One-of-a-kind attractions near Salem, Oregon
The Salem, Oregon, area has a little bit of everything – great restaurants, a vibrant cultural scene and spectacular recreational opportunities. To help you truly experience the area, here are 20 things to add to your Salem bucket list:
1. Tour the Oregon State Hospital Museum of Mental Health
Known in the 19th century as the Oregon Insane Asylum, the Oregon State Hospital is the oldest mental health hospital in the state. Still in operation today, the hospital has a dedicated museum the public can tour to hear the stories of the people who lived and worked there.
Tip: Watch “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” before visiting the museum. The Academy Award-winning film was filmed at the hospital and featured several staff members and patients. The museum has an entire exhibit devoted to the movie.
2. Buy fresh-baked donuts from E.Z. Orchards
As soon as you try the homemade donuts at E.Z. Orchards, in Salem, you’ll understand why it made the list. The donuts are baked fresh every day, with seasonal flavors such as apple cider, blueberry and pumpkin.
Tip: The Salem area is home to dozens of farms and markets. Marion County even has its own farm loop!
READ MORE | 7 must-do experiences on Oregon’s Marion Farm Loop
3. Go antique shopping in Aurora
Aurora, Oregon, is a quaint town with a lot to do. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the town boasts dozens of antique stores, several restaurants, a couple tasting rooms and a ton of history. It has even been listed as one of the top destinations for antiquing in the country!
Tip: Most of the town’s restaurants and stores are located within a five-block radius, making it easy to park the car, get out and explore.
4. Discover Salem’s connected park system
Thanks to the addition of the Peter Courtney Minto Island Pedestrian Bridge, it’s now possible to bike, hike and explore more than 30 miles of off-street trails in downtown Salem. The bridge was the final link in connecting three parks, making the combined acreage larger than Central Park in New York City!
Tip: If you’re traveling with children, go for a whirl on Salem’s Riverfront Carousel in Riverfront Park. Ride on the carousel for only $1.50 per person.
5. Hike the Trail of Ten Falls at Silver Falls State Park
At 9,200 acres, Silver Falls State Park, located near Silverton, Oregon, is the state’s largest state park. It’s one of the Salem area’s most beloved treasures and is often referred to as the “crown jewel” of the Oregon State Park system. The park’s most popular feature is the Trail of Ten Falls. The 7.2-mile loop weaves above, behind and around 10 breathtaking waterfalls.
Tip: The Trail of Ten Falls can get crowded on weekends when the weather is nice. To avoid the crowds, consider visiting through the week or during the rainy season. The park is also home to more than 25 miles of less-visited, backcountry trails that are great for mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding.
READ MORE | Six waterfall hikes near Salem, Oregon
6. Spend a day at the Oregon Garden
No trip to Silverton is complete without a stop at the Oregon Garden. The 80-acre botanical wonderland features 20 specialty gardens, a hobbit house for children and an onsite resort and restaurant. You can choose to tour through the garden at your own pace or take a guided trolley tour.
Tip: The Gordon House, Oregon’s only Frank Lloyd Wright designed structure, is located right outside of the garden. Guided tours are available by reservation!
7. Eat at a Ritter family restaurant
You may not know the Ritter family by name, but if you’ve dined in Salem, you may have eaten at one of their restaurants. The family has a hand in three popular Salem eateries: Wild Pear Restaurant & Catering, ACME Café and Ritter’s Housemade Foods. Although the restaurants are owned and operated by different siblings, each restaurant serves up top-notch dishes.
Tip: While the Ritter family has made a name for themselves in the Salem restaurant industry, many of the city’s restaurants are owned and operated by locals. You may also be interested in checking out Venti’s Restaurants, Adam’s Rib Smoke House and Rafns’.
8. Tour the Hallie Ford Museum of Art
Oregon’s third largest art museum can be found in downtown Salem. The Hallie Ford Museum of Art features a permanent collection of more than 6,000 artifacts as well as beautifully curated temporary exhibitions.
Tip: The museum offers free admission every Tuesday.
READ MORE | 10 wonderful art venues in the Mid-Willamette Valley
9. Learn about hops at Rogue Farms
If you like Oregon beer, there’s a good chance you’ve drank a Rogue Ales & Spirits brew. But did you know you can visit the farm where Rogue grows and harvests its ingredients? At Rogue Farms in Independence, Oregon, you can enjoy a drink in the tasting room while looking out over the surrounding hop fields. Go for a tour to learn how the hops are harvested or check in on the marionberries, jalapenos and other ingredients growing nearby.
Tip: If you’re traveling with a beer or cider lover, check out the Salem Ale and Cider Trail. The trail takes you to 12 great breweries and cideries in the Salem area.
10. Climb to the top of the Oregon State Capitol
Atop the Oregon State Capitol, in Salem, stands a 23-foot, bronze pioneer statue. Gilded in gold leaf, the statue, often referred to as “The Gold Man,” can be spotted from miles away. During warmer months, visitors can take a guided tour to the top of the Capitol and view the statue up close.
Tip: Tower tours usually open for the season during the Capitol’s annual Cherry Blossom Day event. This is a great time of the year to visit the Capitol, as the flowering cherry trees in the State Capitol State Park put on quite a display.
11. Tiptoe through the tulips
The Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm, located in Woodburn, Oregon, is home to one of two major tulip festivals in the Pacific Northwest. Each spring, the farm erupts with 40 acres of stunning tulips. The entire family, including well-behaved, leashed dogs, can enjoy a stroll through the fields.
Tip: Splurge for a sunrise pass to avoid the crowds and enjoy the show as the sun rises over Mt. Hood.
READ MORE | Gardens galore in the Mid-Willamette Valley
12. See a show at the Elsinore Theatre
One of Oregon’s oldest and most magnificent theaters is located in the heart of Salem. First opened in 1926, the lobby of the Elsinore Theatre has murals designed to represent Shakespearean plays, grand staircases and stunning stained window glass. Today, this beautifully restored theater serves as the backdrop for a wide array of performances, from well-known singers and A-list comedians to dance troupes and variety shows.
Tip: On most Wednesday evenings, you can watch a classic film at the theatre for just $6.
13. Taste wine in Oregon Wine Country
Oregon is home to one of the best wine regions in the world, and Salem is located in the heart of it. With a laid-back vibe, spectacular views and some of the best Pinot Noir you’ll ever taste, Oregon Wine Country has something for everyone.
Tip: Oregon’s oldest winery, Honeywood Winery, is located minutes from downtown Salem and offers complimentary wine tastings.
READ MORE | 10 wineries near Salem where you can do more than drink wine
14. Play in Hoopla…or watch
With upwards of 1,000 teams, Hoopla is considered the second largest three-on-three street basketball event in the country. Usually held in August, the event takes place right outside of the Oregon State Capitol. Put together a team to compete or be a spectator at the annual dunk competition.
Tip: While Salem doesn’t have any professional sports teams, you can almost always catch a game in the summer. The Portland Timbers U23 soccer team is based out of Salem, and the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes baseball team, an affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, has a stadium right up the road in Keizer, Oregon.
15. Stroll through Downtown Salem
Take the time to walk through downtown Salem. You’ll find farm-to-table restaurants, boutique stores and historical attractions along the way. If you feel like venturing farther out, check out a nearby park or walk through one of the town’s historic neighborhoods.
Tip: If you need a map or help deciding where to go, stop by the Travel Salem Visitors Center.
16. Visit the Enchanted Forest
Crawl through Alice in Wonderland’s Rabbit Hole, step back in time to Old Europe or join in on an Irish jig at the Enchanted Forest. Located just south of Salem, this family-friendly amusement park is guaranteed to be unlike any other park you’ve been to. The park is usually open on select dates from March to September.
Tip: There are several dining options in the park, but you’re also welcome to pack a picnic and bring it along. Barbeque grills and alcoholic beverages are prohibited.
READ MORE | 10 wacky and wonderful attractions in the Mid-Willamette Valley
17. Plan a weekend getaway to Detroit Lake
Located an hour outside of Salem, Detroit, Oregon, is a great escape any time of the year. The lake is surrounded by towering fir trees and mountains, making the area ideal for boating, camping, snowmobiling and hiking.
Tip: On your way from Salem to Detroit, you’ll pass Poppa Al’s Famous Hamburgers on Highway 22. It’s a great place to grab a quick bite to eat and cool down with some ice cream.
18. Indulge at Mt. Angel Oktoberfest
Grab your lederhosen and head to Mt. Angel Oktoberfest in September! With fun and entertainment for the entire family, it’s consistently ranked as one of the best Oktoberfest celebrations in the country. There’s always plenty of beer, sausage and sauerkraut to go around!
Tip: Mt. Angel is a great town to visit year-round. Make sure to stop by the Bavarian-style village’s world-class Glockenspiel and fill up at one of the town’s authentic German restaurants.
READ MORE | 8 reasons to visit Mt. Angel, Oregon
19. Celebrate the season at Magic at the Mill
The Willamette Heritage Center, in Salem, is home to the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill and the oldest timber-frame structures in the state. Each December, the 19th century campus comes alive with thousands of holiday lights. Enjoy blacksmith and weaving demonstrations, tour historical buildings and take part in children’s activities at “Magic at the Mill.”
Tip: If you’re not in town for the event, tours of the five-acre campus are available year-round.
20. Hike in the Opal Creek Wilderness
Take a trip through history on a hike to Jawbone Flats. First inhabited by Native Americans, Jawbone Flats is believed to have been a summer camp for the Santiam Molalla Indians. In 1930, the town was transformed into a mining camp, where they processed lead, zinc, copper and silver. Today, visitors can trek 6.25 miles on a round-trip adventure to Jawbone Flats and Opal Pool. With wide trails and little elevation gain, this is a great day-hike for families.
Tip: Along the trail, you’ll pass remnants of the historic Merten Mill. Take the short trail behind the mill to view Sawmill Falls.
READ MORE | 6 areas to explore in Oregon’s North Santiam River Country