Most designers have heard of Portland, Oregon, or have at least seen it's parody via Portlandia, it's a hot spot for design in the Pacific Northwest. Not so many have heard of Salem just 45 minutes south on the I-5 corridor and the capital of Oregon. (It was another Salem that burned the Witches.) While Portland has a distinctly unique vibe, Salem in contrast is your average quiet smaller town. The city is well positioned geographically to accommodate those who love outdoor activities. Whether you like skiing Mt. Hood, rafting the Rogue river, hiking Multnomah Falls, body boarding on the coast, wine tasting or biking Sunriver your still close enough to Portland that a designer like myself can also plug into a vibrant art culture.
I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and moved to Salem to work in a small boutique design firm back in 1991. In 2002, I started my own business and work out of my home studio. My commute is about 20 seconds, so I can't complain.
For a couple years my friend Dickie Adams and myself did restaurant reviews for a local publication. We wrote them under an assumed brand name of "Bon Mangez." It was fun, until we were asked to shelve a bad review because the restaurant had bought an ad in the publication. But I digress.
One of the best restaurants we reviewed is Bo Mack's BBQ. Now I've had BBQ from each state in the BBQ belt and Bo Mack's BBQ is nearly perfect. The unsung hero at this place are the hush puppies. These encrusted eatables are a carnival for your mouth. The texture, the chunks of corn, and softness make for a wonderful dining experience in the midst of smokey meats. It's one restaurant our whole family can always agree on.
Sometimes I have to get out of the studio and do my concept work at a coffee shop called Broadway Commons. It's located just a few blocks away from downtown Salem, and they have the best locally roasted coffee in town.
The jewel of downtown Salem is the Elsinore Theatre. It's one of the coolest buildings I've ever been in. (Would make a great location for a movie scene) It's such a classic theatre, built in 1926 and was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. I love it when they run old classic movies every year and always try to catch an Alfred Hitchcock film when it shows there. I had the honor of designing their 75th anniversary logo.
My favorite place for sushi in town is Momiji. They take their culinary skills seriously at this place and watching them work is like watching a master craftsman paint. (I wish I could keep my workstation as clean as they do their cutting board.)
The Willamette river borders one side of downtown Salem and is called Riverfront park. One unique place to grab a bite is on the Willamette Queen a restored authentic sternwheeler where you can go on a lunch or dinner cruise.
One thing I didn't realize when I moved to Salem and the Willamette Valley proper is that it has the highest pollen count in the country due to all the flowers and agriculture in the area. If I would have known that I probably wouldn't have accepted the job back in 1991, because I have major allergies. But I've managed to survive and I love gardens and flowers. Every year they have a lavender festival and the lavender honey is stinking awesome on blueberry scones.
OK, so this is an hour away but we go here all the time. Salem is so close to the ocean that we have awesome seafood, and when you're on the coast you have to have steamer clams in white wine sauce at Fathom's. My daughters can't get enough of these, and the only thing better than the food is the view.
Some other interesting things you can do in and around Salem is visit an early 1800's letterpress museum (Fun), attend the UFO Festival held every year (Lots of creative costumes) and apparently if you hang out in the woods around her long enough picking berries, hunting or camping etc. you just might run into a Bigfoot.
If you ever find yourself in my neck of the woods shoot me an email and the coffee is on me.