Downtown Salem is bordered to the west by the Willamette River, and Riverfront Park is a good place for a stroll, a carousel ride, or a riverboat excursion. The carousel horses (101 Front St. NE, 503/540-9301, www.salemcarousel.org, 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Sun. June–Aug., 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 10 a.m.–7 p.m. Fri.–Sat., 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Sun. Sept.–May, $1.50) were hand-carved by volunteers, and it’s no antique; it was built in the late 1990s.
Along the river near the carousel, find the Willamette Queen (200 Water St. NE, 503/371-1103, www.willamettequeen.com), a stern-wheeler that cruises the Willamette year-round. Lunch cruises are offered noon–1 p.m. Tuesday–Saturday ($22 adults, $16 children 4–10); one-hour afternoon cruises without food are less expensive (2 p.m., $12 adults, $6 children) and allow you to eat at a good restaurant a short walk away in downtown. Dinner and Sunday brunch cruises are also offered. This is a good way to get a decent look at the river and, if you’re lucky, some of its wildlife.
A. C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village
Also in Riverfront Park, find A. C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village (116 NE Marion St., 503/371-3631 or 800/208-9514, www.acgilbert.org, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Mon.–Sat., noon–5 p.m. Sun., $5.75, $4.25 seniors, $2.75 toddlers ages 1–2), a cheerful cluster of restored Victorians that also houses the national Toy Hall of Fame. Inspired by A. C. Gilbert, a Salem native whose many inventions included the Gilbert Chemistry Set and the Erector Set, Discovery Village’s hands-on expositions incorporate art, music, drama, science, and nature.
Whether you’re designing a card or bookmark in the craft room, putting on a puppet show, or disassembling a parking meter, the outlets for creativity here are adaptable to any mood or mind-set.
If you don’t have participatory inclinations, you can still enjoy fascinating exhibits like the one dedicated to A. C. Gilbert, whose Olympian athletic exploits and proficiency as a world-class magician were overshadowed by his inventions. As you might expect, even the gift shop here is a winner.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel