Astoria, Oregon, is a quaint town in the northwestern-most corner of Oregon – a town close to the coast, but with a vibe all its own. I’ve generally added Astoria into the mix as a stop before and/or after my coastal journeys. At the very least, it’s the perfect place to grab a bite to eat, but stay longer and you’ll find plenty to explore and do. Astoria draws visitors for a few reasons – to see where the Goonies was filmed, maritime history, stellar Victorian architecture around every corner. But it’s also just a quaint little town lovely for a stroll if none of those things float your boat, and there are a few unique things to do nearby to boot.
Here are 10 things to do in and near Astoria that are mostly best for older kids. Not that my toddler doesn’t want to climb the Astoria Column…but, oh, no, she doesn’t. However, I’ve done it before and the views are worth it so long as you aren’t wearing a baby carrier the whole way up (and maybe even then if you’re tougher than I am).
My first advice is to drive up to the Astoria Column parking lot instead of making the walk from downtown like I did the first time I climbed this thing. Because you pretty much won’t want to climb the tower if you’ve already climbed the hill the tower is on, and yet you walked all that way so you will jello-leg your way up anyway. The Astoria Column is perched on said hill at 600 feet above sea level, and the column itself is 125 feet tall. Take a moment to admire the hand-painted exterior with its spiraling scenes telling important tales from Northwest history (and, bonus, the spiraling friezes are modeled after Trajan’s Column in Rome, which is also worth a visit…as is the rest of Rome…and yet my toddler probably doesn’t want to go there either). Climb the column and enjoy wide-open views of the Columbia River, the bay, the mountains, and the town below.
Old Riverfront Trolley
Be forewarned that the Old Riverfront Trolley is seasonal and is only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but if you’re there on a nice summer day, hopping on the trolley is an easy way to see town and save tiny feet from getting tired. There are stops throughout downtown and the fare is really cheap.
Above everything else, Astoria is just really pretty. Its Victorian homes and businesses have retained their historic appeal over the decades and even if you don’t know anything about the history, you can still look at this town and just FEEL it. Wandering around the quaint downtown or hoofing up the hill into the neighborhoods is low key and enjoyable (although, the hills might be a bit much for younger walkers).
If you have kids who enjoy a good museum, well, then, you’ve come to the right place. Astoria has a few unique museums. The Columbia River Maritime Museum is the biggest museum in town and is a hit with kids who have any fondness at all for boats, ships, or the water. There are hands-on activities, 3D movies, and you can even board the Lightship Columbia out back. The Flavel House Museum is also worth a stop, even if only to admire the outside. Tell the kids it’s haunted if they seem bored at the prospect of a stately historic home, and if that doesn’t work, then let them play checkers or other games in the hands-on activities room for kids, while you explore this historic and grand home. And while there are other smaller museums in town, the final museum I would recommend stopping by is the Oregon Film Museum…because, no, you can’t go take tours of the Goonies house, but you can go to this museum and learn more about the Goonies (and Short Circuit and Kindergarten Cop and all the movies filmed in Oregon). In fact, the museum is housed in an old jail that was used as a set for the Goonies, and the Goonies exhibit is housed in the actual former jail cells.
Places Where the Goonies was Filmed
If you want to spend time in Astoria, chances are you have a thing for the Goonies. Yes, the Goonies house is here, but it’s a private residence and the owners are not interested in fans of the movie stopping by or even parking near the house (you might end up with a fine if you do so just skip it). Instead, go on a tour of all the other sights in town that were included in the movie. These include the Oregon Film Museum (which is a former jail and where the Fratelli brothers broke out of at the start of the movie), the Flavel House (where Mikey’s dad was assistant curator), Lower Columbia Bowl (where Chunk saw the Fratelli brothers break out of jail), Dock 36 (where the Fratelli brothers end their chase and where a goldang ton of sea lions live today), and there are more both in Astoria and an hour south in Cannon Beach. For a more comprehensive list, check out this outdated but thorough article.
Look for Sea Lions
While Astoria’s sea lions are a rather controversial tourist attraction (in that Astoria doesn’t really want them around as they’re loud and doing damage to the docks), they still have a certain appeal. Who doesn’t want to see a pile of honking blubber? At times, there are hundreds of sea lions that pile onto the docks at the Port of Astoria and sometimes onto other docks around town too (outside of Comfort Suites is another place you’ll spot these guys). That being said, the sea lions aren’t always out in force and sometimes aren’t in town at all, but if you’re on the Riverwalk, take some time to check the docks for these marine mammals as your kids will likely get a kick out of it if they’re there.
Fort Stevens State Park
Fort Stevens State Park offers a bit of everything you’d expect a state park to offer – wide open spaces, places to hike, some beach combing, some fishing spots, forest, military history, a few places to swim, yada yada. But what really makes this part a stand out is that the Peter Iredale – a sailing ship – wrecked on what is now the park’s shore in 1906. The ship is in ruins, but you can still go right up to its rusty bow and see some of the masts. It’s very cool. It makes amazing photos. Not that I would know because my baby fell asleep right as we were approaching and I decided it wasn’t worth disrupting her nap even though we were allllllmost there. Next time…
If you’re coming from Oregon, then driving over this bridge is probably not on your list as it links Washington and Oregon. If you’re coming from Washington, consider taking the scenic route so that you can enter Astoria in style. This is the longest truss bridge in the U.S. at just over four miles long. From Astoria, you can’t miss it. You can catch glimpses of this bridge from just about everywhere.
Astoria is situated right on the Columbia River so it’s only fair that you spend some time admiring the watery views. There are a few key ways to do this. First is the Riverwalk, which is a long trail that follows along – you guessed it – the river. Walk all or some of it and you’ll not only get peeps of the river, but also will be in walking distance of restaurants and businesses downtown. You can access the trail pretty much anywhere from the downtown core – just head toward the water.