Salem, the capital of Oregon, is located in the Willamette Valley between Portland and Eugene with a population of 160,000. Salem was established in the early 1840s as a farming community and as the town grew during the years of the California gold rush Salem became the capital of Oregon in 1851. The first two Oregon State Capitol buildings tragically burned down while the third and current building was completed in 1938, complete with its distinctive gold-plated pioneer statue, the “Gold Man,” perched atop. Salem is the third largest city in Oregon and an hour south of Portland in addition to being the home of Willamette University.
Get in
By car
Salem is located in the mid-Willamette Valley, about halfway between Portland to the north and Eugene to the south; it’s about a one-hour drive from either city on Interstate 5. If coming in East of the Cascades Hwy. 22 will take you right into Salem.
By bus
Greyhound and Amtrak Thruway serve Salem frequently. If staying in Central or Eastern Oregon there is a Cascade bus that travels through all seasons. Prices are relatively inexpensive.
Also Cherriots and Wilsonville’s SMART system jointly operate the Route 1X express transit bus between the Downtown Salem Transit Center and the Wilsonville WES rail station (with service to Tualatin, Tigard and Beaverton (with its MAX light rail connection to Portland and the entire Portland region). This bus and rail connection only operates weekdays and in the morning and afternoon (no mid-day, night or weekend service), but operates in both directions during its operating time. The current fare for the Route 1X bus is $3.00 one way. The fare for the WES train is $2.50 which is valid as a 2 hour ticket on the Portland regional TriMet system, for a combined total fare of $5.50 one way from Portland to Salem.
By train
The Amtrak station in Salem is just to the east of the downtown core and is served by the regional Cascades train and the long distance Coast Starlight train. The Amtrak Cascades (Eugene-Salem-Portland-Tacoma-Seattle-Vancouver, BC) has 2 runs daily in each direction and the Coast Starlight (Seattle-Portland-Salem-Eugene-Sacramento-Bay Area-Santa Barbara-Los Angeles) has one run daily in each direction. Be aware that northbound Coast Starlight trains can be delayed many hours on their journey from Los Angeles. The Cascades trains are really only an option for day trips from Salem and Eugene to Portland or passengers who stay overnight in Salem. Day trips from Portland to Salem both directions by train are not possible considering the schedule however there is Amtrak Thruway coach service.
By plane
Primary airline service to Salem come from Portland International Airport, an hour’s drive from the north. To get to Salem from Portland Airport, follow I-205 south to its connection to I-5. Salem’s local airfield is McNary Field (KSLE) which has flights to and from Portland, Eugene and Bend as well as the occasional flight to Washington or California. The terminal is very small, a single large room, though it is serviced by an FBO with facilities. Hertz and Enterprise are located at this airfield as well.
Get around
By public transit
The Cherriots bus system is city wide taking you from the suburbs to downtown and into Keizer, Oregon. The system has a terminal in downtown Salem where all buses arrive and depart. Do note that drivers can’t make change so exact fare is required if you are paying with cash when getting off the bus. Day Passes offers unlimited rides all day and can be purchased on the bus or at Customer Service in the Downtown Terminal. Bikes can be loaded to the front of the bus onto a bike rack. Cherriots also has CherryLift which is a point-to-point transit that can load and unload wheelchairs.
Cherriots bus at the downtown terminal.
Cherriots Bus Fares
$1.60 ($3.25 for Day Pass, $45 for 30-Day Pass)
Seniors, Disabled and Youth (6-18)
$0.80 ($1.50 for Day Pass, $22.50 for 30-Day Pass)
5 Years & Under
Route 1X to Wilsonville
Route 1X to Wilsonville Special and Youth
Route 2X – Grand Ronde
$3.00 ($6.00 for Day Pass)
Route 2X – Grand Ronde Special
$1.50 ($3.00 for Day Pass)
Taking a cab
Uber is present in Salem as well as Salem Taxi Service and the traditional Yellow Cab.
On foot
Salem is spread out by residential suburbs and while it is possible to walk from Downtown to West Salem or South Salem walking to North Salem or Lancaster from these locations can lead through rougher neighborhoods. There is a walking path along the Marion Street Bridge as well as the Union Street Railroad Bridge at the north end of Riverfront Park that lead to West Salem from Downtown. The Union Street Railroad Bridge is a pedestrian-only bridge while Marion Street Bridge’s walkway is alongside traffic.
The Willamette Queen riverboat moored at Riverfront Park downtown has lunch and dinner cruises up the Willamette River.
  • Downtown Salem Historic District200 Commercial Street SEThe Salem Downtown Historic District was officially listed in the National Register of Historic Places on September 28, 2001. The district is a seven block area roughly bounded by Chemeketa, High, Ferry, and Front Streets. There are a total of 92 buildings, 67% of which contribute to the historic character of the district. A walking tour brochure is available on the City of Salem’s website.  
  • Mission Mill Museum1313 Mill St. 503-585-7012The site of the museum features working displays of the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill and several other historic Salem buildings, which have been relocated to the site. There are five buildings total that make up the Mission Mill Museum, all of which date back to the 1800s. Once a month the Mission hosts a Big Band night with Ballroom Dancing. 
  • State Capitol Building 503-986-1388If you are lucky enough to be in Salem on a sunny day you should go to the Capitol building and take the tour to the top of the building to see the Gold Man (The Golden Pioneer). Observation Deck tours are available to the public, on the half hour, Memorial Day through Labor Day. There are parks located all around, complete with gardens and large fountains. The fountain directly in front is a haven for kids to play and cool down in the summer time. 
  • Willamette University’s CampusState St.Very nice in the spring. Oldest established university on the west coast.  
  • AC Gilbert’s Discovery Village116 Marion St. NE 503-371-3631 (fax503-316-3485). Perfect for the younger kids, mostly preschool to about 13 years old. A hands on fun learning center housed in charming turn of century buildings and decor. 
  • Bush House600 Mission St. SE 503-363-4714 (fax5033713342). Built just after the settler arrived from the Oregon Trail, this historic old homestead now houses the art of Salem’s finest artists. In the summer you can wander through the fragrant Rose Garden and take a hike on a popular trail with the lunch crowd from nearby businesses. 
  • Friends of Historic Deepwood Estate1116 Mission St. SE 503-363-1825
  • Marion County Historical Society Museum260 12th St. 503-364-2128  fax503-391-5356). 
  • Western Antique Powerland3995 Brooklake Rd. NE 503-393-2424One of the largest museums of tractors, steam engines, and antiques farm equipment in the world. To add more interest they have implemented a truck and street car museum where you can catch a ride on an antique streetcar. “Annual Steamup” in Jul-Aug. 
  • Forest History Center2600 State Street 503-945-7208Displays at this museum will all aspects of the forestry profession, from early logging by oxen and early lookout towers, to the latest use of aircraft, computers, and satellite imagery. Admission is free. 
Things To Do
The Salem Center Mall, bus terminal, Willamette University campus and many restaurants and coffee shops are located downtown.
  • Balloon Flying Service of Oregon, Inc.323 Marietta St. SE.
  • Bush’s Pasture ParkA 90.5-acre urban public park and botanical garden located just south of the downtown area. The park is a historical site and contains many trails, playgrounds, tennis courts, picnic areas, gardens, and orchards. Willamette University has its football, track and field, and baseball stadium located in the park. Also home of the Salem Soap Box Derby.  
  • Cinebarre501 Marion St NE, Salem, OR 97301 +1 (503) 364-2627Main theater downtown that shows new movies but has a full-service bar as well as serving food and beer during movies. There is a strict 18+ policy for all times of day however, so kids should be taken to the Regal Theater instead.  
  • Cottonwood Lakes Golf Center3225 River Rd. S 503-364-3673
  • Festival Chorale Oregon.
  • Enchanted Forest8462 Enchanted Way, Turner (7 mil S of Salem),  503-371-4242A land of fairy tales where you walk through Medieval castles, down wooden sidewalks in the Wild West, or meet a ghost in the haunted mansion. This small theme park has rides for kids and adults with an Alpine Rollercoaster, bumper cars, trains and more. In one of their many restaurants is a gorgeous water show with colorful lights bouncing off streams of water. 
  • Minto-Brown Park2200 Minto Island Road SEThis large, 898.9 acre natural park includes open and wooded areas with many trails for walking, jogging, biking, and roller blading. 
  • Northern Lights Theatre Pub3893 Commercial St SE, Salem, OR 97302 +1 (503) 585-4232A second-run theater in South Salem that has cheap ticket prices and also serves food and alcohol during movies.  
  • Oregon State Fairlate Aug-early Sep
  • Salem Riverfront Park116 Mission St. NESits along the Willamette River in the historic downtown area of Salem. Kids will enjoy the huge hand-carved carousel, considered one of the best carousels in the U.S. Willamette Queen Sternwheeler is popular for lunch and dinner cruises with good stories about the settlers. Expansion plans and bicycle rentals are being worked out. 
  • Salem Skate Parkdowntown’s Marion Square ParkThis skate park has two bowls that are connected by a snake. There is also a secondary skate area, called the “streetscape,” which has plenty of grind space and ramps. The skate park is open to skates, skateboards, BMX bikes, and more. 
  • The Coin Jam439 Court St NE, Salem, OR 97301Very popular 21+ barcade in downtown Salem with 80s and 90s arcade machines and pinball. Serves a variety of craft beer but does not serve hard alcohol. All machines have cupholders and they have a few food items as well. 
  • Willamette Mission State Park10991 Wheatland Road, NEThe park occupies land where the first mission for American Indians was founded in 1834 by the Reverend Jason Lee. Members of the Methodist Mission were later active in the formation of Oregon government. A monument is located in the park providing information on this settlement. The original mission buildings are represented by framed outlines called ghost structures. A landing for the Wheatland Ferry — the first to carry the covered wagon across the Willamette River in 1844 — is in the park. Lots of trails for hiking and biking. Civil War re-enactment over the 4th of July. 
  • Lancaster MallLancaster Mall in North Salem is co-located with the Best Buy and a Regal Cinemas and is slightly larger than Salem Center Mall downtown.
  • Reed Opera House189 Liberty St NE, Salem, OR 97301Historic downtown opera house that was tastefully converted into a multi-level shopping center for local vendors. In addition to local shops and vendors, La Perla Tapatia is popular for dollar street tacos and located here. 
  • Salem Center MallWeaves through downtown with skybridges crossing the streets below. Has department stores, a food court and other shops. Public parking at Marion Parkade is directly connected to the mall.
Adam’s Rib Smokehouse1210 State St +1 (503) 362-2194A spot popular with Willamette students as it’s across the street from campus. It has well priced BBQ and beers on tap. Their smoked ribs and a food challenge they offer are particularly popular. Located next to the Sassy Onion.
  • Bentley’s Grill (Bentley’s Grill and Restaurant), 291 Liberty St. SE +1 503-779-1660Northwest ingredients with fresh seasonal seafood, artfully presented salads and choice of steaks served nightly.
  • Best Little Roadhouse1145 Commercial St. SE +1 503-365-7225For Salem, it actually has some ambiance. Try the Caesar salad with fresh grilled Northwest Salmon, Tri Tip sandwiches or salad. Mini golf course just outside the building. 
  • Brick Bar and Broiler105 Liberty St. NE +1 503-375-0959Very popular with the college students, you will find it busy on weekend nights. The food is good here although it can get a little smokey from the bar.
  • Busick Court Restaurant250 Court St. NE (half-block from River Front Park),  +1 503-370-8107The place to stop for breakfast or lunch if you are in downtown Salem. The Banana-Nut Stuffed French Toast was the starter selection for Rachel Ray’s visit to Salem on “$40 a Day”. Just to sip the special blend of coffee and read a paper is a treat in this quaint storefront restaurant.  
  • DaVinci Ristorante +1 503-399-1413It has Italian food, including the Pork Tenderloin Italian herbs. Also they make their own pizza in a beautiful stone oven. When you sit down they bring you fresh made warm foccacia. Popular with the martini crowd for happy hour drinks. 
  • Flight Deck Restaurant & Lounge2680 Aerial Way SE, Salem, OR 97302 +1 (503) 581-5721Small restaurant next to the airfield with seating in view of planes taking off, refueling and landing. Excellent for lunches and the interior is decorated with an aviation theme. 
  • Gerry Frank’s Konditorei310 Kearney St. SE +1 503-585-7070Try the Champagne cake with raspberry filling, quiche or sun dried tomatoes with asparagus. They have a good deal with their soup and half sandwich or quiche and a slice of cake for about $8. 
  • Marco Polo Global Restaurant210 Liberty St. SE #150 +1 503-364-4833Excellent variety of Asian food. Vegetarian selections available, also spicy (and non) dishes.
  • Rudy’s at Salem Golf Club2025 Golf Course Rd. S +1 503-399-0449Situated on a beautiful golf course in an old manor house it’s a relaxing and enticing restaurant. They bring in prime corn fed beef and has an in-house butcher so you get the freshest and best cuts of meat. Popular on Sunday morning with Caramelized French Toast and omelets.
  • The Sassy Onion Grill1244 State St +1 503-378-9180A popular restaurant in the city, it is visited frequently by both students and government workers. Known for its french toast, it serves breakfast and lunch seven days a week and is located just east of the capitol and Willamette University. 
Few bars in Salem are open to or past midnight, with most calling last call around 10:00 to 10:30. While there are bars in North Salem near Lancaster that are open late, these areas are less safe at night. There are no clubs or nightlife downtown outside sports bars, however, the bar areas usually have a police presence and are very safe to walk between downtown at night. Most bars open past 11:00 are not located downtown. Smoking indoors is illegal in Oregon but many bars have covered areas designated for smokers on a patio.
  • b² Taphouse4336 Commercial St SE #150, Salem, OR 97302 +1 (503) 991-5369Tap house that has a large selection of craft beers and wine available. Closes at 10:00 except for Friday and Saturday when it’s open until 11:00.
  • McMenamins Thompson Brewery & Public House3575 Liberty Rd S, Salem, OR 97302 +1 (503) 363-7286McMenamin’s pub on Liberty has an impressive liquor and beer selection as well as board games in a quiet atmosphere, not usually too busy if you go outside dinner hours but the bar area is good for conversation.
  • South Liberty Road Bar & Grill4682 Liberty Rd S, Salem, OR 97302 +1 (503) 363-2739A good bar in South Salem that has happy hour wings, beer and a few pool tables.
  • The Half Penny Bar & Grill3743 Commercial St SE, Salem, OR 97302 +1 (503) 540-5899Irish-themed bar popular with the middle-aged crowd. 
  • Venti’s Cafe + Taphouse2840 Commercial St SE +1 (503) 391-5100Significant tap list and popular with both the college crowd and families. Has trivia bingo nights weekly and a slew of other events that rotate. Open until 12:30 on Friday and Saturday. Also has a location downtown. 
Open Late
  • Archive Coffee & Bar102 Liberty St NE Suite 120, Salem, OR 97301Coffeeshop that turns into a pub at night with a large selection of alcohol and beer. Serves pub food at night. Open until midnight. 
  • Brown’s Towne Lounge1897 12th St SE Salem, OR 97302 +1 (503) 391-9977Downtown bar open until midnight that has live music and pub food. 
  • Jammers Tavern1897 12th St SE, Salem, OR 97302 +1 (503) 362-7494Tavern that is open until 2:30am and has video poker, TVs and pool tables. Quite lively at night. 
  • Hotels and motels
  • City Center Motel510 Liberty St. SE +1 503-364-0121
  • Crossland3535 Fisher Rd. NE +1 503-363-7557
  • Oregon Capital Inn745 Commercial St. SE +1 503-363-2451
  • Phoenix Grand Hotel201 Liberty St. SE +1 503-540-7800 (toll free: +1 877-540-7800). checkout: “”url=””
  • Red Lion Hotel3301 Market St. NE +1 503-370-7888 (toll free: +1 800-248-6273).
  • Shilo Inn Salem Suites3304 Market St. NE +1 503-581-4001 (toll free: “”+1).
Get out
  • Cascade Mountains (highway #22 east) – some of the best hiking terrain in the Pacific Northwest
  • Mt. Angel (30 minutes north-east) – Bavaria in the US! – a cute German village famous for its Oktoberfest held every September
  • Sisters (highway 22 east, ~1.5 hours) – a fun little town with the look of an old western village complete with wooden sidewalks, small boutique shops and restaurants
  • Oregon Wine TourSalem is minutes away from some the finest wine country in the world. Reknowned for Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, Oregon has become a destination for wine connoisseurs everywhere. Tour safely and comfortably with a good Oregon wine tour company like Sunshine Limo Service and Wine Tours.
  • Silver FallsSilver Falls about a 30 minute drive East of Salem. The drive takes you through historic Oregon farmland. Silver Falls is a great place to hike, camp and picnic. The main falls are easy to get to about a 5 minute walk from the parking lot. You can view it from up top but the best experience is to take the short hike down the hill where you can walk behind the falls. There is a 7 mile hike passing by 10 waterfalls ending at another parking lot at the North Falls. Although smaller than the South Falls it is still stunning. You can rent cabins or if you like to ride they have a beautiful horse camp with many trails to enjoy.

Email ChristopherB.

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