Winter is coming to the Salem region, but don’t think for a second that the city is going to close up shop and hide indoors for the long, dark days of this coldest of seasons. Salemites are a tough bunch, and there are plenty of things to do in Salem, Oregon, in the winter. We’re highly skilled at having fun in any kind of weather, so in the interest of keeping you entertained and engaged this winter, we’ve rounded up a list of our favorite seasonal events. Some of them are holiday-themed, some of them celebrate local craftspeople and artisans, and some, frankly, are just an excuse to sample some of the fantastic foods, beers, wines, and ciders that come from the Mid-Valley region, the very special place we call home.
Things to Do in Salem, Oregon, in Winter 2018 / 2019
Salem Public Saturday Market
When: Saturdays 8:30 AM – 2 PM year-round in a heated covered indoor space
Where: Salem Public Market
Especially with gift-giving season upon us, there’s no better time to visit the oldest farmers market in Oregon (with luck, you’ll spot some of the oldest farmers in Oregon as well, but no guarantees). There’s farm-fresh produce and preserved products (great for stocking stuffers, just sayin’) and all sorts of samples and snacks to be had. It’s a classic and time-honored celebration of the do-it-yourself spirit that powered early Oregonians as they prepared for the long, hard winters with homemade jams, pickles, and preserves.
Christmas in the Garden
When: Through Dec. 31, 5 – 9 PM; check website for closures
Cost: $5 – $15
Where: Oregon Garden Resort
This immersive holiday event is based on a traditional European-style Christmas Market, where one can experience the sights, sounds, and smells of the season. The surrounding forest is bedecked with over one million lights, and you can stay warm by sipping a spicy gluhwein, the traditional mulled wine of Germany. There’s a variety of dining options ranging from pizza to fondue. And you might just find the perfect Christmas gift at the Christmas Market.
Choirs and carolers will be singing, and you can cozy up to a wood-burning fire pit. There’s even ice skating and snowless tubing, though the more timid can just observe from conveniently heated tents.
Santa Events at the Carousel
When: Various dates through New Year’s Day; check the website for a complete listing
Cost: Free – $20 depending on event
Where: Salem’s Riverfront Carousel
Salem’s Riverfront Carousel is one of the city’s most beloved and iconic attractions, a true ride into the past and a place for everyone to feel young again. This winter, the carousel plays host to a number of special events, including:
- Photos and visits with Santa
- Giving Tree
- Holiday Pajama Party
- Free Carousel Rides
SAW Local Makers Fest
When: Saturday, December 15, 12 – 5 PM
Where: Salem Ale Works
This well-regarded brewery brings together local artisans and craftspeople for a celebration of handmade gifts and stocking stuffers. Vendors include:
- PNW Threads (clothing – knitted, graphic tees)
- Goosehill Gifts (air plant terrariums, magnets, vases)
- Santiam Soap Co. (organic handmade soap)
- Green Mountain Creations (beard oil, jewelry)
- Threadsbymstudio (boho macrame)
- Just kate & co. (wood signs)
- Stinky Skunk Studios (wool crafts, painted art)
- Odd Flora Arts (NW-inspired stickers, patches, coasters)
Did we mention the beer and food specials? Don’t miss out!
A Christmas Carol, a 1940s Radio Show
When: December 18 – 23 7 PM; December 22 – 23 2 PM
Cost: $12 – $17
Where: M. Lee Pelton Theatre
On the snowy Christmas Eve of 1941, the weather has made traveling to the radio station difficult for the actors of Salem’s KSL, where they’re slated to perform Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol by, a well-loved radio tradition in the sleepy town of Salem….
Back by popular demand, Theatre 33 presents this beloved reframing of a true Christmas classic, where hope and redemption are not only found in the Dickens story but in the radio actors themselves.
Magic at the Mill
When: December 19 – 23, 5:30 – 8 PM
Cost: $8 for adults, $5 for kids, free to Willamette Heritage Center members
Where: Willamette Heritage Center
Located on the beautiful 5-acre WHC campus, Magic at the Mill provides stunning sights, a holiday market for shopping, and family-friendly fun. Guests of all ages are invited to explore the scenery and historic buildings decorated with exciting holiday lights. You’ll see history come to life with children’s activities, heritage tours, and blacksmith and textile arts demonstrations.
It’s a long-time cherished seasonal festival that celebrates connecting generations and interpreting Mid-Willamette Valley history.
A Tuna Christmas
When: Through December 30; Wednesday – Saturday 7:30 PM; Sunday 2:30 PM
Where: Grand Theater
In this wonderfully tacky Christmas experience and hilarious sequel to Greater Tuna, it’s Christmas in the third-smallest town in Texas. Radio station OKKK news personalities Thurston Wheelis and Arles Struvie report on various Yuletide activities, including hot competition in the annual lawn display contest.
Holidays at the Capitol
When: Through December 22; check schedule for dates and times
Where: Oregon State Capitol
Whatever associations you may have with the Oregon Legislature, this is a cherished and truly lovely holiday tradition. Each year, choir groups from all over the state will fill the Capitol rotunda with the sounds of glorious seasonal harmonies.
Salem on Ice
When: Through January 20, 2019
Cost: $12 – $15; we recommend purchasing in advance
Where: Riverfront City Park
Ice skating is one of the best and most picturesque ways to celebrate the season, and if you love it as much as we do, you’ll want to take advantage of skate season! The rink at the city’s much-loved Riverfront City Park also features refreshments and plenty of holiday cheer. Because of its continuing popularity, you’ll want to purchase tickets in advance.
Noon Year’s Eve with Kids
When: December 31, 10 AM – 2 PM
Cost: All activities free with paid museum admission ($6 – $8)
Where: Gilbert House Children’s Museum
Gilbert House is a beautifully restored children’s museum connected to downtown Salem’s Riverfront Park. In addition to programming a wide range of fun and educational events for kids, it hosts this “Noon Year’s Eve” so youngsters won’t miss out on the joy of staying up till “midnight” and driving their parents insane. Be sure to arrive in time for the 12 (PM) balloon drop!
New Year’s Day Hangover Run
When: January 1, 2019, 8:30 AM (race begins at 10 AM)
Cost: $10 – $15
Where: Run Wild Adventures
What better way to commemorate your mistakes of the night before than running a three-mile race on New Year’s Day? If you’re 21 or over, you can compete in the “Beer Mile,” a devilish and altogether foolhardy drinking game combining running and speed drinking. Can you complete four 1/4-mile laps and four beers? As the organizers add, charmingly: “Competitors who vomit before they finish the race must complete one penalty lap at the end of the race.”
Salem Art Walk
When: Last Friday of the month, 4 – 8 PM (Friday, December 28; Friday, January 25, etc.)
Where: Beginning at Prisms Gallery
Salem’s “Final Friday Art Walk” is a monthly event designed to bring culture and the arts to downtown. The event occurs the last Friday of the month, rain or shine, year-round. It runs from 4 PM to 8 PM and is a fun, free, and family-friendly way to promote the artists of Salem and local businesses.
First Taste Oregon
When: January 25 4 – 9 PM; January 26 12 – 9 PM
Cost: $8 – $30
Where: Oregon State Fair & Exposition Center
This beverage-centered expo is described as an “event of epic proportions!” Showcasing notable names in Oregon wines, craft beers, ciders, and spirits, it also serves as an exclusive shopping experience. VIP options are available, which get you admission to special tastings. And do note: There will be food available on the premises as well, lest you leave the event in an alcohol-soaked stupor. Given this event’s popularity, we recommend you purchase tickets in advance.
Oregon’s 160th Birthday at the Capitol
When: Saturday, February 16, 10 AM – 2 PM
Where: Oregon State Capitol
Happy birthday, us! Salem will celebrate the state’s 160th with costumed history, interpreters, covered wagons, blacksmithing, exhibits on native cultures and the Oregon pioneers, and children’s activities. Will there be a cake? There will! Is it free? It is! You can learn about Oregon history and celebrate the date this great state entered the union. Parking, by the way, is free on the weekends.
Salem Winter Brewfest
When: January 30 – February 2, 2019
Cost: $5 – $30
Where: Oregon State Capitol
Many events claim to be indispensable, but Winter Brewfest may actually be Salem’s favorite winter party. Sited across the street from the steps of Oregon’s State Capitol Building, it’s a four-day festival for the 21+ crowd, featuring live music, and a huge variety of cold beers and ciders on tap as well as cocktails and plenty of food options. You can take shelter and enjoy the warmth inside a giant heated tent as you revel in the true spirit of Salem.
If Walls Could Talk: Asylum Architecture in Oregon
When: Daily, 12 – 4 PM
Where: Oregon State Hospital Museum of Mental Health
Hold on. Just a second ago, you were suggesting we hang out at a giant beer-fueled street party downtown, and now you’re suggesting we check out a museum exhibit about how insane asylums are designed? Are you NUTS?!?
No, actually! We sincerely recommend this exhibit. It’s a fascinating look at the history of the Oregon State Hospital and how methods of treating mental illness have influenced the design of buildings. Come on…you’d have to be crazy not to go check it out!
My Muddy Valentine
When: February 9, 2019
Cost: $30 – $75
Where: Lee Farms, Tualatin
What better way to herald the coming of Spring than by gasping and clawing your way around the muddy, rugged terrain of Lee Farms? The organizers claim the course is flat and the obstacles easy to conquer, though we’ll let you be the judge of that.
This 5K event always ends in helpless laughter as participants and runners come dressed head to toe in seasonally appropriate Valentine’s themed hearts, tutus, and group costumes ready to take on the muddy terrain. The sun is shining, the mud is fresh, and racers are ready to challenge their friends and loved ones to an all-out mudfest.
Still looking for more things to do in Salem, Oregon? Why not stop by Have a Heart Salem? We’ll help you find the perfect strain find the perfect strain to help you combat any winter weariness you may be feeling, or choose yyour favorite from our dispensary menu.