Looking for a family-friendly, bang-for-your-buck destination this winter? Try Salem. Oregon’s capital city, located in the heart of the Willamette Valley, has something for everyone: scenic views of the Willamette River for nature enthusiasts, a bevy of museums for art and history lovers and stellar options for food, drink and evening entertainment.
Begin your trip by booking a stay at the Century House of Salem Bed and Breakfast (centuryhouseofsalembandb.com). Century House, built in 1912, is one of Salem’s most popular bed and breakfasts. Its location in the center of the city provides easy access to several museums, parks and art galleries. Hostess Jean Brougher strives to spoil visitors with a warm welcome, home-cooked meals and cozy accommodations.
Each of Century House’s guest rooms is comfortably furnished and tastefully decorated. Upstairs, guests have access to a kitchenette and a sitting room which doubles as a playroom for young children. The spacious backyard is the perfect place to lose yourself as you walk along the decorative rock and brick paths under a canopy of trees.
Start off your first morning in Salem with a hearty breakfast prepared by Brougher. She makes a point of accommodating virtually any dietary restriction, offering guests a wide variety of morning favorites including breakfast burritos, omelets, quiche and crowd-pleasing Oregon blueberry pancakes.
After sampling some of the best breakfast and hospitality Salem has to offer, take a stroll through Riverfront Park (cityofsalem.net/riverfront-park). The park offers 23 acres of manicured lawns, walking paths, an amphitheater and a dazzling view of the Willamette River. Riverfront Park is especially inviting to young families, as parents and children have their pick of the playground, carousel and the nearby Gilbert House Children’s Museum (acgilbert.org) for entertainment. Named in honor of A.C. Gilbert, inventor of the Erector Set, the children’s museum actively promotes the concept of “creative play” to educate and inspire young visitors.
Walk down to the docks and have lunch aboard the Willamette Queen (willamettequeen.com), a sternwheeler cruise popular with both locals and and study photographs, paintings, prints and drawings ranging from the 17th century to modern times.
Film buffs will appreciate a trip to the Oregon State Hospital Museum of Mental Health (oshmuseum.org). The museum has a permanent exhibit dedicated to the critically acclaimed 1975 film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” which starred Jack Nicholson. Several scenes of the movie were shot in this building.
Fancy dinner and a movie? After your afternoon excursions, head over to Northern Lights Theatre Pub (northernlightstheatrepub.com), Salem’s premier dinner theater. Northern Lights’ prices are hard to beat: Most movie tickets cost only $3, and dinner entrees typically cost around $10. Later in the evening, when the bar opens, Northern Lights serves a rotating selection of affordably priced beer, wine and cider. Northern Lights is a family-friendly establishment, showing a wide selection of children’s movies as well as content for mature audiences. However, restrictions for minors apply after the bar opens. For this reason, families with members under 21 should attend movies starting no later than 6:30 p.m.
When you arrive, you’ll be seated at a table in the theater. Waitstaff will discreetly serve food and beverages during the movie, allowing you to eat, drink and enjoy the film all at once.
Back at the Century House, tuck in for the night. Wrapped snugly in handmade quilts, you begin dreaming of your next day’s adventure.
For more information about traveling in Salem, Oregon, visit travelsalem.com.