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Top things to do in Salem

See all 13 things to do in Salem

Things to Do in Salem

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.

Areas & Neighborhoods

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.


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.

Things to Do & Attractions 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.