Salem is the vibrant capital of Oregon, just 1 hour south of Portland.
Salem has a picturesque setting on the Willamette River, and became Oregon's capitol in 1851. It has an abundance of great tourist activities.
There are two beautiful Victorian homes to tour, and a fascinating museum at the site of an old wool mill, with some historic missionary homes nearby.
Stroll through Salem's historic downtown to see the striking Elsinore Theater and some great restaurants, then head out to the Willamette Riverfront for a ride on the carousel, or a tour of a vintage steamboat.
You can also tour the lovely grounds and building of the Oregon Capitol Building.
10 BEST things to do in Salem Oregon
1. Visit an excellent museum at the city's old wool mill
The Willamette Heritage Center (1313 Mill Street) is a must-see attraction, located only a short distance from downtown in Salem Oregon. It features an authentic Mill Museum constructed in 1896, and series of restored Missionary houses. There's also a café and gift shop on the premises. There's a lot to see, so allow 3-4 hours for your visit.
2. See the Italianate Bush House
Bush House (600 Mission Street SE) was constructed by banking magnate and newspaper publisher Asahel Bush II in 1878. This grand house has retained its original furnishings, embossed wallpaper, brassed fittings and paintings. The home stayed in the family until 1953.
Do a tour of the Bush House.
Step inside the main parlor.
Don't miss the Bush Barn Art Center, housing an art collection from the Salem Art Association.
3. Tour the Queen Anne mansion at Deepwood Estate
Deepwood Estate (1116 Mission St SE) is set on a five acre park, with a beautiful Queen Anne mansion (1894). Stroll through the rooms to see exquisite details like stained glass windows and fine oak-wood paneling.
This is the beautiful sunroom at the Deepwood Estate.
There are gorgeous stained glass windows.
4. Ride a riverfront carousel
Pay only $1.50 to ride the historic carousel at the Salem Waterfront, featuring 42 hand carved horses.
5. Cruise the Willamette on a historic paddlesteamer
Take a lunchtime cruise on the Willamette Queen historic paddle steamer, moored close to the Riverfront Carousel.
6. Take your kids to the AC Gilbert Children's Museum
Visit this fun, interactive children's museum with a fascinating array of educational and scientific exhibits.
7. Catch a show at the gothic Elsinore Theater.
The Elsinore Theater [170 High Street SE] on High Street in downtown is one of the finest examples of Tudor Gothic Architecture in the US. It was constructed in 1926 and modeled on Hamlet's Elsinore Castle. The ornate interior of the lobby and theater is incredibly atmospheric and another "must-see" attraction in Salem. Check schedules for ballet and theater performances.
8. See a striking contemporary art museum.
Visit the Hallie Ford Museum of Art for contemporary northwest and native American artwork.
9. Tour the Oregon Capital Building
The dramatic State Capital building dominates Salem's skyline, constructed in the Modernist Art Deco style in 1938. The striking, gold pioneer statue is perched atop the building. Book a tour of the building, or enjoy the surrounding gardens.
10. Eat at delicious downtown restaurants
Two of the most popular downtown restaurants include Bentleys Grill adjacent to the Grand Hotel, and elegant Da Vinci's Ristorante beside the Elsinore Theater. The highest concentration of restaurants is on the same street as the Elsinore Theater.
Where to stay in Salem Oregon
The upscale Grand Hotel is conveniently located in the city within walking distance of all major attractions.
Other fun things to do near Salem