What are the must-see places in Salem?
Salem is a good city to stay in because it is a central location to all sorts of places to visit in Oregon. It is also the capital so if you want, you can visit our state’s capital building located in downtown Salem. Inside the building are murals painted depicting our state history. Outside are sculptures on the grounds and one on top of the building that is covered in gold leaf and represents Oregon’s first settlers. In 1984, school children raised the $38,000 to cover the statue in the gold leaf holding a penny drive!
If area history interests you, the Willamette Heritage Center at the Mill might be another good stop for you. The site houses the 1889 Thomas Kay Woolen Mill, the best preserved Victorian-era factory in the American West, with exhibits that change throughout the year. The current show is “Threads to New Worlds: A Collection of Fiber Arts”. There are also four buildings dating from the 1840s and 1850s that are restored and furnished in period that you can tour.
The Bush House Museum is another nice spot to visit. This Italianate mansion was built in 1878 by pioneer businessman Asahel Bush II and is set in a 100-acre park. You can take a guided tour of the home Wednesday-Sunday at 1, 2, 3 & 4 pm. I suggest walking around the park for a bit after you tour the house. The Bush Barn Art Center is located nearby. It features three galleries and a gift gallery exhibiting the works of artists from the Pacific Northwest. Also nearby is the Historic Deepwood Estate. It is a 1894 Queen Anne Victorian Home situated on approximately 4 acres of manicured gardens and nature trails. If you plan on touring all of these locations, you can buy a pass here- https://www.boxofficetickets.com/bot/wa/event?id=188645 that will get you into these places and also the Hallie Ford Museum of Art for $20.
There are also lots of great places to visit just outside of Salem. I don’t know if you plan on driving around a bit but you are 25 miles from Silver Falls State Park, the largest state park in Oregon. More about the park here- http://www.oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=parkPage.dsp_parkPage&parkId=151
Willamette Valley Vineyards is also located just outside of Salem and is an award winning winery and tourist destination. The tasting room is open to the public from 11 am until 6 pm daily. They also provide complimentary winery tours and tastings every day promptly at 2 pm. They ask that you call ahead to confirm availability.
Check out Travel Oregon’s suggestions on planning a getaway to Salem.
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Gigi Merrill says…
Welcome to Salem! We love our community, and there is a lot to see. I agree with all of Janel’s suggestions. In addition, if you love to get outside locally, Minto Brown Island park is filled with trails, a dog park and the Willamette River is right there. http://www.cityofsalem.net/Residents/Parks/ParkTour/Pages/Minto-Brown%20Island%20Park.aspx There is a farmer’s market nearby in the summer. The Salem Riverfront Park includes the AC Gilbert House for kids and the amazing hand carved horses of the Carousel.http://www.cityofsalem.net/Residents/Parks/ParkTour/Pages/Riverfront%20Park.aspx. Salem Saturday Market is filled with yummy food, produce, baked goods and flowers! http://oregonlink.com/saturday_market/index.html. Enjoy!!
Polly Rowan says…
Frank Lloyd Wright Gordon House AND Oregon Gardens just to the north in Silverton (http://www.thegordonhouse.org/).
Susan Bliss says…
The website of the Willamette Heritage Center at the Mill says the exhibition “Threads to New Worlds: A Collection of Fiber Arts” closed in February. Please verify that the show is no longer open.
Kara Kuh says…
The “Threads to New Worlds” exhibit is no longer showing at Willamette Heritage Center, however, there are two new exhibits. “The Boys of Summer: Mid-Valley Baseball” explores the history of sport in the Mid Valley (runs through August 18, 2014) and “The Canoe, The Cross and the Chalkboard” takes a look at early Oregon during the time of the Methodist Church.
Other questions about Willamette Valley
- Are there lakes we can kayak in the Eugene and Roseburg area?
- What are the best breweries between Salem and McMinnville?
- We love cycling, although more road cycling than mountain biking, and I’m not too great on hills! Are there any particularly good (and relatively flat) cycle routes you could suggest? -Gill
About Ask Oregon Expert Janel Bennett
Janel Bennett has been living in the Willamette Valley for the past 25 years. When she is not working at the restaurants she and her husband own, Sybaris Bistro and First Burger, she can be found on the road with their daughters on her way to a family fun spot. When she has the opportunity to ditch the kids, she and her husband love to sample the wide variety of dining options that Oregon has to offer.