge their passion for treasure hunting. You’ll find a chic farmhouse theme at The Red Bench antique store, where vintage jewelry, antique glass, furniture, books and more fill the nooks and crannies. Northstar Antiques and Collectibles offers glassware, jewelry, furniture, collectibles and other vintage items. Two other stores to visit include Finds That Shine and Daylight Vintage.

One of the murals in downtown Silverton.
June Russell-Chamberlin

6. Murals

Around a bend you will likely come across one of the more than 30 murals that bring the buildings of downtown Silverton to life. They are apparently everywhere. Most of them represent the people and the history of the city. Photographer June Drake, who lobbied to establish Silver Falls State Park in 1931, and Silverton’s favorite astronaut Don Pettit are local celebrities immortalized in murals. Don’t miss the long mural along Water Street that tells the story of Bobbie the Wonder Dog, who got lost in Indiana in 1923 and found his way back to Silverton, over a distance of over 2,500 miles. The murals are maintained in pristine condition by the Silverton Mural Society.

Bobbie the Wonder Dog Mural in Silverton.
June Russell-Chamberlin

Pro tip: You’ll find a model of Bobbie the Wonder Dog and its elaborate yellow doghouse between Silverton Coffee Station and the covered pedestrian bridge on Water Street.

Covered bridge of Gallon House.
June Russell-Chamberlin

7. Covered bridge of the Gallon house

In 1916, when the Gallon House Bridge was built over Abiqua Creek – one mile northwest of Silverton – a city law made it illegal to sell alcohol in Silverton. The neighboring town of Mt. Angel, however, had no such law. As a result, the bootleggers made a thriving business selling “white éclairs” by the gallon in a cabin on Mt. Angel side of the bridge to “dry” the residents of Silverton. Today, the Gallon House Bridge is the only remaining covered bridge in Marion County and one of the oldest in Oregon.

Vitis Ridge Winery.
June Russell-Chamberlin

8. Vitis Ridge Winery

Located in the countryside just 2 miles from downtown Silverton, Vitis Ridge Winery draws wine lovers with 28 wines ranging from dry whites to bold reds and sweet dessert wine. The estate’s vineyard cultivates Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay, Marshal Foch, Gewürztraminer and Muscat over nearly 150 hectares. The cellar also sources grapes from other vineyards in the Northwest. One of the most popular wines is GSM Rhône Blend made from Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre grapes. A boutique vineyard that has become too big for the garage, Vitis Ridge invites visitors to a tasting room that is as warm and welcoming as it is relaxed. So, choose a glass of wine or a tasting flight, give the friendly puppy Tannin a hug and relax on the patio.

Canterbury Renaissance Fair, Silverton, Oregon
Canterbury Renaissance Fair (Cynthia Liang / Shutterstock.com)

9. Holidays

For more than 70 years, the community of Silverton has come together to eat strawberry shortbread made with local berries for the annual Strawberry Festival in June. The city also hosts the Wine and Jazz Festival in May and the Silverton Arts Festival in August, which features music, theater, poetry, artist stands and workshops on everything from documentaries to graphic novels.

If you’ve ever considered putting wheels on your couch and running it around the streets, then you won’t want to miss the Homer Davenport Community Festival in August. The canape races may be the hilarious highlight of the festival, but there’s a lot more to enjoy. Hosted in honor of Homer Davenport, a native of Silverton, cartoonist for Hearst newspapers, festival events include a cartoon contest, arts and crafts fair, parade, international food court, music, an invitational brewery party, a fun race, a community breakfast, a cruise with the local automobile club and more.

Pro tip: Sofas large enough to stretch out became known as “davenports” around 1900, when they were designed by furniture maker AH Davenport. If you’re traveling and left your couch at home, festival organizers have a few race-ready davenports to borrow.

If you enjoyed exploring Silverton, be sure to visit these charming Oregon towns less than 2 hours from Portland.


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