05 Sep Favorite Spots to Hang Out in Salem, Oregon
This is another post in the series “Rediscovering Salem.” Since returning from Peace Corps, we’ve been using Salem and Portland as our home bases between travels. The Rediscovering Salem series is my way of looking at my hometown from a tourist’s perspective and sharing the best places on the blog. My goal is to cover both the classic Salem spots that I remember as well as new or up-and-coming places that have brought more character to the area since I moved away.
Read more from the Rediscovering Salem series here: 3 Fantastic Day Trips from Salem 5 Favorite Places to Run (or Walk) in Salem Top Places to Enjoy Salem's Summer Harvest Best Coffee Shops with Wifi for Work or Studying in Salem, Oregon
As soon as we landed back in Oregon, I started hearing talk about the Broadway Coffeehouse. Being a digital nomad and someone who loves to work in bright, open spaces, I made a point to check it out right away. It quickly became a favorite, and we were able to schedule a brief meeting with the Manager, Matt Swain, to learn more about it.
Although I was originally drawn to the space itself, which I think is absolutely fantastic for work, meetings, or just hanging out, I quickly learned that they serve some of the most exceptional coffee in Salem as well. Their aim is to provide the best possible coffee experience in every cup, which is why they’ve partnered with Stumptown Coffee Roasters.
On Wednesdays at 10am, the lead barista, Jacob Davis, hosts a coffee tasting that’s free to the public. As Jacob explained to us, drinking high quality coffee is a way to appreciate life because coffee is really about relationships. He reminded us of the multi-level, globe-crossing chain from coffee farmer all the way to customer, a process so involved and almost miraculous that it should give us pause every time we have that cup in our hand.
Coffee is also great for bringing people together, and Broadway Coffeehouse is well set up for that. Apart from the spacious coffeeshop and outdoor seating in the summer, there are also meeting rooms upstairs that are free to reserve online. Their emphasis on community-building is evident with special touches like a parent room, art and music from local artists, a space to feature community partnerships, and a commitment to giving back to the community.
Hours: 6am to 10pm daily
Best for: High quality coffee on the I-5 corridor, work or studying, meeting with friends, meeting with clients.
Ike Box Coffee Shop
Ike Box Coffee Shop was another cool space that came to Salem after I moved away. Like Broadway Coffeehouse, it offers some great work and hang-out spaces with a strong focus on community. We had the opportunity to sit down with Assistant Manager, Krizti, to learn more about the amazing story behind this place. This powerful video tells it well, too:
Although they lost their son, Isaac, in 1998 at just two months old, Mark and Tiffany Bulgin were compelled to use that space Isaac left in their home and their hearts to serve. What started with foster parenting eventually extended to a life-development program and social enterprise. Today, in the downtown Salem building they call Isaac’s Room, the Ike Box Coffee Shop supports a training and life skills program for teens and young adults on the margins.
My first time into the shop, I had no clue about the story behind it. All I saw was a popular coffee shop (with over 500 transactions a day and some distinguished political figures as customers) that had a good selection of food and drinks. I could tell that the community vibe was strong – they’re known as the “Cheers” of Salem coffee shops – but I had no idea any of the workers were in a training program. Despite being a non-profit, the folks at IKE Box are keen to provide top notch service and quality.
Other cool aspects of IKE Box include their partnership with Hillcrest Correctional Facility, whose baking team produces the coffeecakes, s’mores bars, and rice crispy treats for the shop. They also bake some of their own items twice a week, which feature vegan and local ingredients. Sisters Coffee provides the brews. And they recently purchased an IKE House where a number of their interns can live in a safe, healthy environment.
My only warning for this place is it can be difficult to find free parking and the street parking meters are $.25 per 10 minutes.
Hours: Monday-Thursday: 6:30 am – 10:00 pm. Friday: 6:30 am – 9:00 pm. Saturday: 7:00 am – 6:00 pm. Sunday: 8:00 am – 6:00 pm.
Best for: work or studying, parties and events, a cool place to hang out downtown
When I think of great places to hang out in Salem’s outdoor public spaces, three parks come to mind: Bush, Riverfront, and Minto.
Bush Pasture Park is truly a multi-use space. From tennis courts and reservable baseball field, to playgrounds, picnic areas, a soapbox derby track, jogging paths, and an extensive garden, there is something for everyone. That’s not even mentioning the historic Bush House museum and the Bush Barn Art Center & Gallery.
For me, personally, Bush Park has always been home to summer soccer practices and the annual Salem Art Fair in July. It has also been a great place to go running over the years (see: my favorite running/walking routes in Salem).
Hours: 5am to midnight
Best for: Outdoor family play, walking with a friend, pick-up sports games, picnics, a taste of arts and culture
You could say that I came of age at the same time as Riverfront Park. When I was in high school, the park (as we now know it) was fairly new, and additions like the carousel and EcoEarth Globe were just being built. By the time I was able to drive myself around, this park had become a go-to hang out place whenever the weather was nice enough.
Riverfront Park also hosts the annual World Beat Festival, 4th of July celebrations, Summer Movies in the Park, Holiday Tree Lighting, and several walk/run events (running routes from the park can be found here).
Hours: 5am to 10pm
Best for: Picnics, events, walking with strollers
Unlike Bush and Riverfront Parks, Minto-Brown Park is set among farmland, making it one of the best places in town to feel like you’ve escaped to the countryside. It also has less development than the other two parks. Apart from a large gazebo, small playground, and paved pathways, this place is mostly fields and forest.
They just installed new way-finding signs around the park this summer, which is great. I’ve been going there off and on for years and there are still some areas of the park I’m not familiar with. It’s always been one of my favorite places to go jogging (see the routes here) and also to pick blackberries. Keep your eyes open for wildlife- this is the only place I’ve seen a porcupine in person, and there have been a few cougar sightings as well!
Hours: 5am to midnight
Best for: Biking, running, walking, large group potlucks at the gazebo, fishing, and blackberry picking
Honorable Mention: Santiam Brewing
I have not had the chance to get to Santiam Brewing and Tasting Room but a few people have mentioned it since I’ve been back in the area. Sounds like it deserves to be on the list of great places to hang out in Salem!
Corner of McGilchrist and 19th St
Hours: Monday-Wednesday: 4-8pm. Thursday-Friday: 4-10pm. Saturday: 2-10pm. Sunday 2-7pm.
Best for: Beer tasting, hanging out
Honorable Mention: Minto Island Growers
Although the Farm Stand at Minto Island Growers is seasonal and that season is soon coming to a close, I still thought it was worth mentioning. (I’ll have to do better coverage of this place when next summer comes around!)
In addition to fresh, organic produce and plant starts at the Farm Stand, there is also a summer Food Cart open 11am-3pm with a small selection of salads, sandwiches, wood-fired pizza, and fresh berry milkshakes! It’s a really beautiful setting to enjoy a snack. And if you want to do something a little more active, they often do U-pick berries or vegetables.
Hours: Closed Mondays. Tuesday-Saturday/Sunday: 9am-5pm. Call ahead just to be sure (503-931-6840)
Best for: An outdoor snack or lunch in the summer, fresh produce, U-pick with the family
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