Not to be confused with the town in Massachusetts that saw the infamous Salem Witch Trials, the city of Salem, Oregon, sits on the other side of the country. Salem is in the stunning Willamette Valley between Eugene and Portland. Although it isn’t the largest city in the state, it’s the capital, so there are plenty of things to do in Salem, Oregon.
Whether you’re a fan of the outdoors, a history buff, or a wine connoisseur, you’ll find something to keep you happy in this peaceful city. Highlights include farmer’s markets, a flower farm, museums and state parks. So tick these things to do in Salem off your to-do list.
- Salem, Oregon
- 20 Things To Do In Salem, Oregon
- 1- Go To The EZE.Z. Orchards Farm Market
- 2- Visit The Oregon State Capitol Building
- 3- See Waterfalls At Silver Falls State Park
- 4- Go To Riverfront City Park
- 5- Spend A Day At The Reed Opera House
- 6- Learn About History At The Willamette Heritage Center
- 7- Take A Day Trip To Mount Hood
- 8- Check Out The Flowers At Schreiner’s Iris Gardens
- 9- Fish At Saint Louis Fish Ponds County Park
- 10- Golf At McNary Golf Club
- 11- Go To The Enchanted Forest Theme Park
- 12- Play Disc Golf At Cascades Gateway City Park
- 13- Visit The Hallie Ford Museum Of Art
- 14- Catch A Show At Elsinore Theatre
- 15- Check Out The Gilbert House Children’s Museum
- 16- Go To The Oregon State Fair
- 17- See Fascinating Fauna At Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge
- 18- Bike Through Minto-Brown Island Park
- 19- Visit A Vineyard
- 20- Picnic At Willamette Mission State Park
- 20 Things To Do In Salem, Oregon
20 Things To Do In Salem, Oregon
1- Go To The EZE.Z. Orchards Farm Market
The EZE.Z. Orchards Farm Market has been held since 1929, making it a long-standing Salem tradition.
The market features local produce, plus stands that sell fresh doughnuts, cider, and shortcake.
Every October, the market also hosts HarvestFest, a joyous autumnal festival that features a pumpkin patch, hayrides and a corn maze.
Unlike most farmers’ markets, EZE.Z. Orchards is open six days a week.
The EZE.Z. Orchards Farm Market is at 5504 Hazelgreen Rd NE, Salem, OR 97305.
2- Visit The Oregon State Capitol Building
When visiting the capital city of Oregon, going to the Oregon State Capitol Building is a must.
In addition to its beautiful architecture, the building features the Capitol History Gateway Exhibits.
These exhibits demonstrate the ways that ordinary citizens have impacted Oregon’s legislation.
You can join a historical tour of the building of the tower, or you can go on a self-guided tour with the help of a brochure from the information kiosk.
The Oregon State Capitol is at 900 Court St NE, Salem, OR 97301.
3- See Waterfalls At Silver Falls State Park
Oregon’s largest state park, Silver Falls State Park, is 20 miles (32 km) southeast of Salem and covers over 9,000 acres (3,642 ha).
With more than 35 miles (56 km) of backcountry trails, you can go hiking, horseback riding, or mountain biking while you take in the views around you.
What truly makes Silver Falls unique, of course, is its abundance of beautiful waterfalls.
You can check out the 177-foot (54-metre) tall South Falls, the most visited waterfall in the park, or Double Falls, the highest waterfall at Silver Falls.
The park includes the South Falls day-use area, which offers barbeque stands, picnic tables, shelters, lush lawns and a playground.
Silver Falls State Park is at 20024 Silver Falls Hwy SE, Sublimity, OR 97385.
4- Go To Riverfront City Park
In the heart of the city beside the Willamette River, Riverfront City Park is a family-friendly park with plenty of space and amenities.
There are paved walking paths for cyclists, walkers and joggers. You’ll find benches, picnic tables and water fountains along the outer way.
There’s an ice skating rink from November to February, providing opportunities for even more fun.
The most iconic feature of Riverfront City Park is its finely crafted carousel, one of the top things to visit in Salem.
Riverfront City Park is at 200 Water St NE, Salem, OR 97301.
5- Spend A Day At The Reed Opera House
Built in 1870, the Reed Opera House is an artistic and cultural marketplace located in a four-story historic building.
It houses various shops, services and restaurants, making it an ideal destination to spend an entire day.
Stores include beauty boutiques, a lively plant store, clothing shops, tattoo parlours and art stores.
In between shopping, you can grab a bite at a sushi bar, a pub, a coffee shop or a grill restaurant.
And, of course, given the history of the building, spend time learning about the Reed Opera House itself.
The Reed Opera House is at 189 Liberty St NE, Salem, OR 97301.
6- Learn About History At The Willamette Heritage Center
Another fantastic place to learn about the area’s history is the Willamette Heritage Center.
This centre collects and preserves generations of artefacts and historical items dating back to the 1840s.
Here, visitors can learn about early settlers, missionaries and immigrants who moved into the Willamette Valley.
The Willamette Heritage Center features both permanent and temporary exhibits.
Permanent exhibits include the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill and three of the oldest Pacific Northwest frame houses still standing today.
The special temporary exhibits rotate constantly, but they always highlight a fascinating feature of the area’s history.
The Willamette Heritage Center is at 1313 Mill St SE, Salem, OR 97301.
7- Take A Day Trip To Mount Hood
The famous 11,250-foot (3,429m) tall Mount Hood is Oregon’s tallest mountain.
The stratovolcano also offers the only year-round skiing served by lifts on the continent.
The mountain is home to multiple ski resorts: Mt. Hood Meadows, Timberline Lodge and Ski Area, and Mt. Hood Skibowl.
So, it’s no surprise that Mount Hood is a wonderful ski and snowboard destination.
Whether you’re an expert or a complete beginner, you’ll find plenty of ski runs to suit your skills.
If you’re not into skiing or snowboarding, you can hike the many trails, mountain bike, go kayaking, or visit an adventure park during the summer months.
Either season, it’s best to spend a whole day at Mount Hood.
Mount Hood is a two-hour drive northeast of Salem.
8- Check Out The Flowers At Schreiner’s Iris Gardens
Schreiner’s Iris Gardens is a plant nursery that grows and sells unique and hybrid irises.
During the month of May, visit their vivid iris gardens, which display more than 500 vibrant variations and other exquisite perennial flowers, such as Iceland poppies, lupine, allium and delphinium.
The gardens include picnic tables, benches and grass paths.
Photographers and artists are welcome to photograph, draw, and paint in the gardens.
Schreiner’s also hosts an artist fair during the garden’s open season so visitors can enjoy and purchase pieces from local artists.
Schreiner’s Iris Gardens is at 3625 Quinaby Rd NE, Salem, OR 97303.
9- Fish At Saint Louis Fish Ponds County Park
If you love to fish, Saint Louis Ponds County Park is the place to be.
The 260-acre (105-ha) park is made up of a network of waterways that are similar to canals.
The waterways are accessible by a system of paved walking paths, making it the perfect destination for fishing.
The ponds, which are open year-round, include more than 7 miles (11.2 km) of shoreline for bank fishing.
There are various types of fish in the Saint Louis Fish Ponds, including largemouth bass, green sunfish, bluegill, crappie and channel catfish.
Two of the ponds are stocked with rainbow trout during the spring.
Saint Louis Fish Ponds County Park is at 6483 Keene Rd NE, Gervais, OR 97026.
10- Golf At McNary Golf Club
McNary Golf Club encompasses 150 acres (60.7 ha) of meadows, perfect for golf lovers.
The course is open to the public and has impeccable greens, fairways and lakes.
The fairways are lined with redwoods, walnut trees, oaks, pines and firs.
The course is a 6,229-yard par-71 championship, making it quite the challenge.
With two sets of combination tees and four tee choices, you can ensure that you’ll play according to your abilities.
The course’s signature hole is the 567-yard par-5 18th, which slopes toward a lake on one side and winds past trees on the other.
McNary Golf Club is at 155 McNary Estates Dr N, Keizer, OR 97303.
11- Go To The Enchanted Forest Theme Park
The family-owned and family-created Enchanted Forest is a quirky theme park that is truly one of Oregon’s gems.
The park features plenty of rides, attractions, and activities for a day in this magical destination.
Storybook Lane is one of the most iconic attractions, the first area built at the Enchanted Forest.
The journey takes you through the trees, where you crawl through Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole, check out the gingerbread house from Hansel and Gretel, and slide down the Old Lady Who Lived In The Shoe slide.
Other great attractions include the Tofteville Western Town, the Old European Village and the Fantasy Fountains water and light show.
The Enchanted Forest has plenty of rides, too, from the classic carousel to the Big Timber Log Ride; there’s plenty to do at this unique theme park.
The Enchanted Forest is at 8462 Enchanted Way SE, Turner, OR 97392.
12- Play Disc Golf At Cascades Gateway City Park
Cascades Gateway City Park is a large urban park that makes for a day of peaceful relaxation.
It covers just over 100 acres (40 ha) of land that encompasses natural areas, well-developed paths, and views of Walter Wirth Lake.
But if you’re looking for something a bit more exciting to do at Cascades Gateway, you can put the 18-hole disc golf course to use.
The course is quite open, and it’s appropriate for players of all levels.
Cascades Gateway City Park is at 2100 Turner Rd SE, Salem, OR 97302.
13- Visit The Hallie Ford Museum Of Art
The third-largest art museum in Oregon and the Northwest’s only liberal arts college art museum, the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, is not to be missed.
Its collections dive into the rich history of the Pacific Northwest and art from around the world.
The museum’s permanent collection includes the African and Oceanic Art Collection, the Ancient Collection, the Native American Collection, and more.
Special exhibitions vary, but current ones highlight the intersection of indigenous art, land and U.S. politics.
The Hallie Ford Museum of Art is at 700 State St, Salem, OR, 97301.
14- Catch A Show At Elsinore Theatre
Since it opened in 1926, the historic Elsinore Theatre has seen thousands of laudable acts, from dance shows to silent cinema to Mickey Mouse Clubhouse meetings.
The theatre is jaw-dropping, with luxurious red velvet details highlighting the golden and wooden interior.
The self-proclaimed “cultural and artistic Center of Salem” was recently restored, so it’s truly been brought to its former glory.
You can watch one of many shows, from live music to holiday shows to movie screenings. Just make sure to get your tickets in advance.
Elsinore Theatre is at 170 High St SE, Salem, OR 97301.
15- Check Out The Gilbert House Children’s Museum
Located right next to Riverfront City Park, the Gilbert House Children’s Museum is a nonprofit museum that encourages children to explore new interests.
It specialises in sensory and adaptive play experiences, which promotes the museum’s mission of igniting the next generation’s enthusiasm for learning.
The 16 hands-on exhibits include a giant kaleidoscope, an aviation-themed room, a vet room, and a farming room.
The Gilbert House Children’s Museum is at 116 Marion St NE, Salem, OR 97301.
16- Go To The Oregon State Fair
As the official state fair in Oregon, the Oregon State Fair takes place every year from the end of August to early September.
The fair features plenty of carnival games, food stands, thrilling performances, and carnival rides.
There are rides for young kids and terrifying rides for the biggest thrill-seekers, making the fair perfect for everyone.
The Oregon State Fair also hosts several concerts featuring various talented musicians.
The concert stadium has extensive seating, so you can relax and enjoy the show after a long day on the rides.
The Oregon State Fair is at 2330 17th St NE, Salem, OR 97301.
17- See Fascinating Fauna At Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge
In the middle of the Willamette Valley, near the junction of the Willamette and Santiam rivers, sits the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge.
Like other wildlife refuges, its goal is to provide high-quality habitats for wildlife.
More specifically, the Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge focuses on providing wintering habitat for Canadian geese, which was declining in the 1960s and 70s.
The refuge is also home to hundreds of other creatures, from the red-headed acorn woodpecker to the Pacific chorus frog.
Habitat types include seasonal and permanent wetlands, riparian woodlands, wet prairie and agricultural fields.
You can explore these habitats on the 2,100 miles (3,380 km of trails and boardwalks.
The Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge is a 20-minute drive south of Salem. There are several entrances; from the south, you can access various hiking trails along Wintel Rd, and from the north, you can access Eagle Marsh and the Ankeny Hill Nature Center.
The Ankeny Hill Nature Center is at 130 Ankeny Hill Rd SE, Jefferson, OR 97352.
18- Bike Through Minto-Brown Island Park
Spreading over 1,200 acres (486 ha) of wooded and open, Minto-Brown Island Park is the largest park in Salem, even bigger than New York City’s Central Park.
The park includes an off-leash dog area for your pet to roam, opportunities for wetland wildlife viewing, a fishing dock, picnic tables, play equipment, and more.
One of the park’s greatest highlights is its paved trail, which extends for 29 miles (47 km).
While visitors are free to walk, run, or jog, cycling is one of the most popular activities on the trail.
Adventurous mountain bikers can also find dirt trails that weave through the trees.
Minto-Brown Island Park is at 2200 Minto Island Rd SWS.W. SE, Salem, OR 97302.
19- Visit A Vineyard
The Willamette Valley is famous for its wineries, so visiting a vineyard is a highlight.
The valley, Oregon’s oldest wine region, has been nicknamed Oregon Wine Country for a reason.
Covering roughly two-thirds of all wineries and vineyards in the state, it encompasses more than 700 wineries.
The valley is home to several distinct growing regions, which all have their own unique characteristics that depend on soil, climate, and other factors.
Each region thus produces grapes with distinct flavours, making the Willamette Valley diverse in its produced wine.
Since there are so many vineyards and types of grapes, the best way to find one that best fits your taste is to book a wine tour or attend a wine event.
20- Picnic At Willamette Mission State Park
Just east of the Willamette River is Willamette Mission State Park, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Its 1,300 acres (526 ha) encompass a variety of habitats, including working farmland, lush meadows, wetland and woodland.
Common activities at Willamette Mission include hiking, cycling, horseback riding on the trails, fishing, kayaking, disc golf and camping.
In between, you should participate in another popular activity at this park: picnicking! Willamette Mission has three picnic shelters with covered kitchen areas, picnic tables, water, and electricity.
Next to each shelter, there is a lawn, a volleyball net, and horseshoe pits.
Willamette Mission State Park is at Willamette Mission State Park, Gervais, OR, 97026.
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