Whether it is Kindergarten Cop or The Goonies, Astoria has been defined in 1980s movies as a rainy destination far from anywhere else. While we may enjoy that reputation, it isn’t always the case. There is more to do than just enjoy nostalgic cinema in our town, and anyone who has explored the greater Astoria area knows a few historical and fun places to spend some time. From incredible history and stunning views to delicious foods and fantastic museums, Astoria makes for the perfect day trip or weekend adventure.
Whether you are a local or looking to come to the Oregon coast for a quick getaway, these seven, family-friendly adventures are the perfect introduction to exploring Astoria.
1. Explore a Shipwreck
The Columbia Bar is one of the most dangerous places to sail, with more than 2000 vessels and 700 lives lost in this region alone. In 1906, the Peter Iredale became the most accessible shipwreck along the Graveyard of The Pacific near the Columbia Bar. Found by hiking along the Clatsop Spit at Fort Stevens State Park, this four-masted steel barque sailing vessel can still be seen today, eroded and stuck in the ever-changing sands. The ship is best seen at low tide, so plan accordingly.
2. Walk Up the Column
For the absolute best view of Astoria and the Columbia River, you need to take a trip up to the top of the Astoria Column. Standing 125 feet tall at the top of Coxcomb Hill, this incredible structure offers jaw-dropping, panoramic views. Built in 1926, the top of the tower can be reached by walking up the dizzying, 164-step spiral staircase. The tower was financed by the Great Northern Railway and Vincent Astor (the great-grandson of John Jacob Astor) to help celebrate their role in the city’s history. The views from the tower are unrivaled and will forever be etched in your mind if you are brave enough to walk to the top and step outside.
3. Eat Fish and Chips at the Bowpicker
No trip or visit to Astoria is complete until you have dined on the delicious fish and chips found at Bowpicker. On summer days, this small food cart (converted from a small gill netting boat) has long lines of customers waiting to order, all because the fish and chips are so incredible. While some fish and chip places use cod, Bowpicker is known for their signature, firm chunks of Albacore tuna lightly beer battered and fried to perfection. Best served with a “boatload” of malt vinegar and tartar sauce, your mouth will also water when you taste the amazingly crunchy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside steak fries.
4. Discover the Region’s History at the Columbia River Maritime Museum
Considered to be one of the best museums in Oregon, the Columbia River Maritime Museum provides hours of entertainment and exploration for all ages. Open from 9:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., this state of the art museum is dedicated to providing interesting and educational displays about the region’s boats and waterways. With model ships all around and numerous events and exhibits, it is little wonder that the Columbia River Maritime Museum is one of the foremost repositories of Pacific Northwest maritime artifacts in the country. If you visit here, you won’t be disappointed.
5. Bark with the Sea Lions
Anyone that has wandered the piers of Astoria will have noticed a group of uninvited guests lounging around on the docks and walkways. Dozens of sea lions attempt to take up residency on the docks of the region, causing headaches for boat owners and fisherman. While many view them as intrusive, some find them fun, going down to the pier to see them often. Each year, the port tries a new way to scare the sea lions away, but success is limited, making the sea lion viewing at Astoria a time-honored tradition.
6. Walk Fort Astoria, Garden of Surging Waves and the Museum of Whimsy
On the corner of Exchange and 15th Streets, a small reconstruction of the wooden corner of a fort sits near a painted wall. The section of the fort is a reconstruction of Fort Astoria, which was originally built in 1811 and was the first American-owned settlement on the Pacific Coast. A few informational signs can be read before walking to the corner of 12th and Duane Street. Here, you will find the Museum of Whimsy, which walks the line between extremely fascinating and downright creepy. Inside this museum, you’ll find one of the most eclectic displays of knick-knacks and odds and ends in all of America. After exploring here, continue walking west to the corner of Duane and 11th, where you will find the Garden of Surging Waves. This botanical garden celebrates the city’s Chinese heritage and will help bring a sense of calm and contentment to your day.
7. Run a 10K Across the Columbia
Spanning the Columbia River, the Astoria-Megler Bridge is one of 10 crossings of the Columbia River, only accessible by foot once a year. Each October, the Great Columbia Crossing 10k Walk/Run takes place, allowing you to travel by foot over this impressive engineering feat. While the bridge is open to bike riders year round, traffic is stopped on the bridge for this run, giving you time to explore and take in the scenery without worrying about cars zooming by. Starting at Dismal Nitch and ending along the Astoria River Walk, this 6.2-mile course is beautiful, fun and gives you a great way to appreciate the Columbia River, the bridge and the city of Astoria.