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Exploring Off-Campus Corvallis

The tree-shaded streets of downtown Corvallis are well worth a wander. Here you'll find lots of interesting shops, as well as the stately Benton County Courthouse, 120 NW Fourth St., built in 1888 and still in use today. A few blocks away, you'll find the Corvallis Arts Center, 700 SW Madison Ave. (tel. 541/754-1551; www.theartscenter.net), which is housed in an old church and schedules rotating exhibits of works by regional artists. The gift shop has a good selection of crafts. The center is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 5pm; admission is free.

Corvallis's pretty Riverfront Commemorative Park stretches for 10 blocks along the Willamette River in downtown Corvallis and includes walkways and lawns, river-viewing decks and plazas, sculpture, and a fountain that doubles as a map of the region's rivers. On Saturday mornings from spring through fall, the park is also the site of the Corvallis Saturday Farmers Market. The park's pathways connect to Corvallis's extensive network of biking paths, one of which crosses a covered bridge.

Exploring Historic Albany

Albany is a hidden jewel right on I-5 that is often overlooked because the only thing visible from the interstate is a smoke-belching wood-pulp mill. Behind this industrial screen lies a quiet town that evokes days of starched crinolines and straw boaters. Throughout the mid- to late 19th century, Albany prospered, shipping agricultural and wood products downriver to Oregon City and Portland. Though every style of architecture popular during that period is represented in downtown Albany's historic districts, it is the town's many elegant Victorian homes that are the most compelling. Every year on the last Saturday of July, many of the historic homes are opened to the public for a Historic Interior Homes Tour, and on the second Sunday in December, homes are opened for a Christmas Parlour Tour. For a guide to the historic buildings and information on the tours, contact the Albany Visitors Association.

Among the town's more noteworthy buildings are two sparkling white 1890s churches -- the Whitespires Church and St. Mary's Church -- both built in the Gothic revival style. The Monteith House, 518 Second Ave. SW (tel. 541/928-0911), built in 1849, is the town's oldest frame building. The house is open from mid-June to mid-September Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 4pm; admission is free. To learn more about Albany's past, stop in at the Albany Regional Museum, 136 Lyon St. S. (tel. 541/967-7122; www.armuseum.com), open Monday through Saturday from noon to 4pm; admission is by donation. While touring the historic districts, you can stop in at nearly a dozen antiques stores, most of which are on First and Second avenues downtown.

A Covered-Bridge Tour -- If you're a fan of covered bridges, you won't want to pass up an opportunity to drive the back roads east of Albany. Here you'll find eight wooden covered bridges dating mostly from the 1930s. For a map to these covered bridges, contact the Albany Convention & Visitors Association. A ninth covered bridge, the Irish Bend Bridge, can be found in Corvallis on a pedestrian/bicycle path on the west side of the university campus.

Wine Touring

Downtown Corvallis has several places worth checking out if you're in the area wine tasting. Avalon Wine, 201 SW Second St. (tel. 541/752-7418; www.avalonwine.com), is one of the best wine shops in Oregon and has a fabulously informative website focusing on Northwest wines. In the same area, you'll find Enoteca Wine Bar, 136 SW Washington Ave. (tel. 541/758-9095; www.enotecawinebar.com), a stylish place to sample a variety of regional wines. If you'd prefer to have someone else do the driving, contact Beviamo Wine Tours (tel. 541/250-0747; www.beviamowinetours.com), which has regularly scheduled tours ($55 per person) every other Saturday. These tours visit three local wineries.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.