If a week or weekend filled with adventure, art, museums, and maritime fun sounds like a recipe for an epic family vacation, then it’s time to take your crew to Astoria! Whether you are yearning for adrenaline pumping fun, a little education with your adventures, or some hands on fun, this Oregon coastal city has it all. Grab your young seaman and seawomen, pack up the car and scroll down to find out all about the fun we dug up that makes for an epic Astoria getaway.
A gorgeous two-hour drive from Portland, Astoria is located near the coast at the mouth of the Columbia River. A port city that was once a thriving boomtown during the late-19th century when large immigrant populations primarily made up of Scandinavians and the Chinese flocked to the area to work in the canning and fishing industries, Astoria has since become a beloved destinations for active families and avid Oregon history buffs. With easy access to the Columbia River and Oregon Coast beaches; a multitude of art and historical museums; plenty of cute shopping spots and easy access to outdoor activities—your clan will have a hard time fitting in everything there is to do.
The Astoria Column
One of your first stops while staying in Astoria should be the iconic Astoria Column. Overlooking the mouth of the Columbia River from its stone base on the top of Coxcomb Hill in Astoria, the Astoria Column is a 91 year old tower that was built in 1926 as part of a 30-acre city park. The trek to the top takes visitors a jaw-dropping 600 feet above sea level, where your family can take in breathtaking views of Young's Bay, the Coast Range, the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean
Getting to the top of the column is a surprisingly thrilling activity. Entering through a small doorway your family will take a winding metal staircase with 164 steps that shoots straight to the top where a second doorway takes you out to a viewing deck. The trip up and the views are surprisingly exhilarating and give your crew the opportunity for a little adrenaline rush if they dare to step out to the edge. Be prepared for some wind and if they skies are clear you will be able to see for miles and miles and miles.
Fun Fact! The column itself is a stunning work of art that will enchant imaginations both young and old while serving up a small history lesson. Its design was inspired by the Trajan Column in Rome and the spiraling artwork was created using a technique called sgraffito—an Italian art form. If unwound, the length of the artwork would be more than 500 feet long and at the top of the column your little explorers will find the State Seal of Oregon.
The Columbia River Maritime Museum
When you are done at the column, grab your little sailors, and head straight to The Columbia River Maritime Museum. This historical spot explores the history of the Columbia River from the days of dugout canoes, through the age of sail, to present. Visitors witness stories of the legendary Columbia River Bar, one of the most dangerous passages in the world. Your kids will love explore boats, legendary fishing runs, lighthouses, the science of storms and more.
Located on the city's waterfront, the Maritime Museum is home to artifacts from the Columbia River and the Pacific Northwest. It currently has 22,000+ objects, 35,000+ photographs, and a 20,000+ volume research library. Your little crewmen and crewgirls will love exploring The United States lightship Columbia docked just outside the museum. The Columbia served as a floating lighthouse and was stationed 5.3 statute miles from the mouth of the Columbia River from 1951 until 1979 when it was decommissioned. It is the first vessel in Oregon to be placed on the National Register and your kids are sure to enjoy seeing where it's inhabitants slept, ate and relaxed.
High Life Adventures
Feel the need for speed? Your young (and older) adrenaline junkies will enjoy an experience of a lifetime with an incredible and unforgettable zip line adventure at High Life Adventures. This tour isn't just for adults and teens. Children weighing 60 pounds or more can brave the zip lines on their own. For smaller kids or children who are feeling timid, there's the option to zip tandem with a parent.
High Life Adventures is located approximately 15 minutes from Astoria in Warrenton, Oregon. This zip line tour takes you on eight zip lines that run through timber and over ponds and a lake. It starts with shorter and easier zips, that slowly increase in length allowing the kiddos to build up to being brave. Then the height and thrill increases as the tour progresses. By the time you and your young adventurers find yourself stepping off of a 75 foot tower, you will have already built up a tolerance for the the rush. If you aren't quite done with the thrills and excitement at the end of your zip, try axe throwing. Family members 12 years and up can take their turn throwing axes at a target for upto an hour!
Astoria Art Loft
The Astoria Art Loft is guarunteed to bring out the artist in everyone! Your family can attend fused glass, drawing and watercolor painting classes for artists of all ages and experience. Plan an artsy night out with family.
You can't leave Astoria without hitting the quirky and cute local shops. Check out Astoria’s Underground Shops. Below the surface, in an underground village, a collective of local artists, makers and proprietors offer a unique experience for visitors that stumble down the stairs. You'll be entertained in this cool spot for hours. Be sure to check out Weird Sisters for unique and unusual finds and Kit's Apothecary for one-of-a-kind gifts and memorabilia.
Lucy’s Books is the perfect spot for the readers in the family. It's packed with all things bookish. You'll be able to find all of the books on your reading list and they are located in Downtown Astoria in the historic Sanborn Building. Finally, Forsythea is a great little must-see spot for browsing unique home and garden décor by local artists.
The Bowline Hotel
Why not enjoy a little luxury when you book your basecamp stay in Astoria? Located right on the river, The Bowline Hotel is the place to be if you want front seat views to a water show that includes river pilot boats, freighters and an abundance of sea life right outside your door. Don't let the industrial aesthetic fool you. This gorgeous spot is a sardine cannery that has been turned into a lux hotel that is home to 40 rooms that feature plush king beds, luxury linens, flickering fireplaces, tubs and French press coffee to start your mornings with. You can choose between river view or Trolley view rooms and you don't have to go far to enjoy delectable bites because the hotel has an on-sight restaurant and bar—The Knot.
The Knot Bar offers guests locally sourced menu items that are Scandinavian-inspired and pay homage to Astoria's seafood history. Some of our favorites include the Oregon beef tartare, Tre Fin Black Cod, and the Crepe Cannelloni. That's not all! Mom and dad can enjoy deliciously handcrafted cocktails that celebrate local distilleries.
While the luxurious features that the Bowline offers make it a fantastic option for families visiting Astoria, the location is a huge bonus. If you and your crew like to explore by foot, the Bowline Hotel is walking distance from incredible restaurants, cafes, event venues, and all the shopping you could hope for. You can easily spend a day (or weekend) without getting into your car once.
Street 14 Café serves more than coffee, it's brunch is a must for hungry families. Grab a sunrise sandwich a breakfast a brisket bowl or some French toast. There's literally something for every appetite! Start your day with their coffee, then come back for wine and cocktails after exploring Astoria. Head to South Bay Wild Fish House is a family-owned restaurant featuring a menu of the freshest seafood dishes caught straight from their local fishing vessel. Enjoy ceviche, tuna poke, and incredible fish tacos. Don't forget to order the kiddos the kids root beer float.
The Astoria Bistro & Coffeehouse is a bustling European-style coffee shop and sit-down spot serving baked pastries, breakfast, lunch and Café Vita coffee. But breakfast isn't all this spot offers. At night it becomes an intimate bistro offering offering neo-regional cuisine using direct caught seafood, all natural meats and wild local produce "foraged" from the area.
If mom and dad have the opportunity to sneak out and steal a romantic hour or two away from the kids, with over 200 whiskeys to sip, craft cocktails and shareable food boards the Blaylock's Whiskey Bar is the perfect spot for one-on-one time. WineKraft is another great choice. Offering spectacular views of the Columbia River where it meets the Pacific Ocean, it is a PNW specialty wine bar, featuring Pacific Northwest wines but you can also sip beer and cider from the area with their six rotating draft offerings.
—Story and photos by Annette Benedetti
This trip was paid for by Maxwell PR + Engagement but all opinions expressed here belong to the writer.