With all the great food and drinks that can be found in Salem, you'll probably be looking for some more active things to do. Salem has plenty of outdoor activities to keep you busy! We started with Riverfront Park – a quick five-minute walk from our hotel. The 26-acre park features large grassy areas, an amphitheater, play equipment, a splash pad, and a covered picnic pavilion. They are currently building a stage and performance area, which should be completed fall of 2021. The park connects to other area trails, making it an excellent place for a bike ride. Check out the rideshare program with Ride Salem bikes – with stations located around downtown Salem and along the river. You'll find a vast array of bike routes in and around Salem here.
The park is also home to the Salem Carousel. Originally, the carousel had 40 horses, one zebra, and one mule. All of the animals, fixtures, and decorations are hand-carved and painted. The carousel was built and is maintained by an army of volunteers. They are currently adding some bio-diversity with animals such as a frog, skunk, and a shark. Of course – there is also a University of Oregon Duck and an Oregon State Beaver in the works!
Also along the river, you can visit the Willamette Queen, a scaled-down version of the former Mississippi riverboats, powered by twin paddles. The sternwheeler offers cruises featuring lunch, dinner, and Sunday brunches and can also be rented for private parties, business meetings, and weddings. The captain is an ordained minister who can even officiate.
Minto-Brown Island Park can be accessed either by foot or bike from Riverfront park via Peter Courtney Minto Island Bicycle and Pedestrian Bridge. With 29 miles of trails to bike, walk, or run, this is the biggest park in Salem (even larger than Central Park in NYC!). Minto-Brown Island Park Trail Map.
From Riverfront park, it is an 18-minute walk or a 6-minute bike ride to Wallace Marine Park, a popular starting point for many kayakers. This was the start of our kayak trip, which took us about 5.5 miles downriver through the Keizer Rapids Park. There would actually be rapids in early spring or later in the fall, but our trip was a relaxing float down the river. We rented kayaks through Salem Kayak Rentals. Owner and operator Shannon Valdez met us at the boat launch with kayaks ready. As we paddled down the river, she told us about the area's history, what it was like growing up on the river and learning the business from her father (who also used to run a boat touring company).
If you want to get further away from Salem, head out to Silver Falls State Park where you will find a challenging 9-mile hike called Trail of Ten Falls. Along the trail, you will find (you guessed it) 10 spectacular waterfalls. Not up to the full 9 miles? You can also choose one of the many smaller loops among the falls.
There is no shortage of wonderful outdoor opportunities in and around Salem, and after our workout, there is always room for ice cream at Dolce Mama's. Whether it's a ride on the carousel or a strenuous 9-mile hike, you can really work up a thirst. Tune in to Part 3 of our story to learn about the many delicious wines to be found in the area.
Editorial disclosure: lodging, beverages, and food generously provided