Mt. Angel Oregon is located in the beautiful Willamette Valley, just south of Portland and east of Salem. Visitors to Mt. Angel go for the German cuisine, valley vistas from the Mt. Angel Abby, and the annual Oktoberfest.
How many little farm towns have a working Glockenspiel on their main street and how many little Oregon towns celebrate the harvest with a huge Oktoberfest? Well, if you are in Oregon and want to experience the foods of Bavaria, the sounds of a lederhosen-clad oompah band, and sip local brews and wines, Mt. Angel should be your destination.
A drive to Mt. Angel takes you through the Oregon countryside, past farm stands, plant nurseries, and over rivers. It’s a beautiful drive providing for a true getaway from the traffic and trucks of the Interstate.
Mt. Angel Oregon’s German Heritage
Founded in the late 1800s by German settlers, Mt. Angel takes pride in keeping up their German traditions and appearance. There are German signs, half-timbered storefronts, and the beautiful Mt. Angel Benedictine Abbey and Seminary. Also, in Mt. Angel is the Queen of Angels Monastery, founded by the Benedictine Sisters in 1882.
The Swiss Monks and Sisters felt at home with the German settlers, many of whom were from Catholic southern Germany. The settlers established a Catholic church in 1881 as the center of their village. St. Mary Catholic Church, now referred to as the “Gothic Jewel of the Willamette Valley,” has 26 large stained glass windows and a soaring 200-foot bell tower that can be seen for miles.
Because they established large schools in Mt. Angel, the involvement of these religious communities was key to the growth of the area.
You can explore the town’s history while walking or biking the Mt. Angel Heritage Trail. The 5-mile loop winds through town and highlights points of interest, including the Willamette Valley Southern Rail, the Glockenspiel, and the Queen of Angels Monastery.
Visit the Mt. Angel Oregon Abbey
The Abby, founded in 1883, is set on a 300-foot bluff. It’s worth a visit for the views of the valley and surrounding mountains.
For exercise, or to experience the beauty and tranquility of the woods, take a walk from the town up past the stations of the cross, to the Abbey. It’s a frequent exercise path for locals and a relaxing walk or run for everyone. Once you reach the top, enjoy the peace of the Abbey.
Following a 1,500-year-old monastic tradition, the monks of Mount Angel also brew and sell artisanal beer. Benedictine Brewery is a “for-profit” business owned by Mount Angel Abbey. 100 percent of the profits are donated to the Abbey, local and regional charities, and local economic development.
Eat Schnitzel and Watch the Glockenspiel
In the heart of downtown Mt. Angel is the Glockenspiel Restaurant. They serve excellent German food. Have a German beer with a schnitzel, sausage platter, or chicken dish with spätzle as a side.
It’s a large restaurant decorated with lace curtains and an extensive beer stein collection. German music adds to the atmosphere.
But what brings visitors to gather on the street corner across from the restaurant is the Glockenspiel itself. Mt. Angel’s huge Glockenspiel, a four-story clock tower, is reminiscent of the ones you’ll find in Germany. The hand-carved moving figures tell the story of the town’s history, Oktoberfest, and the future of the village. The tower comes to life four times a day with performances at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m., and 7 p.m.
Update: Sadly the Glockenspiel Restaurant has closed and is up for sale.
Visit the Mt. Angel Oregon Sausage Company
You’ll satisfy your craving for German wurst at the Mt. Angel Sausage Company. Pick from more than 10 types of bratwursts and, in good weather, sit outside on their deck and shaded patio with a German beer straight from Munich. The outside patio is dog-friendly, too!
The day we were there we marveled at the huge flower baskets decorating the large patio area. In fact, the entire town was filled with the beauty of the baskets.
The Mt. Angel Sausage Company has a market with a wide variety of Mt. Angel sausages, jerky, specialty mustards, German foods, and beverages. We picked up some frozen wurst, chatted with the on-site sausage maker, and bought some German Rot Kraut, not easily found in the U.S.
Attend the Mt. Angel Oregon Oktoberfest
While you can enjoy German food and drink year ‘round in peaceful Mt. Angel, you have to experience Oktoberfest to immerse yourself in all that is German. Each September, 350,000 people descend on the small town to celebrate the annual Oktoberfest.
Oktoberfest kicks off with a traditional German Webertanz (Maypole dance) performed by Mount Angel school children at noon and continues through Sunday. The entire event gives back to the community. For many youth services, churches, and civic groups, Oktoberfest is their major fundraising activity of the year.
It’s fun for all ages. There are food booths, many serving local foods as fund-raisers for charity, a beer garden, and a wine garden. New this year is a booth featuring Schweinshaxe (cider-braised pork shank with baby red potatoes and beer-braised red cabbage).
In the center of it all, you’ll enjoy German bands and dancers at the town bandstand. There are special events like a pedal tractor race, classic car cruise-in, and street dance.
Highlights of this year’s Oktoberfest will include the “Original Donaumusikanten,” a world-class Bavarian band, flying directly from Germany and sponsored by Lufthansa, the official airline of Oktoberfest. The German band plays daily in the Weingarten.
I especially enjoy Oktoberfest because it retains the small-town charm and local emphasis. With fun and entertainment for the entire family, it’s consistently ranked as one of the best Oktoberfest celebrations in the country. There’s always plenty of beer, wine, sausage, and sauerkraut to go around!
If you miss Oktoberfest, you can look forward to February in Mt. Angel. While it’s a smaller festival, Wurstfest, is filled with some of the same wonderful food and drink.
When You Go to Mt. Angel Oregon
Mount Angel Oregon is approximately 40 miles south of Portland and 17 miles north of Salem. It’s a small town so the places we have mentioned in this article are easy to find. Just head for the center of Mt. Angel!
Oktoberfest takes place annually mid-September. Most events at Oktoberfest are free. Only 3 of the venues have a cover charge, the purchase of a wristband allows for admission to all three. There is never a charge for persons under 21 years old, but there are slightly restricted hours in the Biergarten and Weingarten, so check the venues for details. Dogs are allowed but due to crowds, it is not wise to bring them. For more to see and do in Oregon, see our Oregon articles by Wander writers.