The Best Things to Do in Salem, OR

If you’ve just arrived in Salem, Oregon, and you’re wondering what fun and exciting things there are to do here, you’re in luck! Northwest Self Storage put together the following list of the best things to do in Salem! There’s also information on the climate, cost of living, public school system, and more if you plan on moving here. In other words, everything you need to know about Salem before you arrive is waiting for you below!

What is Salem Known For?

You might be surprised to learn that the Oregon State Hospital was the setting for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” the 1975 movie based on Ken Kesey’s fantastic book of the same name. Salem was also once known as the Cherry City because most of the maraschino cherries sold in the United States were grown here.

Planning a Trip to Salem, OR

No matter the time of year you decide to travel to Salem, it’s always best to plan several weeks, if not months, in advance. That way, you get cheaper airline tickets and tickets to events and activities before they sell out.

Top Activities in Salem, OR

Brewery with large tanks and other various equipment

Salem Wine Trail

With spring and summer weather similar to the Mediterranean, Salem produces some of the country’s best wines! To experience all of them and the beautiful nature they offer, the Salem Wine Trail is your best bet!

Salem Art Fair & Festival

The Salem Art Fair & Festival, held annually for over 60 years, features more than 200 of the area’s best artists, crafts, people, wineries, craft beer, and many fun activities for the kids!

Reed Opera House

Opened in 1870, the Reed Opera House was recently renovated and is a magnificent building on the outside. Inside, you’ll find boutiques, bakeries, barbershops, and many other small shops, making it a must-see stop.

Children from 1 to 99 love carousels, and the Salem Riverfront Carousel is no different! It’s a throwback to the era when things were more straightforward, and an ornately-decorated and brightly-colored carousel was all you needed for an afternoon of fun!

Willamette Queen Riverboat

A delicious Sunday brunch while floating down the Willamette River and enjoying the lovely sights and sounds? Yes, please! If you’re looking for a romantic and scenic time, this is it!

Bush’s Pasture Park

Right in the heart of Salem is a gorgeous 90-acre public park you can get to in minutes! Take advantage of the rose garden plus the cherry and apple orchards! The park also has several playgrounds for the kids.

Gilgamesh Brewing

This activity is for adults only, but it is a fantastic time if you love delicious craft beers! The motto at Gilgamesh Brewing is that there’s “a beer for everyone,” and they work hard to make that motto come true. Plus, the restaurant itself is gorgeous, with beautiful woodwork and metal.

Best Time of Year to Visit

Unless you’re a big fan of snow, the best time of year to visit is from May through October. During these 6 months, there’s less rain and, of course, no snow whatsoever. That said, Salem doesn’t get much snow in winter, but it does see freezing weather.

Many folks like visiting in the fall because of the beautiful fall colors. The same can be said in spring when everything starts to bloom. If you like skiing and snowboarding visit during the winter when the skiing is fantastic!

Considerations when Moving to Salem, OR

Rolling vineyard hills in Salem


As mentioned earlier, the weather is quite pleasant for about six months out of the year. Summertime is warm but not sweltering, with relatively low humidity. Winter does see freezing weather, but not a huge amount of snow most years. The comfort index in Salem is 9.2/10, which is phenomenal. (The U.S. average is 7.8/10.)

Cost of living

You’ll be pleased to know that the cost of living in Salem, OR, is affordable. With an overall cost index of 102.4/100, it’s less than 3 points above the national average. Healthcare, utilities, and transportation are all below the U.S. average, cost-wise, leaving housing as the only cost index higher at 121.5/100. Even that is pretty decent compared to many other similar cities.


The public school system in Salem gets a B- grade, which most students will tell you is alright, but isn’t fantastic either. There are 72 public schools in the city; unfortunately, only three get an A or better. However, many schools get that aforementioned B grade, meaning your kids will get a solid educational start.


There’s no denying that Salem offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities. (We’ve already seen a few of them above!) It’s been designated a runner-friendly city and an excellent place for biking and hiking. There are waterfalls to explore and 9,000 acres of pristine forest for camping, fishing, and hunting.

Real Estate

The housing cost index in Salem is 121.5/100, only 22 points above the national average. The median home cost is $399,000, about $60,000 higher than the US average. In short, although real estate isn’t ridiculously cheap in Salem, OR, it’s not ridiculously expensive either.

Let Northwest Self Storage Help You Plan Your Move to Salem, OR

If you’re moving to Salem soon and need to find storage, Northwest Self Storage offers safe, clean, and secure storage units around the city! Not sure what size storage unit you need? No problem! Our storage unit size guide will point you in the right direction.

Northwest Self Storage sells moving supplies at affordable prices, and we will gladly answer any questions you have about moving here. When you’re ready, reserve your Salem, Oregon storage units online, and they will be ready and waiting for you when you and your movers arrive!