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Fun Things to Do in Salem OR

Attractions and Activities in Oregon's Capitol City

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Salem is Oregon's capitol and is the third largest city in the state. Early Northwest pioneers flocked to Salem and the Willamette Valley for its amazing fertility, which is evident everywhere, particularly in the city's parks and gardens. The Oregon State Capitol campus is, of course, a major attraction, with several other interesting attractions located within walking distance. Surrounded by farms and vineyards, Salem is also a wonderful destination for wine, farm stands, and dining.

Here are my picks for fun things to do in Salem:

Tour the Oregon State Capitol Campus

Photo of Oregon State Capitol Building in Salem
Oregon State Capitol Building (courtesy of Oregon State Parks)
The focal point of Oregon's capitol mall is the stately Art Deco building capped with the golden Oregon Pioneer statue. While the mall area is the center of state administration, it is also an official Oregon State park, offering lovely landscaped grounds, statues, monuments, fountains, and walking trails. As you stroll through the campus, be sure to step inside the capitol rotunda where you can view the lavishly decorated interior's dome ceiling, art medallions, colorful murals, and the bronze Oregon State Seal embedded in the floor.

Wine Tasting & Touring in Salem

There are over 20 wineries located in the immediate Salem area, with more scattered up and down Willamette Valley. Many of these local vineyards and wineries offer tasting rooms, onsite shops, and special events. Here are a few of the many Salem wineries that you can visit:

Honeywood Winery
One of the region's oldest wineries, Honeywood produces varietal, fruit, and specialty wines. Visitors to Honeywood Winery can sample wine and shop in their small market that features gourmet Oregon foods.

Cubanisimo Vineyards
Rosado de Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Noir wines are the specialty of this fun-loving winery, which offers a tasting room and patio and hosts a number of special events throughout the year.

Orchard Heights Winery
Known for its award-winning varietals, Orchard Heights Winery is also a lovely place to visit. In addition to a wine tasting room and shop, they are acclaimed for their lunch and brunch, served in the Garden Room.

The Willamette Heritage Center at The Mill

Salem's pioneer and early history is preserved and on display at this heritage park that includes several historic homes and buildings. As you wander the 5-acre complex, viewing the various buildings, exhibits, and living history reenactors, you'll learn about Salem's Native people, about the earliest pioneer and missionary settlers, and about how the region became a thriving center of industry and agriculture. The Thomas Kay Woolen Mill, a water-powered mill that operated from 1889 to 1962, is the highlight structure. The Willamette Heritage Center facilities include event space, a museum store, and a cafe.

Salem's Riverfront Park

Located along the Willamette River adjacent to downtown Salem, Riverfront Park is a community hub and site of many popular festivals and events. Within the park you can enjoy such family-friendly attractions as the Riverfront Carousel and the A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village, where kids can play and learn about trains, buildings, fossils, animals, music, and more. An amphitheater, walking paths, wide open lawns, picnic areas, and a public boat dock can all be found within Riverfront Park.

Hallie Ford Museum of Art

Photo of the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem Oregon
courtesy of the Hallie Ford Museum of Art
Featuring works of art spanning ancient to modern time, the Hallie Ford Museum of Art is located on the Willamette University campus. The work of Oregon and Pacific Northwest artists, both modern and contemporary, is among the museum's permanent exhibits. Other exhibits change with time and might cover anything from Asian decorative art to student works.

Bush's Pasture Park

Located just south of Willamette University, this 90-acre park has a lot to offer. There are sports fields and facilities, including a football/soccer stadium, a ball field, and tennis courts. The property was settled by pioneer newspaperman Asahel Bush; the original home remains within the park. Now known as Bush House Museum, it includes flower gardens and a conservatory. The barn is now the Bush Barn Art Center, providing gallery space for the Salem Art Association. Walking trails, picnic areas, and the charming "Crooked House" children's play area are also available within Bush's Pasture Park.

Minto-Brown Island Park

Occupying almost 900 acres of a Willamette River island, Minto-Brown Island Park is a great place to spend time outdoors and to stretch your legs. Miles of trails network the island and are popular with walkers, joggers, and bikers. There are also spaces for children and dogs to play.

Annual Fairs & Festivals in Salem

From celebrations of wine and food to music and culture, Salem hosts many fun fairs and festivals throughout the year.

  • Oregon Wine, Food & Brew Festival (Jan)
  • Oregon Ag Fest (Apr)
  • Salem World Beat Festival (Jun)
  • Oregon State Fair (Aug/Sep)
  • Magic at the Mill (Dec) - holiday lights and entertainment

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