Thinking of getting out of town this Christmas? Why not head out to Salem, Oregon?
Salem is a capital city that is full of parks and gardens, but it also has a metro vibe. Landmarks include the domed Oregon State Capitol that contains an art collection by Oregon artists. You will also want to check out sites like the Hallie Ford Museum of Arts, the Willamette Heritage Center and the Bush House Museum.
The sights of Oregon look especially appealing when they are lit up for the Christmas holiday. Here are some things you’ll want to check out when you’re in town.
The Salem Riverfront Carousel
Riverfront Park is a 23-acre park located along the Willamette River. It includes a Discovery Village, an amphitheater, an eco-friendly earth globe, an outdoor sculpture a community art project and a carousel.
The carousel is especially magical to ride at Christmastime when it doubles as a Food Drive. All donations of canned food benefit the Marion Polk Food Share.
Tree Lighting at Riverfront Park
Riverfront Park is also the site of a special tree lighting ceremony. Taking place in early December, the lighting is led by the mayor who is assisted by one lucky child in flicking the switch.
Other festivities include a visit form Santa, hot chocolate and cookies, live reindeer, holiday bell ringing, a letter to Santa station, musical performances by a local choir, a scavenger hunt, holiday craft making and visits with the Salem Fire Department and Salem’s Park Ranger.
The park stays lit up for the entire holiday season making it a great place to stroll through, especially at night.
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Riverfront Park is also the site of the Salem on Ice ice-skating rink. It is open every day through the holiday season with extended hours on Christmas and Christmas Eve.
Miracle of Christmas Lights Display
Salem residents are known for going all out when it comes to Christmas decorations. You can drive around looking at the various neighborhoods but one you won’t want to miss out on is the Gubser Neighborhood.
The neighbors in the area make Christmas a formal event hosting the Miracle of Christmas Lights display. Guests can walk or drive through and follow the signs to enjoy the festivities.
Like the carousel in Riverside Park, this also doubles as a fundraising event for the Marion Polk Food Share. Guests are encouraged to bring a canned food item to donate.
Search for Ornaments in the Willamette National Forest
If you enjoy scavenger hunts, the Willamette National Forest is the place to be.
Every year, the park rangers scatter 200 ornaments throughout the forest. Guests who find the ornaments have a chance to win packages that may include dinner, an activity or an overnight stay in a local hotel.
The ornaments don’t get found easily. In 2019, only forty of the 200 items had been found by mid-December. Be sure to check the Forest’s website for clues as to where they may be.
Once you find an ornament, rangers encourage you to post a picture on social media alongside the hashtags “findyourornament or #findyourtrail.
Celebrate the Holidays at the Oregon State Capitol
The capitol building is a must see for anyone visiting Oregon. It has a stripped-down classical design, and it sits in a structure with various parks and gardens. It features a variety of artwork including large relief sculptures on the exterior. It also has interior exhibits that represent Oregon’s culture.
Every year, the Capitol hosts a tree lighting celebration that includes a choir performance, free photos with Santa, cookies and punch.
Christmas at the Willamette Heritage Center
The Willamette Heritage Center is dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of mid-Willamette Valley History. It contains fourteen historic structures, permanent and changing exhibits, a research library, a textile center and rentable event spaces. Its campus houses art galleries, retail shops and cooperative artist studios.
Every year, the Heritage Center hosts several festive events including the following:
· Volunteer Light Hanging: Be a part of the fun by volunteering to hang lights around the center in preparation for the holidays.
· Razzle Dazzle Holiday Review: The Razzle Dazzle Theater Troupe puts on a special holiday presentation.
· Family Fun Saturday: Family Fun takes place every second Saturday at the center and offers a variety of craft projects families can enjoy. The December event promises holiday themed fun.
· Magic at the Mill: Magic at the Mill is a five-night event that includes thousands of twinkling lights, live music, living history exhibits and workshops, demonstrations and more.
Salem Holiday Market
Looking to get a jump on your holiday shopping? The Salem Holiday Market is the perfect place to do it.
The market is held at the State Fairgrounds over the course of one weekend in mid-December. 250 vendors are on hand selling handmade, handcrafted and homegrown products. You can also find Santa’s Village, a Gingerbread House, Tree Decorating Contests, live music and great food on the grounds.
Check out Holiday Entertainment at the Elsinore Theatre
The Elsinore Theatre is a historic theater in downtown Salem and a great place to catch movies and live performances. During the holiday season, they show a variety of holiday classic movies as well as live performances of The Nutcracker and A Christmas Story.
Christmas at Deepwood Museum and Garden
The Deepwood Museum & Gardens is a historic house that dates back to 1894. Guests can visit on Saturdays in early December to enjoy an open house event. Hand made ornaments hang from the trees that are scattered throughout the home to provide a distinctly Victorian holiday vibe.
Santa Claus is on hand for visits in the Solarium and Victorian dressed hostesses are located throughout the home to answer guest’s questions.
The Museum also hosts a holiday market event that coincides with the open house. It’s a great place to find holiday decorations, vintage items, home décor and more. All proceeds benefit the Museum’s care and preservation.
If you are looking for a terrific holiday destination, you really can’t beat Salem, OR. Its vintage meets metro vibe makes it the perfect city to spend Christmas in. Which of these activities will you be adding to your ‘must-do’ list?