The capital of Oregon is not Portland, but Salem… a less visited city about one hour south of its much more famous sister. While less popular with tourists, I was glad to have made Salem my home base during my visit to Oregon, and am here today to sing its praises.
Salem has plenty to offer for everyone. From excellent dining, fun shopping, fascinating historic locations, and a great location for day trips, Salem can satisfy anyone’s niche.
After spending a month in Salem, I personally recommend a visit to the capital for anyone traveling in Oregon.
Here are some places to visit in Salem that you can’t miss.
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Silver Falls State Park
This park is what mossy, damp, waterfall ridden Pacific Northwest dreams are made of. A quick drive from Salem, it’s a must see park for anyone rolling through the capital. You’ll find yourself immersed in a magnificent caves looking through a door made of falling water to the outside world.
The trail called the Trail of Ten Falls is a perfect introduction to anyone visiting this state park as you’ll see some of the most magical waterfalls the park has to offer. I cannot recommend this place enough to anyone visiting Salem!
Silver Falls State Park by Daniel Hayes (IG: indecisive_travels)
Minto-Brown Island Park
Salem’s riverfront oasis is the largest park in Salem. With 1,200 acres of greenery and forest, it’s perfect for all of your park needs. You can run, bike, or walk along 29 miles of trails or have yourself a good ol’ fashioned bbq at the shelter.
All of these are great options when you’re surrounded by these serene wetlands. It’s also a wildlife sanctuary so there’s a good chance you can run into some beautiful critters such as Blue Heron or Osprey.
Minto-Brown Island Park by Daniel Hayes (IG: indecisive_travels)
Riverfront City Park
Along the same waters as its much larger sibling, Minto-Brown Island Park is the quaint Riverfront City Park. A lovely place to take a coffee and go for a stroll, the park sits just on the edge of downtown overlooking the Willamette River. The park is home to a carousel, an ice skating rink in the winter, all sorts of community events, and the Willamette Queen Riverboat.
With lots of walking paths, picnic tables, and open space, this park is the perfect place to hang out with friends and family, take a break from exploring downtown Salem, or run off the infinite craft brews from the night before.
Riverfront City Park by Daniel Hayes (IG: indecisive_travels)
Bush’s Pasture Park
Hey! Another park! Oregon does parks. This one is 90.5 acres with plenty of paths to exercise and open space to relax. The park also has a lot of history with the Bush House Museum on site.
The home was built in the late 1800s and was home to pioneer and politician Asahel Bush. The museum and its preserved artifacts serve as an excellent learning center for kids and adults.
After filling your brain up with history, the meadows are there waiting for you to settle in with a picnic basket and friends. Don’t forget to check out the gardens! Bush’s Pasture Park is a lovely way to spend an evening in Salem.
Oregon State Capitol Building
While driving through Salem, you might notice a large, impressive, golden man staring down at you as if making sure you’re not causing any trouble. That’s “Gold Man”, and he sits atop the Oregon State Capitol Building.
If you’re visiting Salem, I’d say it’s worth visiting him. You’ll be impressed by the well kept park surrounding his shiny marble home.
What’s best though, is that you can go inside and have a guide give you the ins and outs of the history of the building and show you its most beautiful rooms and halls.
After learning about the incredible architecture, the beautiful artifacts stored there, and the history of the building, you’ll be glad you visited the Oregon State Capitol Building.
Gold Man by Daniel Hayes (IG: indecisive_travels)
Willamette Heritage Center
Feel like taking a quick jaunt through Salem in the 1840s? Then look no further than the Willamette Heritage Center. Let a guide costumed in 1840s apparel take you on a journey through a restored wool mill and imagine yourself without Google, social media, or Zendaya and Tom Holland.
The beautiful 5-acre campus is a portal through time with 14 historic buildings to explore and appreciate bygone era. Some of these buildings are the oldest in the state of Oregon. Great for families to enjoy, a visit to Willamette Heritage center is a great way to spend time in Salem.
Historic Deepwood Estate
Haven’t had your fill of old things? Visit the Historic Deepwood Estate! It’s an old Queen Anne style mansion constructed over 120 years ago.
Now a museum, you can explore the home learning about the history of the area and the house’s many occupants. The home is fully furnished with displays of artwork, books, furniture, and jewelry from the late 1800s.
On top of the historical offerings, the grounds the estate make a wonderful place to picnic and stroll through lovely gardens. There are often events held on the grounds throughout the summer applying to people of all ages. The Deepwood Estate is a fun place to check out while visiting Salem.
Willamette Valley Wine Country
The Willamette Valley is home to hundreds of wineries.
Unless you’re as indecisive as I am, you should have no problem getting yourself a delectable Pinot Noir with a backdrop of rolling hills akin to a desktop screensaver.
One of our favorites was J Wrigley Vineyards, but don’t limit yourself, there are vineyards dotted all over these lands.
For the more adventurous types, Willamette Valley is full of other outdoor recreation such as canoeing or hiking. Or you could find yourself shopping local in one the several downtown shopping districts. You can even go truffle hunting if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty!
Simply a drive through this beautiful countryside seeing what you can find is an excellent thing to do while visiting Oregon.
Willamette Valley by Daniel Hayes (IG: indecisive_travels)
Schreiner’s Iris Gardens
Who doesn’t love a magnificent display of flowers? Well right in Salem, you can feast your eyes on the world-renowned Schreiner’s Iris Gardens.
During its peak in May, visitors can ooh and aah at the 10-acre show garden. Walk the grounds, take beautiful photos, and don’t forget to breathe deeply through the nose.
Lastly, take some flowers to go! Schreiner’s has plants, flowers, and gardening supplies for sale even outside blooming season.
Iris garden by Renee Fisher on UnSplash
Downtown Salem is where you’ll satisfy your taste for food, drinks, and some fun shopping.
We enjoyed the plethora of establishments available downtown.
If you wanted something fancy, you can head over to Amadeus. A nice craft brew? You have several options like Xicha Brewing or Noble Brewing. Prefer a craft cocktail? I had a Manhattan at W Wallace that almost made me panic because of how perfect it was.
Besides food, there are some fantastic boutiques and shops to peruse.
If you’re like me, you love a good vintage shop, and Salem has quite a few.
Engelberg Antiks has what feels like miles of space holding your next great find. If you have the energy after that, dig through Retro Spin and Vintage Flow Northwest for some very cool t’s.
No matter your taste, Downtown Salem is a great place to shop and dine… which is why we definitely rank it among the best places to visit in the city.
Downtown Salem by Daniel Hayes (IG: indecisive_travels)
Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge
There’s plenty of beautiful open space surrounding Salem, and Baskett Slough is no exception. The 2,558 acre refuge makes an excellent place to observe wildlife, go on hikes, and admire the expansive wetlands.
There are over 230 species of birds to view and serval endangered species protected here.
If you need some fresh air to clear your mind, consider visiting Baskett Slough to meander along the trails and watch a stunning sunset over the rolling hills.
Baskett Slough by Daniel Hayes (IG: indecisive_travels)
Did we miss any of your favorite places in Salem, Oregon?
Let us know in the comments if there are anymore places in Salem, OR you’d like to see on our list!