Contrary to popular belief among much of the country, Portland is not the only city in Oregon. In fact, Portland isn’t even the capital of Oregon, that distinction belongs to Salem. In addition to that, the city also is home some seriously addictive potato chips, a great college, and an abundance of cherry trees that would make any nature-lover proud. Should you call Salem, Oregon home? Here are 10 things to consider before packing up and heading for the 45th Parallel.
1. Star power
John Heder, the star of Napoleon Dynamite, grew up in Salem. He graduated from South Salem High School in 1996, where he was on the swim team and was a member of the Drama Association. We can only hope he learned his tetherball skills there as well.
2. Ma and Pa Kettle
Salem is the home of Kettle Foods, Inc., making those dangerously addictive potato chips since 1982. The Kettle Brand began out of the back of a beat-up van and has been thriving in Salem ever since.
3. City of Loraxes
Salem has been awarded “Tree City USA” status by the National Arbor Day Foundation for 30 consecutive years for its dedication to urban forestry. Sticking with the city’s nickname “Cherry City,” blooming cherry trees line many Salem streets, as well as the Capitol Mall across from the Capitol, which is well worth a visit with the flowers in full bloom.
The award-winning film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was filmed at the Oregon State Hospital. Ken Kesey’s novel, which the movie was based off of, was also set in Salem. You can even visit the hospital’s Museum of Mental Health, which features an exhibit about the book and film.
5. Location, location, location
Salem sits on the 45th Parallel. This means it’s the center point between the North Pole and the equator. Whether you’re driving through for a visit or coming to stay you can see the sign announcing this distinction on I-5.
6. Roller Derby
Salem’s Cherry City Derby Girls were founded in 2009, and accepted into the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association as a full member league in 2012. CCDG is home to four home teams, the Rydel Bells, Thrill Kill Kittens, Dolls of Anarchy, and Panty Raiders, as well as a travel team the 8 Wheel Assassins.
7. Scholarly chops
Willamette University is the oldest in the American West. It has a 69-acre campus, just south of the capitol, giving students access to a variety of government internships. The campus also has a stream running through its center.
8. Cracking down on crime
Salem is the headquarters of the Oregon Department of Corrections. It is home to four state correctional facilities, including the Oregon State Penitentiary, Oregon’s only maximum-security prison. Somewhat surprisingly, Salem also has the fourth highest crime rate of Oregon’s 20 biggest cities. But, unlike the city’s namesake, this Salem has few alleged witches.
9. Hit the road
Salem has the eighth shortest commute of Oregon’s 20 biggest cities. With an average commute of 20.9 minutes, commuters save 48 hours each year compared to Gresham’s commuters whose commute is an average of 6 minutes longer. What will you do with your extra two days?
10. Root for the home team
The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes are the city’s minor league baseball team, affiliates of the San Francisco Giants. They have their own stadium in nearby Keizer with a video board, sky boxes and a children’s play area. And tickets are affordable for the whole family.
11. Living’s easy
The average earner in Salem can afford 24% of homes on the market. Salem’s median income is $45,564, meaning they can afford a home costing $204,282 or less. Salem has one of the lowest costs of living of Oregon’s 20 biggest cities.
12. Want some wine with that?
Salem is located in the Willamette Valley, aka Oregon’s wine country. It has no shortage of food and wine festivals. The Pinot Noir and Chocolate Celebration pairs decadent chocolates with classic Oregon Pinot Noir in the Willamette Valley Vineyard’s new Tasting Room and candle-lit barrel cellar. There’s also First Taste Oregon, the Annual Mo’s Crab and Chowder Festival, pairing seafood with Pinot Gris, Chef’s Nite Out and the Oregon Wine & Food Festival, among others. One thing’s for sure, Salem knows how to live.
13. One for the kids
The A.C. Gilbert’s Discovery Village interactive children’s museum includes 3 giant slides, a maze, a simulated archeological dig site, climbing wall and some of the inventions of Alfred Carlton Gilbert. There’s also The Enchanted Forest located just south of Salem on I-5. The amusement park includes attractions inspired by Alice in Wonderland, Mother Goose, and Grimms’ Fairy Tales and roller coasters like the Big Timber Log Ride, the largest of its kind in the Pacific Northwest.
14. Laughter is the best medicine
Capitol City Theater, in the heart of downtown Salem, offers a chance to laugh until it hurts with their 90-minute family-friendly comedy improv shows. Their performances will have you happily splitting your sides and getting in a nice abs workout in the process.
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