Located approximately one hour south of Portland along I-5, Salem is the capitol of Oregon and home to approximately 150,000 people. Compared to her sister city up north, Salem is a small town with a far less urban climate. Even so, it has a distinctly Oregon vibe – with a bounty of green trees and a laid-back lifestyle that is pervasive in the Pacific NW.
For our one night stay, we checked into The Grand Hotel in Salem in downtown Salem. The complimentary on-site parking was underground and easy to access. The hotel itself was elegant in decor, with gold and red accents – and a neon phoenix fountain at the entrance. A platter of chocolate chip cookies greeted us at the front desk.
Our suite-style room was comfortable and clean – and we made use of the indoor pool + jacuzzi just down the hall. For dinner, we walked approximately two blocks to Gamberetti’s Italian Restaurant – which was packed on a Thursday night. A good sign of things to come! We opted for outdoor seating to take in the green grass, swaying trees, gurgling fountains, and pleasant June weather. The atmosphere was upscale, inviting, and relaxing – even with our three young children in tow! As for our meals, the food was fresh, delicious, and well-loved by the palates of everyone at the table. I highly recommend the Pesto Pollo off the main menu – chicken, garlic, artichokes and tomato linguini in a pesto cream sauce. As for the children’s menu, all three of our girls agreed that the alfredo dish was their favorite. For dessert? The White Chocolate Cream Brûlée is light and delightful; the Chocolate Pan Cotta rich and smooth.
After dinner, the girls took a spin on Salem’s Riverfront Carousel – one of the prime attractions in the city (from what I could gather). Our girls have never been known to turn down a carousel ride and they laughed as the horses galloped the circle. Although it’s not remarkably different from other carousels, it still might be worth a ride along with your visit to the adjacent park (which features a fun playground and a nice walking path near the Willamette River).
That same afternoon, we made a very brief visit to AC Gilbert Discovery Museum (just down the street from the carousel) – an unfortunate decision. The museum was dirty and in a sorry state of disrepair – with bathrooms so poorly maintained that we didn’t feel comfortable using them. Not recommended.
After our overnight stay, we appreciated the complimentary breakfast at the hotel before heading out to the Enchanted Forest Theme Park on the edge of Salem. Originally opened in 1971 (26 years after Disneyland), the theme park is storybook-themed and features popular fairy tales – including Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty, Jack & Jill, Pinocchio, and Little Miss Muffet. Admission is $10.75 for adults; $9.75 for seniors and children (ages 3-12), and free for little ones 2 and under. Ride bracelets are available after paid admission – $24.95 for unlimited rides. Although there is a small section of kiddie rides, our 5-year-old and 7-year-old probably most enjoyed the Log Ride, Ice Mountain, and Storybook Lane. We also rode the Challenge of Mondor, but I found it to be too dark/scary for its target audience. One nice amenity is that you can bring a picnic or snacks into the park to enjoy.
We drove by the State Capitol on our way out of our town…so beautiful with breathtaking sculptures and a grand fountain at the entrance! We all agreed that we wished we had visited there first and foremost while in the city. I promptly put it on our “things to do in Salem” list if we ever happen to find ourselves in the city again.
Have you ever been to Salem with kids? What travel tips would you add?
* Thanks to Travel Salem for hosting us.