Salem (Oregon)

Travel Guide North America USA Western United States Oregon Salem



Salem, the capital of Oregon, is located in the Willamette Valley between Portland and Eugene. 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.



Sights and Activities

  • Downtown Salem Historic District.
  • Willamette Heritage (formerly Mission Mill & Marion Historic Society), 1313 Mill St SE (Mill St between 12th & 14th, north of the Amtrak station), ☎ +1 503 585-7012. Mon-Sat 10:00-17:00. 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.
  • State Capitol Building, ☎ +1 503-986-1388. 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.
  • Willamette University's Campus, 900 State St (69 acre campus behind or south of the state capitol), ☎ +1 503 370-6300. 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).
  • Gilbert House Children`s Museum (AC Gilbert`s Discovery Village), 116 Marion St NE, ☎ +1 503-371-3631, fax: +1 503-316-3485, e-mail: Daily 10 AM- 5 PM. 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 House, 600 Mission St SE, ☎ +1 503-363-4714, fax: +1 503-371-3342. 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 Estate, 1116 Mission St SE, ☎ +1 503-363-1825.
  • Marion County Historical Society Museum, 260 12th St, ☎ +1 503-364-2128, fax: +1 503-391-5356, e-mail:
  • Mission Mill Museum, 1313 Mill St, ☎ +1 503-585-7012, fax: +1 503-588-9902. 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.
  • Museum of Mental Health, 2600 Center St NE (Kirkbride Building), ☎ +1 971-599-1674. 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.
  • Western Antique Powerland, 3995 Brooklake Rd NE, ☎ +1 503-393-2424. 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.



Events and Festivals


  • New Year’s Eve - The US celebrates the outgoing of the old year and incoming of the New Year quite dramatically. Every state boasts its own parties to ring in the New Year, but none is more extravagant than New York’s Time Square, which sees people overflowing into the neighboring restaurants, bars, parks, beaches, and neighborhoods.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (officially Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. and sometimes referred to as MLK Day) is an American federal holiday marking the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, which is around King's birthday, January 15. The holiday is similar to holidays set under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. The earliest Monday for this holiday is January 15 and the latest is January 21. King was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.
  • St Patrick’s Day - March 17 celebrates the US’s large Irish population. Many cities around the country boast boisterous parades and Irish-themed parties, especially New York and Chicago, where the river is dyed green. Be wary of the drunkenness that dominates as this is definitely a party-day.
  • Memorial Day - Memorial Day is an important holiday throughout the United States, but not for crazy festivities. Parades commemorating wartime heroes are often held and the day is also the ‘unofficial’ start of summer. Most visitors follow the crowds to parks and beaches, which are capped off with informal BBQs.
  • Independence Day - Also known as the Fourth of July, Independence Day celebrates the US’s break from the British during the 18th century. Barbecues, street parties, beach trips, and weekend getaways are commonplace to appreciate freedom.
  • Labor Day is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor.
  • Halloween - Halloween is a fun holiday on October 31 for all generations to dress up in costumes and relive their youth. Children walk around the neighborhood trick-or-treating for candy, while adults attend parties. Other seasonal events include haunted houses, pumpkin farms and carving, and corn mazes.
  • Thanksgiving - On the fourth Thursday in November, Thanksgiving is held in almost every home in the US. Tourists will have a hard time finding anything to do as the country essentially shuts down in observation. A typical Thanksgiving meal consists of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie commemorating the original Pilgrim’s feast at Plymouth Rock.
  • Christmas - On December 25, Christians celebrate Christmas as the pinnacle of their calendar by attending church and opening gifts from Santa Claus. Almost everything shuts down to promote family togetherness. The northern regions hope to experience a “white Christmas,” with trees and festive lights blanketed by snow.


  • Super Bowl Sunday - the world’s most watched sporting event and one of the highest grossing TV days of the year, Superbowl Sunday is a spectacular extravaganza. Held the first Sunday in February, the Superbowl is the final playoff game between the NFL’s top two teams. The venue rotates every year around America, yet the local parties seem to remain. Pubs, bars and restaurants are great places to enjoy the Superbowl or locals throw their own parties with different variations of betting.
  • The World Series is the annual championship series of Major League Baseball (MLB) in North America, contested since 1903 between the American League (AL) champion team and the National League (NL) champion team. The winner of the World Series championship is determined through a best-of-seven playoff, and the winning team is awarded the Commissioner's Trophy. As the series is played during the fall season in North America, it is sometimes referred to as the Fall Classic.




Like most of the Willamette Valley area, Salem has a marine west coast climate (Köppen Csb) with some distinct characteristics of the Mediterranean climate. Rain is heaviest in late fall and throughout winter, and almost all of the annual precipitation falls between October and May, with a dry season from June through September. Light snowfall occurs in winter, but major snows are rare. Mostly cloudy skies and low cloud ceilings are commonplace during the rainy season.

Salem's mean annual temperature is 11.7 °C; its annual precipitation is 1,007 mm, with an average 8.9 cm of snow included. However, over a quarter of years receive no snowfall. The state capital is about 76 km south of Portland, but actually has a lower average temperature than that of Portland (12.4 °C) due in part to the lower daily minima.



Getting There

By Plane

All airline service to Salem comes 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 in Tualatin and continue on I-5 south.

By Train

Two Amtrak train stop in Salem, Oregon:

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 you are coming from east of the Cascades, Hwy. 22 will take you right into Salem.

By Bus

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 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:

  • Greyhound, Salem Station at 500 13th St SE (Buses pick up in the parking lot in front of the station while the ticket counters and waiting areas are inside.), ☎ +1 503 362-2428, toll-free: +1 800 231-2222. Greyhound travels primarily on Interstate 5 (Portland, Woodburn, Salem, Corvallis, Eugene, Roseburg, Grants Pass, Medford, Redding, Chico, Marysville and/or Sacramento). 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, ☎ +1 541-484-4100. Operates the Amtrak (Cascades) Thruway route between Portland, Oregon City, 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 Oregon City. Tickets are available at the Amtrak ticket counters at the Salem Station or through independent agents, 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), ☎ +1 503 588-2424. 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.

8 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), ☎ +1 503-474-4910. 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 ow fare or $2.50 day ticket/pass.

  • Tillamook Transportation District Rt 60x & 70x, Bay 's', Downtown Transit Center, ☎ +1 503 815-8283. The 70x goes out to Grand Ronde on weekdays only, while the 60x bus goes out to Lincoln City via Grand Ronde thrice daily.



Getting Around

By Car

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 go east and west through downtown, divides northeast from southeast which encompasses most of the city. The addresses on the west side of the Willamette River, in west Salem are mostly in the "Northwest" part of town. The Dallas-Salem Hwy (SR-22), west of the Willamette River divides the NW from the South.

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.

Many international rental companies have a wide selection of rental cars and these include Hertz, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, Enterprise, Budget and Alamo/National. Most companies will require you are at least 25 years of age, although younger people might be able to rent cars at slightly higher rates and with some insurance differences as well. A national driver's license is usually enough, but an additional international one is recommended. Also note that it usually costs more to include lots of other extra things. For example extra drivers, GPS, the first full tank, SLI (Supplemental Liability Insurance), PAI (Personal Accident Insurance, usually covered already at home), road assistance/service plan, and drop-off costs for one-way rentals.
If you want to book a car, it is recommended that you book your car before arriving in the USA. This is almost always (much) cheaper compared to just showing up. Also, try and book with a so-called 'broker', which usually works together with a few or many car rental companies and can offer the best deal. Some examples include Holidayautos, Holidaycars and Sunny Cars. Some of the cheapest deals to book from Europe, includes Drive-USA, which also has a German version.

For more information and tips about renting cars and campers, additional costs, insurance, traffic rules, scenic routes and getting maps and fuel it is advised to check the USA Getting Around section.

By Public Transport

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, Woodburn, Dallas and Santiam at the edge of the Cascades.

By Bike

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.




Salem is not known for its 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, ☎ +1 503-779-1660. Northwest ingredients with fresh seasonal seafood, artfully presented salads and choice of steaks served nightly.
  • Best Little Roadhouse, 1145 Commercial St SE, ☎ +1 503-365-7225. For 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 Broiler, 105 Liberty St NE, ☎ +1 503-375-0959. Very 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 Restaurant, 250 Court St NE (half=black from River Front Park), ☎ +1 503-370-8107. 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, ☎ +1 503-399-1413. 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, ☎ +1 503-585-7070. 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, ☎ +1 503-364-4833. 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, ☎ +1 503-399-0449. 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, ☎ +1 503-378-9180. A 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. edit
  • Word of Mouth Bistro, 140 17th St NE, ☎ +1 503-930-4285. 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.




Salem has many moderately priced accommodations, which are located outside the downtown core. The exception is the Phoenix Grand, which is somewhat more pricey, but puts you in the center of the city.

  • City Center Motel, 510 Liberty St SE, ☎ +1 503-364-0121.
  • Crossland, 3535 Fisher Rd NE, ☎ +1 503-363-7557.
  • Phoenix Grand Hotel, 201 Liberty St SE, ☎ +1 503-540-7800, toll-free: +1-877-540-7800.
  • Red Lion Hotel, 3301 Market St NE, ☎ +1 503-370-7888, toll-free: +1-800-248-6273.
  • Shilo Inn Salem Suites, 3304 Market St. NE, ☎ +1 503-581-4001.



Keep Connected


There is a very small internet bar/cafe culture in the USA. Even then most of the internet bars/cafes tend be located in major urban centers. Accessible WiFi networks, however, are common. The most generally useful WiFi spots are in coffee shops, fast-food chains, and bookshops, but also restaurants and hotels more and more have a network to connect on. Some of them might require you to buy something and you might need a password too, especially in hotels.


See also International Telephone Calls

The general emergency phone number is 911. The USA has a great landline phone system that is easy to use. The country code for the U.S. is +1. The rest of the telephone number consists of 10 digits: a 3-digit area code, and a 7-digit number. Any small grocery store or pharmacy has pre paid domestic or international phone cards. These phone cards are very cheap and offer good rates. The once ubiquitous pay phone is now much harder to find. Likely locations include in or near stores and restaurants, and near bus stops. The cellphone network in the states is slowly getting better but is still not as good when compared to other western countries. Cell phones tend to operate using different frequencies (850 MHz and 1900 MHz) from those used elsewhere in the world (2100 MHz). This used to prevent most foreign phones from working in America. Phones must be tri- or quad-band to work in the U.S. Fortunately, technology has meant that most phones should now be able to pick up one of the U.S. networks. Prepaid phones and top-up cards can be purchased at mobile phone boutiques and at many discount, electronics, office supply and convenience stores. A very basic handset with some credit can be had for under $40.


The US Postal Service is a very good and well priced mail system. There are post offices in every small and large town for sending packages internationally or domestically. Although some might keep longer hours, most are open at least between 9:00am and 5:00pm. If wanting to send a letter or postcard it is best just to leave it in a blue mail box with the proper postage. First-class international airmail postcards and letters (up 28.5 grams) cost $1.10. There are also private postal services like FedEx, UPS, TNT and DHL, which might be better value sometimes and are generally very quick and reliable too.


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This is version 10. Last edited at 13:04 on Jun 14, 19 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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