Salem Tourist Attractions and Sightseeing

(Salem, Oregon - OR, USA)

Although it is difficult to think of Salem as being a metropolis, since it is not overly large for a state capital, this city does come with a very healthy medley of attractions for tourists to explore.

A significant tributary of the lengthy Columbia River, the Willamette River is close to 190 miles / 306 km long and flows in a northwards direction, from the Cascade Range to the Oregon Coast Range. The river and its numerous tributaries come together to create the Willamette Valley region, which serves as the most densely populated part of Oregon and comprises its state capital, Salem. Cruises along the river can be arranged, while for some, it is more fun to go at your own pace and hire a canoe or similar vessel.

Many of the oldest and most interesting tourist attractions reside around the Downtown Salem Historic District, with a suggested walking route being the preferred option for many. For families with young children, the Enchanted Forest is a favorite with the locals and comes with quite a pedigree. For grown-ups, a trip to the Elsinore Theater may be preferable, or perhaps an evening at the Reed Opera House.

Willamette River

Address: Salem, Oregon (OR), USA
In 1996, serious flooding of the Willamette River occurred, when more than 15,000 people from the Salem area needed to be evacuated temporarily, after the river burst its banks. Many years on, tourists will find a mixture of waterfront attractions lining the course of the river, such as the Tom McCall Waterfront Park, which is interestingly named after a former state governor who made a concerted effort to cleanup the river and beautify its western bank in the early 1970s. Kayaks, canoes and small boats can all be hired locally and offer an interesting way to explore this pleasing waterway and follow the Willamette Water Trail, which stretches all the way from Eugene to Portland (a little over 100 miles / 161 km).
Open hours: daily
Admission: free

Downtown Salem Historic District

Address: 200 Commercial Street Southeast, Salem, Oregon (OR), USA
Part of the National Register of Historic Places since the summer of 2001, the Downtown Salem Historic District is made up of an area of seven blocks and is based around Commercial Street, Court Street, High Street, Liberty Street and State Street. With just under 100 buildings and attractions of note, adding much character to the area, this is certainly the place for a self-guided walking tour. Maps of the route are available from the local tourist office and can also be downloaded from the city's official website. Many of the most attractive buildings date from between the 1860s and the 1920s, and include the likes of the Alessandro's Restaurant, the Bush-Breyman Building, the Franklin Building, the Pacific Building, the Pioneer Trust Building, the Semlar Building and the Watkins-Dearborn Building.
Open hours: daily
Admission: free

Hot-Air Balloon Flights

Address: 1819 Skyline Court South, Salem, Oregon (OR), 97306, USA
Tel: +1 503 363 9799
Based within the southwesterly suburb of Sunnyslope, the Balloon Flying Service of Oregon has been providing balloon flights over the city and beyond since its founding in 1989. These flights really do take sightseeing to a whole new level and take off from one of ten different outlying launch sites, depending upon the direction of the wind. Passengers will be able to enjoy some superb views of the downtown Salem cityscape, along with farmland and the meandering Willamette River . The skilled pilots provide commentary and point out the principal attractions below, and aim to land within the urban areas of Salem / Kaizer, such as on the Capitol Mall or the runway of the Municipal Airport. At the end of your flight, you can enjoy the 200-year-old tradition of a champagne toast, followed by a picnic.
Open hours: hours vary, weather dependent (no flights in rain, fog or strong winds)
Admission: charge

Elsinore Theater

Address: 170 High Street Southeast, Salem, Oregon (OR), 97301, USA
Tel: +1 503 375 3574
The Elsinore Theater adds an injection of culture to the core of central Salem, with its cathedral-like exterior dating back to the mid-1920s. Interestingly, the inspiration behind the mock Tudor-Gothic architecture was Elsinore's castle from the William Shakespeare classic, Hamlet. Inside you will discover a number of attractions, including beautifully crafted stained-glass windows, a giant Wurlitzer organ and a traditional theater layout, with elaborate carvings and great attention to detail. Used as a movie theater for many years, the Elsinore was saved from an uncertain future in the early 1990s, after the local community managed to raise funds and purchase the building. A major restoration program began in 2002, costing over US$3 million and lasting almost three years. Classic films are still screened here and are accompanied by a full list of shows, including 'Evenings With', musical productions, comedy gigs, tribute bands and dancing.
Open hours: box office, Monday to Friday - 09:00 to 16:00
Admission: charge

McCulloch Stadium

Address: 900 State Street, Salem, Oregon (OR),97301, USA
Tel: +1 503 370 6300
A large outdoor stadium sited just to the south of the campus of Willamette University, in the neighboring Bush's Pasture Park, the McCulloch Stadium was built in 1950. Split into the Ogdahl Field and the Charles Bowles Track, it is called home by the university's very own football team and athletes, who train and compete in track and field events here. Various renovations have been carried out over the years, big and small, including the addition of a digital scoreboard and improved grandstand. The stadium can currently accommodate some 2,500 spectators and hosts several important football tournaments for regional high schools.Open hours: hours vary according to event
Admission: charge for some games

Enchanted Forest

Address: 8462 Enchanted Way Southeast, Turner, Oregon (OR), 97392, USA
Tel: +1 503 371 4242
This fun amusement park is a popular attraction for families vacationing in Salem and was the brainchild of local draftsman Roger Tofte, who purchased 8 hectares / 20 acres of land in 1964 and ploughed all of his spare time into creating themed buildings, castles and small villages, often inspired by fairytales. He did all of this virtually single-handed and on a very tight budget, whilst holding down a full-time job, which meant that his dream theme park took seven years until it was ready to be opened. Today, the Enchanted Forest is still owned by the Tofte family and remains a staple draw for the families of Salem, who happily travel the 10 miles / 16 km south (via Interstate I-5) to reach this wonderland of children's imagination. Themed areas include the European Village, Fantasy Fountains, Pan for Treasure, Storybook Lane and the Western Town, together with the Ice Mountain roller coaster, the Haunted House and an exciting Log Ride - the Pacific Northwest's biggest. Younger children will enjoy the seasonal shows laid on at the Summer Comedy Theater. Of note, there are several eateries dotted around the site, should you be in need of refreshment.
Open hours: May and late September, Saturday and Sunday - 10:00 to 17:00; mid-May to early June, Saturday and Sunday - 10:00 to 17:00, Monday to Friday - 10:00 to 16:00; mid-June, Saturday and Sunday - 10:00 to 18:00, Monday to Friday - 10:00 to 17:00; late June to early July, daily - 10:00 to 18:00; mid-July, Saturday and Sunday - 10:00 to 19:00, Monday to Friday - 10:00 to 18:00; August, Saturday - 10:00 to 20:00, Sunday - 10:00 to 19:00, Monday to Friday - 10:00 to 18:00; early September, Saturday and Sunday - 10:00 to 18:00
Admission: charge for entrance and rides, discounts available for seniors and children, entrance for children two years old and under is free but rides are still chargeable

Marion Square Park

Address: 551 Commercial Street Northeast, Salem, Oregon (OR), 97301, USA
Tel: +1 503 588 6255
Marion Square Park deserves a mention as an attraction, since it is actually the only skate-park facility in the city. Established in the middle of the 19th century, this small recreational space connects the northerly side of the CBD (Central Business District) with the Willamette River. There are two connected 'skate bowls' that are suitable for skates and skateboards, as well as bikes. A second skating area named the 'Streetscape' offers a selection of ramps. Picnic tables and a basketball court are also to be found here.
Open hours: daily - 05:00 to midnight
Admission: free

Reed Opera House and McCornack Block Addition

Address: 189 Liberty Street Northeast, Salem, Oregon (OR), 97301, USA
Tel: +1 503 391 4481
Centrally located in downtown Salem, the Reed Opera House dates back to 1869 and is an especially attractive building, with a grand Italianate-style red-brick exterior. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places towards the end of the 1970s, this cultural attraction is now where you will find the Salem Repertory Theater, where various performances, concerts, exhibitions and festivals are staged during the calendar year. The building also houses a number of independent local shops, bakeries and restaurants, such as Brown's Towne Lounge, La Perla Tapatia, the Little Cannoli Bakery and the Macedonia Greek Restaurant. Many functions take place within the spacious Trinity Ballroom, which has recently been completely remodeled and can now accommodate more than 250 people seated at tables.
Open hours: hours vary according to performance
Admission: charge