Even in the wet season, this tiny Willamette Valley town has romance galore, with a lush garden resort and the chance to glimpse a frozen waterfall. Emily Grosvenor picks the top Silverton, OR spots.
A winter’s taleFor staff gardeners, the off-season is anything but at The Oregon Garden, where cold-weather flowering shrubs are in full blossom. February means pale pink daphne flowers, white sweet box, purple beautyberry, and yellow witch hazel, to name a few. Day-trippers can explore the garden’s 80 manicured acres or pop into the tropical house, set at a balmy 72° in winter and home to bromeliad, orchid, and palm varieties. Also on-site, you’ll find The Gordon House, the only building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the state, open for guided tours three times a day.
Frozen perksMeteorologists are projecting a cold winter for Silverton—great news if you’re hoping to get a peek at the area’s most stunning winter spectacles: frozen waterfalls. The 178-foot-high Double Falls, in Silver Falls State Park, has frozen the past two years in a row. “It’s a busy time for us,” says park ranger Katharine Kittinger. Trail conditions can be tricky, so pack trekking poles and boots with traction for the 7.2-mile Trail of Ten Falls Loop. You’ll pass 10 waterfalls in various states of winter arrest, surrounded by frosty foliage, cascading icicles, and snow-dusted remnants of old growth forest. South Falls Lodge Café makes an ideal post-trek warming station and recently launched a full lunch menu with craft beer, wine, and hot cocoa alongside hot sandwiches and soups.
An artistic streakSilverton may be small (pop. 9,222), but its art scene is full of heart. Explore it on the first Friday of every month when local artists strut their stuff. Things usually get going at Lunaria Gallery, an artists’ co-op featuring the works of 25 members, including ceramist Lee Jacobson. “If there’s a unifying idea among our artists, it’s a love of nature,” Jacobson says. “Our artists want to get away from everywhere else.” Indeed, sculptor Deborah Unger’s faceless wooden figures are carved from wood; Jane Castelan Buccola’s plein air pastels evoke the landscapes surrounding the town; and Genie Stewart’s woven garments harness the palette of the Willamette Valley to great effect.
Backyard bitesBeing farm-locked has its benefits. Just ask The Silver Grille’s chef Jeff Nizlek, who creates wide-ranging, creative menus without venturing beyond the bounty of neighboring growers. In the past, the restaurant’s popular prix fixe Valentine’s Day menu, for instance, has included a bisque starter infused with vanilla, star anise, and grains of paradise; roasted game hen Diane in brandy, truffles, cream, and Chinese black rice with roasted celery root; and for dessert, pineapple napoleon.
Best of the wurstThe nearby town of Mt. Angel unleashes the lederhosen on the first weekend of February with Wurstfest, a beer-and-sausage festival. Local sausage stuffers come out to serve their best bratwurst, currywurst, frickadelwurst, and more. Even the mustard is local, made by the Benedictine sisters who live at the Queen of Angels Monastery in town. For entertainment, seven music-and-dance troupes, four of them homegrown, lift sagging wintertime spirits with rousing German polka. If you miss this year’s party (Feb 5–6), don’t worry—you can still get your Teutonic fix at a handful of downtown restaurants, including the Mt. Angel Sausage Company, where modest decor belies the truth: This humble place serves the best brats in Oregon.