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Salem, Oregon: Capital Fun

No sleepy government center, the Beaver State's capital pops with pioneer history, craft beer on tap, tasty snacks, and strollable streets.

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  • Wild Pear restaurant's pumpkin soup and blue cheese–chicken pizza, Salem, Oregon, picture
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    Photo: Andrew Geiger
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    Wild Pear’s pumpkin soup and blue cheese–chicken pizza.
  • Governors Cup Coffee Roasters, Salem, Oregon, picture
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    Photo: Andrew Geiger
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    Governor’s Cup uses a stylish German coffee roaster for prepping beans.
  • Riverfront Carousel, Salem, Oregon, picture
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    Photo: Andrew Geiger
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    A pioneer-style wagon on the Riverfront Carousel.
  • Capitol building steps, Salem, Oregon, picture
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    Photo: Andrew Geiger
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    History in relief on the capitol building facade.
  • Book Habit bookstore,  Salem Oregon, picture
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    Photo: Andrew Geiger
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    At Book Habit, used tomes sprawled across two floors invite browsing.

TO DO AND SEE
Capitol building Weekday tours recount the story of Oregon's founding and government with visits to historical murals and Depression-era architecture. www.oregonlegislature.gov. First Taste Oregon Festival Sip an Oregon ale or chat with local winemakers at this annual celebration of eats and drinks. firsttasteoregon.com. Oregon State Hospital Museum of Mental Health Antique hospital furniture, Rorschach inkblots, and audio recordings of patients' stories at the filming site of the 1975 classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. oshmuseum.org. Salem's Riverfront Carousel  This merry-go-round boasts hand-carved figures including an Oregon Trail wagon and a salmon named Serendipity. salemcarousel.orgWillamette Heritage Center Watch a wool-scouring machine or unlock the door to a pioneer home at this former mill with several buildings to explore. An annual festival called Sheep to Shawl (May 11) showcases weaving, spinning, knitting, and rug-hooking. willametteheritage.org

SHOPPING
Engelberg Antiks II Voodoo dolls and raccoon-fur coats await your discovery at the largest antique mall in Salem. 148 Liberty St. NE, (503) 363-8155. Reed Opera House The state's oldest surviving theater has been repurposed as a maze of locally owned shops selling Highland kilts, pine-scented soap, and Italian-style pastries. reedoperahouse.com. Willamette Valley Cheese Company Taste dill Havarti or chipotle cheddar at this family-run artisanal dairy. 8105 Wallace Rd. NW, (503) 399-9806.

EATS
Gerry Frank's Konditorei Locals love the cakes and the French dip: roast beef and Swiss cheese layered between a French Roll and and au jus. gerryfrankskonditorei.com. Table Five 08 This upscale bistro serves Northwest comfort food. Sample the pork belly lettuce wraps or sip cocktails garnished with conifer tips and other wintry accents. tablefive08.com. Wild Pear Restaurant & Catering Charming eatery with an 1880s tin ceiling and exposed brick. Popular menu items include bbq pork bahn mi, mixed russet and sweet potato fries, and an assortment of decadent cakes. wildpearcatering.com.

SIPS
The Governor's Cup Coffee Roasters Savor your cup of joe next to the vintage roaster at this popular cafe. www.thegovcup.com. Night Deposit Whiskey Library Live music and more than 60 whiskeys enliven this handsome bar inside a redbrick building. 195 Commercial St. NE, (503) 375-2333. Venti's Cafe + Basement Bar Two locations offer a rotating selection of craft beer, cider, mead, kombucha, and more to go along with your spicy Tillamook macaroni and cheese. ventiscafe.com. Willamette Valley Vineyards Perched on a hill right outside Salem, one of the area's leading wineries boasts sweeping views, a renovated estate tasting room, and complimentary daily tours. Stop by for the Memorial Day Weekend Celebration (May 25–27). wvv.com.

This article was first published in January 2015 and updated in February 2019. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.