20 Best Things to Do in Salem, VA

lake spring parSalem, VA
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Salem, Virginia, is a charming destination set near the Appalachian Mountain Range, with lots of natural and modern attractions for the whole family.

There are no witch trials here—that’s in another Salem—but the destinations are just as intriguing and vibrant as its namesake.

In fact, this independent city often hosts world-class sporting events as well as well-known fairs.

It’s also the seat of Roanoke County and shares jurisdiction and resources with neighboring Roanoake City.

Downtown, there are many historical buildings lining the streets, which serve as reminders of the city’s storied past.

And a few minutes from the town proper lies the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Appalachian Trail, making this city a gateway to the country’s most expansive outdoor destinations.

There really is something for everyone here, so make this place your top choice for your next getaway!

Here are the 15 best things to do in Salem, VA:

Go Spelunking in the Dixie Caverns

Inside Dixie Caverns
Warfieldian, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ready yourself for dark corners, slippery rocks, and low ceilings during your trip to Salem, as one of the most visited locations here is the famous Dixie Cavern.

Discovered by farm boys in 1920, this underground system has been turned into a show cave that attracts a lot of adventurers and thrill-seekers.

And like most caves, the rocks surrounding it are limestones.

The soft material is easily carved by flowing water, creating dramatic formations, long stalactites and stalagmites, and otherworldly scenes.

The “Wedding Bell” is the most prominent of these features, and actual weddings have taken place under the flowstone formation.

There are many other sights to see during the 45-minute tours, such as caverns lit by soft light, small streams, and reflective pools.

Just pay attention to your guide so you won’t get lost or injure yourself while spelunking.

Watch Baseball Games in Salem Civic Center

Salem Civic Center is arguably the core of activity in town, a multi-purpose facility that can seat more than 6,000 people at a time.

It’s the home to many of the city’s sporting teams and facilities, such as football stadiums, ice hockey rinks, basketball courts, and even boxing rings.

In fact, the Salem Red Sox baseball team occasionally holds matches at the Haley Toyota Field at Salem Memorial Ballpark, which is part of the complex.

One of the most visited events in the center is Salem Fair, held on the expansive outdoor grounds.

It’s actually the largest fair in Virginia and one of the largest in the whole country, complete with a famous Ferris wheel, other carnival rides, and circus acts.

There are also live music performances, novelty shows, firework displays, and tons of delicious local delights that will keep your whole family entertained.

Bounce All Day at Launching Pad Trampoline Park & Family Fun Center

Spend your whole day jumping and bouncing with your loved ones at Launching Pad Trampoline Park & Family Fun Center.

This beloved local destination offers plenty of exhilarating activities without you having to go outdoors.

Chief of this is the trampoline area, which has large floors of power trampolines that have attached accessories and modifications.

So you can play basketball and dodge ball or simply jump around to your heart’s desire or until your get tired.

There are also foam pits, rock climbing walls, and bumper car rides after you’ve had your fun on the bouncy trampolines.

For those who want a bit more challenge, the park offers a Ninja Warrior course with some of the toughest obstacles!

Bring Your Pet to Salem Rotary Dog Park

For those with their pets during their trip, make sure to stop by Salem Rotary Dog Park.

It’s where most dog owners in Salem bring their furry best friends to exercise, explore, and socialize with other pooches.

And you’re welcome to bring yours too!

Whatever the size of your canine friend, they can play here, as there are designated areas for big and small dogs.

There are lots of grassy grounds for running, water fountains for drinking, and even benches for people, so animals and humans alike will have a great time here.

Just make sure that you remain alert with your dog's whereabouts to avoid any scuffles with other visitors.

Go Birdwatching at Mason Creek Greenway

Mason Creek is one of the small streams that run through Salem, and a one-mile segment of it has been turned into a lovely outdoor attraction.

The Mason Creek Greenway is a paved path that features dense vegetation, open fields, and a few indicators of human settlement.

Many people come here to take nature walks, jog, and bike, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying the quiet ambiance of the attraction.

There are even fitness stops that feature metal structures for bodyweight exercises.

On the other hand, the many open fields have facilities for soccer and baseball.

One of the favorite activities here is birdwatching, with more than a hundred species already documented hunting and feeding in the woods.

So better bring binoculars or cameras if you plan on seeing and documenting these colorful avian species during your trip!

Tour the Exhibits of Salem Museum

Canon displayed at Salem Museum
Galleria Laureata / Shutterstock.com

If you want to gain some context of the other attractions here in Salem, then your best bet is to visit Salem Museum.

From the early Native American tribes to European settlers, all the way to the Civil War, this facility offers knowledge about the eras that shaped the town into what it is today.

You’d find artifacts, collections, and exhibits that offer glimpses of the past.

Some of these displays chronicle important events of bygone years, such as the town’s role during the Civil War, women’s fashion in the 1800s, and even notable games where Salem’s athletes won.

There are also rotating exhibits that highlight topics related to people and places within the region.

You’ll surely learn about Salem’s past and gain a better appreciation of the city.

Have a Fun Family Day at Thunder Valley Family Entertainment Center

If bouncing on trampolines is not your idea of family fun, then there’s another destination that serves as a great alternative.

Thunder Valley Family Entertainment Center is another indoor attraction that offers thrilling activities for kids and adults.

Laser tag is among the most favorite group sports, and it’s a fun way to test your accuracy and evasion skills.

For those who want to see the extent of their putting skills, the center has a minigolf course with a fun and challenging layout.

The arcade, on the other hand, has many games—both modern and classic—that will surely entertain you and your kids for hours.

All these are accessible with whole-day tickets for maximum fun and memories.

Let the Kids Play at Longwood Park

As the largest park in Salem, Longwood Park is an oft-visited attraction with its many facilities and wide, open spaces.

Upon arriving, you’d immediately notice the rather large play structures on the playground, with many kids having the time of their lives on the swings and slides.

There are also wide, open grounds, picnic benches, and shelters that are available for rent.

For those who want more sporty activities, you can shoot a few hoops on the basketball court or run along the fitness trail.

But the most visited attraction in the park is the spacious amphitheater.

It’s the venue for events and performances in town, with throngs of people coming in to see the live entertainment.

So if you’re lucky, you might catch one of these shows during your trip to Longwood Park.

Buy a Rare Piece at Charlotte’s Web Antique Mall

Looking for a unique gift or memorabilia to bring home as a souvenir of your Salem trip?

Then head over to Charlotte’s Web Antique Mall!

This colorful and whimsical establishment is the home of oddities, curiosities, and other unusual products that you won’t find anywhere else.

Browse more than 50 vendors and check out rare items such as antique furniture, fine jewelry, beautiful artworks, dining implements, intricate glassware, and home decor.

They also buy and trade unique collectibles, so you can bring something you want to sell or exchange.

Just be patient during your search, and you might discover something truly one-of-a-kind to bring home.

Go Horseback Riding at Green Hill Park

Sitting right next to Roanoke River is the beautiful Green Hill Park, an expansive outdoor facility spanning 224 acres.

It’s actually used as one of the venues for many community events and athletic tournaments, owing to the many facilities and amenities in the park.

But if you’re not up for the crowds and simply want to have a relaxing time with your family, then stay at the shaded areas, picnic benches, and small shelters dotting the grounds.

The frontage next to Roanoke River is also great for fishing for those who have time to practice their angling skills.

And if you’re a fan of horses, you can watch them or ride one at the 20-acre equestrian center.

There’s no shortage of activities to do here, so make sure it’s on your itinerary!

Cruise the Currents of Roanoke River

Roanoke River is an important resource in Salem, snaking its way in the middle of the city and providing much-needed irrigation to the nearby agricultural lands.

Its headwaters are located in Lafayette, which is only a few minutes away from the city.

So the waters are still pristine and unpolluted as it passes through Salem.

Most people visit upriver to enjoy the more underdeveloped and isolated segments of this body of water.

With the many species of freshwater game swimming in deeper spots, the wilder areas have become favorite fishing grounds.

Join a local angler and catch catfish, trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, and more.

But if you’re not up for fishing, you can cruise the currents and ride the rapids along the length of the river.

Sample Delicious Beers at Parkway Brewing Company

The best way to cap off your tour of Salem is a refreshing drink of cold beer.

And the best place to get a chilled mug is at Parkway Brewing Company.

While it has only been around since 2012, this business has steadily turned into one of the most visited local hangouts in the city.

You’re welcome to join a tour of their facility to see the state-of-the-art brewing equipment that produces fresh beer from the finest ingredients.

Then head over to their tasting room to sample some of the ales, craft beer, and specialty drinks that they offer.

While your sipping a cold mug, you’d also be serenaded with live music from talented local bands.

Don’t forget to bring home a pack or two to open during lazy days or weekends.

Play a Challenging Game of Golf at Hanging Rock Golf Club

Hanging Rock Golf Club overlooks Virginia's stunning Roanoke Valley and is bordered by magnificent natural features.

The Russell Breeden-designed course boasts a championship layout that ensures a tough and thrilling game for golf lovers in Roanoke of all levels of ability.

The 18-hole layout at Hanging Rock has tested a few of the most experienced golfers in the state, so visitors can expect to play a hard and memorable course there.

Hanging Rock has received several regional and national golf awards, notably 17 consecutive years of The Roanoke magazine readers' vote for "Best Golf Course in the Roanoke Valley."

Available seven days a week, reservations for tee times are advised for guests.

Have a Glass of Beer at Olde Salem Brewing Co.

Olde Salem Brewing Co. is a well-loved and historical business in the center of Salem, Virginia's Historic Main Street District.

The building was built barely 114 years after James Simpson established the town in 1806; up until this point, it had housed a well-known electronics store for decades.

In their opinion, every sip of their craft beer contains a fragment of the past.

Making mindfully brewed beer that is worth sharing and savoring with customers is the company's only objective.

So, even the classic options at Olde Salem Brewing Co. attain that rare, craft-defining mix of robust flavor and unique taste.

Snack and Drink with Pals at Mac and Bob's Restaurant

Mac and Bob's is undeniably rich in Salem history and culture, having grown from a little 10-stool tavern to a roomy 330-seat establishment with an 80-tap bar and charming terrace.

They are renowned for their massive, delicious calzones and a large selection of American dishes such as appetizers, chicken wings, cheeseburgers, steaks, fish and shrimps, and spaghetti.

Their indoor and outdoor bars offer above 40 craft beers, including numerous Virginia-made brews.

Mac and Bob's has been a second home for the people of Salem and the students at Roanoke College since 1980.

College and high school reunions, victory parties, athletic events, family bonding, and casual get-togethers occur in restaurants and bars.

Watch Top-Notch Films at AMC CLASSIC Salem Valley 8

AMC CLASSIC Salem Valley 8 is a theater with gigantic digital screens and 3D technology that broadcasts first-run movies, opera performances, and sporting events.

The only Dolby Cinema in the country is at AMC, which has the most IMAX screens available.

Their breathtaking sounds and visuals improve each film.

With AMC Artisan Films, they emphasize excellently made, narrative-driven films and bring international cinema, stage productions, concerts, and more to a big screen.

AMC Theatres offers a wide range of high-quality selections, from the traditional to the surprising.

Enjoy their popcorn and an icy cold Coke, which are always the ideal pairing while watching a movie.

Pamper Yourself at the Medi Spa at Ridgewood Hill

The Medi Spa at Ridgewood Hill was founded in 2008 by Dr. Carol Wray and has since grown to be the most well-liked medical spa in the Roanoke Valley.

Their objective is to inform patients and provide the finest treatment plan following patient preferences using their extensive training and years of expertise.

Their attention to detail is evident in everything from their marble flooring to their cutting-edge treatment rooms.

There are several options for skin restoration, excellent cosmetic procedures, Botox, injectors, methods for reducing sweat, UV treatment, and other services.

The Medi Spa at Ridgewood Hill may help you look good and feel confident without undergoing plastic surgery.

Other Things to Do Nearby

After your tour of Salem, why not visit these other locations that are just a few minutes away?

Marvel at the Views of McAfee Knob

View from the peak of McAfee Knob
Rui Serra Maia / Shutterstock.com

One of the most beautiful spots in the Blue Ridge Mountains and, by extension, the Appalachian Range, is the McAfee Knob.

This rocky outcropping is located more than 3000 feet above sea level, making it one of the best lookouts in the area.

It offers uninterrupted views of the Catawba Valley, with its gentle hills and endless forests that only stop where the horizon meets the sky.

Scenic view of McAfee Knob
Case Chronicles / Shutterstock.com

The trail’s starting point is less than 15 minutes away from Salem via car, and it’s a gentle enough trek for beginners and amateurs.

For those who want to stay a few more days to explore the surrounding forests, there are designated camping sights in the area as well.

Beautiful sunrise over McAfee Knob
robert c. mosher / Shutterstock.com

Cool Down at Splash Valley

Splash Valley is a gorgeous water park north of Salem in Roanoke City, with tons of attractions and activities.

It’s an excellent stop for those who want to cool off during hot summer days.

Here, you’ll find towering waterslides, huge pools, lazy rivers, and a children’s splashpad.

There are also lots of areas for picnics with tables and umbrellas and nearby concession stands with satisfying delights.

So whenever you need a cooling dip after a day around Salem, then this is the ideal place to visit.

Play Pinball at Roanoke Pinball Museum

The Roanoke Pinball Museum is a well-known destination in the region that’s just a few minutes away from Salem.

It houses a wide range of pinball machines dating back from as early as the 1930s.

But since it’s an interactive museum, you’re welcome to play with the machines.

For those who want to take a nostalgia trip or those who simply want to test their hand-eye coordination skills, be sure to make a stopover here!

Final Thoughts

For the perfect blend of sports, entertainment, and nature, visit the eclectic and vibrant community of Salem.

Reference this list and add the top spots to your itinerary today.

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