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Top Activities in Salem

See all 15 things to do in Salem

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Salem Attractions

Found in the heart of the verdant Willamette Valley, Oregon's capital city of Salem combines a lush setting with an important role in state history. The city's abundant green spaces and location alongside the Willamette River showcase its Pacific Northwest beauty, while its vibrant downtown area beckons with an inviting mix of restaurants, shops, and historic landmarks. Salem has also established itself as a world-class destination for wine lovers, who journey to the city to taste the delicious products of the area's fertile vineyards. As you explore Oregon's third-largest city, discover a wealth of things to see and do right at your fingertips.

Things to Do in Salem with Kids

If you'd like to create new family memories in Salem, we've got some inspiration. Round up the troops and check out these top-rated family friendly experiences:

Areas & Neighborhoods in Salem

Locals love the outdoors in Salem, and it's easy to see why. Beyond the central downtown area, the city's many serene parks, gardens, and trails offer nearly endless opportunities for recreation amidst the picturesque Willamette Valley scenery.

Downtown

Peppered with sights including the Oregon State Capital and Willamette University, Downtown is the place to begin exploring Salem. Wander among historic buildings that have been converted into buzzing local boutiques and eateries, such as the elegant Reed Opera House.

Bush's Pasture Park

Bush's Pasture Park encompasses 91 acres (36 ha) worth of wooded areas and grassy meadows perfect for walking and jogging. For a stunning look at Victorian architecture, visit the Bush House Museum, or take a house history tour of the Deepwood Museum and Gardens.

Minto-Brown Island Park

For a true retreat to nature, head to Minto-Brown Island Park, Salem's largest green space that sprawls bigger than New York's Central Park. Trek miles of trails alongside the tranquil Willamette River, and check out spots for fishing and paddle boating.

Things to See in Salem

Get to know Salem's scenic beauty and interesting history with a variety of sights to discover in the downtown area. Start by admiring the spectacular architecture and cherry tree-filled grounds of the Oregon State Capitol, where the inner workings of the state government unfold. Across, the street, you can take a stroll around the green lawns of Willamette University—the oldest university in the Western United States. Make your way to the western edge of the campus for a visit to the Hallie Ford Museum of Art. Here, Oregon artists take center stage, including a collection of basketry created by Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest. At the Willamette Heritage Center, take a step back in time to the mid-19th century as you uncover some of Salem's oldest buildings, including a woolen mill converted into a museum.

Sightseeing in Salem

The activities waiting for you in Salem range from outdoorsy to artsy. Soak up the beauty of the Willamette Valley right in Downtown Salem at Riverfront Park, which stretches along the ambling Willamette River. Visitors flock here to attend the World Beat Festival each year, and attractions like the Riverfront Carousel and the Gilbert House Children's Museum deliver on family-friendly fun. If you're seeking more things to do with the kids, step into a magical land at Enchanted Forest Theme Park, where adventurers of all ages can wander down Storybook Lane, explore a medieval European village, and uncover the secrets of an old Western town. For a chance to indulge your taste buds, opt for a winetasting tour and let a guide introduce you to the area's wealth of wineries. After a day among the vineyards, continue your cultural experience with live music or an iconic film at the historic Elsinore Theatre, or immerse yourself in community theater at the Pentacle Theatre. Finally, if you're planning a summer trip to Salem, consider visiting during the month of August to check out the Oregon State Fair, an annual tradition held in the city since 1862.

Free Things to Do in Salem

Leave your purse in the hotel room. It's a snap to occupy yourself in Salem without paying a cent.

Salem Armory Auditorium - If you want to get cultured, head here and observe the artistic creativity on display.

Salem Riverfront Carousel - You can't top this place if you're hoping to live it up and join in the fun.

Chemeketa Community College - If you enjoy modern-day architecture and design, add this attraction to your schedule.

Union Street Railroad Bridge - Feel like you've gone back in time while learning the secrets of this historic site.

Minto-Brown Island Park - Shut your eyes and take a deep breath — there's nothing like being beside the water for some peace and relaxation.

Salem Hospital - Introduce yourself to a local and learn why many sightseers swing by this place.

Salem First United Methodist Church - Toss a bit of spirituality into your escape by dropping by this sacred place.

Salem Riverfront Park - Develop your green thumb and be wowed by the many and varied plants on show.

Explore The Neighborhoods of Salem

Southeast Salem

While Southeast Salem isn't home to many top sights, Oregon State Capitol and Bush's Pasture Park are some notable places to visit nearby.

West Salem

When in West Salem, you can plan a visit to Salem Riverfront Park and Oregon State Fairgrounds Pavilion, some noteworthy sights in the nearby area.

Central Area

If you're spending some time in Central Area, Elsinore Theater and Oregon State Capitol are top sights worth seeing.

Northeast Neighbors

If you're spending some time in Northeast Neighbors, Oregon State Fairgrounds Pavilion and Salem Armory Auditorium are top sights worth seeing.

Morningside

Though Morningside might not have many top sights, you can venture to the surrounding area to see attractions like Oregon State Fairgrounds Pavilion and Enchanted Forest Theme Park.

South Central

While visiting South Central, you might make a stop by sights like Bush's Pasture Park and Bush Barn Art Center.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What to do in Salem on a sunny day?

What can you do in Salem for free?

You'll barely have time to dig your wallet out of your pocket with so many fantastic free attractions:

  • Salem Hospital
  • Wings and Waves Waterpark
  • Woodburn Company Stores
  • Oregon State Fairgrounds Pavilion