Salem is set in the picturesque Willamette Valley in Oregon, one of the most fertile agricultural regions of the United States. A richly diverse cultural city, Salem has a historic downtown, state capitol, and several museums. Visitors can explore the beautiful gardens in this city, hike through ancient forests, or visit a charming hilltop abbey. Here are the best things to do in Salem, Oregon.
1.Oregon State Capitol
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The Oregon State Capitol is the third building housing the government, as the previous two were destroyed by fire. This building is finished in marble on the exterior and interior. Admire the four murals that line the interior of the rotunda and the Oregon Pioneer on top of the building. Visitors can climb up 121 spiral steps to admire this figure that represents the spirit of Oregon’s early settlers.
The grounds outside the capitol have breathtaking artwork. Sit beside one of the many fountains, and admire the state tree and the state flower that add charm to this space.
900 Court St. NE, Salem, OR 97301, 503-986-1388
2.Salem's Riverfront Carousel
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Salem’s Riverfront Carousel was inspired by a visit to Missoula Montana carousel by its creator Hazel Patton. Looking out over the Riverfront Park to the waterway, this is a perfect location for the whole family. This carousel celebrates the farming heritage of Salem.
Notice the intricately carved scenes on the carousel and the beautiful decorations on the horses and wagons in which local woodcarvers and artists have illustrated the history of this region. This is an exhilarating experience as the organ music begins and the carousel starts its magical journey.
101 front st ne, Salem, OR 97301, 503-540-0374
3. Enchanted Forest Theme Park, Salem, Oregon
© Enchanted Forest Theme Park
The vision of Roger Tofte, Enchanted Forest Theme Park was inaugurated in 1971. This park covers over 20 acres of rides, and offers entertainment for the whole family, including dining and shopping.
Children will enjoy a stroll through Storybook Lane as they see their favorite characters come to life, including Alice in Wonderland and Humpty Dumpty. The comedy theater offers hilarious shows, and visitors will be fascinated by the Ice Mountain Bobsledge Roller Coaster, Haunted House, the Kiddie Ferris Wheel, and the Tiny Tune Train.
8462 Enchanted Way SE, Turner, OR 97392, 503-371-4242
4.Things to Do in Salem: Deepwood Museum & Gardens
© Deepwood Museum
Deepwood Museum & Gardens is a charming Queen Anne Victorian Home that was built in 1894. The estate stands on about 4 acres of beautifully manicured gardens and nature trails that offer breathtaking views of downtown Salem.
Deepwood Estate is on the National Register of Historic Homes. Visitors will enjoy the panoramic scenery, the well-laid out Victorian style garden, and the Fry Stein Nature Trail. Explore the grounds and take a demonstration at the compost recycling area, or just relax on the numerous benches on this property.
1116 Mission St SE, Salem, OR 97302, 503-363-1825
5.E.Z. Orchards Farm Market, Salem, Oregon
© E.Z. Orchards Farm Market
E. Z Orchards is one of the most productive agricultural farms in Willamette Valley. This region is blessed with rich soil, abundant water, and perfect climatic conditions. Peaches, apples, pears, hazelnuts, and vegetables are sold directly to the public through the Farm Market, while the rest is sent to packing houses and processors.
The market also displays different local agricultural products, local cheese, milk, and preserves. Visitors visiting in October can celebrate the annual Harvestfest. Pick a pumpkin, visit the petting zoo, go horse riding, or enter the corn maze.
5504 Hazel Green Rd. NE, Salem, OR 97305, 503-393-1506
6.The Hallie Ford Museum of Art
© The Hallie Ford Museum of Art
The Hallie Ford Museum of Art was opened by Willamette University with the support of Hallie Ford and The Ford Family Foundation in 1998. The museum’s collection contains a wide variety of donated art including early 1900’s Native American Baskets, Mark Sponenburgh’s collection of approximately 250 European and Asian pieces, as well as works from local Oregon artists.
Since its opening, the museum has become a highly valued intellectual and cultural resource for Willamette University’s liberal arts program as well as the City of Salem and the surrounding region. Visitors can participate in educational tours, gallery talks, and adult only docent-guided tours.
700 State Street, Salem OR 97301, 503-370-6855
7.Reed Opera House, Salem, Oregon
© Reed Opera House
Built in 1869 by Cyrus Adams Reed, Reed Opera House has always an important part of Salem’s cultural life. After recent renovations, the opera house now includes various locally owned shops, restaurants, bars and bakeries as well as professional offices. With everything from a soap boutique and beauty salon, to a tattoo shop and soup shack, visitors can spend an entire day exploring a wide variety of eclectic options found no-where else.
The Trinity Ballroom provides an elegant historic setting for weddings, proms, conferences, and social gatherings while Cyrus Reed Theater houses The Verona Studio, a powerful black-box theatre experience.
189 Liberty St NE, Salem, OR 97301, 503-391-4481
8.Things to Do in Salem: The Willamette Heritage Center
© The Willamette Heritage Center
The Willametter Heritage Center at Salem aims to connect the history of this region’s diverse communities through stories. Take a journey back in time to Oregon’s early pioneers. This scenic center covers 5 acres; admire the beautiful gardens, pioneer buildings, and museums.
The Methodist Parsonage (1841), the Jason Lee House (1841), an old Presbyterian church (1858), and the Mission Mill Museum have all been restored and maintained. Visitors will enjoy seeing the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill that was built in 1889 and was powered by a mill race or a water way and it still runs through the grounds.
1313 Mill St SE, Salem, OR 97301, 503-585-7012
9.Minto-Brown Island Park, Salem, Oregon
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Minto-Brown Island Park is a park that borders the east bank of the Willamette River in Salem; it has more than 1,200 acres of lush forest and open area.
Visitors will enjoy the 19 miles of trails that are open for walking and biking through grassy meadows and native trees.
The observation platforms let visitors get a glimpse of birds such as waterfowls and other wetland creatures.
This park has paved bikeways, a paddle boat zone, and a number of fishing spots.
2200 Minto Island Rd SW, Salem, OR 97302, 503-588-6336
10. Gilbert House Children's Museum
© Photo by Ron Cooper/Gilbert House Children's Museum
Gilbert House Children’s Museum is located in downtown Salem’s Riverfront Park. This non-profit children’s museum was founded in 1989 to help ignite children’s natural curiosity through simulative and innovative educational experiences. The motto of this museum is to make children learn through a creative manner.
Visitors can join the different camps that are scheduled throughout the year, explore the exhibits, and other outreach programs in arts, humanities, and sciences. This museum maintains three historic houses; do visit the Gilbert House, Rockenfield House, and Parrish House.
116 Marion St NE Salem, OR 97301, 503-371-3631
11.OSH Museum, Salem, Oregon
© OSH Museum
The Oregon State Hospital Museum of Mental Health spans over 2,500 square feet dedicated to educating and enlightening visitors about the hospitals history and the stories of the people who lived and worked there. As a private non-profit, the museum is run by volunteers and supported by individual donations as well as government grants.
Permanent exhibits include The Treatment Room, examining the evolution of sometimes controversial therapy protocols and The World Below, exploring the hospital’s extensive network of underground tunnels. The museum also features artifacts from when the hospital was used as the filming location for the movie “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.
2600 Center St NE, Salem, OR 97301, 971-599-1674
12. Willamette Valley Pie Company
© Willamette Valley Pie Company
Willamette Valley Pie Company is a family-owned business by the Gerald Roth family of Salem. They began in 1999 in a backyard warehouse as a small cannery style operation, but shortly became one of the Northwest’s leaders in processed berry products.
Raspberries, boysenberries, blueberries, cranberries, blackberries and the local Marion berries are flash frozen or pureed. Visit their retail store that serves freshly baked pies using their fruit, or indulge in a milkshake, ice cream, or smoothie. They have family activities each spring at their facility that add a festive spirit to the season.
2994, 82ND AVE NE Salem OR, 97305, 503-362-8857
13.Honeywood Winery, Salem, Oregon
© Honeywood Winery
Founded in 1934 by Ron Honeyman and John Wood, Honeywood Winery is the oldest producing winery in Oregon. Being located minutes away from world-renowned vineyards and orchards allows Honeywood to produce a full line of premium vinifera wines, as well as an extensive list of fruit and specialty wines.
Customers can join the monthly wine club for discounts and recipes or purchase a bottle from the Dog Gone Wine line which raises money for animal shelters and rescues. The winery is open seven days a week for complimentary wine tastings and features a gourmet gift shop with Oregon food products and wine accessories.
1350 Hines St SE, Salem, OR 97302, 503-362-4111
More vacation ideas: 25 Best Things to Do in Bend, Oregon.
14.Things to Do in Salem: Willamette Mission State Park
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Willamette Mission State Park was originally the site of the first mission for Native Americans in the West. Ghost structures represent the original buildings from the Methodist Mission founded by Reverend Jason Lee in 1834. The park also features the Nation’s Largest Black Cottonwood tree that is estimated to be over 250 years old.
With Mission Lake, 16 miles of multi-use trails, and the Willamette River, Willamette Mission State Park offers the opportunity for hiking, boating, fishing, and horseback-riding. A perfect picnic spot, the park boasts electricity, restrooms, barbecues, tables, and water faucets. Reservations can also be made for volleyball, horseshoes, softball, and soccer.
10991 Wheatland Rd NE, Gervais, OR 97026, 800-551-6949
15.Bethel Heights Vineyard, Salem, Oregon
© Bethel Heights Vineyard
Bethel Heights is a family owned and operated vineyard nestled in the Eola Hills of Willamette Valley, home of the New World Pinot Noir. With over 100 planted acres, they produce 13,000 cases per year from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Riesling grapes. Bethel Heights has a strong focus on sustainability and is certified Salmon Safe as well as LIVE Certified Sustainable and Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine.
The vineyard offers public and private tastings along with three different club memberships. Co-founder Marilyn Webb is the resident Chef who uses her passion for fresh seasonal food to create a collection of perfect wine pairing recipes.
6060 Bethel Heights Road NW, Salem, OR 97304, 503-581-2262
16.Bush House Museum, Salem, Oregon
© Salem Art Association Photo
The Bush House Museum was built by Asahel Bush II in 1877 and was inhabited Bush Family members until 1953 when ownership was transferred to the City of Salem. Located in Bush’s Pasture Park, it is open from March to December and offers visitors the chance to learn about the lives and legacy of the famous family.
The house features original light fixtures, central heating vents, plumbing features, and other iconic 19th century furnishings. Tours are docent-led and visitors can call ahead to schedule group, school, or private tours. The 90-acre park also includes a conservatory, art center, walking trails, and a rose garden.
600 Mission St SE, Salem, OR 97302, 503-363-4714
17.Cristom Vineyards, Salem, OR
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Through the collaboration of engineering, biochemistry, and farming, Cristom Vineyards has created a unique winemaking style that is visionary and old-fashioned. LIVE Certified Sustainable, they utilize native yeasts already found on grapes and ferment with whole clusters. High-density low yield planting makes for the most concentrated flavors from four different pinot vineyards that each honor family matriarchs.
Producing mainly Pinot Noirs, they feature three Cuvee Blends as well as a Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Syrah. The tasting room offers standard or private, guided tastings, and four different Cellar Club memberships. Visitors coming from Portland can take a scenic route to the vineyard via the Wheatland Ferry.
6905 Spring Valley Road NW, Salem, OR 97304, 503-375-3068
18.Things to Do in Salem: Pentacle Theatre
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Nestled in a stand of Oak and Douglas Fir, the Pentacle Theatre has been producing professional-quality live theatre for over 60 years. This is a volunteer, non-profit, community company that covers a wide range of theatrical styles. This rustic, cozy, and comfortable playhouse has put on more than 560 plays and musicals. It is open year round and rotates through one play at a time.
The theater also offers an acting class and scholarships for students pursuing higher education and the arts. With a three-year plan focusing on community connections, infrastructure, and production value, the company aims to be a significant cultural resource in Salem.
324 52nd Ave NW Salem, OR 97304, 503-485-4300
19.Salem Saturday Market, Salem, OR
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The Salem Saturday Market is a vibrant gathering place for everyone in the Willamette Valley. The market has provided local growers, producers of prepared foods, and artisans the opportunity to market their products directly to the consumer since 1998. Vendors can only sell products that are handmade, hand-grown, cooked, or crafted by the vendor themselves.
All products are evaluated by a jury of peers before being sold at market in order to ensure the highest quality food, plants, and crafts. Markets run April to September with one holiday market in December and feature live entertainment, demonstrations, and special events.
865 Marion St SE, Salem, OR 97301, 503-585-8264
© Salem Center
Salem Center is an enclosed, dog-friendly mall in downtown Salem. With 80 stores and a food court, the mall features five sky bridges to connect the multiple buildings located on both sides of Center Street. The four anchor stores are Macy’s, JC Penney, Kohl’s, and Nordstrom, which are accompanied by other mall staples such as Bath and Body Works, American Eagle Outfitters, and ROSS.
Food options range from sandwiches, pretzels, and smoothies to sushi, chocolate, and burgers. Salem Center is open seven days a week and the City of Salem provides 3,500 free customer parking spaces on the street and in parkades.
401 Center Street NE, Salem, OR 97301, 503-364-0495
21.Historic Elsinore Theatre, Salem, OR
© Historic Elsinore Theatre
Historic Elsinore Theatre had its first show on May 28, 1926. It is one among the last remaining examples of a Tudor Gothic Theatre. Named from Shakespeare’s immortal tragedy, “Hamlet”, this theater has a design inspired from the historic Elsinore Castle in Denmark.
Visitors are sure to be impressed with the majestic lobby and the intricately decorated ceilings and framing around the stage. Elsinore Theatre has 1,300 seats and their events range from classical shows to, Broadway, ballet and even rock. By entering this theater, visitors will be transported to a bygone era of opulence.
170 High St SE, Salem, OR 97301, 503-375-3574
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Ankeny Vineyard was started in 1980 by owner Joe Olexa and has evolved into 35 acres of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Marechal Foch grapes that overlook the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge. The vineyards location on the southernmost slopes of the Salem Hills makes for early ripening, uniquely flavored grapes while small hand-crafted batches have earned Ankeny an extensive list of awards and accolades.
The winery is open Friday through Sunday for tastings and features a food menu with pizza, salads and desserts. A Wine Club membership allows you deep bottle discounts along with complimentary tastings and admission to the vineyards special events.
23.Santiam Brewing, Salem, OR
© Santiam Brewing
Santiam Brewing is a 10-barrel brewery and tasting room located in a corner industrial unit and open seven days a week. Featuring 15 Santiam Brewing craft beers on tap, the brewery also boasts a dedicated cask bar that is kept at premium cellar temperature.
While most modern beer is cleared of yeast after fermentation, Santiam’s four rotating cask ales are unfiltered and unpasteurized living “real ales” that are naturally fermented and served using authentic draught engines. Throughout the year, Santiam will also periodically release barrel aged beers such as their Pirate Stout that is partly aged in once used Rogue Distillery Dark Rum barrels.
2544 19th St SE, Salem, OR 97302, 503-689-1260
24.Things to Do in Salem: Balloon Flying Service of Oregon
© Balloon Flying Service of Oregon
Balloon Flying Services of Oregon has been providing scenic hot air balloon rides over the cities of Salem and Keizer since 1989. Offering customers a chance to experience the oldest form of air transportation known to man, rides are scheduled daily and last approximately one hour. Customers can choose from a standard flight with a pilot plus four or five passengers, or opt for something more private with the Romance Flight.
Balloon Flying Service also offers in-flight weddings and can accommodate a private launch site of the customers choosing. Rides are weather-permitting to maintain the company’s perfect safety record.
930 Chemawa Road NE, Keizer, OR 97303, 503-363-9799
25.Willamette Queen Sternwheeler, Salem, Oregon
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The Willamette Queen brings life back to the Willamette River where sternwheelers were once the main mode of transportation. The 87 foot, 86 ton, twin paddle-wheeler was built as a scaled down likeness of the former Mississippi and Yukon Territory Riverboats. Operating year-round, it departs from Riverfront Park in downtown Salem and reaches full-capacity at 90 people.
The Willamette Queen features a full service bar and solid oak dance floor and is captained by owner Richard Chesbrough. Ticket options include a mid-day lunch cruise, gourmet dinner cruise, Sunday brunch, or one hour excursion. The boat can also be reserved for weddings and other special events.
PO Box 5896, Salem, OR 97304, 503-371-1103
25 Best Things to Do in Salem, Oregon
- Oregon State Capitol, Photo: Courtesy of jpldesigns - Fotolia.com
- Salem's Riverfront Carousel, Photo: Courtesy of stanciuc - Fotolia.com
- Enchanted Forest Theme Park, Salem, Oregon, Photo: Enchanted Forest Theme Park
- Things to Do in Salem: Deepwood Museum & Gardens, Photo: Deepwood Museum
- E.Z. Orchards Farm Market, Salem, Oregon, Photo: E.Z. Orchards Farm Market
- The Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Photo: The Hallie Ford Museum of Art
- Reed Opera House, Salem, Oregon, Photo: Reed Opera House
- Things to Do in Salem: The Willamette Heritage Center, Photo: The Willamette Heritage Center
- Minto-Brown Island Park, Salem, Oregon, Photo: Courtesy of fotobieshutterb - Fotolia.com
- Gilbert House Children's Museum, Photo: Photo by Ron Cooper/Gilbert House Children's Museum
- OSH Museum, Salem, Oregon, Photo: OSH Museum
- Willamette Valley Pie Company, Photo: Willamette Valley Pie Company
- Honeywood Winery, Salem, Oregon, Photo: Honeywood Winery
- Things to Do in Salem: Willamette Mission State Park, Photo: Courtesy of Gabriele Rohde - Fotolia.com
- Bethel Heights Vineyard, Salem, Oregon, Photo: Bethel Heights Vineyard
- Bush House Museum, Salem, Oregon, Photo: Salem Art Association Photo
- Cristom Vineyards, Salem, OR, Photo: Courtesy of francis bonami - Fotolia.com
- Things to Do in Salem: Pentacle Theatre, Photo: Courtesy of Bjorn Wylezich - Fotolia.com
- Salem Saturday Market, Salem, OR, Photo: Courtesy of cascoly2 - Fotolia.com
- Salem Center, Photo: Salem Center
- Historic Elsinore Theatre, Salem, OR, Photo: Historic Elsinore Theatre
- Ankeny Vineyard, Photo: Courtesy of eliasbilly - Fotolia.com
- Santiam Brewing, Salem, OR, Photo: Santiam Brewing
- Things to Do in Salem: Balloon Flying Service of Oregon, Photo: Balloon Flying Service of Oregon
- Willamette Queen Sternwheeler, Salem, Oregon, Photo: Courtesy of Jorg Hackemann - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of jpldesigns - Fotolia.com