Salem on the Cheap: 15 Affordable Ways to Enjoy our City This Winter

Fancy vacations are all well and good, but let’s face it, most traveling families are on a budget. Our guests frequently ask us about interesting and noteworthy attractions to visit in our region that won’t break bank, and we are happy to oblige. Consider these affordable activities Salem has to offer this winter that won’t leave a hole in your wallet!

TIP- Are you an AAA card member? Be sure to ask about any discounts before purchasing admission!

Please note, any prices that are listed are subject to change without notice. For the current pricing and hours, please contact the business directly.

1) Northern Lights Theatre Pub

“Most Affordable Entertainment in Salem”. This charming theatre pub brags that it’s the most affordable entertainment in Salem and we can see why! With the low ticket-cost of $3.00 for regular movies and $6.00 for 3D films, you’ll be hard pressed to find a cheaper time anywhere else. The Northern Lights Theatre Pub comes equipped with a full menu, beer, and wine, all of which they’ll correctly tell you are very reasonably priced! It’s also a fantastic spot to go to watch a major sporting event and even a little stand up comedy!

2) Willamette Valley Pie Company

The Willamette Valley Pie Company is a Bakery, Coffee Shop and Retail Store all rolled up into one delicous experience! Visitors can tour their facilities or simply swing by to shop for local goods in their store and enjoy a fresh baked slice of pie a la mode. Their retail bakery menu offers up fresh baked goods daily, coffee, smoothies, milkshakes, ice cream and even a few breakfast and lunch options. In addition, the company often hosts family-friendly events and activities year round.

3) Oregon State Hospital Museum of Mental Health

This non-profit museum guides you through the amazing history of the Oregon State Hospital and the people that worked there. It’s a must visit for anyone with a passion for history and, at $4.00 general admission, for anyone looking to expand their mind at an affordable price. The museum is currently showing an exhibit depicting the history behind the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, so film lovers alike should head on over before it’s gone!

4) Wednesday Wine Tastings in the Grand Hotel Salem/Bentley’s Grill Lobby

Every 2nd and 4th Wednesday, guests (21+) of Bentley’s Grill and The Grand Hotel in Salem are treated to a free wine tasting in our lobby from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m. Winemakers from some of Willamette Valley’s most esteemed vineyards are here to pour samples and answer your questions. A perfect way to warm up your paltte before enjoying a relaxing dinner.

5) Salem Cinema

Of course, you may be more in the mood for an indie or foreign type of film. In that case Salem Cinema is the place for you, known for showing the absolute best in art, foreign, and independent cinema. Comfy seating and a helpful staff guarantee you’ll feel right at home. Ticket prices are $9.00 for general admission, although earlier showing’s (before 5:30PM Mon-Thurs, before 4:00PM Fri-Sun) tickets will only cost $7.00. This will be the place for anyone looking to catch-up with the nominations for the Academy Awards.

6) Willamette Valley Cheese Company

Did you know there is a world-class producer of artisan cheese right here in Salem? The Willamette Valley Cheese Company’s award-winning cheeses are mostly distributed at farmers markets and local groceries in Oregon, BUT, you can enjoy samples of any one of them in their tasting room where you’ll also learn about the cheesemaking process. This TripAdvisor reviewer recently posted “Wide selection of cheeses to taste for free and to purchase. There is also no limit on the number of tastes. The stand out cheese variety is the aged gouda (pairs with the local pinot). This is nice complimentary activity with wine tasting at one of the several wineries in the area”.

7) Elsinore Theatre

Catch a classic and silent movie every Wednesday night for just $5 or take a grand tour of this architectural jewel that represents a long lost era of old fashioned vaudeville and movie houses. This historical building has seen it’s share of ups and downs since opening their doors in 1926. Today, the restored Elsinore Theatre is a historic national landmark and hosts many of Salem’s premiere performing arts and film events. “The Elsinore is like stepping back into a time when stars like Gable and Flynn ruled the screen,” says this TripAdvisor Reviewer. “The acoustics are great and the lobby are breathtaking! The Elsinore is a perfect venue for a smaller concert..or an old time movie with the mighty Wurlitzer Organ shaking the seats. This is my absolute favorite place in Salem!”

8) The Oregon State Capitol Tour

Built in 1938, the The Oregon State Capitol is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s home to the Oregon Legislature, the Offices of the Governor, the Secretary of State and the State Treasurer which makes it an ideal place to learn about the workings of the government. If possible, make arrangements to go on one of their group tours (free of charge) where you will learn about the building’s history, as well as it’s collection of historic and art exhibits’ then head to the observation deck for a breathtaking view of Salem and its surrounding area.

9) Willamette Heritage Center

Just one visit to the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon and you will see why it has been designated an American Treasure by the National Park Service. The center connects generations by bringing visitors on a journey back to the early settlement days of western Oregon. The beautiful five-acre campus is rich with history and the culture of Oregon’s past. The cost of this unique experience ranges from FREE (for children under 5) to just $7 for Adults.

10) Hallie Ford Museum of Art

For $6.00 (general admission), the Hallie Ford Museum of Art is an incredible venture into the world of art and history. The museum’s permanent collection exhibits include the Native American Art Exhibit, Print Study Center Exhibit, and Selections from the Permanent Collection exhibit, showcasing unique and diverse works of art from a multitude of artists and periods. The museum also has hosts seasonal exhibitions, so be sure to visit the Hallie Ford Museum of Art website to see current exhibits!

11) Capitol City Theater

Directly across the street from The Grand Hotel in Salem is Capitol City Theater, one of Salem’s most underrated entertainment attractions! For just $10 ($6 for kids) you can catch one of their hilarious all ages Improv Comedy shows every Friday and Saturday night (an adults only show is later in the evening).

Historic Deepwood Estate

Historic Deepwood Estate is on the National Register of Historic Homes and is a popular destination for tourists and special events. The 1894 Queen Anne Victorian Home is located on 4 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens in the heart of Salem. Winter tours are available from 12-3PM, and admission ranges from FREE to $6!

13) Willamette Queen

If you want to splurge just a little, we recommend a thrilling boat ride down the Willamette River in a stern wheeler cruise. The Willamette Queen allows you to do just that for an affordable price. A one-hour excursion will cost $12.00 for an adult and only $6.00 for kids! The Williamette Queen also hosts event cruises that come with a meal included, such as the $25.00 lunch cruise! Head on over to the Williamette Queen Events Page to see what special events will be available out on the water.

14) A.C Gilbert’s Discovery Village

For just $8 or less, this hands-on interactive children’s museum is a great value. Kids and grownups alike will love to build and play using their imaginations. The Village consists of three distinct and colorful Victorian homes featuring a bubble room, frozen shadow room, and a giant anthill among other exhibits. The museum is located in Riverfront Park and was founded in 1989 by toy maker and an Olympic pole vaulting champion, A.C. Gilbert.

15) Salem’s Riverfront Park

Take a brisk jog or stroll along Salem’s stunning Willamette River waterfront and take in some of the best sights the city has to offer. Watch the stern-wheeler cruises float down the river from a pedestrian crossing bridge, offering you countless photo opportunities and sights aplenty. Salem’s Riverfront Park is also home to the beautiful Salem Riverfront Carousel. For $1.50 per ride, it’s worth the visit by adults and kids alike!