oregon flowers

Salem, OR is the capital of Oregon and is located in the middle of Willamette Valley. In other words, Salem is the perfect spot to stay for a weekend near Oregon Wine Country. The rainfall, cool evenings, and dry summers make the valley a perfect region for the pinot noir grape.

I love wine, and I have enjoyed learning about the nuances of the different varietals near Salem Oregon. The wineries in Sedona, AZ were vastly different than the ones I have experienced here. The sommeliers in Willamette Valley have a vast knowledge of the region and are very keen to share that knowledge with the customer. 

Because Salem is in the middle of the Willamette Valley, it makes it a great place to spend a weekend while enjoying the region. I have spent several weeks this spring calling Salem, OR home. I have some ideas for the best way to spend a weekend in Salem along with other ideas of things to do near Salem. 

Weekend in Salem

My brother and his girlfriend arrived in town on a Friday afternoon to visit my fiance and I in Salem for the weekend. The closest airport to Salem is Portland. Salem is about 1 hour from the Portland airport. After you arrive in Portland head to check out the Kitchen at Aurora Winery. There are several sharable plates with gluten-free options. The winery is very quaint with live music in the evenings. Aurora is a cute small town near Salem that is full of history and wine! 

Aurora Winery

Waterfall Hikes Near Salem 

The area near Salem has several wonderful waterfall hikes. Unfortunately when I was in town a lot of the trails were closed due to fires. Make sure you check out Silver Falls State Park. There are 10 waterfalls in the park. There are several trails that you can take based on how far you want to hike and how many falls you would like to see. We hiked the 10 falls trail which is about 7 miles. 

Columbia River Gorge waterfalls
columbia river gorge waterfalls

The Columbia River Gorge has multiple waterfall hikes as well as waterfalls that you can see from the Historic Columbia River Highway. Check out this blog from Travel-Experience-Live to discover the best hike that will fit your comfort level and time schedule. 

Chasing waterfalls is the ultimate Oregon experience and is the perfect thing to do when spending a weekend in Salem Oregon. If you are considering heading to Oregon, spring is a glorious time to visit. The fields are alive with flowers and the yards of Salem are so colorful, it’s a treat for the eyes. 

After your day of waterfall chasing, check out Honeywood winery, which is right in town, and a fun little place to relax for a few minutes, try some wines and figure out where to have dinner. 

Visit Wineries Near Salem

Salem is in the middle of the valley and when you drive anywhere you will find multiple wineries that offer tastings. Of course, the best way to maximize your time when you only have a weekend to spend in Salem is to jump on a tour or a car service. We opted for Pinotcars. I was very impressed with the questions they asked and based on our preferences made appointments at several wineries. Our driver, Andrea was perfect for our little group. 

If you don’t want to hire a driver, then I suggest picking an area where you want to visit and making reservations with the wineries. Wallace Road has a variety of wineries. Carlton, OR has several tasting rooms. Dundee Hills is quite famous for its wines and has many places to choose from. 

Brooks Winery

Cool Wineries I visited near Salem OR

Dundee Hills

Argyle – this winery is unique in that they are known for its sparkling wines. The Rose sparkling was my favorite. I even took a bottle back with me!

Dobbs Tasting Room – cute little winery, great outside area, interesting wines

Brooks Winery – if the sun is out, you will be able to see all the way to Mt Hood. This tasting room sits on a vineyard and garden. The view is spectacular and the white wine selection was fantastic. And do not miss their popcorn with olive oil and rosemary, it is worth the stop. 

Carlton, OR

Flaneur Wines – laid-back tasting room with great people. We loved the labels on these wines. They offer a flight of wines so you can taste several of their varietals. 

Ken Wright Cellars – set in an old train station. This tasting experience was lovely. It wasn’t my favorite wine but I loved the experience. 

flaneur Winery
Flaneur Winery

Things to do around Salem during a weekend

Deepwood museum and gardens. Great way to spend a morning wandering around beautiful gardens and check out the house tour for a sample of what life looked like in Oregon 100 years ago. 

Schneiner Iris Gardens. If you visit Salem in the spring, the Iris Gardens are a must. The fields are full of color and the gardens are simply magic. There is so much color and variety in every single bed of flowers. Every time I turned around there was a unique flowering plant! This place is perfect for a picnic or just wandering around the garden for a couple of hours. Take a seat on one of their colorful benches and be still for a moment to connect with beautiful nature. I loved this place so much I went back 3 times during my stay.

Iris Gardens

Riverfront park and carousel. The riverfront park is well maintained and is a great place to walk around to kill some time during your weekend in Salem. A walk through the park will take you over the Minto Island Bridge into Minto Brown Island Park. It is a well-trafficked and paved route for a great walk through nature.

Minto Brown Park
Minto Brown park

Williamette University and capital building – I mean when you are in the capital city, I feel like checking out the capital building is a must. The university is really close, so you can walk through both or just drive around and take it all in. The buildings and landscaping is lovely.

Oregon Gardens – is located less than 30 minutes from Salem. This 80-acre garden is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon. Bring a picnic or just wander around the many gardens. It is very dog friendly and the paths through the gardens are well maintained and easily walkable. There is a tram that you can hop on and ride through the gardens to get some history as well and beauty. 

Road Trips from Salem: 

Carlton, OR is a quaint town in the middle of farmland. It has a few cute wineries, shops and restaurants. Since Carlton is my last name, it held some significance to me, but as far as quaint towns go, this one is perfect for a little trip from Salem. 

McMinnville, OR is another quaint wine town. If you visit the Williamette Valley then visiting McMinnville is a must. 

Silverton, OR is right outside of the Silver Falls park where you will find the 10 falls trail. This little town is a great stop off after hiking the trails to grab a bite to eat and enjoy a little shopping!

You will also find the 45th Parallel in Silverton. 

Cannon Beach/Neskowin is on the coast of Oregon, a 2 ½ hour drive from Salem so plan to make a day at the coast. Cannon Beach is absolutely gorgeous with the iconic Haystack Rock. It gets busy, so plan to get there earlier in the day. Take comfy shoes and plan to walk the beach. I took my dog and she loved running on the beach. We walked about 3 miles down the beach and discovered a small waterfall and several other outcroppings of rocks. 

Cannon Beach, OR

After checking out Cannon Beach, head for Tillamook and plan to have lunch at the Blue Heron French Cheese Company, which is dog friendly and complete with a little farm on the property and chickens running around. You can sit outside and enjoy a beautiful lunch. They have a ton of gluten-free options. It’s a great place to refuel. After you have fueled up head to Neskowin Beach. It is a small beach with Proposal Rock and ghost beach. A super cool little place to hang out with your dog for a while on a weekend in Salem. 

Places to eat in Salem

Cozy Taberna – One of the very best meals I had in Salem. Most of the menu is gluten-free and the artichoke appetizer should not be missed! It has a great vibe and local wine choices. 

Basil and Board – If you like pizza, check this place out! My favorite meal was the bruschetta board (served on gluten-free toast). They have really unique choices for toppings. Their pizzas are really good too. If you are in Salem for the weekend, this would be a great stop for lunch or a simple dinner.

Gamberetti’s – simple Italian dishes, great wine, and gluten-free pasta options as well as other gluten-free options. I visited Gamberetti’s twice during my stay and both of my meals were delish. The staff is friendly and it’s easy for anyone to find good food on the menu. 

Wild Pear  – delish food for lunch or dinner. If you get there at lunchtime you will wait for a table. I like to do early dinner and sit at the bar. The waitstaff is super friendly. All their dishes are locally sourced and offer seasonal flavors. The wild pear chicken pizza on gluten-free crust was divine! My fiance loved it and he doesn’t love gluten-free! For dessert, the panna cotta is gluten-free and it will make your taste buds happy! 

Ritters is a great stop for lunch or dinner. The Oregon crab salad is terrific and if you head there for dinner the Brussel sprouts for appetizers are a treat. They have a lot of designer cocktail options that are unique. I stopped in here several times and had a great experience each time. They also serve a yummy brunch on the weekends so it would be a treat if you spend a weekend in Salem. 

Is Salem Oregon worth visiting for a weekend? 

Salem is worth visiting in the spring with so many colorful flowers and it is close to wine country and the coast so it is a perfect location for enjoying the beauty that Oregon has to offer. It is a great place to stay and take road trips through other parts of the state. 

What is Salem Oregon most known for? 

Salem Oregon is most known for its proximity to wine country. It is located in Willamette Valley, so it is close to all the beauty that part of the country is known for. 

Carlton OR

What is close to Salem Oregon? 

Salem Oregon is located in Oregon wine country, so if you love all things wine, then it is perfect for you. It is about 2 hours from the Pacific Coast. Salem is 1 ½ hours from the Columbia River Gorge and 1 hour from Portland. It is about 2 hours from Bend Oregon. Its central location is ideal for really getting to know Oregon.

If you are looking for a great place to stay to explore wine country in Oregon then Salem OR is your best option. It is right in the middle of the Willamette Valley and just a short road trip away from other wonderful spots in Oregon.

Want to learn about my story? Check out this post by Gudranto to see my story as well the stories of many other travelers around the globe!