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3 Must-See Tours in Salem, Oregon

by Kyle Stewart

The capital city of Oregon, Salem, is a surprisingly great city to visit. In addition to the typical Pacific Northwest “spunk,” the town also has several great tours. Here are 3 must-see tours in Salem, Oregon.

Salem, Oregon makes a great launching off point to visit a great many of Oregon’s unique and wonderful sights. However, the town itself is worth a longer visit. You can read our piece on the Best Things to Do in Salem here as you plan your overall visit, but for those who enjoy tours, Salem has some great ones. We’ve identified the best Salem tours here.

Hallie Ford Museum of Art

First occupied by Pacific Northwest Bell, the Hallie Ford Museum of Art transitioned from an extension of Willamette University to the third-largest museum in the state of Oregon. Its award-winning collections focus on Native Americans and their celebrations.

The museum offers additional North American, European, and Asian galleries – all cultures which have shaped Salem. Guided tours are available for adult groups of 10 or more, but each Tuesday (admission is free, other days $3-6/person depending on age) Gallery talks are held intermittently throughout the museum. This allows patrons to view the sections they wish on a self-guided tour.

a building with a sign on the front
Credit: Willamette University

Willamette Riverfront 

One of the great historical features of river towns in the United States is Sternboats like Salem’s own, Willamette Queen. There’s really no better way to tour the river than a sunset dinner on a steamboat. 

But there’s another interesting way to see the waterfront. Salem Kayak tours offer a lighted night guided tour. It’s perhaps one of the most unique ways to see the riverfront and offers a rare view of the city lit up at night from colorful lighted kayaks. 

Visitors should ensure they see Salem’s Riverfront Carousel, a turn of the century treasure. The Willamette Heritage Center can add to the river culture for visitors looking for a more historical perspective. 

Downtown Salem

Some of the best things to see, do, and eat in Salem are downtown. For those interested in cycling through historic Downtown, an easy-to-follow bike-friendly route provided by the city can help. The route is just three miles with a total elevation of 156 feet and demonstrates a great deal of what the city has to offer. 

Read More: 15 Things to Do In Salem, Oregon

One of the sights along the route is the Reed Opera House. A converted historical building, the space now plays host to special events, restaurants, boutiques and it’s a must-eat stop along the tour. Among other sites along the way, the Riverfront Park, a World War II memorial, and the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, and the Oregon State Capitol. 

a slice of deep dish pizza
Credit: The Reed Opera

A pedestrian (and cycling) bridge over the Willamette River will lead to Minto Brown Island Park. While it’s not a state park, Minto Brown Island is 307 acres of picturesque landscape on the river’s edge with 29 alternative trails. It’s larger than Central Park in Manhattan and has a haunted history, so perhaps skittish visitors should conclude their cycling tours before dusk.

Be sure to check out all the great destinations in our “Unique Things to Do†Series and take a step out of the ordinary on your next trip.

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1 comment

Ex Salem February 17, 2021 - 8:03 am

The Reed Opera House is full of Easter eggs and rich history. It was rumored Fred Meyer opened his first store there but went out of business. There is an antique safe visible on the second floor uncovered during a renovation that was hidden by a rare coin dealer decades ago, an antique coin was found inside after a safe cracker was brought in to open it. Many relics of past uses and businesses are still hiding in storage rooms and attics.


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