December 3rd, 2022

Tiny Travels: The Best of Smalltown Holidays in McMinnville

Tiny figurines are placed near a Christmas ornament of an a frame cabin with a snowy roof.
The Tiny Travelers enjoy the holiday season a la McMinnville.

There’s a reason the main characters always head to a small town on those Hallmark Christmas movies – the same reason why you should fit in a trip to McMinnville to celebrate the season. Small towns encapsulate the best of the holiday spirit – the sense of deep connection we feel to our fellow humans, the sweet allure of all that twinkles, and the simple pleasures that make the holidays about so much more. 

You might not run into your long lost high school crush when you visit McMinnville, but you will find the same spirit of generosity, celebration, and fun you’d expect from a place hailed as one of the best small towns in America.

Here’s our list of what to do this holiday season in McMinnville:

Meet the makers

If gifting is your love language, you might head to the McMinnville Holiday Market in the Bindery Space, where 35 local makers are displaying their hand-made wares. Artisan products abound from makers like Lithic Ceramics, Crowley House Flower Farm, Lush Living Sculpture, Osprey River Goods, and Tea Musketeers, as well as a variety of sweets and gifts from local craftspeople. It’s a paradise for people who want something extra special for that special someone.

Slow your stroll

The display window game this time of year is on point for retailers along the main shopping and tasting boulevard, Third Street. Be sure to see what the ladies at TWIST Salon have put together this year, but also check out the fun holiday-themed vintage at the McMinnville Antique Mall, the curated collections at Mes Amies, the shiny seasonal attire at Accessory Appeal, the cozy Christmas quilts at Boersma’s.

Give those harness bells a shake

Over the river and through the woods is so overrated. Hitch a ride through a twinkling downtown at the corner of Evans and Third with Gypsy Rose Carriage. Don Price and his horse, Frankie, will welcome you onto the plush, tufted carriage for a ride through the streets of downtown McMinnville. Call or text: (503) 864-5300. 

Lighten up

Small towns have big delights – like McMinnville’s giant Sequoia Christmas tree, illuminated with lights throughout the season. You can find it right where Third Street meets Baker Street, behind the McMinnville Public Library. It was measured at 162 ft. recently, which puts it in the front of the pack of trees vying in small towns throughout the West for “Tallest Living Christmas Tree in America.” (Seriously, Google it. Try to find the true champion and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better contender).

Sweeten every moment

It’s cold, and sometimes wet, and hot chocolate can get you through, every time. Go all in on the sweet stuff  with elevated results at Vadnay Chocolate Company, with its own on-site chocolate factory and lots of bean-to-bar products. Or try some other local options like Union Block Coffee House, Community Plate (through December 18), or Flag & Wire Coffee.

Toast the season

Here’s one thing you won’t see on the Hallmark Channel: a small town with over a dozen tasting rooms on the main street and more in the surrounding countryside. Even on a gloomy day, the tasting rooms brim with the spirit of conviviality whether you’re taking a moment for yourself or doing reconnaissance for your holiday table. If that’s you, meet your bestie at R. Stuart and Co., a tasting room set up with the essence of hospitality, stop in at HiFi Wine Bar for elevated small plates alongside a rotating list of fine wines from around the world, celebrate with a bubbly made from Pinot noir grapes at Willamette Valley Vineyards. Or, if you’re tired of planning, just walk 3rd Street and see where the spirit calls you.

Illustration of writer, Emily Grosvenor

Emily Grosvenor is Editor of Oregon Home and the author of Find Yourself at Home: A Conscious Approach to Shaping Your Space and Your Life.