Fun Things to Do in Salem, Oregon

Salem is Oregon's capital and the third largest city in the state. Early pioneers flocked to Salem and the Willamette Valley for its amazing fertility, which is particularly evident in the city's lush parks and gardens. The Oregon State Capitol campus is, of course, a major attraction, as are 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.

  • 01 of 08
    The Art Deco Style Oregon State Capitol
    ••• Jordan McAlister / Moment / Getty Images
    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.
  • 02 of 08

    Wine Tasting in Salem

    Vineyards in the Willamette Valley Oregon
    ••• Clay McLachlan / Getty Images

    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.
  • 03 of 08
    The Mission Mill Museum
    ••• Travel Salem / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0 

    Salem's pioneer and early history are 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 of the complex. The Willamette Heritage Center facilities include event space, a museum store, and a cafe.

  • 04 of 08
    An old-fashioned steam riverboat on at the Salem Riverfront Park
    ••• Ian Sane / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 

    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.

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  • 05 of 08
    Exterior main entrance of the Hallie Ford Museum of Art
    ••• Travel Salem / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0 

    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.

  • 06 of 08
    Tulips at Bush's Pasture Park
    •••  Yovany Camacho / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

    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.

  • 07 of 08
    Minto-Brown Island Park
    ••• Sean Fornelli / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0 

    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.

  • 08 of 08

    Annual Fairs & Festivals in Salem

    A flight of beer
    ••• Angelo DeSantis / Getty Images

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