Salem, Ore. is a weird town. Born and raised, I always wished there was more to do in The Town. Now, every time I go back, I embrace the simplicity and appreciate any small changes. For those of you still living in The Town—or, for those of you who drive by The Town on I5 and get the chills, stop and—take a weekend to enjoy it. Here are ten things to do in Salem, Ore.:

1. Dinner and a movie

A big city idea that came to The Town: Movie theatres that serve food. Salem has two: CineBarre downtown on Marion and Northern Lights in South Salem on Commercial. CineBarre tends to play newer movies, but is overpriced, IMO. Northern Lights plays movies just after they leave the original big screen for $3, and their food is more homemade / less processed bar food than CineBarre. Take your pick. (Pro tip: CineBarre has $5 Tuesdays!)

2. Go to a local hip-hop show

Salem rappers don’t get enough credit. They have to grind twice as hard to get noticed, perform for half as many people as Portland rappers, and get bundled into the “Portland rap scene” as if their hometown isn’t on the map. Let’s give these guys some support. Thank you for doing what you do, and for giving us something to do in The Town. Shout out to the locals: Devitto P, AugieP, DeShaun Jordan, Sidewayz Crew, Ryan Laws, Einstein, Matty, and Bank Sinatra (of Top Shelf).

3. Tour the capital building

Taking a day to be a tourist in your own city becomes worth its while when 1) you have relatives in town that you need to entertain or 2) you’re on Jeopardy. If you didn’t grow up in The Town and do this in fourth grade, you should do it now. And if you did grow up in The Town and do this in fourth grade, you should do it again—you’ll appreciate it more now. And if you’re not from Salem, but you live in Oregon, why not take a moment to check out our state’s capital next time you’re driving from Portland to Eugene? (Pro tip: You want the Tower Tour, where you go up 121-steps and stand inside the Golden Pioneer.)

4. Salem Art Fair and Festival, Oregon State Fair, Salem World Beat Festival, The Bite

If there’s not something happening at the Waterfront in The City (Portland), come south. All of the above have great (and by great I mean great for your taste buds, horrible for your body) food. The Salem Art Fair and Festival (July 20-22, 2012) showcases outdoor plays and funky arts and crafts available for purchase. The Oregon State Fair (August 24 – September 3, 2012) is probably my favorite thing to do on this list; and if you’ve never spent time in Salem, it’s the perfect excuse to do so. Rides, games, concerts, magic shows, As Seen on TV demos, 4H… Salem’s World Beat Festival (always the last weekend in June) is another Jeopardy-like event—it’s fun, but it’s also educational—where you experience food, dance, and song from different cultures. And certainly not the last festival, but the last of the greats is The Bite (July 29-31, 2012). More food than any of the above, The Bite brings in all the local restaurants (again combined with music and rides) for a festival all about Salem dining.

5. Cheer on the Volcanoes

Mark your calendar, the Volcanoes season starts June 15, 2012. Tickets usually stay under $20 and since we’re not MLB, beer isn’t overpriced either. And be sure to check the schedule, because on certain nights they shoot fireworks after games. (Date night, Salemites?)

6. Go to the coast, lake, or mountain

One of the few things Salemites can really brag about is being just one hour away from the coast, lake / forest, or mountain. That’d be Lincoln City, Detroit, and Hood. Many cities are hours, or days!, away from these sort of things. Embrace it while you can, Salemites.

7. Hit the STRIP CLUB!

Starz, Cheetahs, Presley’s Playhouse, and all the hole-in-the-wall grimy joints on the North side… Oregon is the Strip Club Capital of America! Embrace that one while you can too, gentlemen.

8. Support local restaurants

Marco Polo on Liberty for Asian-Italian fusion, or Orupa next door for high-end Spanish-American dishes and sangria. La Capitale on State does French right. Davinci’s Restorante on High for impeccable Italian, and always fresh seafood. Venti’s on Court for teriyaki. Burger Basket on Mission for “secret sauce” cheeseburgers.

9. Check out the bar scene

For when you can’t drive to Portland on a Friday or Saturday night, on when you’re home for the holidays, Salem does in fact have a few night clubs. Nothing to write home about, but worth getting away from home for…Flipside and Papa G’s Blacklight Bar. And although they aren’t “nightclubs” South Lib, the Alibi, and The Brick are also local favs.

10. Go to Portland

…for when all else fails.


But Salem isn’t that bad. As a high schooler, the only thing to do was be a mall rat at the Salem Center; but as we get older and appreciate more [read: are legal to consume alcohol], we find that home is where the heart is.


The Town.