First a little education about the area. The Willamette Valley is a fertile plain on either side of the Willamette River in the northwest area of Oregon. It is bound on the west by the Oregon Coast Range and on the east by the Cascade Range. The Missoula Floods some 13,000-15,000 years ago contributed to the agricultural richness of the valley. The majority of the state's population lives within the basin.
The climate in the Willamette Valley is usually cool wet winters and moderate dry summers. Most valley precipitation arrives as rain, about half of which falls between December and February. Growing seasons are long, averaging 150 to 180 days per year in the lowlands with an average of 40" of rain. Temperatures rarely get below 0 in the winter and only above 90 5-15 days per year in the summer.
A fantastic way to see the Willamette Valley is by Amtrak train on the Coast Starlight. It is widely regarded as one of the most spectacular of all train routes. It starts in LA and ends in Seattle. It goes through Oregon in the Willamette Valley. The scenery along the Coast Starlight route is beautiful. We boarded it a couple times here at the Amtrak station in Salem and rode it to Seattle.
We loved sitting in the 2nd level Sightseer Lounge car that has floor-to-ceiling windows for watching the passing scenery go by. There are other trains along this route, too, but none with this impressive viewing car of the Coast Starlight.
Located in the center of the Willamette Valley alongside the Willamette River is the capital of Oregon, Salem. A 2009 estimate placed the metropolitan population at 396,103, the state's second largest metropolitan area, first being Portland by far.
This is the third and current Oregon State Capitol building which was completed in 1938 and is the fourth-newest capitol in the United States. It is adorned by a gold leaf Oregon Pioneer statue atop the capitol dome. The capitol grounds cover three city blocks and include Willson and Capitol parks. Although we've never been in the capital building we've driven by it hundreds of times.