Salem is one of the most enchanting towns in Oregon, brimming with dreamy forests, local food and plenty of history and art. Also being the state Capitol, there’s much to do in this enriching town. Out of all the indoor and outdoor excursions, these rank at the top.
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Schreiner’s Iris Gardens
Schreiner’s Iris Gardens is a blink-and-you-miss-it attraction of Salem, but oh so worth the wait. When the Iris begin to bloom in May, it’s a spectacle people from all over the world come to see. Peonies, Lupine and other treasured vegetation are on display as well. Mothers Day through Memorial Day is the general window when the gardens are open, and throughout this time there are wine events and plenty of opportunities to buy your own fresh flowers.
Salem’s Riverfront Carousel
Salem’s Riverfront Carousel has been teleporting visitors back to childhood with hand-carved zebras, llamas and a list of other magical animals aboard its rotating platform near the Willamette River. The pavilion is covered, making it a great rainy day choice. You’ll find unique trinkets in the giant shop, and cotton candy or popcorn to snack on—local artists are even out and about working on projects. And guess how much it is to take a ride – just $1.50! Riverfront Park is also right there and has a huge globe monument, and great walking and biking terrain.
Enchanted Forest Theme Park
Topsy turvy whimsical villages, winding brick roads and other fairy tale flare embodies the Enchanted Forest Theme Park. Families can jump into the largely shaded park, and there’s plenty to do, including things like a bobsled coaster and log ride. Wander trough the spooky haunted house, take a peak at the gritty western town, and even chow down on delicious indulgent food! The family-friendly attraction in Oregon is a mesmerizing nook in the beautiful woods that both kids and adults love.
Oregon State Capitol
A lot of history can be seen at the Oregon State Capitol. Within its stunning gold figure topped, Greek-style structure is murals and sculptures of the early days in the state. You can certainly make a half day of it by wandering the gardens and having lunch on the lawn.
Willamette Valley Fruit Company
When in the Northwest, you have to try something with marionberries in it, which are a specific type of blackberry. You can find the best berry filled pies at the Willamette Valley Fruit Company. For years the operation has been churning out strawberries, raspberries, boysenberries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries and, of course, marionberries, many of which they use to craft mouthwatering treats. Desserts galore are brimming with all the berry goodness, from strawberry shortcakes to heavenly soft serve ice creams. Take goodies home or chow down on pie ala mode onsite. The surrounding land is also very beautiful.
History is a large part of Salem, so it’s only natural there’d be a list of museums to explore. Deepwood Museum and Gardens is a stunning historic home with rich wood interiors and stained glass windows, along with extensive gardens throughout the property. The Gilbert House is an interactive children’s museum with tons of hands-on exploration. The Oregon World War II Memorial serves as an important reminder of less peaceful times. Shining light into the lives of a local family of the 19th century is the Bush House Museum. Antique furnishings, gardens, artifacts and the second oldest conservatory in the west make this a cool stop.
A good local winery is a fantastic place to learn more about the area, and the Honeywood Winery has been going strong since 1933, the day after the end of prohibition. Also housing Oregon’s first tasting room, visitors get a history lesson and delicious wines all in one stop. Known for Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio selections, Honeywood also has a sweet marionberry wine. To be fair, all wineries in the area rate pretty high.
Not your typical theater, the Pentacle’s woodsy exterior is very fitting for Oregon. One can truly experience something local by watching community actors nail performances in Little Shop of Horrors, Frankenstein, Dracula and other classics. Grab some beer or wine and relax in your comfy theater chairs. Elsinore and Capitol City theaters are also great picks for entertainment.
Art is ever present in Salem, from local creations at the Bush Barn Art Center in the Pasture Park to the Hallie Ford Museum of Art’s impressive display of Native American, Pacific Northwest, European and Asian Art.
Salem Ale Works
Wind the day down with local brews and hard ciders at Salem Ale Works. A list of beer is made onsite, and range from sharp IPAs to milder selections. Guests can tour the brewery or chow down on unexpectedly delicious American fare from fried pickles and cauliflower, to juicy burgers and zesty fries. Food trucks are often around as well. Everyone’s happy.