Oregon’s capital city of Salem is located alongside the Willamette River, which also runs throughout the city. Surrounded by vineyards, green pastures and gardens, Salem is recognized for its scenic beauty. It’s the third largest city in Oregon, and home to numerous educational, cultural and historic institutions. As such, the city is richly diverse, with a wealth of attractions and local establishments to explore.
Tour the Oregon State Capitol, a classic example of modern Greek architecture with breathtaking artwork inside the rotunda and on the grounds. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the site captures the spirit of Oregon’s early settlers and the progress the city has made. Admire the beauty of Oregon State Capitol State Park, the grounds surrounding the capitol building. Not only does the park feature cherry trees and other plants favored by the Oregonians, but it also captures a bit of state history as well. Visitors can also step back in time at the Willamette Heritage Center, through the exhibits, historic homes and the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill featured on the premises.
For visiting families with kids, Gilbert House Children’s Museum offers interactive exhibits on the city’s history, as well as the sciences and arts. Visitors of all ages won’t want to miss the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, the third largest museum in the state. Embark on a tour of noteworthy homes with a visit to the Historic Deepwood Estate, a 19th century Queen Anne home, or the Bush House Museum, a Victorian Home located in Bush’s Pasture Park. The Oregon State Hospital Museum of Mental Health may seem familiar to those who’ve watched the movie, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” The 130-year-old hospital was used as the filming location for the Academy Award-winning film.
Take a breath of fresh air on the grounds of Walter Wirth Lake. The lake is located in Salem, but is contained within Cascades Gateway Park, making it a prime stop on the way to visit the Cascade Mountains. For visitors who can never choose between a trip to the mountains or the coast, Salem is conveniently located about an hour from both. For the best of Oregon’s outdoors, take a day trip to Silver Falls State Park, where misty waterfalls and lush scenery are out of this world. The park is about a 30 minute drive east of Salem. Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge is another gem, popular among bird watchers, but also offering relatively easy hikes through the state’s picturesque farmland. Take a trip to the Oregon coast, where you can get away from it all for a few hours, or spend the entire day exploring the best seaside towns. Head for Lincoln City, about an hour and 15 minutes from Salem. This city that hugs the coastline offers an endless range of restaurants, from fast casual to fine dining establishments. Numerous beach spots are also well within walking distance from town, in addition to the Roads End State Recreation Site, located at the northern end of town. Also north of Lincoln City is the village of Neskowin, legendary for its exquisite and unspoiled beauty. For more forest hikes, coupled with a city known for its great beer, funky neighborhoods and eco-friendliness, visit Portland, just 48 miles away. The eclectic city offers a thriving theater, art and music scene as well. The wine country outside of Salem is also well-worth exploration. Known for Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, Oregon is emerging on the radar of wine connoisseurs across the country.
Whether you’re looking for simple, no fuss accommodations, or an upscale suite for a relaxing stay, Salem offers a wide range of lodging options. Budget to mid-range hotels provide amenities such as pools, wireless internet and free continental breakfasts at a reasonable cost. Some have restaurants and bars on site, while others provide access to fitness facilities and spas. Travelers planning longer visits can look into Salem’s extended stay lodging options. Salem’s bed and breakfasts are highly recommended for relaxation, romance or even just to get away. Many downtown hotels are mere blocks from Salem’s renowned attractions, and have many shops and restaurants within walking distance.
If flying into the area, Portland International Airport provides primary airline service to the area. The airport is located about an hour’s drive from Salem. From the airport, visitors can rent a car and drive into the city. Interstate 5 connects Salem with Portland to the north and Eugene to the south. Highway 22 will bring travelers from the east of the Cascades. Both Greyhound and Amtrak Thruway serve Salem, as well as express transit buses between downtown Salem and the Wilsonville WES rail station. Known as the Route 1X express transit bus, the bus and rail connection operates weekdays in the morning and afternoon. The Amtrak station is located east of downtown, and is serviced by the regional Cascades train and the Coast Starlight train. When getting around Salem, the Cherriots bus system operates from a terminal in downtown Salem and runs through and around the city. Cab services are also available in Salem, as well as ride hailing operations such as Uber and Lyft.
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