2021 Albany Summer Passport Program for Kids

graphic of program logo

SAVE the DATE – Tuesday, June 22, 2021, for a drive-through kick-off event! More information TBA.

 

 

 

Congratulations 2020 Passport Winners!

We're live with Albany Visitors Association to announce this year's winners Albany Passport! Lots of fun prizes to give away this morning!

Posted by The Historic Carousel & Museum, Albany, OR on Thursday, August 27, 2020

We are looking forward to seeing you again next year!

Explorers, are you ready?

It’s time again to head out into the wilds of Albany for the 2020 Albany Summer Explorer/Passport Program, beginning Monday, July 6.

The program is free and offered through a partnership with the Albany Visitors Association (AVA), City of Albany, Albany Regional Museum, Albany Downtown Association and the Monteith Historical Society.

Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we will be taking a new physically distanced approach to the old program. All of our Explorer/Passport sponsors are following state and federal guidelines about re-opening businesses, parks and keeping children safe.

With that in mind, some changes have been made. In past years, the program started at the beginning of summer with a kick-off party and concluded at the end of August with a party to draw for the grand prizes. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, those parties will not take place. And passports will not be handed out at the Albany Visitors Association. Instead, kids can download and print a form to create their own passport (more on that later). And they will not be asked to enter businesses in order to retrieve information or have their passports stamped.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of adventure and weekly treasure to be had. Here’s how it will work:

The Passport: Kids can download and print a passport form here: 2020 Passport. Summer Passport logo imageFollow the directions to create and color the passport (this is part of the first-week challenge: more on that later!), then email the AVA at info@albanyvisitors.com to register: please include each child’s first and last name, age, and an emergency contact phone #. If you don’t have a way to print a passport, one can be picked up at the Albany Historic Carousel & Museum. Then, let the adventure begin!

The Hunt: Participating businesses and locations will each display a poster with a picture of a carousel animal. In the passport, find the corresponding location and write down the name of the animal. There are 28 locations and they do not have to be done in order. Take your time and have fun! When finished, drop off your passport on or before August 25 in the drop slot at the AVA office, 110 3rd Ave. SE in downtown Albany. Include your address if you would like your passport returned.

The Challenges and Prizes: Watch the Albany Passport Program Facebook page and/or emails for weekly challenges to win prizes, donated by the participating businesses, all summer long. The first challenge is to post a photo of your completed passport on the Facebook page by Tuesday, July 14th, 5 p.m. At the end of the summer, participants’ names will also be entered into a drawing for more fabulous prizes. Passport holders do not have to visit every location to be entered in the final drawing. Good luck!

The Partners: Businesses and locations who graciously have donated their time and prizes are: Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, Albany Downtown Association, Albany Historic Carousel & Museum, Albany Regional Museum, AVA, The Frame House, ATA Martial Arts, BJ’s Ice Cream, Brick Circuit, Bricks & Joysticks, Brigitte’s Place Fine Fabrics, Gallery Calapooia, Infinite Air Center, Lake Shore Lanes, Margin Coffee, Mid-Willamette Family YMCA, Midway Farms, Monteith House Museum, Natural Sprinkles, Pix Theater, Shortstops, Southpaw’s, Spearit Beads, Talking Water Gardens/City of Albany, Downtown Carnegie Library, Thompson’s Mills State Heritage Site, Urban Ag Supply and Wicked Comics.

The program is geared toward elementary-aged children, but their siblings, parents and grandparents are welcome to come along.

See the AVA website for regular updates and more information visit  2020 Passport  Facebook. You can also email info@albanyvisitors.com or call 541-928-0911.

The Challenge #2 winners are Brooklyn Bodkin and August DeBolt. They will both receive a cool Talking Water Gardens beverage bottle.  Big thanks to Talking Water Gardens/City of Albany for supporting the 2020 Albany Passport Program!

The Challenge # 1 winners are Presley Gibson and Cohen Salvatierra. Congratulations! They both will receive a Gift Card to Wicked Comics & Collectibles. Get all the details in the Passport Newsletter / Email.  Thanks very much, Wicked Comics, for supporting the 2020 Albany Passport Program!

How to leave no trace when camping and hiking

By Mike Nicosia, Conquerwild.com

Mike Nicosia

There’s no greater beauty than that of Mother Nature. Many people (including myself) consider the outdoors to be their “happy place.” However, whenever we step outside, we must remember that we are visitors in someone else’s home.

Every time you embark on a hike or partake in a camping trip, you’re entering the living space of millions of precious creatures. This includes animals, plants, fungi, microscopic organisms and lots more.

The well-being of a single ecosystem can have an effect on the planet as a whole. The Earth is essentially a living being in its own right. If the planet is not in good health, how can we expect its inhabitants to be healthy?

This is why it’s vital that we take precautions when spending any time in the outdoors. Here’s where the Leave No Trace principles come into play.

What Does It Mean To Leave No Trace?

To put it simply, leaving no trace means making the best possible effort to minimize your impact on the environment when you travel outdoors. The ultimate goal is to make it seem as if you had never been there in the first place.

Once upon a time, all humans lived in the wild. Though we have come a long, long way since then, and our habits have changed significantly. We sometimes forget how damaging our behavior can be to our own planet.

The more careless we are, the more of a negative impact we have on the environment. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the choices we make.

While the concept of “leaving no trace” was born in the 1960‘s, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics came about in the 90‘s. This is a nonprofit organization which focuses on educating youth, minimizing impact globally and helping to preserve the environment.

Leave No Trace has 7 principles, and you should abide by each of them strictly during all of your outdoor adventures. This applies to everything from week-long camping excursions to quick trips into your backyard.

Let’s run through each of the 7 principles, discussing the do’s, the don’ts and everything else you need to know.

Principle 1: Plan Ahead & Prepare

An outdoor adventurer without a plan is an outdoor adventurer asking for trouble. Without efficient planning, you won’t be able to protect the environment or yourself to the best of your abilities.

The less prepared you are, the more likely you will find yourself resorting to high impact tactics.

First and foremost, it’s important to understand the skill level of your entire group before embarking on a camping/hiking adventure.

It’s never a good idea to choose a trail or route that’s above your skill level. This may cause you or your group members to tire out quickly, making you less capable of leaving no trace.

Your group is only as quick as your slowest member. For this reason, it’s also important to know the speed at which your group travels. If you’re backpacking toward a campsite, you must always leave yourself enough time to arrive before nightfall. If it’s dark out, it will be much more difficult to set up camp properly or safely.

You should also be sure to avoid any restricted areas during your journey. Some portions of land are labeled as private property or restricted for environmental reasons.

If a forest is off-limits due to a fragile ecosystem, it’s very important that you steer clear of that area at all costs. Violating these regulations can cause irreversible damage in some cases. Depending on the restrictions in your region, you may also be fined or arrested.

Remember: anything that goes wrong during your trip is your responsibility.

You should also be very particular with what you wear when camping, hiking or backpacking. Choose items that will keep you comfortable and safe, depending on the time of year and weather in your area.

Do’s:

  • Use maps, hiking/camping apps or books to prevent you from veering off trail. Even if you think you know the way, be sure to double check that you’re on the right path every few minutes. All Trails is a great mobile app to use for this.
  • Talk to park rangers/local land managers to become aware of any environmental concerns, fragile ecosystems or wildlife updates that you should know while hiking. You may also be able to find this information online. Partial trail closures are common, especially after strong winds have downed trees. Always check to see if there is an alternate route.
  • Keep track of your goals and whether or not you’ve accomplished them (both your goals for leaving no trace and your own physical goals). This way, you’ll be aware of how to improve on your next trip.
  • Before embarking on your journey, remove all food items from their wrappers and place them into reusable, sealable bags. This will reduce the amount of waste you carry with you.
  • Try to bring a portable camp stove if you plan on cooking. Don’t rely on the need to start a fire.
  • Pack your own water instead of relying on natural sources. You never know if you’ll be able to find clean, drinkable water in the wilderness.
  • Bring along a first aid kit and ensure that your phone is fully charged (it may be a good idea to bring a portable charger).

Don’t…

  • …embark on a hike/camping trip last minute without making any preparations.
  • …plan a trip that’s above your skill level.
  • …bring along any extra food that you won’t be consuming during your trip. Leftovers = Waste.
  • …violate land restrictions. Never enter private land or hunting zones. Don’t venture off into an area where there are no trails.
  • …camp or hike when extreme weather is expected. Also, look out for flood zones, areas prone to forest fires, or areas known for unpredictable weather. These can all put your life in danger and make it harder for you to leave no trace.
  • …set up camp at night- you may accidentally choose a dangerous or environmentally sensitive area due to lack of light.
  • …overstuff your backpack. This makes it more likely that you’ll drop something without noticing.
  • …camp or hike when there’s a large amount of foot traffic. This means avoiding holidays and popular trails on weekends.
  • …wear large amounts of perfume when camping or hiking.

Principle 2: Travel & Camp On Durable Surfaces

The forest floor is often teeming with life. Communities of organisms, vital vegetation and lots of other living beings often occupy the ground in popular camping/hiking locations. When you’re stepping over these surfaces, it’s vital that you do so cautiously. Your feet and body weight can cause a ton of damage.

Ultimately, the main goal is to avoid “trampling,” which means carelessly stomping over valuable vegetation and crushing it. This can lead to erosion or lots of other environmental issues.

The risk of damage to the ground depends on the size of your group, the frequency of travel and the fragility of the ground. Not every surface will have the same tolerance to your body weight.

Rocks, gravel and sand are the most durable surfaces to walk on. On the other end of the spectrum, vegetation tends to be the most fragile and should be avoided at all costs, especially when it’s wet.

When Hiking….

Do’s:

  • Travel on designated trails only, even if it’s wet or covered with mud. When in a group, be sure to walk in a single file line.
  • If you have to walk off trail and into grass or vegetation, make sure your group disperses. The more people that walk over a section of vegetation, the more strongly impacted it will be. If you avoid following the same path, you may be able to prevent trampling.
  • Be careful when walking on rocks. Although they‘re super durable, they sometimes have lichens growing on them. Lichens are complex organisms and plant-like growths that usually resemble moss. Avoid stepping on these at all costs, as they usually take hundreds or even thousands of years to grow! Causing damage to lichens may leave an impact that will last long after you’re gone.
  • In winter conditions, it’s usually acceptable to walk on snow and ice. Once it melts, you most likely won’t leave behind any permanent damage.
  • Keep an eye out for frogs, snakes, mice and other small animals that may cross your path. The pressure of your body weight will likely kill these tiny creatures if you don’t watch your step.

Don’t…

  • …walk on wet grass or through meadows.
  • …walk on cryptobiotic soil crusts. This is a type of soil that’s rich and usually dark in color- found mostly in deserts. It usually holds moisture and is home to communities of organisms, so we must preserve it.
  • …step in or interfere with desert puddles. There are often tiny creatures that live in these and some animals may use them for water.

When Camping…

Do’s:

  • Stick to established camping areas if you can. Places that have already been significantly impacted are the best because your presence probably won’t cause much additional damage. Strongly impacted areas are recognizable from their limited plant growth. 
  • Set up camp AT LEAST 200 feet away from water. This way, any animals in the area will have a safe path to get to and from their water source.
  • Consider using a hammock. Since they don’t contact the ground, they won’t cause any damage to the floor. Just make sure to choose a tree-friendly hammock.
  • Camp on rocks or sand if you can. These surfaces will show the least amount of damage.
  • Keep your area of usage small. Don’t spread out your campsite over a large amount of land. Try your best to consolidate all of your amenities into one area.
  • Clean up your campsite thoroughly before you leave.

Don’t…

  • …leave behind any trash, even if it was left by a previous camper. When leaving your campsite, your goal should be to make it seem as appealing as possible to future campers. This way, they will feel more inclined to settle there, rather than choosing an undisturbed area.
  • …set up camp too close to the edge of a cliff. There’s a greater chance of erosion which is bad for the ecosystem, and potentially deadly for you.

When Camping In A Remote/Previously Undisturbed Area…

Do’s:

  • Wear soft shoes around your campsite.
  • Use buckets to transport large quantities of water from your source instead of making repeated trips.
  • If you’ve made any disturbances in the grass or vegetation, brush them out before you leave.

Don’t…

  • …camp in a remote/previously undisturbed area if you’re not extremely well versed in Leave No Trace.
  • …brush away any organic material (leaves, pinecones, pine needles, acorns, etc.). These natural items help soften the impact of footprints and reduce the rate of erosion.
  • …stay in the same location for more than 2 nights.

Principle 3: Dispose Of Waste Properly

If there’s one thing you should remember about proper disposal in the outdoors, it’s this: if you bring it in, you must bring it out.

Nowadays, more and more trails are becoming filled with garbage and litter (as shown in the picture above, which I captured in September, 2020 on a trail in Harriman State Park, New York). It breaks my heart every time I see this on a popular trail.

It’s absolutely vital that you dispose of all waste properly when you’re outdoors. If you don‘t, your garbage may make its way into waterways, or it may be mistaken for food by animals. Both outcomes can have deadly consequences.

When you litter, you’re also hurting vegetation and microorganisms. Plastics can take anywhere from 20 to 500 years to decompose!… AKA an extremely long time. Please follow these do’s and don’ts of waste disposal every time you step outside of your home.

Do’s:

  • Bring along garbage bags (especially when camping) to throw away any garbage. Make sure to take the bags with you and dispose of them properly when you leave.
  • Pick up all litter including small bits of trash and organic materials like fruit and food waste (these can be damaging to certain ecosystems).
  • Wash all of your plates, cooking gear and equipment at least 200 feet away from any waterways. Drain the dirty waste water with a fine strainer and disperse it into the ground. Don’t pour it all out in one area.
  • Bring along sanitizer instead of using fresh water to wash your hands. This will help to prevent contamination of the waterways and the ground.

Don’t…

  • …bring along any messy, greasy or super pungent foods.
  • …wash yourself or your equipment in a body of water. This may contaminate the waterway, which is likely home to many organisms. Instead, you can use a bucket or pail to carry the water you need at least 200 feet away.
  • …swim in a body of water if there’s no other source of fresh water nearby. You may contaminate the only water source in the area, thus negatively affecting local animals.

Disposing Of Human Waste Properly

Trash and litter aren’t the only types of “waste” you need to worry about. Let’s not forget that you’re also responsible for using the bathroom correctly while outdoors.

If you can, using portable toilets are a great way to responsibly use the bathroom in nature. The only issue is that they tend to be bulky, making them difficult to transport or carry during a backpacking excursion.

When you’re backpacking long distance and have no choice but to do your business naturally, your best option is to dig a cathole. Here’s how you do that:

  1. Find a nice, private spot at least 200 feet from all sources of water. It’s best to choose areas that have dark, rich-colored soil. This will usually help your waste decompose faster. Aim for a spot with good sunlight exposure, which will also help with decomposition.
  2. Using a trowel or small shovel, dig a hole about 7 inches deep (5 inches if you’re in the desert). It should also be around 5 inches in diameter.
  3. Do your business directly into the hole. Careful not to miss!
  4. Once the deed is done, pour dirt back into the hole and bury your business. Do your best to smooth out the soil on top and make it look like you were never there.
  5. If you’re not in dry, arid land (like the desert), you can bury your toilet paper along with your waste (as long as it’s not scented or containing chemicals). If not, then pack it out in a sealable bag. If you don’t have toilet paper, you can also use things like leaves (look out for poison ivy!) or snow.

If you’re only urinating, make sure not to do so directly onto vegetation. As always, you must be at least 200 feet from all water sources. Also, make sure you’re not on a slope. You don’t want your urine trickling down into a nearby waterway.

When it comes to tampons, pads or other feminine hygiene products, you must pack out everything you bring in. Never bury these items.

Principle 4: Minimize Campfire Impacts

For many campers and backpackers, a campfire is an essential piece of tradition. However, we must remember that whenever we light a fire in the wilderness, we are taking a risk.

Fire, by nature, is dangerous. If you don’t build, maintain and extinguish your fire with caution, you’re essentially putting an entire ecosystem at risk of being destroyed. Even the smallest ember or small spark can cause an environmental catastrophe.

Almost 85% of wildfires in the United States are caused by humans, and it’s our job to prevent that number from increasing.

First and foremost, you must figure out whether or not fires are permitted in the area you’re in. In many parks and forests, fires are strictly prohibited due to environmental concerns.

In general, it’s a good idea to avoid building fires in areas with lots of dry wood/grass around, or in windy conditions. If you do decide to light a fire, here’s what you should remember:

Do’s:

  • Use a fire ring if there is one. Most established campsites will have these. This will help contain your fire.
  • Gather firewood from a wide area, and not just from one spot.
  • Always keep your fuel far away from the fire.
  • Make sure your fire is completely out and that the ash is cool to the touch before leaving it. There should be no embers visible and no smoke.
  • Once your fire is completely out, collect the ashes from your fire pit and scatter them over a wide area.
  • Instead of starting a fire, use a camp stove if you have one. It’s generally a more safe option.

Don’t…

  • …build a fire if it’s too windy. Too much wind can cause a fire to grow uncontrollably or blow embers long distance. This especially applies when in warmer climates.
  • …take firewood from a location where wood is scarce (like the desert).
  • …take firewood from areas where vegetation appears to have a hard time growing. It’s important that you do everything you can to encourage the growth of plant life in these areas.
  • …take firewood from a far away location (if you must buy firewood, do so locally). Bringing in foreign wood can introduce invasive species to a new ecosystem, which is a big no-no.
  • …leave a fire unattended under ANY circumstances.
  • …rely on standing trees for firewood. It’s never okay to chop down or damage a tree. This applies to fallen trees as well. Animals often use them for shelter and they help to recycle nutrients into the ground. Plus, they usually retain moisture, which means they won’t work for firewood.
  • …pull branches off of live trees.
  • …burn litter or garbage. This might release foreign toxins into the environment.
  • …urinate on a fire. This should go without saying, but it’s dangerous, irresponsible and kind of gross.

If there’s no fire ring at your campsite and you’d like an alternative method for building a safe fire, you can create a mound fire. Leave No Trace Center For Outdoors Ethics does a great job demonstrating how to do so in this video:

For more tips on how to build a fire safely and efficiently, you can check out this article.

Principle 5: Leave What You Find

The wilderness is not your home. Therefore, you should never steal from it. Whatever you find in the wild, must stay in the wild. 

This applies to all types of natural objects like rocks, bones and plants, but also to cultural artifacts… And it especially applies to wild animals that you come across. Even if they‘re cute.

The general rule to abide by: if it’s in the wild, it’s not yours.

Do’s:

  • Leave all natural objects or cultural items alone (cultural artifacts are legally protected by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act).
  • If you’ve moved any natural structures while prepping your campsite, make sure you put them back before leaving.
  • If you make a fire ring or any other type of temporary structure, dismantle it before leaving.
  • If you’ve moved or overturned any rocks, return them to their original position before leaving.
  • If you really need to move something, be sure to take a picture before doing so. This way, you’ll know where everything goes when it’s time to return everything back to its original place.

Don’t…

  • …dig unnecessary holes or trenches.
  • …build anything like tables, chairs, stools, etc. from the natural items you find.
  • …carve, chop, hammer cut or intentionally damage any natural structures/objects (such as trees, logs, sticks or rocks).
  • …pick flowers or rip plants out of the ground.
  • …transport any invasive species from one location to another.

Principle 6: Respect Wildlife

One of the most important aspects of leaving no trace is respecting wildlife. Remember that, when you enter the wilderness, you’re stepping into the home of hundreds, thousands or sometimes millions of creatures!

If these animals were entering your home, you’d like for them to abide by your rules, wouldn’t you? So let’s do the same for them. 

Neglecting to follow these do’s and don’ts can cause great harm to many of the beautiful creatures that live in the ecosystem. Be especially cautious in areas where endangered species are native.

Do’s:

  • Always set up camp at least 200 feet away from waterways so that wildlife has a safe path to reach it.
  • Abide by the safety rules for encountering predatory animals. You can check out my articles on bear safety and mountain lion safety for details.
  • Stay away from watering holes or small puddles in deserts. These are usually the only source of water for animals in these regions.

Don’t…

  • …approach, follow, chase, scare away or feed animals under any circumstances. This especially applies when there‘s extreme weather. Most animals are more at risk of dying during harsh conditions.
  • …approach or disturb a sick animal.
  • …approach animals while they’re mating or caring for young.
  • …touch animals, especially young ones. Some species may abandon their young if they’ve been touched by a human.

Principle 7: Be Considerate Of Other Visitors!

This last principle has less to do with the environment and more to do with your fellow nature lovers. Always stay mindful of the other campers or hikers around you. 

Remember that everyone wants to enjoy their experience in the outdoors, and it can be hard to do that when you‘re surrounded by inconsiderate people.

This past Labor Day Weekend, I went camping at Shenandoah National Park. Since it was a holiday weekend, the campgrounds were packed and we had several groups of campers within 15 yards of our campsite.

On our last night there, a group of young adults would not stop talking throughout the entire night.

Now, I’m usually not a party pooper, and I hate to complain, but I’m also a very light sleeper. Instead of drifting off to the tranquil noise of crickets chirping, I had to listen to the sound of heated debates and drunken belches until 4 AM. I barely got 30 minutes of sleep before my 5 AM sunrise hike… and I wasn‘t too happy about that.

However, I didn’t let it ruin my trip and I learned a valuable lesson: next time I camp on labor day weekend, I’ll bring ear plugs.

Remember that human voices can carry quite far through a silent forest, even if you’re talking at a low volume. This is why it’s important to obey the quiet hours that many campgrounds have in place, and follow these do’s and don’ts.

Do’s:

  • When camping, respect the fact that your fellow campers around you may have an early morning planned.
  • Pick up and properly dispose of all garbage from your campsite or hiking trail, even if it’s not yours.
  • If you must listen to music, use headphones rather than a speaker… Especially if you have bad taste in music.
  • Try to choose a tent that has a neutral or camouflaged color so that it blends into the background and isn‘t so harsh on the eyes.
  • Be aware of the quiet hours your campsite may have set up.
  • Always carry a face mask with you in case you need to pass someone at closer than 6 feet. It’s a sign of respect. Do your best to stay distant from others.
  • When hiking downhill, yield to your right for hikers who are traveling uphill.
  • If you are on a mountain bike, hikers on foot have the right of way. Yield to your right.
  • If someone is approaching on a horse, move slightly off trail and downhill if you can.

Don’t…

  • …take long breaks in the middle of a trail. You’ll be in the way of other hikers. Instead, try moving to a clearing, a rock or an area that has already been impacted.
  • …leave any lights on throughout the night while camping.
  • …set up camp too close to a hiking trail. You may make it hard for hikers to pass by.
  • …set up your bathroom close to a trail. This is just a bad idea all around.

Conclusion

When it comes to being environmentally conscious as a backpacker, there is no set of standards more important than Leave No Trace.

Always do your very best to reduce your impact. It doesn’t matter if you’re camping in the Swiss Alps, exploring the Amazon or walking across your front lawn, it‘s vital that you abide by each of the 7 principles.

Mother Nature has been abused and taken advantage of for centuries. As human beings, we must do our best to take care of her and show her the respect that she deserves. Be kind to the Earth, be kind to your fellow adventurers and be kind to yourself.

That’s all.

Mike Nicosia is a writer who is passionate about camping, hiking and all things nature. His website, Conquerwild.com, contains content aimed at helping people improve their experience in the wilderness.

Vote in the 2021 AVA Photo Contest

Photo of two bee shaped hot air balloons kissing

Vote for your favorite photo (just ONCE  please) for the People’s Choice Award on the AVA Facebook page HERE 

It’s that time of year when Albany-area shutterbugs dust off their lenses and head out to find the perfect shot. Although it might be a bit cold and rainy, there’s still plenty of breaks where sunshine and majestic scenes reveal themselves. Join the fun and enter the 2021 AVA Photo Contest. This year we are embracing safe distancing with an online entry process — see the How To Enter section below!

DEADLINE! MARCH 19 AT 5 PM. Be sure to request your entry form before 5:00!

PURPOSE:

The purpose of this contest is to find images suitable for use in the AVA’s marketing program for Albany, Linn County and the Willamette Valley.

Photograph Subject

We ask that your work specifically feature Albany and surrounding Linn County. The images we most commonly use in our publications, advertisements and social media feature people enjoying life in our area.

We know visitors want to see images of people relishing fantastic food and drink (micro-breweries, distilleries, winemakers), participating in events (Art & Air, shows at the Expo Center), and having a great time outdoors (hiking, biking, and paddling in our parks and around town) and enjoying the beauty and majesty of our city’s historic architecture! PLEASE NOTE: all photos depicting water recreation must be compliant with life jacket laws.

Since it can be hard to get just the right shot with people, consider staging something with people you know.  That way it’s easy to have them complete the model release form. Please be safe and abide by COVID safety guidelines.

Photograph image resolution, size & shape

Photos should be large file sizes (biggest size image setting on your camera, 300 dpi and 1MB minimum in size).  Photos should be standard rectangular portrait or landscape; square, panoramic, or custom ratios are more difficult to place within our ads.

Images that have digitally applied effects (such as montages, double exposures or vignettes) cannot be used in AVA publications or national advertising.

Photograph Subject Categories

 The following gives you an idea of what we are looking for.

Scenic: Visit our parks, the Willamette River, hiking trails, vineyards and surrounding rural vistas. Find something you think will make someone want to come visit us and represents the unique charm of our region: rustic barns, farm stands, wildflowers, the Willamette Valley with distant snow capped mountains. Amazing scenic shots are plentiful in our great outdoors.

Landmarks: What is your landmark when you tell friends to meet you in Albany? Is it the Historic Carousel or maybe the clock tower at the Albany Train Station? A landmark is unique to Albany and lends itself to the quintessential identity of our city. Even an old building with a Victorian painted advertisement on a brick wall or a statue could be a landmark.

Events: Albany is an event-driven community. Think about our parades and our Christmas horse-drawn wagon rides. AKC national dog shows at the Linn County Expo Center to National Historic Preservation Month, there’s never a shortage of things to do! Make sure to check our events calendar and find something fun to photograph (be sure to get people’s signed permission if you can clearly see their faces). Remember, you can use photos from 2019, 2020, or 2021.

Life in the community: What is the quality of life in Albany? We are farmers, we are vintners and craft-brewers, we are artists, we are blue-collar workers and white-collar executives, we are teachers — and we know how to have a great time no matter what we do. Help tell a visual tale about how we practice our daily lives.

People: Visitors love to see people enjoying themselves, but we know it can be hard to get the shot right and get strangers to sign release forms. Consider enlisting your family and friends at a picnic in your favorite Albany park or enjoying a meal from your favorite restaurant.

Historic Albany: If you live in Albany, you know that we have deep historical roots. Our city has four nationally recognized historic districts. Albany’s architectural styles vary from the mid- 1800s to the 1950s. Grab a copy of “Seems Like Old Times” and document your personal visual tour or join us on one of the seasonal guided tours. We need images from all seasons so consider revisiting your favorite place at different times of the year!

Culinary: We live in the proverbial bread basket of culinary delights: farm-to-table special dinners; farmers’ markets; renowned and award-winning chefs; cozy coffee houses and bakeries; wineries and breweries; German and Hungarian restaurants. Our city bubbles over with bounty. Visit a local restaurant or a unique foodie or drink venue and let people know what delicious rewards await them. Attend the farmers’ market and capture the bounty.

Student: For young photographers ages 18 and under.

Judging:

A committee of judges will (anonymously) assess photos for subject and composition. Judges will consider some of the following criteria: is the subject appropriate for the category, is it a really good/unusual example of that subject, is the composition in focus, does it draw you in, is it original? Student photographs will be judged in their own category.

Prizes:

Champion, Reserve Champion, and People’s Choice awards will be $200, $100, and $50, respectively. Certificates and a small gift card to a local business will be awarded to the first-place winners in each category (except Student), and certificates will be awarded to second- and third-place winners in each category. Student first-place winners will receive a gift card for a SplatterBox party, second- and third-place winners will receive certificates. In order to access a large audience, a limited number of the photos will be eligible for the People’s Choice Award. You will be asked to identify which photo you would like entered in this category on your entry form. That image will be posted on our Flickr and Facebook pages for open voting. Winners will be announced in April 2021. If COVID safety guidelines permit, there will be an awards reception.

Who can enter?

The contest is open to all ages, all levels: from amateur to professional or hobbyist.

How to Enter:

Review the RULES and Required forms below and then email info@albanyvisitors.com and we will send you the online entry form through Survey Monkey– you do not need a subscription to use the survey.

DEADLINE:

All entries must be submitted to Albany Visitors Association’s online through the entry form on SurveyMonkey (or by pre-arranged appointment)  by 5 pm Friday, March 19, 2021. Be sure to request your entry form before 5 p.m.!

RULES

See and download the RULES 2021 Rules

Required forms:

All entrants must complete and return (with their fee) a Photographers Use & Reproduction Release

Download the 2021 Photo Photographers Release

In addition, you may need a Model Release if there are recognizable peoples’ faces in your photo.

Download the 2021 Model Release

*Featured image for this blog post of the Pacific Northwest Art & Air Festival by Dan Bateman, from the 2020 AVA Photo Contest

View 2020’s winners and get ideas

Start planning family fun for Spring Break

By Kim Jackson

Spring break is just around the corner and now is a good time to start planning how you and your family can enjoy time together in and around Albany.

Photo by Shannon Strubhar

Covid restrictions have eased in Linn County, but you will still want to check websites or call ahead to find out about protocols and possible reservations. That includes your favorite eateries as well, who are ready to supply delicious meals and treats to keep you fueled up for your daily adventures.

Here are a few things you might think about planning for Spring Break activities, both indoors and out depending on the weather.

INDOORS

Make a mess — For an extreme experience, plan a trip to the Splatterbox, a paint-throwing art studio that promises fun for the whole family. Paint the walls or your family members in this one-of-a-kind romp. Go here and check out the packages offered and prices for Small Groups (up to 6 people for an hour), Large Groups (up to 12 for an hour and a half), a Party (up to 20 for two hours) or the After Dark option for couples and parties.

Pottery and paint — If you want something artistic but a little less messy, try your hand at pottery at Surefire Design. Paint any number of items provided by Surefire and they will glaze and fire them for you to pick up later! For some photos of the different kinds of pottery available to paint, go here.

Token to ride — To get up close and personal with some outstanding pieces of art – and hitch a ride on a few – head over to the Albany Historic Carousel & Museum and take a ride on your favorite creature. While there, take a tour of the carving studio to see how these wonderful pieces are created, visit the museum, then pop in on the painters to see them bring life to bears, dogs, horse dragons and any number of critters. Before you leave, be sure to visit the snack bar, and browse the gift shop for a memento of the occasion.

Art, art and, oh yeah: art — If you haven’t had enough art, be sure to visit Gallery Calapooia and The Crow’s Foot art galleries for some of the finest pieces of art in the mid-valley, as well as jewelry, pottery and other creations.

Movie night — For a relaxing evening treat (or a matinee!), plan to take in a movie at The Pix Theatre, where the snack bar has a delicious menu, including burgers, sandwiches, pizza, beer and other items, along with the usual movie fare of candy, popcorn and soft drinks.

Great escapes — For a real challenge, get your family and friends together and try to solve the puzzles and free yourselves from the escape rooms at the Enigma Escape Experience in Downtown Albany. Choose from one of three rooms with different adventures in each.

OUTDOORS

Biking — Pump up the tires and strap on the helmets as you explore Albany from the seat of your bicycles. Albany has several trails and paths to explore, and there are trips farther afield for the more adventurous. For a list of some ideas for all skill levels, click here. A blog on bicycling, written by Hasso Hering, can be found here.

Hiking – If you want to stay on foot, try one of the many paths Albany has to offer for walkers and hikers, including those at Talking Water Gardens, Simpson Park, the Dave Clark Path and Takena Landing Trail. Click here to find out more about those and other hikes you might enjoy outside of Albany.

March Madness — Don’t pass up a visit to Iron Water Ranch. This working fiber animal farm includes seasonal family-oriented events like bottle feeding baby lambs and educational workshops. The ranch produces beautifully dyed wool and fiber for craft, such as yarn for knitting and raw fiber for spinning or felting. The ranch is open daily by appointment at 35179 Riverside Dr.

Bird Watching – Late winter and spring are a good time to get out and see the many kinds of birds that call the Willamette Valley home. Click here and here to find some great places to enjoy the growing pastime of bird watching.

Eats and treats – If you are planning to get out and about, plan to take your meals with you. Albany has several top-notch eateries who can outfit you with the perfect-take-out meal. For up-to-date information on restaurants for dine in, outdoor seating or takeout orders, go to the Albany Visitors Association website and click the Travel Alerts and Current Happenings bar at the top of the page.

Enjoy the freedom of biking around Albany

The writer of this post is Hasso Hering, former editor of the Albany Democrat-Herald, who enjoys bicycling almost daily. His observations about the cityPhoto of author Hasso Hering wearing bike helmet and surrounding area come from the seat of his own bike and can be read about in his blog at hh-today.com.

So, you want to see Albany from the seat of a bicycle? Great idea, and it’s easy to do. Here are some suggestions for short rides you and your family might try once you get the bikes out of the garage and dust them off.

The easiest way to get started is to pick a neighborhood and cruise on the residential streets. They have very little traffic, especially on weekends. You might start with your own neighborhood just to get used to riding on city streets, watching for cars and for people crossing the street, and staying aware of your surroundings while pedaling.

Once you tire of that (pun intended), pick another neighborhood to explore. The challenge then is how to get there, which usually means taking one or more busy streets where car traffic moves pretty fast. But maybe you can load the bikes on top of the car and drive there, park and then spend half an hour riding around.

Photo of woman riding trike with dog along river path in summerOr you can try this:

— Follow the Dave Clark Clark Riverside Path from Monteith Park east away from downtown. It will take you past the Wheelhouse office building and the DeLuxe Brewing Company to the Willamette Neighborhood, Bowman Park and, if you keep going on the dirt trail past Bowman, to Simpson Park. Going there and back takes maybe 20 minutes.

— You can extend the Clark Path route by making the rounds of the Talking Water Gardens. The entrance is off the Simpson Park parking lot. It helps to have fat tires, like on a mountain bike, because the paths are surfaced with gravel or decomposed granite, and some are hard to ride because they’re covered with wood chips. But the chance at seeing wildlife, from turtles to eagles, is worth it.

— Follow the Perwinkle Bike Path from Oak Street near Lowe’s, going south to Grand Prairie Park and back. The only tricky part is where the path stops on one side of Queen Avenue and picks up on the other side of the Queen-Geary Street intersection. The best way to cross, especially with kids, is to walk your bikes to the intersection and get across with the help of the signal.

If you want to get out of the city limits at least for a short distance:

— Head west out Queen Avenue from West Albany High School and turn right at Riverside Drive. Cross the old Oregon Electric rail line on Riverside, then turn right on Bryant Drive. Pretty soon this turns into Bryant Way and leads back into Albany. A short climb up the Third Avenue bridge across the Calapooia River puts you back downtown.

There are plenty of alternatives, some a little longer.

When I have the time, I sometimes ride north out of town on Salem Avenue and tour the new residential sections of formerly rural Millersburg. Or I duck under the freeway to take Murder Creek Road to Kamph Road, turn right on Scravel Hill and return to Albany on Knox Butte Road. The climbs up Murder Creek and later Scravel Hill add a little exercise to this ride.

For seeing a bit of nature, it’s fun to take a mountain bike down the Takena Landing Trail on the north side of the Willamette, starting at Takena Landing Park, or the Simpson Trail on the south side, starting at Simpson Park and First Lake. Or there’s the Oak Creek Trail off 53rd Avenue in South Albany. But don’t try the trails unless it’s been dry for a few weeks. Wet weather turns some sections into bogs.

On the paths and trails, you’re going to encounter walkers, many with dogs on long leads or no leashes at all. Go slow and be ready to stop. Caution and courtesy are two C’s the trails demand.

People on bikes don’t necessarily need suggestions on where to ride. If you don’t already know from your own experience, being on a bike is freedom itself. And freedom means you can go anywhere you like. (hh)

Show your love all month in Albany

Show your love and treat your special someone to the delicious food and cocktails Albany restaurants and bistros have to offer, not just for Valentine’s Day, but all month long. And don’t forget to cap the night with an exciting one-of-a-kind gift you discovered while browsing the city’s fascinating downtown shops.

Photo of dessert cake from Sweet Red Bistro, Albany ORA few of Albany’s restaurants are offering Valentine’s Day packages, whether eating in responsibly spaced comfort or getting take-out, and that includes drinks-to-go. Whatever your plans for dining, be sure to call ahead to see if the deals are still available, as many spaces have been filling up fast. 

And check the restaurant section of our COVID-19 page for up-to-date information and links directly to their social media and websites for information about reopening indoor dining areas. 

Here are some exciting suggestions for you and your loved ones to enjoy:

DINNER AND DRINKS

Frankie’s Restaurant: Frankie’s is currently open for outdoor seating in its spacious patio tent with heaters, or call ahead for take-out (and make it even more memorable with a delicious craft cocktail drink kit to go!). 541-248-3671. Treat yourself to fresh-cut ribeye steaks, pork belly fries, Frankie’s famous Bistro Burger or many other dishes featuring locally sourced ingredients this farm-to-table restaurant has to offer. 

Sweet Red Bistro: Sweet Red is offering a Valentine’s Day special, a tantalizing dinner for two for $99. Flying solo? Indulge yourself with a Lonely Hearts Dinner for One at $59. The restaurant will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 12-14, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for outdoor dining and take out. Due to limited seating, each night will have two seatings for dinner – 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. Reservations for outdoor dining and takeout are required and will be accepted through Messenger on the Sweet Red Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/sweetredbistro. If the restaurant gets the OK to open for indoor dining, it will update its available reservations, so stay tuned!

Novak’s Hungarian Restaurant: The famed Albany restaurant is offering a Sweetheart Special: a five-course dinner for two for $60 which includes soup, salad, a spinach/artichoke dip appetizer, a Chicken Cordon Bleu entrée and a chocolate box to share. Add a bottle of house red or white wine for $25. Call ahead now, 541-967-9488, and pick up on Saturday, Feb. 13, between 1 and 3 p.m. In case of changes for indoor dining check out Novak’s Facebook page for current information.

Sybaris Bistro: The restaurant, which is still doing carry-out meals only, offers a Valentine’s Day special to go like none other, as featured in Wine Press Magazine. Call for availability, this one is selling out fast. Chef Matt Bennett has planned a special Valentine’s menu, which includes an antipaso to appetizer, first course of smoked pheasant and wild mushroom soup, and main course of surf and turf Wellington: beef tenderloin, Maine lobster and spinach in puff pastry, with a silky Maine lobster sauce. Dessert is Valrhona chocolate raspberry tart with raspberry whipped cream. Click here for the current menu and other information. To enjoy a dinner from Sybaris, please call 541-928-8157 to place your orders between the hours of 11 AM and 4:15 PM, Tuesday through Saturday. Pickup times begin at 4:45 and end at 7 p.m. The restaurant plans to open for limited inside seating beginning Tuesday, Feb. 16.

SHOPPING

The Pix Theatre: Sweets for your sweet! The Pix is holding a curbside event featuring their to-die-for truffle chocolates, while supplies last. Click here to place your order, then pick them up between 2 and 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 11. All sales need to be made in advance.

Vintage Roost: The shop will be filled to the brim with sweet and beautiful gifts for your special someone. Find antiques and collectibles, handmade gifts with a vintage charm, amazingly decorated cookies, Belgian chocolate, delicious baked goods, boxwood heart-shaped wreaths, and much more. Open Fridays and Saturdays only from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through February 13. Masks are required and there will be a limited capacity allowed in the shop at one time. Hot cocoa will be served outside while you wait.

Margin Coffee: Browse some amazing locally made goods while waiting for your tasty drink at a special Valentine’s Day makers market at the cozy coffee house between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 13. Local craft vendors include Bushel & A Peck, natural skin care; Bond & Bevel, leather goods; Good Good Wood, custom tables; De La Lune, candles; and much more!

Crow’s Foot Gallery: Want to give something a little different for Valentine’s this year? The Crow’s Foot has what you need: Sculpture, jewelry, paintings, prints and a variety of eclectic items made from everything from concrete to skateboards. While there, enjoy the memorial exhibit celebrating the creative life of Mio Streitberger. 

Gallery Calapooia: Find a one-of-a-kind heart-shaped gift at the gallery, which houses beautiful art and crafted pieces from local artists and artisans. 

Linn County Arts Guild: Heart-shaped eggs, hand-crafted Valentine’s Day cards and other wonderful items await visitors to the gallery.

OTHER FUN

Albany Historic Carousel & Museum: The Carousel staff and volunteers are so excited to officially welcome you inside for the first time in 2021! Doors open at 11 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 12, and they’ll be open all weekend 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Take a romantic ride, take a tour, have lunch and shop the gift shop!

Little Loves Lunchbox Ride: 1 to 2:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13. Spread the love on this 1.5-hour ride from Santiam Excursion Trains This is great for the whole family, and includes lunch (sandwich, chips, cookie) as you ride the rails. A bar car is available that has soda, water, coffee, beer, wine and mixed drinks for purchase. The ride will go on rain or shine, so dress for the weather. For reservations and other information, click here.

Valentine’s Dinner Ride: Santiam Excursion Trains, 6 to 8:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13. Grab your date, some friends or make some new ones on this 2.5-hour, 21-and-over dinner train ride. Tickets include a full dinner catered by Honeybrine Catering. For reservations and other info, click here.

 

Welcome to the Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail

Photo of tomatoes at farm stand

Over the last decade, knowing the source of our food and drink, and the makers who craft our brews (or the chefs who prepare our meals) has become increasingly important to travelers. Since Oregon’s Willamette Valley is central to growing and producing agricultural ingredients used by restaurateurs and other businesses and attractions, Albany Visitors Association partnered with Visit Corvallis and Travel Oregon to create the Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail.

Photo of person holding lambThe Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail is a way for visitors to connect with the source of our agricultural bounty. Over 40 businesses are represented on the Trail, weaving their origin stories with personal experiences. You can spend several days building your itinerary as you pass through some of the most scenic countryside in Linn and Benton counties. Settle into a cabin at an actual working farm stay, help bottle feed baby lambs, pluck your own blueberries from the fields or indulge in a scrumptious farm-to-table dinner.

*Note – 11/25/20: Due to COVID-19 guidelines from the Oregon Health Authority and local and state government, please check with the locations you would like to visit. Many of our Food Trail producers and businesses are open with COVID-19 accommodations such as online or telephone ordering, curbside pick-up, takeout or delivery. However, not all farms, restaurants or businesses are able to accommodate visitors at this point. Instead, you may wish to review the Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail brochure (PDF) to plan your Food Trail experience when restrictions are lifted. Thank you for your understanding.

We’ve listed a sampling of the Albany and Linn County Food Trail locations below:

Farms

Midway Farms: As you approach the farm from Hwy. 20, you might see a milk cow grazing or seasonal flowers blooming near Two female children holding garlic picked at Mid-way Farms in Albany, Oregonthe little red barn that operates as a full-fledged cooperative farm market. What makes Midway unique is that it’s the only “all gluten-free farm” in the region. Buy eggs, baked goods, jams, pickles, meats, poultry, nursery plants and more straight from the purveyor. Midway operates children’s experience camps during the summer that can include learning how to harvest crops, gather eggs or milk a cow. The farm is located at 6980 Hwy 20 NW.

Iron Water Ranch: A visit to this working fiber animal farm includes seasonal family-oriented events like bottle feeding baby lambs and educational workshops. The ranch produces beautifully dyed wool and fiber for craft, such as yarn for knitting and raw fiber for spinning or felting. The ranch is open daily by appointment at 35179 Riverside Dr. Telephone 541-979-5180 for more information.

Bryant Family Farm: No trip to Oregon would be complete without a visit to a blueberry farm, and we have the perfect family-friendly spot to experience blueberries fresh from the bush and straight into your mouth. You can pick them yourself or buy already plucked or frozen berries to take home. The farm is open daily during peak season, June through August. There’s a picnic area and a kid’s play area on the farm, located at 35923 Bryant Dr. SW. Telephone 541-704-0677.

Eateries

Sybaris Bistro: The kitchen at this warm eclectic restaurant is run by Matt Bennet, a James Beard House featured chef. The Photo of the interior of Sybaris Bistro and patrons enjoying dinner in Albany Oregonmenu changes monthly, taking advantage of fresh seasonal ingredients sourced from local farms. Indulge in Oregon truffles, house-made elk sausages, rich chocolate flourless cake or other heavenly offerings. Reservations are highly recommended. Telephone 541-928-8157. Stroll along First Ave. in the morning and you might catch a glimpse of Chef Matt outside smoking boar’s ribs or sausages on the Traeger. Sybaris is located at 442 First Ave W. in downtown Albany.

Springhill Cellars Winery: A short 10-minute drive from downtown Albany, feast your eyes on the rural beauty surrounding Springhill’s perch atop a hill. The tasting room annex is part of a fully restored barn used for events — including parties, weddings, Pilates classes, tours and Thanksgiving weekend’s annual Federweisser Festival. Picnic tables, fairy lights and a fire pit dot the grounds with views to the west and magnificent sunsets over the Coastal Mountain Range. The winery is family owned and operated, and uses the French method of barrel aging their Pinot varietals. Tastings can be scheduled by telephoning 541-928-1009 or by visiting the winery May through November, Friday through Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at 2920 NW Scenic Drive.

Frankie’s Restaurant: Enjoy a freshly prepared meal or handcrafted cocktail at Frankie’s in North Albany. Just north of the Willamette River, this bistro operates on a commitment to sourcing locally grown and produced ingredients. Stop for a blackberry infused mimosa and share a towering plate of pork belly fries with your friends. The menu also showcases plant-based options, featuring ancient grains and vegan burger patties with your favorite fixings. And the crispy Brussels sprouts are irresistible. On a warm summer’s evening, sit outside on the patio and linger–watch the harvest moon rise above the oak trees lining the river as you sip your drink.

Adult Beverages

Photo of a craft beer and a tacoBreweries, distilleries and spirits: Hit two of Albany’s master brewers and distillers in one day. First head to Deluxe Brewing & Sinister Distilling, open daily at 635 NE Water Ave along the Willamette River. Grab a pint or a shot of their latest and enjoy a bite to eat from the featured food truck of the day. This is a pet-friendly stop with outdoor/indoor informal seating. Take the tour and sample whiskeys, ales and lager. Amble on over to Vivacity Fine Spirits and Calapooia Brewing at 140 Hill St NE. Order a fresh burger from the pub, take a tour and sample the vodka, gin, rum and brandy, plus a whole lot of craft brews on tap. The pub is family-friendly and there is an outdoor covered seating area as well. Listen to live music from their scheduled lineup.

 

Artisan Products

Urban Ag Supply: This shop might look small from the street, but step inside and be prepared to wander through an amazing assortment of “rural meets urban” nirvana. Shop for locally crafted jewelry, garden ornament and art, handmade soaps, lotions, balms, potted plants, ceramic planters, fertilizers and heirloom seeds. And that’s just a partial list of the products they keep in stock. There’s always something new from local artisans. Urban Ag Supply is located just over the bridge at 124 SW Ellsworth St. Telephone 541-497-2988 for more information.

Experiences

Thompson’s Mills State Heritage Site: If there is one “must see and do” on our trail, it’s a trip to Thompson’s Mills. Located

about 25 minutes from Albany in Shedd, Thompson’s is a unique survivor of times past, chronicling 160 years of Oregon rural life. It is the last water-powered mill in the state and its turbines can be seen in action on free tours. A water right that predates statehood produces the water flow that still runs the milling machines for demonstrations today.

During fall harvest time, the mill often operates a cider press, where you can participate in the process and take home freshly pressed apple cider. The mill and grounds are open from 9:00 to 4:00 dailyFree guided tours are offered whenever the mill is open — just drop in and check with the rangers. Group tours (10 or more people) are available but please call in advance to ensure adequate staffing.

The mill and grounds are open every day of the year except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Years Day.  There are no fees to visit. The main tour of the mill is accessible by ramps. The mill address is 32655 Boston Mill Drive, Shedd, OR 97377.

Additional Food Trail Locations

For more information on the Mid-Willamette Valley Food Trail and the full list of businesses included, request a free brochure from us at the AVA, 541-928-0911 or view the maps and itineraries at Visit Corvallis, our partner in the Food Trail Development.

 The best of fresh and local

Cover photo of new guide to sourcing fresh and local food in Linn CountyWant to buy local? This comprehensive guide shows you how! Locally Grown is your premier guide for sourcing local foods. The free guide provides information for all consumers, including farmers markets, farm stands, U-Picks, CSAs, and more.

You can view the magazine online or pick up a hard copy from our 24-hour visitor center publications rack in front of the Albany Visitors Association front door, 110 3rd Ave. SE., off of Lyon St. View the online edition.

*COVID-19 Addendum – please contact providers in advance for information, from farmers and local food providers, many have adapted their normal methods of selling local food to increase physical distancing and promote safer access.

More places to eat farm fresh

Not all area restaurants, bakeries, shops or coffee houses that use locally produced ingredients are listed in this section. Make sure to check out our restaurant directory or the free Albany Explorer App, available for download on Google Play or at the Apple App Store.

Images used in this post: Feature image at top of page, Lamb petting at Ironwater Ranch in Albany; Girls with garlic at Midway Farms in Albany; Sybaris Bistro truffle feast by AO Films in Albany; Deluxe and Sinister Brewing, in Albany; Honeybrine Market and Catering in Albany; Thompsons Mills State Heritage Site in Shedd; Fresh and Local magazine cover by Debbie Duhn.

Let’s head outdoors for more fun

In addition to the formal Food Trail Program, try a couple of these suggestions as the summer bounty increases. *Note: Due to Oregon’s COVID-19 precautions and guidelines set by the Oregon Health Authority, the following information regarding hours and/or dine-in, tastings and visiting procedures may be altered. Please check with the business before heading out.

Wine Tasting

Albany is home to a region full of vineyards and wine tasting opportunities. Enjoy lunch at Sweet Red Wine Bistro, where you can order from local and international wines and sample great food and cheeses. After lunch, head to Springhill Cellars Winery, where the estate vineyard and winery are on the slopes of Springhill, a gentle hill not far from the banks of the Willamette River. Their tasting room is open on weekends or by appointment.

Just to the north of Albany is Willamette Valley Vineyards, one of the oldest and most prestigious wineries in the mid-valley. Their tasting room is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily (*please check with the winery, as COVID-19 precautions may affect how tasting appointments and hours are scheduled) and closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. If you have more time to explore, try one of the Heart of Willamette Wineries–a collection of boutique wineries within 50 miles of Albany, producing memorable Oregon wines.

Bountiful Berries

Photo of a woman holding out ripe blueberries at a u-pick farmOne of the fabulous things Oregon is known for is our fruitful bounty. And in July, fresh berries are one of the commodities that bring visitors near and far to Albany and Linn County u-pick farms, roadside stands and farmers’ markets. Several area farms grow blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and (known for its humble Willamette Valley origins) the Marionberry.

The following farms could be the start of a great weekend itinerary to satisfy the berry lover in your family:

Midway Farms One of Albany’s agricultural gems, Midway is a bucolic organic farm store (and working farm) on Highway 20. As you drive toward Corvallis, its red barn peeks out from between shade trees and a riot of multi-colored flowers. The store is usually bursting with an eclectic mix of seasonal harvests—from green onions and sweet greens to fall potatoes, tomatoes and garlic.

Midway’s crowning glory of summer are their sweet succulent organic strawberries, blueberries and other seasonal fruit. The farm posts frequently on Facebook, so if you’re planning on making fresh jam, follow their page to find out when there are special sales on bulk berries. Depending on the bounty, Kapple may run a spontaneous jam-making sale.

Midway Farms is located at 6980 NW US Hwy. 20, and the farm store is open daily, including weekends, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. You can also snag their produce, flowers, fruits, eggs and meats at the Albany or Corvallis Farmers’ Market.

Bryant Family Farm A short five-minute drive into the Albany countryside and you can load up on the biggest juiciest blueberries in Linn County. This family owned venture features 19 different varieties of “no spray” blueberries. You can opt to pick your own or purchase fresh or frozen berries for all your culinary creations.

The farm features a family picnic area and restrooms, so you can bring your favorite hamper packed with goodies and rest between picking. The Bryant family purchased the farm about five years ago, carrying on the u-pick tradition of the former owners, Peter and Millie Romans. The Romans planted their first bushes in 1967.

If you are in hurry and don’t have time to pick yourself, you can order free delivery service of frozen berries (within Albany), any size order over five pounds at $2.25 per pound. Frozen blueberries still pack a nutritional punch and are delicious in muffins, pancakes, ice cream, smoothies, and jams.

The season at the farm runs from mid-June to the second week in August, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., dependent on fruit ripening, weather patterns, and crop availability. It’s usually best to check with the farm at 541-704-0677. Bryant Family Farm is located at 35923 Bryant Drive SW, Albany, Oregon.

Catch Sight of Wildlife

Photo of turtles climbing one on top of another on a log sticking out of the pond at Albany's Talking Water GardensThe Willamette Valley is a wonderful place to explore with a pair of binoculars—or just a keen pair of eyes. The mid-valley’s mild climate makes it the winter home for certain bird species, and the rivers, lakes and forests are teeming with life as well. The Willamette Valley Birding Trail is your best resource for birding in the area. Download the Santiam Loop section for a guide to spotting burrowing owl, Oregon Vesper Sparrow and other species native to the mid-valley area. If you look carefully while walking in grassy meadows in Linn and Benton counties, you might spot a Fender’s Blue Butterfly (PDF), a rare butterfly native only to the Willamette Valley.

The following spots should help you create your own itinerary of nature while you’re here:

  • Talking Water Gardens on the northeast side of Albany is an engineered wetlands that is home to turtles, frogs, mink, beaver, and dozens of species of birds. Trails and viewing platforms are plentiful.
  • Finley Wildlife Refuge, southwest of Albany, has locations on both sides of the Willamette River, in Linn and Benton counties. It is home to one of the area’s largest herds of Roosevelt elk.
  • E.E. Wilson Wildlife Area, west of Albany, is home to everything from beaver to bobcats, and hosts several threatened species, such as the Western pond turtle, sharp-tailed snake, and red-legged frog. The wildlife area also encompasses the remains of a former U.S. military base, and abandoned roads and old buildings are waiting to be explored at E.E. Wilson.

Enjoy waterfalls to clear quarantine cobwebs

Getting outside is more important than ever in this locked-down Covid-19 world, and a trip to see the waterfalls at McDowell Creek Park is a perfect way to clear out the quarantine cobwebs.

Tucked away in the foothills of the Cascade Range about 16 miles east of Lebanon, the park boasts three to four miles of trails that take you past three beautiful waterfalls and a couple of cascades that will be quite prominent this time of year.

McDowell Creek is a 110-acre day-use park and is part of the Linn County Parks system. There is no fee. The park offers picnicking amenities, so pack a lunch or get take-out from your favorite restaurant. Click here for a list of restaurants and their current status under Covid-19 restrictions. Some fishing is allowed from late May into October. Check the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife website for regulations and open seasons.

Dogs are allowed on leashes.

To get there from Albany, head east on Highway 20 toward Lebanon. In Lebanon, take a left onto East Grant Street, which eventually turns into Brewster Road, and continue until you cross the Santiam River. Then take a right onto Berlin Road and follow that until you come to McDowell Creek Drive. Take a left onto McDowell Creek Drive and that will take you right to the park.

The trails offer easy to moderate hiking and are set up in a series of loops that can be taken for easier, shorter jaunts or longer excursions through lush green woodlands. The most popular is a 1.6-mile loop that takes you past the most impressive falls, Royal Terrace and Majestic Falls. For a map and current conditions and comments about the park, click here.

A series of bridges and viewing decks help you traverse the terrain a get beautiful vistas of the falls. Majestic Falls and Royal Terrace have the greatest amount of stone stairs and wooden viewing platforms that can be slippery when wet, so be cautious.

You can hit the trails at access points through each of the three parking lots – lower, middle and upper. The bottom lot connects to Lower McDowell Creek Falls easily, and Royal Terrace with a little more effort. Access to Royal Terrace is the longest hike. Majestic Falls is accessible from the upper parking lot through a steep staircase to get to the top of the falls. Or take the trail from the lower lot and hike all the way up.

The falls all should have heavy flow right now. Majestic Falls drops 35 feet, while Royal Terrace falls two levels, first to a small pool and then the rest of the way for a total of 119 feet.

More Adventures

If you are looking for a little more of a challenge, Linn County has many waterfalls that are tucked away among its thousands of square miles of forest land. A website called the Northwest Waterfall Survey has a list of waterfalls in Oregon and breaks that down by county. Here is the list for Linn County.

The list provides a description of the falls and how to get there. Some are visible from the road, others will require a hike. Most are not spectacular – some might even be seasonal cascades – so read descriptions carefully before committing your time and effort.

Please use caution this time of year. Directions can sometimes be confusing, so it is best to be prepared in case you get lost and have to spend the night. Take along gear to stay warm and plenty of drinking water. Don’t rely on GPS, as its navigation abilities can be blocked due to loss of signal in the mountains.

More online

If you want to whet your appetite before heading out, click here for photographs and a video of McDowell Creek Park by journalist and author Grant McOmie as part of his TV show, Grant’s Getaways. It’s dated 2016, but little has changed at the park.

Covid restrictions

Please observe all Covid-19 restrictions when visiting the park. Keep a mask handy as the spot is quite popular and you are likely to run into more people out and about enjoying the scenery and solitude.

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Top photo by Gary Thurman

Bottom photo by Katelynn LaGrone

Wintertime still a good time to fish

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean the fish aren’t biting.

Steelhead and salmon abound in several rivers in the area, including the North and South Santiam, the mainstem of the Santiam, and a little farther away in the Alsea and Siletz rivers, and many others.

But if you just want to get away for the day, or just an afternoon with the kids, the mid-Willamette Valley is full of places to go fishing for trout, and some of the best are right here in Albany.

Mitch Smith, owner of Two Rivers Fly Shop in Historic Downtown Albany, says many local waters have been stocked with rainbow trout, some of which tip the scales at several pounds.

“Locally, the state is stocking the heck out of Timber-Linn Lake,” Smith said, adding that a couple of weeks ago a man came into his shop who had caught a 9-pound rainbow there. “The state also plants those brooders and they have put some big ones in there.”

Along with the normal planting of legal keeper-sized fish (8-inch minimum), the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife plants a few large brood fish – used to collect eggs for spawning more trout at hatcheries – to give the public a shot at landing “the big one.”

Albany has a fine selection of easily accessible lakes to fish, making it a perfect place to take the kids, particularly Timber-Linn and Waverly Lakes, which were planted recently. The ODFW has taken down its stocking schedule to keep people from congregating at any one place due to Covid-19 restrictions but is releasing some details about local stocking after the fact. For the latest information about fishing in the Willamette Zone, go to https://myodfw.com/recreation-report/fishing-report/willamette-zone.

Smith said right now a good bet to take fish is with Powerbait fished just off the bottom, or with Wooly Bugger flies in black, brown or olive on a fly rod or fished behind a casting bubble using spinning gear.

If you would like to talk more about fishing, visit Mitch Smith at Two Rivers Fly Shop, 204 1st Ave. SW, in Albany, give him a call at 541-967-9800, or drop him a line at trfs@live.com. The shop is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and Saturday 10 to 4.

To plan your next adventure in Albany, go to albanyvisitors.com.

Photo by Dan Bateman

Holiday events to warm your heart

If you are searching for some holiday spirit amid our current Covid-19 lockdown, look no further. Here is a list of events to warm your hearts and fill your days with joy.

Topping that list are two such events close to home, both physically and virtually.

The first is a YouTube video, done in a physically-distanced Zoom meeting-like fashion, featuring the high school a capella choir group, South Albany Ascend, singing the Christmas classic, “Baby, Please Come Home.” The group is under the direction of choir director Brett DeYoung, and the arrangement was done by Deke Sharon. You can find this fun rendition here.

And if you want to get out of the house to have some fun, enjoy the sight of 26 houses and businesses lit up for the 2020 Night Time Magic Holiday Light Contest and then vote for your favorite! This year’s theme is “Cherished Traditions in a New Light.” Vote by Dec. 20. For more information visit the webpage visit Night Time Magic or Facebook Night Time Magic

If you happened to miss the Christmas Porch Tour, held Sunday, Dec. 3, click on the video to get a little taste of the fun at the Albany Historic Interior Homes Tour Facebook page. Twelve houses and three venues participated by decorating their porches and yards in a bright holiday blast of fun.

Just want to relax in front of a fireplace with a crackling Yule Log but don’t have a fireplace? We’ve got you covered. Click here for a cozy YouTube video that will warm your heart.

Here are a few more events and online links to keep your holiday spirits high:

Willamette Master Chorus Annual Holiday Concert

The Willamette Master Chorus continues the tradition and brings you a festive Holiday Concert, featuring the Trail Band Sextet, members of the well-known Oregon Trail Band and members of the Judson Middle School Choir. Videos of the concerts can be seen here.

Candy Cane Lane 8th Annual Holiday Lights

Dec. 10-31, The Meadow Community, 310 Pitney Ln., Junction City, See Santa, Mrs. Claus and Santa’s Elf as they hand out candy (with COVID-19 safety precautions). Please bring food for the local food bank. Click here for information on the AVA Calendar of Events..

Albany String Orchestra – Virtual Winter Concert

Concert was held Dec. 19. Music includes pieces by Bach and Vivaldi, and a collection of carols and holiday songs that will leave you with a song in your heart and a smile on your face. See the concert here.

Here are more Christmas videos to enjoy (click on the entry):

“Christmas Canon,” Trans-Siberian Orchestra

“12 Days of Christmas,” Pentatonix

“Linus & Lucy,” Vince Guaraldi Trio

Travel Alerts and Current Happenings for Albany & Linn County, Oregon
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