Salem is the capital of Oregon with a history dating back to America's first explorers. No longer part of the wilderness, the friendly city of Salem includes a quaint downtown area, commercial shopping centers, featuring major retailers, and is also close to wine country and some of Oregon's best farms. Whether you love nature or city life, Salem offers something for all travelers.
Must see in Salem
The State Capitol Building is a must-see for history buffs and political followers. Daily tours showcase the building's history and importance.
Salem and its neighbors brim full of gorgeous gardens, including the large Oregon Gardens in Silverton and several gardens and nurseries. Bush's Pasture Park is filled with flowers and is part of the historic home.
Salem is nestled in Oregon's Willamette Valley, best known for being Oregon's wine country. Visitors will discover some of the state's best pinot noirs being crafted and poured at the friendliest wine tastings around.
Where to Stay in Salem
The best place to stay in Salem, whether you are traveling for business or a family vacation with the kids is in Salem's downtown. Here you will be walking distance to Salem's eateries, parks, including the Willamette River waterfront and not far from the city's colleges, art galleries, and farmer's markets. Deals can be found at many hotels in neighboring small towns as well as in the major hotel chains that pepper Salem.
Best and worst time to go to Salem
Salem experiences a lot of rain, so try to avoid going in the winter months when many of the local farms are closed for the season. The summer is the best time to experience Salem when markets reopen and stock fresh locally grown produce, and you can wander about without fear of mud or rain.
Surprisingly, Salem has a sizeable art scene, and the downtown area can get crowded during the annual Art Fair and Festival, held in July.
Where to Get Lost in Salem
Bring a car and drive through Salem's South Salem neighborhood into the wildlife areas. Or head to wine country through West Salem's Wallace Road. Much of downtown's parking is free or free with validation so that you won't get stuck with many parking bills.
The Best Deal in Salem
Salem is a frugal traveler's dream, with no sales tax, free parking, discount theaters, and happy hours all over town. One of the best deals is at the Willamette Valley Cheese Company, a local cheese maker that offers unlimited free samples and free knowledge about cheese making in their simple cheese tasting room. It's not fancy, but it's tasty and has featured in leading food publications.
Transportation in Salem
Salem offers various means of public transportation, including Cherriots, the Salem, and Keizer transit system. Bus stops are found at various points around the city, but the schedule can be somewhat confusing if you have anywhere to go. It is best to rent a car or stay in an area where the bus goes by frequently.
Getting in from Portland International Airport
The nearest commercial airport to Salem is Portland International Airport (PDX). Salem also has a small private airport, as do surrounding cities, but they do not offer commercial flights. Land at PDX and then rent a car to drive 45 minutes to an hour to Salem.
Local tips for visitors to Salem
Unlike many cities, Salem offers ample free parking in both lots and on the street so look for signs. Some spots are metered or reserved for customers to be sure to pay attention to signage. The downtown area is small and walkable, but rent a car to visit the surrounding towns and farms for a great way to enjoy locally grown and produced products, from wine to cheese to honey.
Author's bio: Carly Zinderman is a freelance writer from Los Angeles that loves to travel. She has written for many websites on topics including travel, food and drink.