Interesting stops and engaging activities are always welcome on a family road trip. Salem, Oregon has a great collection of family friendly destinations and places for kids to run, play and ride bikes. We passed through the area on our RV trip to the Oregon Coast. We easily filled up an afternoon with a stop by the children’s museum and a family walk at Salem’s Riverfront Park. Here are a few of the highlights of our day spent in Salem, Oregon.
If your family loves adventures, it’s great to find a way to explore that’s convenient, inexpensive and memorable. We invested in our RV toy hauler for just this purpose. RV travel allows our family to get out of town and explore the outdoors, while providing a place for naps and easy family meals. We’ve just begun discovering all the places we can explore!
Stay at the Hee Hee Illahee RV Resort
Our first night in route to the Oregon Coast, we camped at the Hee Hee Illahee RV Resort near Salem, Oregon. This family-friendly camping destination had a pool, playground and lots of paved areas for kids to ride bikes. If it would have been warmer, we would have loved splashing in the pool. The camping area was quiet and our kids enjoyed riding their bikes in laps around the fenced pool area.
Explore the Gilbert House Children’s Museum
The next morning, we took our kids to the Gilbert House Children’s Museum. The children’s museum is made up of several buildings and a large outdoor play area. Inside, kids can play in themed rooms such as a vet clinic, fort building room and green screen stage. Outside, the children’s museum has slides, a maze of playground structures and a huge climbing structure with a tall spiral slide. Parents can explore with their kids or find many spots to sit and relax while they watch their kids play. The outdoor play area also includes several picnic tables.
Inside, the children’s museum activities are located in several historic Victorian buildings converted into interactive play spaces for kids. The generously sized rooms provide plenty of space for kids to explore. My daughter enjoyed testing out the green screen stage. The coolest part is the green cloths that kids can “disappear” beneath. A TV screen to the side shows the magic of disappearing in action.
In another room, kids can build a pipe track using PVC attached to the wall with magnets. My husband Andy help our kiddos connect the pipes at the right angles to send a ball all the way down the track. Kids can learn about speed, angle and velocity by doing these Physics-inspired activities.
Even parents will enjoy the fort building room! These bright blue blocks are fun to connect and stack to make a life-sized fort. The Salem Children’s Museum has many activities adults can do along with their kids.
We spent quite a bit of time outdoors climbing this massive play structure, playing hide and seek and going down the tall spiral slide. The Gilbert House Children’s Museum has a great secure play area so kids can play independently and safely run around. The play structures are also adequately sized for adults to climb too.
Other outdoor attractions include the Center of the Earth play structure and slide, a generously sized sandbox, toddler-friendly climbing structures and a small amphitheater.
The Gilbert House Children’s Museum in Salem, Oregon is a great destination for families with young kids. The ticket prices are also reasonable and affordable. Our family of five cost less than $50 total for admission for the day. This is the second time we’ve visited the Salem Children’s Museum and it’s been well worth the visit.
Visit Riverfront Park
Just around the corner from the children’s museum, families can go on a relaxing walk or a bike ride at Salem’s Riverfront Park. Our family enjoyed walking along the scenic riverfront and getting some exercise. Bike trails run along the river’s edge and a large grassy area sprawls from the parking lot, to the carousel and all the way to the iconic arched walking bridge.
Bike Over the Peter Courtney Minto Island Bridge
We often have kids bikes in the back of our car, which is great when we take the kids to a park. Our kids’ balance bikes are fast but not too fast and they encourage kids to build up their endurance. At the edge of Salem’s Riverfront Park, the Peter Courtney Minto Island Bridge is an impressive structure and a fun ride across the river. This bridge is the last critical link in connecting 1,300 acres of parks and more than 20 miles of off-street trails between south Salem, downtown and West Salem.
Take a Steamboat Tour
If you’d like to explore the river from another perspective, you can take a cruise on the
Willamette Queen Sternwheeler and even enjoy dinner on the water. Although we haven’t done this cruise ourselves, it sounds like an interesting experience the whole family could enjoy. From the shore, the steamboat is a picturesque sight with its intricate details and bright red paddle wheel.
Ride the Salem Riverfront Carousel
Riding the Salem Riverfront Carousel is another great family activity in Salem, Oregon. Surrounded by bright green lawn and flowering bushes, the carousel building is home to more than 40 carousel horses that were hand carved by local volunteers. My kids always enjoy a ride on the carousel and they especially love choosing their favorite horses.
Enjoy Salem’s Natural Beauty
Finally, you don’t have too look far to see plenty of natural beauty in Salem, Oregon. This field alongside a roadway is bursting with vibrant purple Camas Lily blooms. Some may consider these weeds, but this native wildflower quickly brightens up an otherwise ordinary greenbelt.
Salem, Oregon offers many places to explore and enjoy the great outdoors. Walking, hiking, biking and exploring are always popular and often free family activities. Next time you are in the area, we’d recommend checking out the children’s museum if you have young kids, or taking a stroll down Salem’s Riverfront Park trails.
Katie is a writer and influencer based in beautiful Coeur d’Alane, Idaho. She enjoys DIY projects, photography, decorating and going on family adventures. She feels blessed to be a wife, a stay-at-home mom to three kids and a Pacific Northwest lifestyle blogger.