Thrills, Spills and Chills in Salem, Oregon – USA

Immerse your kids in fun and activity when traveling. Salem, state capitol of Oregon, is the place to be for family fun. Not only is it drenched in Pioneering History, but it also offers lots of entertainment. Here are a few ideas that might keep the children out of trouble, and having a good time for a few days.

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Fun and activity in Salem for a family vacation

Start your day of family fun at either Thrillville or the Enchanted Forest. Head south of Salem on I-5 and take your pick. Both parks add up to a day of pleasure. Thrillville is small enough to keep a watchful eye on your little ones, but thrilling enough to keep your adrenaline high with their world class Extreme Rides. The terrifying Slingshot propels you 275 feet into the hemisphere at lightning speed; perfect for those who like the wits scared right out of them. Whirl through the air at some extreme G’s on Turbo Force, which patterns itself after a windmill. Scare yourself silly on Scad Dive with death defying freefalls, or plummet down the tight curvy track of The Ripper roller coaster. For more thrills, you can slide down a waterslide that plunges you 350 feet to the ground, race go-karts, climb a rock wall or play miniature golf. This is a great place to keep the family entertained all day.


Transport your family to an old European village at the Enchanted Forest – the name fits this little gem perfectly. As you drive up to the parking lot, you will be dazzled by the brightly painted half timbered buildings. Walking toward the entrance of this magical theme park, memories of childhood fairy tales spring to life; you know you are about to embark on a grand adventure. Not only will you live out the stories of old in their themed towns, but you can also get your heart racing on the Big Timber Log Ride. It careens you down an astonishing 40 foot dive, making this is the largest drop in the Pacific Northwest.

How about another thrill ride? Speed and twist your way through the snaking turns of an Alpine mountain peak with the Ice Mountain roller coaster. The newest and most technical ride is the Challenge of Mondor. This interactive ride has you gunning down wizards and dragons in a florescent Gothic atmosphere. Computers keep score for you throughout the ride. Opening this year will be their state of the art, high tech bumper cars. These sleek, stylish new cars imported from Italy, will be replacing the older inner tube style vehicles.

Other things not to be missed are Tofteville Mining Town, a perfect replica of the Wild, Wild West, Storybook Land, the original village that started Enchanted Forest, and the Fantasy Fountains Water Light Show. This show was created in 1988 by Susan Tofte, the daughter of Roger Tofte, owner and designer of the park. The light show is a fantastic experience of music, color, light and sound. Don’t be surprised if you run into Roger on his little Vespa styled scooter armed with paintbrushes and tools. He still enjoys tinkering around the forest and enthusiastically talking with visitors.

Get into the game at Warpaint International Paintball Field. The smell of sawdust greets you when entering this large indoor arena. A playing field of three different themes keeps you on your toes at all times. One minute you might be shooting it out in a Wild West Town complete with hitching posts and storefront facades. Next you are morphed into the Middle Ages complete with an Old English Castle. To make things more interesting, you are transported to the 20th century to find yourself in the middle of a WWII gun battle, complete with bunkers. This sport is great for rainy days and nighttime fun, but in times of good weather, why not get realistic and play the outdoor field in West Salem.

On 25 acres of brush and wilderness amongst the DMZ outbuildings, you will have a blast fighting it out to see who becomes the sovereign victor or who reigns supreme. Players are debriefed with safety rules and must have eye protection before entering the playing field. Parents, if not participating, can watch from a protected viewing area. Shooters under 18 must have a signed release from parents. Basic package includes: pump gun, mask, unlimited C02 cartridges, field fee and three hours of play.

Chill out at the Dallas Aquatic Center, a 15-minute drive from downtown Salem. You can find fun and relaxation in a choice of four refreshing pools. Torpedo down a swirling waterslide, or while the kids are splashing around playing with a multitude of water toys, why not grab an inner tube and mellow out with a trek down the lazy river. Shape up your day with their group Aquatic Aerobics, or make a splash with the high dive. With wave reviews, Dallas Water Park keeps the whole family energized.

Swing from a tree, solve a puzzle, or swoop down a mountain at the YWAM Ropes Course. You and your children will have a blast figuring out how to get though these well-thought-out obstacles. The ropes challenge is based on teamwork, going though 11 high elements and 18 low ones. Put on your thinking caps and learn to communicate to solve these brain teasing challenges. High elements are obstacles that are ingeniously built into the treetops, which means an exhilerating experience. The low elements are more thought provoking, which puts an emphasis on teamwork.

When asking the team members what their favorite element was, hands down the 800-foot zip line wins out every time. This ride sends you plummeting down the face of a mountain through the trees at a gasping 35 miles per hour. The Flying Squirrel that catapults you 50 feet into the air is a very close second, along with the Giant Swing. You will also be taught how to repel, rock climb and most importantly, how to rely on and trust your teammates. A day at the ropes helps people realize their dreams and courage, along with learning to work as a team. Kids as young as five have experienced the ropes and an ever adventurous 84-year-old tackled the zip line. A 55-year-old paraplegic, since the age of 14, got his rush flying through the treetops.

The YWAM rope lines is a great place to go for a weekend of team building for businesses, sports teams, school groups, family reunions, or friends just getting together to do something a little different. You will need to have a minimum of eight people to book. For more information, contact Jeff Nelson at the website above.

Get historical on the Willamette Queen Sternwheeler. What a great way to spend an evening with your family. No child will complain about great food and superb entertainment while fantasizing they are in the middle of a Mark Twain novel. Not only will you learn the history of how the Willamette River was used for shipping and transportation, but you will also get a short education on nature and animals living near the river. On special nights, get a big bang by participating in a Who Dunnit Murder Mystery. Get vocal by booing the dastardly villain in an originally written melodrama by the Cwerks Company. You might even have to bring Kleenex for your tears from the laughter with the Comedy Theater.

This authentic vessel from the past is privately owned and operated. The owner and ship's captain, Richard Chesbrough, will take you on an informative narrative of memoirs of the Willamette River. He also will illustrate his knowledge on shipbuilding and sailing from both past and present. Bring your children on the cruise; he delights in sitting them in his own captain’s seat to try their hand at navigating the river. Captain Chesbrough has a heartfelt passion for the river and sailing, which he loves to share with others. This charming vessel is historically accurate in that it is actually propelled by the paddlewheels and not propellers, like most ships these days. There is a special feeling of nostalgic anticipation as you board this vessel that this is going to be a grande voyage.

Looking for an outdoor adventure without having to brave the wet Oregon weather? At the Pacific Crest Archery Range, there is an interactive Hunting Game that has you feeling as though you are really out in the wilderness tracking down a deer, boar, or other wild animals. The best part is, you shoot for fun or competition, without harming animals. The interactive game has a large picture screen 30 yards out, and is made to take arrows with blunt tips. Traveling through the deep green forest, you are on the lookout for deer, keeping your bow armed and ready to go at all times. Finally you see one and SHOOT! The computer takes over from there, shows how you hit by color coding, and then tallies your score. Up to four people can compete with over 20 different scenarios to choose from. Children are welcome with special targets that can be set up for their abilities. If you are not in the mood for hunting, Pacific Crest also has an indoor archery range. If new to this sport, lessons can be arranged for a small fee. Pacific Crest Archeryis at 3068 River Road, N. Salem, OR 97303. Telephone: 503 585-4547.

Swing a club and score a birdie playing miniature golf. It's always a fun experience whether you sink a hole in one, or laugh at the hideous putting that you thought looked so easy. There are a few courses to choose from for this pastime. Best Little Roadhouse Miniature Golf is just north of downtown on Liberty Street; the perfect place to go for a round. End with some good food at their restaurant. This cute little course is outdoors – rain or shine.

Pietro’s Pirate Adventure Ahoy, Matey! This easy-to-get-to-location makes it a popular stop for locals and visitors alike. On the corner of Market Street and Hawthorne, which parallels the I-5 corridor, not only does it have great tasting pizza, but a bounty of fun for the kids to boot.

Pietro’s has a dynamic miniature golf course that will blow you away with vibrant 3D florescent paintings throughout the course. You almost need to have your sunglasses on to play this indoor course. Enter past a ragtag bearded pirate guarding his booty with shouts of warnings as you pass by. Through this maze you will encounter playful jumping dolphins, green slime running down walls, even elevating portholes. Of course, you have ale chugging pirates devouring pizza, but you will also find yourself in the middle of dueling pirate ships. Super for rainy day fun.

Hint: Even though 3D glasses are not needed to play the course, a suggestion is to pay the $1.00 fee to get into the swing of things. Pietro’s Pirate Adventure is at 1637 Hawthorne NE Salem, OR, Telephone: 503 364-0128.

Hit the holes with the hottest, trendiest new sport around – Disc Golf. Armed to the hilt with 18 different frisbees or just one reliable disc, you are in for a great time. Like the golf you are accustomed to, each disc has different functions. For instance, a thin, flat and sturdy disc would be your driver; light and flexible your putter. Hint: If you have a talent for lobbing the disc into high grass areas or bush, you might want to purchase a vibrant color so it will be easy to find. Also write your name and phone number on your disc at time of purchase; most golfers send them back to their owners when found. The course can be 9 to 18 holes. Now for the good news; you play for FREE! This sport is getting so popular that they have nationwide competitions. Why not give it a try, if nothing else your family will have a day of bloopers and laughs as you learn the ropes. Here are a few courses to choose from.

Champoeg State Park is packed with fun loving golfers; it is only 30 minutes north of Salem on I-5. Surrounded by huge oak trees and the chirping of birds, this intermediate course is one of the best in the area. The Visitor’s Center can supply you with professional style discs for about $10.00 each. As noted before, there are no green fees, just the cost of parking at $3.00 per day. Champoeg (sham-poo-ee) is not about the golf. This state park has hiking trails, biking trails and historic buildings. They also have children's programs all year long from archeology to story telling led by costumed educators. Learn about trappers, Indians and settlers of the great Pacific Northwest. Be sure to stop by the Visitor's Center to pick up a schedule of events. It's at 7679 Champoeg Road NE, Street Paul, OR 97137, Telephone: 503 678-1251.

A meandering river and small fish filled lake is the backdrop for Salem Gateway Park, a nine-hole course. Behind the new Wal-Mart on Airport Road near the Salem Airport, you are in for some high flying fun. A convenient location in a recreational vicinity makes this course the perfect place to play. Opening June, 2007, Aldersgate Conference Center is in the little town of Turner, about 10 minutes east of Salem; it has a nine-hole course in a park setting. It's easy to reach and it's a great spot for first-time players. You can purchase a disc or rent one, but the playing is free.

Also for fun, why not try the 30=foot climbing tower, or rent an inner tube and float down the Mill Creek for cool summer fun. Aldersgate Conference Center is at 7790 Marion Road, SE Turner, OR 97392, Telephone: 503-743-2494. Hit maximum velocity behind the wheel of a hot new NasCar in Salem at RC Plus. With the speed of lightning and control of Mario Andretti, you will fly through the twisty curves of this winding track. The car may not be as large as one used on the real NASCAR courses; in fact, they are only the size of a large shoebox. But, are they cool!

RC Models has the cheapest fun in town with free practice on their course during business hours; you can log loads of driving time. Don’t own a remote control car? No problem! You can actually rent these cars for free. The only cost is the battery packs at the price of about $3.00 each. This is perfect for those who are interested in trying it out before purchasing one of their own. If you have a competitive streak, why not check out the scheduled races on Tuesday nights starting at 7:00 P.M., or Saturdays at 11:00 A.M.? You just might be the lucky one to cross the finish line first. What a great idea for visitors looking for something different to do while in Salem. RC Plus is at 1685 25th Street, SE Salem, OR 97301, Telephone: 503 364-9188.

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Photo credits: Log Ride , Climbing , Willamette Queen , Champoeg State Park

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