Located in the center of the Willamette Valley in the Pacific Northwest, Salem, Oregon is a town full of natural beauty and amazing tourist attractions.
With year-round events, museums, parks, gardens, wineries, and more — there are plenty of things to do in Salem Oregon. Ready to explore capital of Oregon? Here are 11+ things to do in Salem that we know you’ll love.
COOLEST PLACES TO STAY IN SALEM OREGON
Best Hotel Option. Hampton Inn and Suites Salem is Just 2 miles from Honeywood Winery and Mission Mill Museum. With an indoor pool and hot tub, and complimentary breakfast this is also a great choice for families.
Best Family House Option. Beautiful West Salem Getaway is an exquisite 3 bedroom home with private yard that provides plenty of space for families to spread their wings. And it’s only 1.5 miles from city-center.
Best Budget Option. Phoenix Inn Suites Salem is a comfortable, affordable
OREGON STATE CAPITOL
The stunning Oregon State Capitol is one of the most impressive buildings you will see in the city. Witnessing the beauty of the building, that displays exquisite Art Deco architecture, is one of the best things to do in Salem.
The interior and exterior of the building are coated with white marble. The contrasting lush green gardens outside complement the white marble and make it look even more beautiful.
The Oregon State Capitol was built in 1938 after the two earlier state capitol buildings burned down. The capitol building has a typical dome topped by a glittering gold Oregon Pioneer sculpture, making it very unique.
Inside, you’ll find murals showcasing important moments from Oregon’s history. Exploring the lush grounds, artwork, memorials and more, make a visit here a memorable one.
The capitol building is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, and on occasional weekends. Admission is free. Guided and self-guided tours are available.
RIVERFRONT CITY PARK
Riverfront City Park is a great place to find picturesque views and scenic beauty in Salem. This beautiful park lies alongside the Willamette River, making it an especially fun place.
Believe it or not, Riverfront City Park was once an industrial site. Now, it offers open green space, hiking trails, boat docks, playgrounds, and stunning views.
The amazing Riverfront Carousel can be found here. This carousel features intricately carved scenes and decorated horses that depict the farming history of the region.
One of the most unique additions to the park is the Eco-Earth Globe sculpture. This massive mosaic tile sculpture can found at the south end of the park, and should not be missed.
This public art piece features more than 86,000 tiles that represent the geography, people, and animals on Earth. Two hundred decorative icons were also added, and they were made by professional artists and local high school students. The globe took five years to complete!
GILBERT HOUSE CHILDREN’S MUSEUM
If you’re heading to Salem with children, Gilbert House Children’s Museum is your place. It was founded in 1989 with the intention to ignite children’s natural curiosity, and it’s been doing that ever since.
The Museum is composed of three historic houses — the Rockenfield House, Gilbert House and Parrish House.
The purpose of the museum is to help children learn in fun and creative ways. From fascinating displays to fun activity areas, you will find plenty of things to engage and entertain the kids. Interactive exhibits and hands-on activities featuring arts, nature, science, and technology can be found here.
This wonderful non-profit children’s museum is connected to downtown Salem’s Riverfront Park. It was named after the American inventor, Alfred Carlton Gilbert. Gilbert was the inventor of the Erector Set, which is the inspiration for the giant outdoor Erector Set in their 20,000 square foot Outdoor Discovery Area.
HALLIE FORD MUSEUM OF ART
For art lovers, the Willamette University Hallie Ford Museum of Art is bliss. Opened in 1998, the museum is home to art pieces from local Oregon artists.
Permanent galleries here feature works by Pacific Northwest and Native American artists — such as their exhibit of early 1900s Native American baskets. There’s also a diverse collection of Ancient, European, American and Asian art. Special visiting exhibitions can be seen during different times of year.
At the museum, you can also participate in gallery talks, educational tours, and guided tours.
WILLAMETTE MISSION STATE PARK
Willamette Mission State Park is a retreat for horseback riders, disc golfers, birdwatchers, kayakers, hikers, and bikers. It’s the perfect place to go to get out in nature and have fun.
The state park is spread across 1,300 acres showcasing woodland, wetland, rolling meadows, and working farmland — all in one place. Whether you’re looking for places for family picnicking, camping, or company events, Willamette Mission State Park is spot on. You’ll also find three picnic shelters, and a campground here.
Another reason to visit Willamette Mission State Park is that it’s the site of the largest Black Cottonwood tree in the United States! This amazing tree is estimated to be over 250 years old.
MINTO BROWN ISLAND PARK
When in Salem, you should not miss visiting Minto Brown Island Park, which offers many outdoor activities. It is one of the most popular and picturesque places in the city, with the largest recreation space. We loved walking on the trails and exploring the beautiful flower-filled meadows and forests.
Minto Brown Island Park is located alongside the Willamette River, and is known for its lush wood and wetlands. Just 5 minutes from downtown, it’s a great place to bring your fishing gear or rent a paddleboat.
You can also spend some quality time at the observation platforms at the park to enjoy bird watching.
HISTORIC DEEPWOOD ESTATE AND GARDENS
For all the history buffs, Historic Deepwood Museum and Gardens is a dream. The estate and gardens were built in 1894 and it’s now preserved as part of a museum. The estate stands on 4 acres of artistically manicured gardens and nature trails. You can also enjoy breathtaking views of downtown Salem from here.
You will witness architectural grandeur, a Victorian-style garden, the Fry Stein Nature Trail, and a lot more at Historic Deepwood Estate and Gardens. The Queen Anne Victorian home is on the National Register of Historic Homes.
The home here features elegant turrets and gables, stained glass windows, and a wraparound porch. We loved seeing the decorative artwork, magnificent furnishings, period pieces, and more in the well-preserved rooms.
ENCHANTED FOREST THEME PARK
Are you looking for a fun, family-friendly theme park in Salem, Oregon? Well, Enchanted Forest has you covered. Located amid rolling hills and woodland, it is just a 20 minute drive south of Salem. Enchanted Forest offers a lot of rides and attractions for visitors, making it popular not only among the locals, but out-of-towners too.
With themed areas like Western Town, Storybook Lane, and Old European Village, this fun park offers fun rides that everyone in the family will love. Want to add some excitement to your day? Make sure you explore the Haunted House, or take a ride on the Big Timber log ride.
In addition to rides, you’ll also find comedy shows, music performances, and water light shows. Picnic spots are featured throughout, with plenty of eateries to choose from.
Kids will love seeing some of their favorite fairytale characters in real life. Humpty Dumpty has been knows to show his face around the Enchanted Forests.
All in all, this is a great theme park that all ages will enjoy.
BUSH’S PASTURE PARK
Covering 100 acres of wooded space, Bush’s Pasture Park is located at the heart of the city, and it is the place for organized sporting events.
Lighted tennis courts and softball and baseball fields can be found here. Walk through the hiking trails, visit the Rhododendron or Rose gardens, and make sure to take the kids to the Crooked House Playground.
Two large grass areas are perfect for picnicking or frisbee. In addition to the Crooked House Playground, there are two other playgrounds found here. A large horseshoes area, an amphitheater, and interestingly — the only official Soap Box Derby Track west of the Mississippi — round out the offerings here.
On the property, you can also visit the Bush House Museum, which was built in 1877 by Asahel Bush II. The Bush family lived in the home until 1953, when the City of Salem took it over. The museum is now open to visitors from March to December. Learn about the life and legacy of the Bush family with a visit here.
With more than 900 vineyards and 18 approved wine-growing regions, it’s no wonder Oregon has become the wine capital of the country. Today, it is internationally known for producing world-class wine.
Your visit to Salem will be incomplete if you leave without tasting some of its amazing wines. Stop by Honeywood Winery — the oldest winery in all of Oregon. Founded in 1934, this is a great place to visit.
From producing a full line of premium vinifera wines, to special fruit and specialty wines, this place is a paradise for wine lovers. Take a tour of the winery and learn how the wine is produced, and make sure to visit their tasting rooms.
Bethel Heights Vineyard, Chemeketa Cellars Tasting Room, Coria Estates, Cubanisimo Vineyards, and Redhawk Vineyard and Winery can also be found in Salem.
WILLAMETE HERITAGE CENTER
Willamette Heritage Center is one of the most popular historical buildings you can visit at Salem. Covering five acres, it depicts the history and cultural vibe of the state. From informative displays to unique exhibits, the center focuses on connecting the history of diverse communities through stories and presenting them to visitors.
Visit the 14 historical sites found here, and learn more about Oregon’s past. Find out about Oregon Trail travelers, early education pioneers, and different communities who occupied the mid-Willamette Valley. Visiting Willamette Heritage Center, designated an American Treasure by the National Park Service, is definitely a pleasure.
My history buff mind loved seeing the photographs, records, and documents at the Research Library. The site also holds events and educational programs throughout the year.
Music, shopping, and dining can also be found here.
SILVER FALLS STATE PARK
Silver Falls State Park near Salem, OR is a super scenic park that features waterfalls, camping, hiking, mountain biking, picnic areas, playgrounds, and more.
Ever wanted to walk behind a waterfall? Here, you can! Walk behind South Falls and see what it’s like to be covered in a curtain of water. South Falls is part of the Trail of Ten Falls — a stunning hike where you can see TEN stunning waterfalls in ONE hike? If you head clockwise like the map suggests, you’ll see: South Falls, Lower South Falls, Lower North Falls, Double Falls, Drake Falls, Middle North Falls, Twin Falls, North Falls, Upper North Falls, and Winter Falls.
The falls vary in their beauty and height, ranging from 27 feet to 178 feet, depending on the time of the year.
SALEM OREGON FAQ
What is Salem Oregon best known for?
Salem is best known as the capital of Oregon. It’s also well known for its many gardens, such as the Deepwood Museum and Gardens and the gardens at Bush’s Pasture Park.
Is there a lot to do in Salem, Oregon?
Yes, there’s a lot to do in Salem, Oregon! Visit public gardens, take the kids to the children’s museum, enjoy one of the public parks, and enjoy shopping and dining.
When is the best time of year to visit Salem, Oregon?
The best months for good weather in Salem, Oregon, tend to be May, June, July, August, September and October, with July and August being the warmest months.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO OREGON
- YOUR OREGON VACATION
- EUGENE: 15 Fun Things To Do In Eugene, Oregon
- NEWPORT: 14 Amazing Things To Do In Newport, Oregon Everyone Will Love
- OREGON COAST: 16 Gorgeous Oregon Coast Towns You’ve Got To Visit
- PORTLAND: 15+ Perfect Things To Do In Portland, Oregon
WHERE TO STAY IN SALEM OREGON
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