Salem, Oregon

Best Places to Retire in Oregon


Salem (population 141,000) is the capital of Oregon and its second largest city.  It is located in the fertile Willamette River Valley, about one hour south of Portland, a little over an hour from the Pacific Ocean and about 90 minutes from the Cascade Mountains. Salem is also the county seat of Marion County which has a total population of about 300,000. The Willamette River, which flows north through the city, is also the county boundary line. Therefore a small portion of Salem lies in Polk County.

Salem is one of the earliest communities in the state and was first known by the Indian word “Chemeketa,” meaning “meeting or resting place.” The name “Salem” was adopted in the mid-1800s. The location of the state capital was contested among Salem, Oregon City and Corvallis over a period of years with Salem ultimately prevailing prior to Oregon achieving statehood in 1859. The state capitol is the most visited location in Salem and the Capitol Mall is a beautiful site in the spring when its many cherry trees are in bloom.

The Willamette Valley is a fertile farming region. It has been farmed for generations and today produces snap beans, sweet corn, beets and beet seed, ornamentals, grass seed and turf, hazelnuts, iris, tulips, and much more. It is one of the nation’s top producers of agricultural seed stocks and now has over 150 different cash crops. Salem has also attracted high technology industries that have helped it enjoy steady growth. Salem’s most attractive attributes are its family-friendly culture, excellent school systems, a community college and liberal arts university, and its proximity to Portland. Many of its citizens commute to the Portland area, which also offers a great variety of cultural amenities and entertainment.

Salem has a large acute care hospital, outstanding recreational opportunities, a mild climate, and is within easy reach of the Pacific Ocean and the mountains. There is a community theater, world-class theater entertainment, outdoor concerts, soccer and minor league baseball games, and more. In the 1990s the population of persons aged 65 and older grew just over 20 percent. There are a number of retirement communities and assisted living facilities in the city.

Arts & Culture

Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University.

Elsinore Theatre is a magnificent, historic theater built in 1926. It has very recently undergone a three-year, $3.2 million renovation. The theater features a 30-foot high Gothic lobby, stained glass windows, 24-foot high murals, a 1,200-seat auditorium, and a Brazilian Cherry stage. It has been home to world-class performers, including Clark Gable, W.C. Fields, Gregory Peck, Bernadette Peters and others, and recently resumed its role as a first-class performing arts facility.

Pentacle Theatre is a non-profit community theater.

Mission Mill Museum interprets the history of Jason Lee’s Methodist Mission to Oregon.

The Salem Art Association presents the Annual Salem Art Fair & Festival.

Deepwood Estate Museum is an elegant 1894 Queen Anne style home on 5.5-acres with gazebos, carriage house, gardens and a nature trail.

Oregon State Fair is held annually in Salem from late August into early September.

Salem Public Library –


The “Salem Golf Guide” is a good resource listing 14 courses in and around the city.

Salem Bicycle Club is both an advocate for bikers and a promoter of the sport. It has more than 400 members.

The Chemeketans is a not-for-profit organization founded to unite persons with a common interest in outdoor activities. Its primary activity is day hiking but includes many other activities including canoe trips, cross-country skiing, backpacking, mountain climbing, and much more. The club has an estimated 700 members.

The Cascade Canoe Club of Salem is an interest group dedicated to flat and white water canoeing.

Salem Keizer Volcanoes are a Class A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants baseball team. The team competes in the Northwest Baseball League. Opponents include Boise Hawks, Eugene Emeralds, Everett Aquasox, Spokane Indians, Tri-City Dust Devils, Vancouver Canadians, and the Yakima Bears.

Cascade Surge is Oregon’s only professional minor league soccer team.

Spirit Mountain Casino, Grand Ronde is an attraction that draws millions of visitors each year.

Salem Audubon Society is an active chapter of the National Audubon Society. It organizes 18-20 field trips each year to valley, coastal and other locations in the state.


Chemeketa Community College has a full-time student population of about 5,200.

Willamette University is a private university with a full-time enrollment of 2,400 students.

Western Baptist College has a full-time population of approximately 700 students.

Western Oregon University in Monmouth (about 22 miles from Salem) has a student population of about 4,200.

Oregon State University in Corvallis (31 miles from Salem) enrolls more than 15,000 students.

Senior Programs

Salem Senior Center offers recreational, creative and social activities, as well as support and services for seniors. 

The following site offers a list of services and opportunities for seniors.

NorthWest Senior & Disability Services is an intergovernmental agency that maintains a comprehensive service system for seniors and disabled persons in a five-county area, which includes both Marion and Polk counties.


Salem Hospital is a 454-bed full-service acute care hospital with more than 400 physicians on staff.


Salem Municipal Airport – McNary Field is located two miles southeast from downtown Salem. It consists of two jet runways and supporting taxiways.


Average temperatures for January are a high of 47 degrees and low of 33 degrees. The average temperatures for July are a high of 81 degrees and low of 52 degrees. The heaviest snowfall occurs in January, with an average of 2.9 inches.


Statesman Journal –

Property Taxes

Marion County Tax Assessor –

State Taxes

Chamber of Commerce

State Aging Agency


Corvallis – 39 miles
Portland – 46 miles
Pacific City – 57 miles
Lincoln City – 58 miles
Eugene – 66 miles
Lincoln Beach – 67 miles
Florence – 127 miles
Redmond – 128 miles
Bend – 131 miles
Medford – 228 miles
Bend – 131 miles
Crater Lake – 205 miles
Seattle, WA – 219 miles

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