Less than an hour’s drive south of Portland in the capital city of Salem, Riverfront Park is 23 acres of indoor and outdoor fun! Nowhere else can you stroll along the Willamette River, ride a carousel, sail a sternwheeler, and play to your heart’s content without having to move your rig (free parking, too). A new picnic pavilion, paved pathways, and plenty of open green space make this an ideal location to spend an afternoon in any weather.
Get taken for a ride. For a mere $1.50, giddy up on an old-world style carousel as you listen to the lively authentic carousel band organ. Choose your mount— 32 hand-carved, hand-painted horses with names like Ruby Rose, Snickerdoodle, Razzle-Dazzle, and Cloud Walker are as beautiful and elaborate as the steeds themselves! Local artisans volunteered more than 80,000 hours to carve, sand, and paint the horses, and their workmanship truly shines in the exquisite detail and vivid colors.
Try out your sea legs. Cruise with personable Captain Richard Chesbrough aboard the double-deck Willamette Queen– an 87-foot, 86-ton sternwheeler with twin paddles that’s a scaled down likeness of the former Mississippi and Yukon Territory riverboats. A new dock is located just across from the Carousel. Enjoy lunch or dinner on board while Captain Chesbrough tells tales of riverboat history and points out blue herons, osprey, and other wildlife. Passengers of all ages are invited to try on the captain’s hat, peer through his spyglass, ring the ship’s bell, and even take the wheel. When you do, you’ll receive an honorary captain’s certificate embellished in calligraphy by Captain Chesbrough himself.
Learn while playing. Once back on dry land, head for the north end of Riverfront Park to A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village. Three brightly painted Victorian homes serve as an interactive museum where kids build, invent, play, and generally have hands-on fun while unsuspectingly learning math and science. A.C. Gilbert, the Village’s namesake, is best known for having created the Erector Set, chemistry sets, and Mysto Magic sets. Mr. Gilbert was also an Olympic pole-vaulting gold medalist who firmly believed that “playing is essential to learning.”
Admire art. Anchoring the south end of Riverfront Park is Eco Earth– a 25-foot tall stainless steel orb that, thanks once again to the spirit of volunteerism in Salem’s local art community, has been turned into quite the work of art. The sphere was formerly a nondescript acid storage tank used in papermaking, but Eco Earth’s 82.5-foot circumference is now covered in over 86,000 glittering tiles representing people, places, and animals from across the planet. Talk about a whopper of a recycling project!
For brochures and more information on what else to see and do in the Salem area:
181 High St.
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com