What can I do in Salem, Oregon?

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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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Salem, Oregon has many museums and historic sites that are well worth seeing. Salem also has plenty of wide open spaces and outdoor activities, especially near the Willamette River. The Hallie Ford Museum of Art, the Historic Elsinore Theater, A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village, Salem's Riverfront Park and Carousel and the Mission Hill Museum offer exciting things to do for travelers of all ages.

The Mission Mill Museum has 14 historic houses and buildings and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The buildings include the 1896 Thomas Kay Woollen Mill that has working exhibits. The museum's attractive outdoor setting usually has ducks to feed as well as stores open for browsing.

Salem's Riverfront Park beside the Willamette River has pleasant walkways and a large playground. The Park features an interesting sculpture called the Eco Earth Globe. The large Globe, complete with continents and oceans, is covered with thousands of tiles. Its base is made from a recycled tank from the Boise Cascade pulp mill and the project took five years to complete.


Salem's Riverfront Carousel is an indoor attraction located in Riverfront Park. The Carousel has 42 horses created by local artists and the artists' studio sells carousel-themed art and carvings. A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village is also located in Salem's Riverfront Park. A.C. Gilbert invented the engineering construction toy called the Erector Set and the Museum includes the highest Erector Set tower in the world. The Discovery Museum has interactive, fun educational exhibits on subjects such as magnets, musical instruments and paddle wheel ships.

The Historic Elsinore Theater was completed in 1926 on an old livery stable site. It was named after the castle in Shakespeare's Hamlet and features Gothic Tudor architecture popular in Shakespearean times. Murals inspired from Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth are located by each of the staircases. These double and dramatic staircases add a grand look to the lobby which has a vaulted ceiling decorated to look like an evening sky. You can see both films and stage shows at the Historic Elsinore Theater.

The Hallie Ford Museum of Art is Oregon's third largest museum. It has Native American baskets and Pacific Northwestern Art as well as Asian and European artworks. One of the galleries at Salem's Hallie Ford Museum, the Print Study Room, features paper-related artworks such as photographs, sketches and prints.


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