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.
Urban scavengers take to the streets of Salem to solve clues and complete challenges in The Great Salem Race. The third-annual scavenger hunt takes competitors through a 3- to 5-mile course?the length depends on the route competitors take and how efficiently they solve the clues?during which they will discover or re-discover some of Salem's finest sites and businesses. Most teams will complete the course by 1 p.m., after which they can enjoy food and drink specials at the official after-party. Proceeds to benefit the Boys and Girls Club of Salem, Salem Leadership Foundation and the Inspire Foundation.
The Willamette Heritage Center at the Mill preserves slices of valley history by word and deed, keeping up 14 historic structures and filling them with historical tours and living history displays. The Jason Lee house represents the oldest building on campus, built in 1841. The structure also boasts the title of oldest surviving wooden frame house in the Pacific Northwest, and its interior sports the period appropriate furnishings right down to an iron stove and a snoring, bonneted grandmother. Nearby stands the Thomas Kay Woolen Mill, and piece of the Industrial Revolution that has survived since 1896, earning recognition as an American Treasure by the National Park Service. Workers keep the buildings clean and sound for tours and rentals, while actors keep the ground vibrant with living historical portrayals.
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.
Salem Prep School gives kids their best chance at success with an early academic start. Classes begin with potty training, counting, and ABCs for infants, and then proceed to higher-learning topics in languages, math, and reading readiness for kids up to six. In the summer, day camp combines play and learning in a fun, summer-camp atmosphere for kids not yet ready to sleep away from home.