Salem was established in the early 1800s as a farming community. The town grew during the years of the California gold rush. Salem became the capital of Oregon in 1851 after it was moved from Oregon City. The capital was then briefly moved to Corvallis in 1855, but in that same year was permanently moved back to Salem. The first two Oregon State Capitol buildings tragically burned down. The third and current building was completed in 1938, complete with its distinctive gold-plated pioneer statue, the "Gold Man," perched atop.
Besides being the seat of state government, Salem is also a major agricultural center in one of the most fertile regions in the world.
Salemites are often defensive about the sleepy reputation the city has, often being overshadowed by its hipster rivals, Portland and Eugene. But lately its citizens have begun to realize the value of what their city offers: an interesting and walkable downtown with a waterfront park, a serious arts scene, and a central location in the Willamette Valley that combines the amenities of a city with the accessibility of a town. Salem shares a city boundary with its neighbor to the north, Keizer, largely a residential community.
- Travel Salem Visitors Center, 388 State St., Ste. 100, ☏ , toll-free: , [email protected]. M-F 9AM-5PM, Sa 10AM-4PM. Free WiFi
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 you are coming from east of the Cascades, Hwy. 22 will take you right into Salem.
- See also: Rail travel in the United States
- 1 Salem station, 500 13th Ave SE (southeast of the Willamette University).
- Amtrak, ☏ , toll-free: . Operates train service around the United States of America. Routes stopping in Salem:
- Amtrak Cascades operates between Vancouver, BC and Eugene via Bellingham, Mount Vernon, Everett, Edmonds, Seattle, Tukwila, Tacoma, Lacey (Olympia), Centralia, Kelso (Longview), Vancouver, WA, Portland, Oregon City, Salem, and Albany. There are two round trips daily along the portion between Vancouver and Seattle, four round trips daily along the portion between Seattle and Portland, and two round trips daily along the portion between Portland and Eugene. No train departures travel the whole length of the route. Additional service between Vancouver and Seattle, and between Portland to Eugene are provided on the Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach.
- Coast Starlight operates daily between Seattle and Los Angeles. Stops include Tacoma, Portland, Eugene, Klamath Falls, Dunsmuir, Redding, Chico, Sacramento, Davis, Martinez, San Francisco (Emeryville), Oakland, San Jose, Salinas, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Oxnard, Simi Valley, Van Nuys, and Burbank. Between Seattle and Eugene, it makes the same stops as the Amtrak Cascades, except it skips Tukwila and Oregon City.
- Amtrak, ☏ , toll-free: . Operates train service around the United States of America. Routes stopping in Salem:
The bus station for Greyhound and Oregon Point is the same as Amtrak trains at the Salem Station at 500 13th Ave SE (see above), while the central bus station for 1 Cherriots & Cherriots Regional is at Chemeketa St between High St & Church St behind the building at 555 Court St NE, a couple blocks NW of the state capitol complex in downtown. Take any Cherriots bus (Rt #8 or 18) going north along 13 Ave NE to get to the downtown transfer station from the Salem Station:
- 2 Greyhound, (bus station) 500 13th St SE (Next building south of the Main train station building), ☏ , toll-free: . Greyhound travels primarily on Interstate 5 between Portland and Sacramento through Salem, Corvallis, Eugene, Roseburg, Grants Pass, Medford, Weed, Redding, Red Bluff, Chico and/or Marysville. Passengers transfer buses in Portland, Sacramento or Medford, to get to additional cities. :
- Cascades Point (Oregon Point)/Amtrak Cascades Thruway (operated by MTR Western), Salem Station at 500 13th St SE, ☏ . Operates the Amtrak (Cascades) Thruway route between Portland, Tualatin, Woodburn, Salem, Albany and Eugene. Buses stop at both the University of Oregon and the Amtrak station in Eugene. They only make southbound pick up stops and northbound drop off stops in Tualatin. Tickets are available at the Amtrak ticket counters at the Salem Station or online, and are not sold by drivers.
- Cherriots Regional (formerly CARTS), (Downtown Transit Center) 555 Court St NE (along Chemeketa St, behind the building at 555 Court St NE between Church & High St, a couple blocks NW of the State Capitol Campus), ☏ . Cherriots operate local buses in and around Salem and Keizer. The Cherriots Regional (formerly CARTS) operates express buses from downtown Salem to the surrounding cities and towns in rural Marion County and the neighboring Polk and Clackamas Counties:
- 1x Salem-Wilsonville co-operated by both Cherriots and SMART as an express bus to/from Wilsonville (nearest point to the Portland Metropolitan area) via I-5 . Passengers transfer to the WES Train to continue up towards Beaverton via Tualatin and Tigard. Passengers transfer to the Tri-Met MAX trains from Beaverton or the #12 bus from Tigard to continue into downtown Portland.
- 10x Salem-Woodburn goes up to Woodburn along Hwy 99E. Passengers can transfer to Woodburn Transit to get around locally by bus in Woodburn or continue north towards Oregon City via Canby on Canby Area Transit (CAT) Rt #99 at the Woodburn Bi-Mart. Faster way to get to the Portland Metro Area is by 1x bus, Oregon Point, Greyhound or Amtrak (See Above).
- 20x Salem-Silverton-Mt Angel ... in north Marion County along SR-213 & 214.
- 30x Salem-Santiam Salem, Turner, Slayton & Mill City at foothills of the Cascades.
- 40x Polk County Express One of two routes to Dallas in Polk County, only the route detours south towards Monmouth.
- 50x Dallas Express Goes straight out to Dallas on Hwy 22. The other option is to take is the 40x (see above) which detours down towards Monmouth.
- 80x to Wilsonville from Keizer via Woodburn.
- 3 Flixbus, (bus stop) 405 Chemeketa St NE (bus will board at the commercial loading zone on the northside of Chemeketa St NE). Service between Seattle & Eugene via Tacoma, Olympia, Portland, Salem & Corvallis.
- Shuttle Oregon, (Bus stop) Holiday Inn at 3301 Market St NE (stop at front doors, outside the hotel lobby), ☏ . Goes north to Portland via I-5 and east to Bend through Sisters along SR-22/US Hwy 20. Passengers can transfer other buses in Portland and Bend.
- Yamhill Transit Area Rt #11, West Salem Transit Center, along Cornucopia St NW at Glen Creek Rd NW (next to W Salem Public Library, behind Roth's), ☏ . Connects West Salem to McMinnville via Amity. Yamhill Transit Area operates (local) buses in/around McMinnville and to Newberg, Amity, Carlton, Dayton, Dundee, Lafayette, Sheridan & Willamena in Yamhill County. The #17 bus connects West Salem Transit Center to the Downtown Transit Center while the #16 bus pass along Wallace Rd in front of Roth's. Bus #16 does not stop into W Salem Transit Center behind Roth's. $1.25 one-way fare or $2.50 day ticket/pass.
- Tillamook Transportation District Rt 60x & 70x, Bay 's', Cherriots Downtown Transit Center, ☏ . Buses to Grand Ronde and Spirit Mountain Casino. The 60x bus continues from Grand Ronde to Lincoln City. Check schedules.
- 4 Salem Municipal Airport (SLE IATA McNary Field), 2990 25th St SE (3.5 mi (5.6 km) SE of downtown Salem, southeast of the intersection of Hwy 22 (Mission St SE) & 25th St SE; it is also accessible from I-5 from Exit #253,SR-22/Mission St SE). The airport is available for general aviation and private VIP flights. There are car rental offices and restaurants in the terminal building (administration offices) available for travelers alighting by air. Avelo is the only commercial airline serving Salem from Las Vegas and Burbank
Commercial flights with additional airlines are at Portland International Airport (PDX IATA), an hour's drive from the north. To get to Salem from Portland Airport, follow I-205 south to its connection to I-5 in Tualatin and continue on I-5 south. Groome Transportation offers hourly shuttles to PDX from Holiday Inn Salem at 3301 Market St NE (see below under 'Sleep', see linked website(s)).
Salem has a fairly flat terrain, especially towards the north and east parts of the city, making bicycling easy. Bike routes are not as well marked, however, as in some Oregon cities. The farmland surrounding Salem is wonderful cycling country.
The area's roads are designed more or less around a grid system, where most roads are numbered based on their distance from the city center. Addresses also conform to the numbering of the roads around them. Nearly all streets run with the compass directions. State Street goes east and west from downtown to HWY 213 twelve miles east of town. State Street divides northeast from southeast. All addresses on the west side of the Willamette River, in west Salem are all in the "Northwest" part of town.West Salem is in Polk County, The rest of Salem is in Marion County.
Parking for automobiles in the downtown core is free for visitors and shoppers. There is a two-hour maximum for street parking, but three large parking structures are available for all-day parking. Once you have disposed of your car, downtown is very walkable.
The Cherriots bus system is city wide taking you from the suburbs to downtown and into Keizer, Oregon, and has central transit center in downtown Salem where all the buses arrive and depart. They also have express buses going further out to Wilsonville (1X)(nearest point towards Portland), Woodburn (10X), Dallas (40X, 50X) and Santiam at the edge of the Cascades (30x).
- Downtown Salem Historic District.
- 1 Willamette Heritage (formerly Mission Mill & Marion Historic Society), 1313 Mill St SE (Mill St between 12th & 14th, north of the Amtrak station), ☏ . M-Sa 10AM-5PM. Oregon's historic museum located downtown. The 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 Willamette Heritage Museum and all of which date back to the 1800s. Once a month the Mission hosts a Big Band night with Ballroom Dancing. The Willamette Heritage Museum was formed from a merger between the Mission Mill Museum and the Marion Historical Society.
- 2 State Capitol Building, 900 Court St NE, ☏ . M-F 8AM-5PM. Oregon's Capitol is a unique art deco monument. If 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. Free.
- 3 Willamette University's Campus, 900 State St (69-acre campus behind or south of the state capitol), ☏ . Oldest established university on the west coast with coursework in liberal arts and postgraduate degrees in law and business management. Very nice during the springtime when the flowers are blooming. Visitors parking at the southwest part of the campus at Bellevue St SE & Winter St SE, across the street from Salem Hospital. The GPS pin is the approximate location of the admissions and visitor office next to the Willamette International Studies House (WISH).
Museums & historical attractions
- 4 Gilbert House Children`s Museum (AC Gilbert`s Discovery Village), 116 Marion St NE, ☏ , fax: , [email protected]. Daily 10AM-5PM. 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.
- 5 Bush House, 600 Mission St SE, ☏ , fax: . 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.
- 6 Deepwood Museum and Gardens, 1116 Mission St SE, ☏ .
- Marion County Historical Society Museum, 260 12th St, ☏ , fax: , [email protected].
- Mission Mill Museum, 1313 Mill St, ☏ , fax: . The museum is housed in the former Thomas Kay Woolen Mill. Also, some of the oldest residences in the state, dating from the 1840s and 50s, have been moved to the grounds.
- 7 Museum of Mental Health, 2600 Center St NE (Kirkbride Building), ☏ . On the grounds of the Oregon State Hospital, this fascinating museum has displays recounting the history of the institution. It also has a section on the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which was filmed in a now-demolished part of the hospital with the participation of many of the staff and patients. The museum's hours are limited, so check its website for times you can visit.
- 8 Powerland Heritage Park (formerly Antique Powerland), 3995 Brooklake Rd NE, ☏ . One 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.
- 9 Hallie Ford Museum of Art, 700 State St, ☏ , [email protected]. Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM, Su 1-5PM. Adults ̩$6, Senior (55̟+) $4, Educator/ College Student $3, Youth (under 18) Free.
- 1 Oregon State Fair, state fairgrounds @ 2320 17th St NE (17th St NE & Silverton Rd NE in north part of town), ☏ . late Aug-early Sep. Throughout the year there are different rodeos, swap meets, exhibitions, concerts, holiday bazaars and other events held at the state fairgrounds. The state fairgrounds is also the same location for the Marion County Fair which happens in the first week in July. See the event calendar online.
- Salem Skate Park, downtown's Marion Square Park. This 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.
- 2 Bush's Pasture Park. A 90.5-acre urban public park and botanical garden 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.
- Balloon Flying Service of Oregon, Inc, 323 Marietta St. SE.
- Festival Chorale Oregon.
- 3 Enchanted Forest, 8462 Enchanted Way, Turner (7 miles S of Salem), ☏ , [email protected]. A 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. Adults $13.50, children (3-12) and seniors $12. Ride tickets $1 ea (2-4 tickets per ride). Ride bracelets $17.95-$27.95 after admission.
- 4 Salem Riverfront Park, 200 Water St NE. Sits 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.
- 5 Minto-Brown Island Park, 2200 Minto Island Rd SE, ☏ . Sunrise-sunset. This 900-acre natural park includes open and wooded areas with many trails for walking, jogging, biking, and roller blading.
- 6 Willamette Mission State Park, 10991 Wheatland Rd NE, ☏ . The 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 in the park provides 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. Day use parking $5.
- 1 Willamette Town Center (formerly Lancaster Mall), 831 Lancaster Dr, ☏ .
- 2 Salem Center Mall, 401 Center Street NE, ☏ . A unique mall in the heart of downtown with sky bridges linking sections.
- Woodburn Premium Outlets. Fifteen minutes north of Salem in the town of Woodburn, this large and attractive outlet mall is especially popular during the holiday shopping season.
Salem is not known for its expensive, fine dining, but that doesn't mean you can't find a good meal without breaking the bank. Besides the listings below, there are several fine Mexican restaurants in town, reflecting the city's growing Hispanic population.
- Bentley's Grill, 291 Liberty St SE, ☏ . Northwest ingredients with fresh seasonal seafood, artfully presented salads and choice of steaks served nightly.
- Best Little Roadhouse, 1145 Commercial St SE, ☏ . For Salem, it actually has some ambiance. Try the Caesar salad with freshly grilled Northwest Salmon, Tri Tip sandwiches or salad. Mini-golf course just outside the building.
- Busick Court Restaurant, 250 Court St NE (half block from River Front Park), ☏ . The 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, ☏ . It 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.
- Gerry Frank's Konditorei, 310 Kearney St SE, ☏ . Try 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 Restaurant, 210 Liberty St SE #150, ☏ . Excellent, moderately priced variety of Asian food. Vegetarian selections available, also spicy (and non) dishes.
- Rudy's at Salem Golf Club, 2025 Golf Course Rd S, ☏ . Situated 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 Grill, 1244 State St (just east of the capitol and Willamette University), ☏ . Daily for breakfast and lunch. A popular restaurant in the city, it is visited frequently by students and government workers. Known for its French toast.
- Word of Mouth Bistro, 140 17th St NE, ☏ . 7AM-3PM daily. A tiny, yet very busy place for breakfast and lunch, this restaurant takes no reservations, has long line out the door, and is totally worth the wait.
- Archive Coffee & Bar, 102 Liberty St NE.
Bed & breakfast
- Century House, 292 17th St SE, ☏ .
Hotels and motels
Salem has many moderately priced accommodations outside the downtown core. The exception is the Phoenix Grand, which is somewhat more pricey, but puts you in the center of the city.
- Days Inn by Wyndham Black Bear, 1600 Motor Ct NE, ☏ . indoor pool and continental breakfast. $64 (Jan 2023).
- Phoenix Grand Hotel, 201 Liberty St SE, ☏ , toll-free: .
- Holiday Inn (formerly Red Lion Hotel), 3301 Market St NE, ☏ , toll-free: (reservations), [email protected]. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM.
- Shilo Inn Salem Suites, 3304 Market St NE, ☏ , [email protected]. Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 11AM. Indoor pool, hot tub, and breakfast included.
- Cascade Mountains (highway #22 east) - some of the best hiking terrain in the Pacific Northwest
- Silverton (15 minutes east on highway 213) - murals and creekside dining in a cozy town in the foothills of the Cascades
- 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 Tour Salem is minutes away from some of the finest wine country in the world. Renowned for Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, Oregon has become a destination for wine connoisseurs everywhere.
- Silver Falls. Silver 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.
|Routes through Salem|
|Portland ← Woodburn ←||N S||→ Albany → Eugene|
|Jct ← Jct ←||W E||→ Detroit → Jct|
|Portland ← Woodburn ←||N S||→ Albany → Eugene|
|Portland ← Silverton ←||N S||→ END|
|Portland ← Oregon City ←||N S||→ Albany → Eugene|