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Visit beautiful Salem

Oregon’s capitol’s main street will keep you busy

View from Salem’s Riverfront Park where you can access miles of trails. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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Salem, Oregon, is a beautiful main street community which makes a perfect base for your stay in the area. Pick a downtown hotel and you can walk to many attractions, shops and restaurants. In addition to the city, Salem is in the heart of the Willamette Valley and is surrounded by world-class wineries including several in Oregon's newest American Viticulture Area (AVA), the Van Duzer Corridor AVA. Right in town you can access the Riverwalk Park and the Minto-Brown Island Park for miles of trails along the Willamette River.

The Grand Hotel is conveniently located right downtown within walking distance of some great restaurants and shops. It really is grand with a beautiful lobby and spacious hotel rooms. There is free parking in the parking garage, and each morning an ample breakfast is served and included in the room rate. Insider Tip: The on-site restaurant, Bentley's Grill has a great happy hour that is available every day. Just around the block are a variety of eating establishments. One worth checking out is the Bari Restaurant & Bar. Proprietor Bruce Rafaci doesn't believe in cutting corners and the food reflects that. Everything is fresh and house made -- they don't even own a can opener.

About seven days before your visit to Salem, visit the Travel Salem website and sign up for a tour with a Salem Greeter. This free program sets you up with a local friend for the day who will give you a guided tour of downtown which lasts about one to two hours. It is a very casual tour; the greeters will show you around like a family friend would and share their favorite places in the city with you.

Riverfront Park is just a short walk from the hotel. The site of paper, flour and woolen mills has been converted into an urban oasis. Paved walking trails are bordered by large grassy areas along the Willamette River. You can catch a ride on the Willamette Queen Sternwheeler which operates sightseeing cruises as well as themed dining cruises. Also in the park is Salem's Riverfront Carousel with a cute gift shop. Children will love the A.C. Gilbert Discovery Village. This children's museum is housed in several historic homes and also has a large outdoor playground. If you want a longer hike, cross over the Peter Courtney Minto Island pedestrian bridge where you can access 1,200 acres of waterfowl and wildlife sanctuary. There are 29 miles of trails that make up nine loops and there are observation platforms along sloughs for viewing the wetlands.

Venture further into town to taste some great beer at Vagabond Brewing which is owned by three Marine Corps Combat veterans who are longtime friends. The location is family-friendly. Also in town is the Deepwood Mansion and Gardens. This lovely historic home is available to tour and the gardens are a city park open to the public daily.

Just outside of town are a variety of wineries. Drop into Eola Hills Wine Cellars and purchase a bottle of Patriotic Red. In addition to being a great wine, $1 from the sale of each bottle funds care packages for deployed troops. Also outside of town is the Basket Slough Wildlife Refuge. You can visit a kiosk just off Hwy. 22, which has interpretive panels and wildlife viewing platforms. There is also access to miles of trails if you want a longer visit.

Salem is about a three-hour drive from Joint Base Lewis-McChord. You will want to time your travel to avoid Portland rush-hour traffic which can be worse than Seattle. For more information about the area, visit:

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