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!
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.
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.
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.