Salem, OR capitol building

2021 Top 100 Best Places to Live In America Sponsored by: See homes for sale on Movoto by OJO

liv score
How We Calculate Our Data
Civics 42
Demographics 47
Economy 67
Education 54
Health 56
Housing 58
Infrastructure 42

#56. Salem, OR

Located right in the center of the Willamette Valley, Oregon’s state capital is a mecca for farm-to-table living. The region produces some of the best wines, hazelnuts and other gourmand favorites in the entire Western Hemisphere. Salem, OR is part of the Portland metropolitan statistical area, which has been growing like gangbusters over the past decade and is now getting an influx of new residents from out-of-state at hyperspeed since the remote work revolution of COVID-19. Though Salem offers similar amenities to nearby Portlandia, the cost-of-living is lower and it boasts a far more down-to-earth vibe – you won’t need to put a bird on it.

Top Colleges/Universities: Willamette University

Top Industries & Employers: Agriculture and food processing; advanced manufacturing and technology; wood products and forestry; transportation and distribution.

Weekend Plans: Dine and shop downtown at the recently renovated Reed Opera House. The circa 1870 brick building is full of cute shops and restaurants, spanning from plant specialists and hat stores to sushi and an Italian bakery focused on cannoli. 

Favorite Place to Feast: Word of Mouth Bistro has been Salem’s go-to brunch spot for over a decade. Locals will wait hours to fill up on homespun comfort fare like biscuits and gravy, cinnamon roll pancakes and crème brulee French toast. 

Beloved Beverage: Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley is considered some of the best in the world. Schedule a tasting at Bethel Heights Vineyard and admire the gorgeous views of the vineyard while you’re there. 

Outdoorsy Activity: The appropriately named Trail of Ten Falls takes hikers past 10 awe-inspiring waterfalls, including the massive 177-foot South Falls on a famous 7.6-mile route.

Rooftop Bar: Locals love Basil and Board for its award-winning brick-fired pizzas, great selection of local beverages and the killer sunsets that can be viewed from its rooftop.

Why Your Pet Will Love It, Too: The dog-friendly Yard Food Park boasts 17 food carts, spanning from Thai to tamales, along with a bar and coffee station, so your pup can join in on the fun. 

Remote Work Perk: Serving great coffee during the day, followed by excellent cocktails at night, Archive Coffee and Bar is the ideal place to work when you know it will be a long day.

One More Thing … Salem’s water is considered some of the best-tasting H2O in the Pacific Northwest. 

– Brittany Anas

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