At Northern Lights Theatre Pub, audience members sip riesling and sink forks into chicken breasts as movie families sit down to dinner on the silver screen. Cinema-goers order their meals before sitting down to watch second-run flicks, letting waiters ferry their pulled-pork burritos or Angus burgers right to their seats so they don’t miss a screen couple’s passionate first kiss, tender final embrace, or heartwarming jump from an exploding helicopter. In addition to finger foods, the chefs take their fare up a notch by layering personal pizzas with housemade sauce, sprinkling parmesan cheese and squeezing lemon juice over chicken breasts, and piling pineapple atop their banana splits. Before evening films light up the theaters, Northern Lights’ full-service bar kicks into gear, leading to age restrictions so that moviegoers can freely sip on-tap beers such as Blue Moon and Gilgamesh Mamba or wash down bites with chardonnay and shiraz. In addition to screening blockbuster movies, the theater pub’s three auditoriums occasionally show sports or host live shows such as standup comedy.
Listed in the National Registry of Historic Places, the McDonald Theatre has enjoyed a long, strange history since its establishment in 1925. Originally a community playhouse equipped with both a stage and a screen, the theater found new life in the 1950s when One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest author and psychedelic pioneer Ken Kesey began presenting free cartoons there every Saturday morning. The McDonald spent the next six or so decades as a movie house exclusively, but in 2001, the Kesey family returned, producing concerts and community events under the theater’s enormous proscenium arch. Kesey Enterprises finally purchased the time-weighted stage in 2009, and today the building hosts events ranging from high-school proms to reggae concerts to plumbing-fixture lifting contests.
The River Rock Summer Concert Series spreads out along the bank of the Willamette River, drawing crowds to watch legends and rising stars of rock, blues, and soul strut their stuff. Local Northwest wine and beer offerings are available and food vendors dish up everything from pulled pork and mac and cheese to jambalaya and oyster shooters. Families can enjoy the children’s area presented by Discovery Village with hands on activities such as blowing bubbles or constructing a functional recording booth from giant blocks.
For nearly two decades, three-day festival The Bite & Brew of Salem has celebrated Northwest American summer through beers, food, and outdoor entertainment. Held on the grassy lawns of Riverfront Park, the annual event combines family-friendly entertainment with performances by 15 local and national bands on two outdoor stages. Meanwhile, local breweries such as Salem Ale Works, Hop Valley Brewing Co., and Gilgamesh Brewing pour more than 60 draft beers, including a few hard-to-find concoctions. To complement the suds, a plethora of Oregon food carts and restaurants serve sweet and savory fare under the blazing July sun.
The Hoop’s sprawling 51,000 square feet house a universe of athleticism, rolling out six basketball courts, six volleyball courts, and a fitness center stocked with cardio and strength equipment. Thrilling tournaments and regional competitions take place at The Hoop, where up to 3,000 spectators can witness fast breaks, powerful serves, and mascots performing elaborate mating dances.