If you live in the Portland area and have always been curious about your neighbors to the south, then jump in your car for a little day-trip to Salem, Oregon! It’s a quick and direct drive from Portland to Salem and this city is filled with family-friendly activities, places to eat and beautiful parks. Put a trip to Salem on your calendar as soon as possible!
Go: A trip to Salem is great any time of year, although you’ll get the most out of your trip on a rain-free day where you can do some exploring outside as well.
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Get there: Getting to Salem from Portland doesn’t take long – just about an hour – making it the perfect candidate for a day-trip. Day-trip novices, this is a great place to start, because getting to Salem is super easy – it’s literally a straight shot down I-5.
What to bring: Bring all the standards for being away from home for the day including snacks for the car, an extra change of clothes for the entire family (don’t forget yourself!) and more diaper changing supplies than you’ll think are necessary. As always, dress in layers for the Northwest weather and throw one more extra warm layer in the car, just in case!
Top 4 Things to do: The only downside about taking a day-trip to Salem with your kids is having to narrow down which fun activities to squeeze in to your visit! Here are four that are worth prioritizing.
1. Salem’s Riverfront Carousel: There’s something about carousels that are incredibly magical for children and this one is especially enchanting. The carousel itself is housed indoors, so this is a good activity, despite the weather. Rides are $1.50 per person, or buy a wristband to ride all day for $10 – in between rides, play at the park next door, which is beautiful. There are two play areas – one for big kids and one for tots. Located at 101 Front Street NE at the intersection of Front Street and State Street in Downtown Salem (Psst! Bring cash for the carousel tokens!)
2. Enchanted Forest Park: Located just of I-5, Enchanted Forest Park is much cooler than your average theme-park. Families with young children love it here and even local Salem families make frequent visits since the rides are mostly geared towards tots and young school-aged kids, the prices are reasonable and the park is clean. Plus, you can bring your own food, so pack a picnic with your favorites before leaving home! Located at 8462 Enchanted Way SE
3. AC Gilbert’s Discovery Village: Geared towards younger children, Discovery Village is a science museum, children’s museum, and cool play area, all combined into one. AC Gilbert was the inventor of the erector set and your entire family is sure to be inspired (and have fun!) and this engaging Salem activity. If you’re going during the week, make this your first stop (they open at 10:00 am) to avoid being here after school lets out when it can get quite crowded. Located at 116 Marion Street NE (pictured)
4. Bush’s Pasture Park: If you are visiting Salem on a rain-free day, plan to spend some time exploring Bush’s Pasture Park – it’s located right in the city and is gigantic. It has more than one playground to discover and tons of great, paved paths for riding bikes and scooters. There are often family-friendly activities happening at Pasture Park as well, so check their website before you arrive. Located at 890 Mission Street SE
Where to eat: It’s hard not to find a place to dine with the kids when you’re visiting Salem – almost any restaurant or café you’ll stop at in this family-friendly city will be accommodating to little ones. Here are a few to try.
Christo’s Pizzeria for yummy pizza that isn’t greasy, super quick service and fresh, homemade ingredients. 1108 Broadway Street NE
Willamette Noodle Company for pasta made from scratch and four different varieties of Mac n’ Cheese. They even have gluten-free pasta options! 308 High Street NE
La Hacienda Real for super family-friendly dining, the quickest service you’ll ever see and yummy vegetarian options. 475 Taggart Drive NW
Cost: The cost of a day-trip to Salem is what you make of it – some of these places do have admission costs, so you’ll want to plan for those, but you can offset those prices easily by packing your own lunch and snacks to enjoy at the park.
— Katie Kavulla