Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Salem, OR

Oregon

By Caroline Lascom

Welcome to Salem, Oregon, a vibrant city offering a wide array of attractions and activities for visitors of all ages. Known for its rich history, picturesque landscapes, and friendly community, Salem is a must-visit destination in the Pacific Northwest. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or a foodie looking for culinary delights, Salem has something for everyone.

One of the top-rated attractions in Salem is the stunning Willamette Valley. With its lush vineyards, rolling hills, and picturesque countryside, this region is a paradise for wine lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Take a leisurely stroll through the vineyards, indulge in wine tastings at local wineries, or simply relax and take in the breathtaking views.

If you’re a history lover, a visit to the Oregon State Capitol is a must. This magnificent building, with its distinctive dome and intricate architecture, is not only the seat of government but also a symbol of Oregon’s rich heritage. Take a guided tour to learn about the state’s fascinating history, explore the beautiful gardens that surround the Capitol, and don’t forget to visit the onsite gift shop for unique souvenirs.

Salem is also home to a wide range of museums and cultural attractions. The Hallie Ford Museum of Art showcases a diverse collection of American and Native American art, while the Oregon State Hospital Museum of Mental Health offers a fascinating insight into the history of mental health care. Additionally, the Willamette Heritage Center at the Mill provides a glimpse into Salem’s past with its historic buildings and exhibits.

For nature lovers, a visit to Minto-Brown Island Park is a must. This expansive park offers miles of scenic trails, perfect for hiking, biking, or simply enjoying a peaceful picnic surrounded by nature. Explore the wetlands, spot wildlife, and take in the beauty of the Willamette River.

No visit to Salem is complete without experiencing the local food scene. From farm-to-table eateries to international cuisines, Salem offers a diverse range of dining options to satisfy any palate. Don’t miss the opportunity to taste the local specialties, such as Marionberry pie and fresh seafood.

With its captivating attractions, rich history, and natural beauty, Salem, Oregon is a destination that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. Whether you’re exploring the vineyards, immersing yourself in history, or indulging in local flavors, Salem promises an unforgettable experience for all.

Discover Historic Landmarks

Salem, Oregon has a rich history that can be explored through its many historic landmarks. Here are some must-see sites:

  • Oregon State Capitol: Visit the state capitol building, which features beautiful architecture and a unique dome. Take a guided tour to learn about Oregon’s political history and enjoy the amazing views from the top of the dome.
  • Bush House Museum: Step back in time as you explore the beautifully preserved Bush House Museum. This historic home belonged to the prominent Bush family and offers a glimpse into their luxurious lifestyle during the Victorian era.
  • Deepwood Estate: Nestled in the heart of Salem, the Deepwood Estate is a stunning example of Queen Anne-style architecture. Take a guided tour of the mansion and stroll through the well-maintained gardens to experience the elegance of a bygone era.
  • Willamette Heritage Center: Formerly known as the Mission Mill Museum, this historic site showcases Oregon’s early industrial history. Explore the vintage buildings, including a fully functioning water-powered mill, and learn about the area’s rich cultural heritage.
  • Elsinore Theatre: Immerse yourself in the performing arts at the Elsinore Theatre, a beautifully restored Spanish Revival-style theater. Attend a live performance or take a guided tour to appreciate the intricate architecture and rich history of this local gem.

Whether you’re a history enthusiast or simply appreciate beautiful architecture, Salem’s historic landmarks are sure to captivate and inspire you.

Explore Beautiful Gardens

When visiting Salem, Oregon, make sure to take the time to explore the city’s beautiful gardens. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or simply looking for a peaceful place to relax, Salem’s gardens offer a serene and enchanting experience.

One of the most popular gardens in Salem is the Oregon Garden. Spanning over 80 acres, this stunning garden features a variety of plants, flowers, and trees, making it a must-visit destination for avid garden lovers. Take a leisurely stroll along the winding paths and take in the vibrant colors and fragrant scents that fill the air.

Another gem is the Deepwood Estate Gardens. Set amidst the historic Deepwood Estate, these gardens offer a glimpse into the past with their carefully manicured lawns, ornate structures, and beautiful floral displays. Take a guided tour to learn more about the history of the estate and its gardens.

If you’re looking for a more intimate garden experience, be sure to visit the Adelman Peony Gardens. This family-owned garden boasts over 500 varieties of peonies, offering a burst of color and beauty when in bloom. You can wander through the fields of peonies, taking in their delicate petals and intoxicating fragrance.

For those interested in Japanese culture, the Bush’s Pasture Park is a must-see. This park features a traditional Japanese Garden complete with a tea house, koi pond, and beautiful stone lanterns. Take a moment to sit and meditate in this tranquil oasis, surrounded by the beauty of nature.

Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or simply enjoy the beauty of flowers and plants, Salem’s gardens offer a delightful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Take the time to explore these beautiful spaces and immerse yourself in the serenity they provide.

Important note: When visiting any of these gardens, be sure to follow any rules or guidelines set forth by the owners or staff. Help preserve the beauty of these landscapes for future visitors to enjoy.

Enjoy Outdoor Recreation

Salem, Oregon offers a wide range of outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy. Whether you’re an avid hiker, cyclist, or just enjoy spending time outdoors, Salem has something for everyone.

One of the top attractions for outdoor enthusiasts is the Willamette Valley. This beautiful region is known for its lush vineyards and scenic landscapes. Take a bike ride along the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway, which offers over 100 miles of cycling paths. You can also go hiking in the nearby Silver Falls State Park, where you’ll find breathtaking waterfalls and lush forests.

If you’re interested in water activities, head to the Willamette River for kayaking or paddleboarding. The river offers calm waters and stunning views, making it the perfect spot for a leisurely paddle. You can also go fishing in the river and try your luck at catching salmon or trout.

For those looking for more adventure, Salem is surrounded by beautiful mountains and offers plenty of opportunities for hiking and camping. The Cascade Range is just a short drive away and offers challenging trails and stunning views. You can also visit Mt. Hood National Forest, which offers a variety of outdoor activities including hiking, mountain biking, and camping.

Salem is also home to a number of parks and green spaces where you can enjoy a picnic or play sports. Minto-Brown Island Park is the largest park in the city and offers over 1,200 acres of walking paths, sports fields, and bird-watching opportunities. Bush’s Pasture Park is another popular spot, with beautiful gardens and playgrounds.

Whether you’re seeking adventure or simply want to relax in nature, Salem, Oregon is the perfect destination for outdoor recreation. With its stunning landscapes, diverse range of activities, and convenient location, it’s no wonder why visitors flock to this outdoor lover’s paradise.

Visit Local Museums

When visiting Salem, be sure to explore the city’s rich history and culture by visiting its local museums. With a variety of options to choose from, there is something for everyone to enjoy.

Willamette Heritage Center: Step back in time and experience the history of the Willamette Valley at the Willamette Heritage Center. Housed in a former woolen mill, this living history museum offers exhibits and interactive displays that showcase the region’s past. From pioneer life to industrial revolution, there is much to explore and learn.

Hallie Ford Museum of Art: Art enthusiasts will appreciate a visit to the Hallie Ford Museum of Art. Located on the campus of Willamette University, this museum showcases a diverse collection of Pacific Northwest and Native American art. With rotating exhibits and a focus on contemporary art, there is always something new to see.

Historic Deepwood Estate: Take a tour of the Historic Deepwood Estate and step into the elegant world of the past. This beautifully preserved Victorian home offers a glimpse into Salem’s history and architecture. Stroll through the gardens and explore the grounds while learning about the families who once called this estate home.

Thomas Kay Woolen Mill: Discover the legacy of the textile industry in Salem at the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill. This historic mill showcases the process of wool production and the impact it had on the local economy. Explore the mill’s machinery and learn about the lives of the workers who operated them.

Whether you’re interested in history, art, or architecture, Salem’s local museums offer a unique glimpse into the city’s past. Don’t miss the opportunity to learn something new and gain a deeper understanding of this vibrant community.

Attend Festivals and Events

Salem, OR is known for its vibrant and diverse festival scene. Throughout the year, the city hosts a variety of festivals and events that celebrate the arts, culture, and heritage of the area. These festivals are a great way to immerse yourself in the local community and experience the unique atmosphere of Salem.

One of the most popular festivals in Salem is the Cherry Blossom Festival, which takes place in the spring. This festival celebrates the blooming of the cherry blossoms in Salem’s parks and features live music, traditional food, and cultural performances. It’s a great opportunity to admire the natural beauty of the city and learn about Japanese culture.

If you’re a food lover, you won’t want to miss the Salem Wine and Food Festival. This annual event showcases the best local wines, craft beers, and delicious cuisine from the region. You can sample a wide variety of dishes, attend cooking demonstrations, and learn about the local food and drink scene in Salem.

For music enthusiasts, the Oregon State Fair is a must-attend event. This multi-day fair features live music performances, carnival rides, agricultural exhibits, and much more. It’s a fun-filled event that the whole family can enjoy, with something for everyone to do and see.

The Salem Art Fair and Festival is another highlight of the city’s festival calendar. This event showcases the work of local artists and includes a juried art show, live music, food vendors, and interactive art activities for children. It’s a great way to support local artists and discover new talent.

Festival/Event Date Description
Cherry Blossom Festival Spring Celebrates the blooming of cherry blossoms in Salem’s parks
Salem Wine and Food Festival Summer Showcases local wines, craft beers, and cuisine
Oregon State Fair August Multi-day fair with live music, carnival rides, and agricultural exhibits
Salem Art Fair and Festival July Features a juried art show, live music, and interactive art activities

No matter when you visit Salem, there’s likely to be a festival or event happening that you can enjoy. Check the city’s event calendar to find out what’s happening during your visit and make the most of your time in this vibrant Oregon city.

Taste Local Cuisine

When visiting Salem, Oregon, one must take advantage of the local cuisine. From farm-to-table restaurants to food carts, there are plenty of options to satisfy your taste buds.

Start your culinary journey with a visit to the Saturday Market. This open-air market features a variety of food stalls offering fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, baked goods, and more. Grab a cup of locally roasted coffee and wander through the market, sampling the different flavors and ingredients.

For a taste of the Pacific Northwest, head to one of Salem’s seafood restaurants. Here, you can indulge in the freshest catches of the day, like salmon and Dungeness crab. Pair your meal with a local wine or craft beer for the perfect dining experience.

If you’re in the mood for something a little more international, you’ll find a range of cuisines to choose from. Salem has Thai, Mexican, Italian, and Japanese restaurants, just to name a few. Try dishes like pad Thai, tacos, pasta, and sushi for a flavorful adventure.

For those with a sweet tooth, don’t miss out on the local dessert scene. Salem is home to a number of bakeries and ice cream shops, serving up delicious treats like freshly baked cookies, pies, and homemade ice cream. Finish off your meal with a sweet indulgence.

  • For a truly unique dining experience, consider visiting one of Salem’s food trucks. These mobile eateries offer a diverse range of cuisines, from barbecue to burgers to vegan options. Grab a quick bite to eat and enjoy your meal on a picnic table at one of the local parks.
  • Lastly, don’t forget to sample the local beverages. Salem is known for its wineries and breweries, offering tastings and tours for visitors. Sample a flight of wines or beers and learn about the brewing process from the experts themselves.

Whether you’re a foodie or just looking to try something new, Salem offers a variety of culinary experiences to satisfy every palate. So come hungry and get ready to taste the best of local cuisine!

Take a Tour of Wineries

One of the most popular activities in Salem, Oregon is taking a tour of the area’s wineries. Salem is located in the heart of Oregon wine country, and there are numerous vineyards and wineries to explore. Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or just enjoy a good glass of vino, a winery tour is a must-do when visiting Salem.

During a winery tour, you’ll have the opportunity to sample a variety of wines made from locally grown grapes. From pinot noir to chardonnay, there’s a wine to suit every palate. Many wineries offer guided tours that take you through the vineyards, production facilities, and tasting rooms. You’ll learn about the winemaking process, from grape to bottle, and get to meet the passionate winemakers themselves.

Salem’s wineries are known for their scenic beauty, with rows of grapevines stretching out against the backdrop of rolling hills. Some wineries even have outdoor seating areas where you can sip your wine while taking in the breathtaking views. It’s the perfect opportunity to relax and enjoy the peacefulness of the countryside.

In addition to wine tasting, many wineries offer other amenities such as live music, food pairings, and special events. Some wineries host vineyard picnics where you can bring your own food and enjoy a leisurely meal with a bottle of your favorite wine. Others have on-site restaurants or food trucks where you can grab a bite to eat.

If you’re not sure which wineries to visit, consider joining a wine tour or hiring a driver for the day. This way, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the wine without worrying about navigation. It’s also a great way to meet fellow wine enthusiasts and learn from their experiences.

Whether you’re a seasoned sommelier or a casual wine drinker, a tour of Salem’s wineries is an experience you won’t want to miss. Sample some of the region’s finest wines, soak in the stunning scenery, and indulge in the relaxed atmosphere that wine country offers. Cheers!

Shop at Local Boutiques

Salem is home to a variety of unique boutiques offering an array of stylish and one-of-a-kind merchandise. Whether you’re looking for clothing, accessories, home decor, or gifts, you’ll find something special at these local shops:

  • Lulu’s Vintage – Step back in time at Lulu’s Vintage, a charming boutique that specializes in vintage clothing and accessories. Browse through their carefully curated selection and discover timeless pieces that are sure to make a statement.
  • Cherry City Interiors & Design – If you’re in search of home decor and furnishings, look no further than Cherry City Interiors & Design. This boutique offers a wide range of stylish and high-quality furniture, lighting, and home accessories to help you create the perfect living space.
  • Paper Tigress – Paper Tigress is a must-stop destination for stationery enthusiasts. This boutique carries a wide range of unique and beautifully designed cards, notebooks, and journals, perfect for keeping your life organized or for sending heartfelt messages to loved ones.
  • Willamette Valley Jewelers – Whether you’re searching for a special piece of jewelry or need expert jewelry repairs, Willamette Valley Jewelers has you covered. This boutique offers a stunning selection of fine jewelry, including rings, necklaces, earrings, and bracelets.
  • Brush & Hammer – Art lovers will appreciate the creativity found at Brush & Hammer. This boutique showcases the work of local artists, offering a wide range of unique paintings, ceramics, and handmade decor items. Stop by and take home a piece of Salem’s vibrant art scene.

Make sure to explore these local boutiques and support Salem’s thriving small business community while finding treasures to take home with you.

Explore Art Galleries

Salem, Oregon, offers a vibrant arts scene with a variety of art galleries showcasing works by local and regional artists. Whether you are an art enthusiast or simply appreciate creativity, exploring the art galleries in Salem is a must-do activity.

One of the top art galleries in Salem is the Bush Barn Art Center, located in the historic Bush’s Pasture Park. This gallery features rotating exhibitions of contemporary art in various mediums, including painting, sculpture, and photography. The Bush Barn Art Center also hosts workshops, lectures, and other educational events for art lovers of all ages.

Another notable art gallery to visit is the Elsinore Gallery. Situated in a charming historic building, this gallery specializes in showcasing local and regional artists. From traditional oil paintings to abstract mixed-media pieces, the Elsinore Gallery offers a diverse range of artwork to admire and purchase.

If you are interested in exploring modern and contemporary art, be sure to visit The Verum Ultimum Art Gallery. This gallery focuses on showcasing works by emerging and established artists from around the Pacific Northwest. With its edgy and thought-provoking exhibitions, The Verum Ultimum Art Gallery is a must-visit for art enthusiasts seeking innovative and boundary-pushing artwork.

For those interested in Native American art, the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute is a must-see. This cultural center and museum not only features exhibitions of Native American artwork but also provides insights into the rich history and culture of the indigenous peoples of the region. From traditional beadwork to contemporary paintings, the Tamastslikt Cultural Institute offers a fascinating glimpse into the diverse artistic traditions of Native American artists.

Exploring the art galleries in Salem, Oregon, is a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the creativity and talent of the local and regional artists. Whether you are looking to admire artwork, purchase a unique piece for your collection, or simply gain a deeper appreciation for art, the art galleries in Salem have something to offer for everyone.

Take a Cruise on Willamette River

One of the best ways to experience the beauty of Salem, Oregon is by taking a cruise on the Willamette River. The river winds its way through the heart of the city and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes.

There are several companies that offer river cruises, allowing you to sit back, relax, and enjoy the scenery. Many of these cruises are narrated, providing you with interesting facts and historical information about the area. Some even offer dinner cruises, where you can enjoy a delicious meal while floating along the river.

During the cruise, you will have the opportunity to see a variety of wildlife, including birds, turtles, and maybe even a river otter. The quiet and peaceful atmosphere of the river makes it a perfect place for nature enthusiasts to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Aside from the natural beauty, the Willamette River also offers a unique view of the city itself. You will pass by historic buildings, parks, and the downtown area, giving you a different perspective on Salem. It’s a great way to see the city from a new angle.

Company

Contact

Willamette Queen 555-555-5555
Blue Heron Cruises 555-555-5555
Staump River Cruises 555-555-5555

If you’re planning a visit to Salem, be sure to consider taking a cruise on the Willamette River. It’s a unique and memorable experience that allows you to see the beauty of the city and surrounding nature all in one trip.

Visit Willamette Valley Vineyards

When visiting Salem, Oregon, a trip to Willamette Valley Vineyards is a must for wine enthusiasts. Located just a short drive from the city, this renowned winery offers a beautiful setting, world-class wines, and a memorable experience.

Willamette Valley Vineyards is known for its commitment to sustainable winemaking practices and its dedication to producing high-quality wines. The vineyard covers over 200 acres of picturesque land, with stunning views of the Willamette Valley and the Cascade Mountains.

Visitors can take a guided tour of the vineyard, where they will learn about the winemaking process and the history of Willamette Valley Vineyards. The tour includes a stroll through the vineyard, a visit to the cellars, and a tasting of some of their award-winning wines.

After the tour, guests can relax on the outdoor patio or in the tasting room, where they can purchase bottles of their favorite wines or try a flight of different varieties. The tasting room also offers a selection of local cheeses and charcuterie, perfect for pairing with the wines.

In addition to wine tasting, Willamette Valley Vineyards hosts various events throughout the year, including concerts, wine pairing dinners, and wine club member exclusive events. These events are a great way to experience the vineyard’s wines in a fun and lively atmosphere.

Location Hours Contact
8800 Enchanted Way SE, Turner, OR 97392 Monday – Sunday: 11am – 6pm Phone: (503) 588-9463

Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or simply appreciate the beauty of the Willamette Valley, a visit to Willamette Valley Vineyards is a must. Don’t miss the opportunity to taste exceptional wines and immerse yourself in Oregon’s wine culture.

Attend a Performance at the Historic Elsinore Theatre

If you’re looking for a cultural experience during your time in Salem, Oregon, be sure to attend a performance at the historic Elsinore Theatre. This stunning venue, located in the heart of downtown Salem, offers a variety of live performances including Broadway shows, concerts, dance recitals, and more.

The Elsinore Theatre was built in 1926 and has since become a beloved landmark in the city. Its majestic Spanish Renaissance architecture and beautifully restored interior transport visitors back to a bygone era of elegance and grandeur.

Inside the theatre, you’ll find a spacious auditorium with seating for over 1,200 people. The stage is adorned with intricate details and features top-of-the-line sound and lighting equipment, ensuring a memorable and immersive experience for all attendees.

The Elsinore Theatre hosts a diverse range of performances throughout the year, catering to all tastes and interests. Whether you’re a fan of musicals, plays, classical music, or even comedy acts, you’re sure to find something that piques your interest on their calendar.

Attending a performance at the Elsinore Theatre is not only a great way to enjoy world-class entertainment, but it also supports the local arts community. The theatre is a non-profit organization and relies on the support of patrons and donors to continue bringing exceptional performances to the Salem community.

Before or after your visit to the Elsinore Theatre, be sure to explore the nearby downtown area, which boasts a charming mix of shops, restaurants, and historic sites. You can also take a stroll along the beautiful Willamette River, located just a short distance from the theatre.

So, if you’re a fan of the arts or simply looking for a memorable night out in Salem, make sure to attend a performance at the historic Elsinore Theatre. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget.

Explore the Outdoors at Silver Falls State Park

When visiting Salem, Oregon, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the beautiful outdoors at Silver Falls State Park. Located just a short drive from Salem, this breathtaking park offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in nature and take in stunning natural landscapes.

One of the main highlights of Silver Falls State Park is the Trail of Ten Falls, a famous hiking trail that takes you past ten magnificent waterfalls. The trail covers a distance of about eight miles and is a moderate-level hike suitable for most visitors. As you make your way along the trail, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the cascading waterfalls, lush greenery, and tranquil pools.

For those who prefer a more relaxed outdoor experience, Silver Falls State Park also offers picnic areas, perfect for enjoying a meal amidst the picturesque surroundings. There are also numerous viewpoints and observation decks throughout the park where you can sit back, relax, and take in the natural beauty.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also try your hand at mountain biking or horseback riding on the park’s designated trails. With over 35 miles of trails to explore, there is something for everyone, from beginners to experienced riders.

Aside from its natural beauty, Silver Falls State Park also boasts a rich history. The park features several historic buildings, including the South Falls Lodge, which was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. The lodge now serves as a visitor center and offers educational exhibits on the park’s history and wildlife.

Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or simply looking for a peaceful place to relax and unwind, Silver Falls State Park is a must-visit destination in Salem, Oregon. With its breathtaking waterfalls, lush greenery, and diverse outdoor activities, you’re sure to create unforgettable memories at this stunning natural gem.

FAQs

What are some of the top attractions in Salem, OR?

Some of the top attractions in Salem, OR include the Oregon State Capitol, the Willamette Heritage Center, the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, and the Deepwood Estate.

What is there to do in Salem, OR for families?

In Salem, OR, there are many family-friendly activities to enjoy. You can visit the Enchanted Forest Theme Park, explore the Salem Riverfront Park, or have fun at the Gilbert House Children’s Museum.

Are there any outdoor activities in Salem, OR?

Yes, Salem, OR offers numerous outdoor activities. You can go hiking or picnicking at Silver Falls State Park, enjoy boating or fishing at the Detroit Lake Recreation Area, or explore the scenic Riverfront Park.

Are there any historical attractions in Salem, OR?

Yes, Salem, OR has several historical attractions. The Oregon State Capitol is a must-visit, as well as the Willamette Heritage Center, which showcases the history of the Willamette Valley. The Deepwood Estate is another historic site worth exploring.

Can you recommend any cultural attractions in Salem, OR?

Certainly! The Hallie Ford Museum of Art is a great place to experience the local art scene. The Elsinore Theatre is another cultural attraction, known for its impressive architecture and live performances. The Historic Grand Theatre is also worth a visit.

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Caroline Lascom

Caroline is a seasoned travel writer and editor, passionate about exploring the world. She currently edits captivating travel content at TravelAsker, having previously contributed her exceptional skills to well-known travel guidebooks like Frommer’s, Rough Guides, Footprint, and Fodor’s. Caroline holds a bachelor's degree in Latin American studies from Manchester University (UK) and a master's degree in literature from Northwestern University. Having traveled to 67 countries, her journeys have fueled her love for storytelling and sharing the world's wonders.

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