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14 Unmissable Things to Do in Salem, Oregon

Ishaan Govardhan Nov 30, 2019
America's westernmost capital city is an underrated jewel of a town, and it can be found in the lap of Willamette Valley, among the pine trees of the Pacific Northwest. There's so much to do in "Cherry City", that you might miss out on some fun Salem experiences if you aren't careful while planning your itinerary.

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On your way to Salem, you'll be tempted to stop the car upon hearing the thunderous sounds of this powerful cascade (the 178 ft South Falls), deep in the heart of the Silver Falls State Park.

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Besides the popular South Falls, there are 9 other pristine waterfalls waiting to be discovered within this forest. So leave the car behind for a peaceful hike along the Trail of Ten Falls.

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Just outside Salem city limits, you'll be greeted by the alluring aroma of 80-acre Oregon Garden. This place offers a tram tour, cafe, retail nursery and gift shop. There's nothing like a leisurely, stress-busting stroll among blooming flowers.

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Next, grab your fishing rod and drive over to Walter Wirth Lake. Here, trout bite no matter the time of the year. Thanks to the well-organized trout stocking efforts of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, it's always fishing season here!

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After some peace and quiet? Check out Bush’s Pasture Park, where nature trails surround an art center and a greenhouse. Or, swing by the largest park in town: Minto-Brown Island Park. You can even visit one of the tiniest parks on Earth: Waldo Park (it has a single Sequoia tree!).

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Next, visit the tallest building in town: the gorgeous Oregon State Capitol. This stunning seat of government is topped by a bronze statue "Oregon Pioneer" celebrating the spirit of the missionaries who set out on the Oregon Trail.

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Walk on the cherry tree-lined path leading to the Oregon State Capitol during spring.

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Salem has always played an active role in ecological conservation, which is why it was named "Tree City U.S.A." every year, for the last 30 years!

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Take the kids for a dizzying ride they'll never forget, at the iconic Salem's Riverfront Carousel. This old-school style carousel draws kids, adults, locals and tourists alike.

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In August, don't miss Salem's biggest event, the Oregon State Fair. From wild carnival rides and milk chugging contests to livestock competitions and delicious funnel cakes, this lively fair has it all!

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Don't leave your canine friend out of all the fun! Head over to the Keizer Rapids Park. It has an offleash dog retreat for good times with furry friends.

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For more outdoor fun, check out Wallace Marine Park. Here, you can rent yourself a kayak and set off rowing on the Willamette River.

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Your next stop should be the foodie heaven known as Willamette Valley Cheese Company. Sample an overwhelming variety of award-winning cheeses.

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Having tried an assortment of cheeses, you can try to pair them with the different wines grown in the Willamette Valley. If you can't visit all 12 wineries along the Salem Wine Trail, make sure to swing by the oldest winery in Oregon: Honeywood Winery.

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Where there is wine, there must be vineyards. And Salem's fertile valley soil has given rise to bountiful vineyards that are well worth a visit, like Cubanisimo Vineyards, Evesham Wood Vineyard, and Willamette Valley Vineyards among others.