The 600-acre park plays host to visitors who drive through the more than four miles of winding grounds to catch up-close glimpses of its inhabitants—over 550 wild animals from Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Bison, zebras, and giraffes roam the wide-open surroundings, living in harmony with tigers, lions, and bears. Founded by Frank Hart in 1972, the park has helped to protect endangered species while educating the public about them and their important roles in the fragile ecosystem. Visitors can make arrangements for private and personalized animal encounters as well as visit the safari village zoo, botanical gardens, and gift shop.
The woodland aviaries at Cascades Raptor Center provide a safe space for more than 60 resident raptors representing 30 native species including owls, hawks, falcons, bald and golden eagles, and vultures. Meet the intense gaze of these airborne hunters as you stroll through majestic aviary trails. Members can keep up with their favorite fowls with unlimited admission for an entire year. Proceeds benefit the center's on-site wildlife hospital for birds of prey, which has treated more than 2,500 birds suffering from broken wings or existential ennui. Expand your winged knowledge at informative handler talks in which feathered friends are allowed to preen for paparazzi and field questions from their perch on the handler’s glove. Avid avian watchers can explore the Cascades Raptor Center grounds Tuesday to Sunday and catch handler talks on weekends at 1 p.m.
A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village is a hands-on children's museum spread across three historical houses that reside in Riverfront Park. It is named after A.C. Gilbert, a Salem native, toy magnate, and inventor of the Erector Set. True to a life spent creating educational and scientific toys, his namesake museum provides a place for kids to interact with exhibits that encourage play and provoke thought. From a giant model of an animal cell to a faux paleontological dig full of ancient bones to musical instruments like a South American rainwheel, the museum's stations encompass a number of scientific and cultural disciplines?though little ones might only interpret each activity as fun. Furthermore, youth can heal stuffed animals in the Village Vet Room or scale a 52-foot edifice that is one of the world's largest Erector Set towers, boasting three slides and a maze.