Soar, Explore and Learn: Discover Astoria
Just a quick 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 is now a mecca for both outdoor and Oregon history buffs. With easy access to the Columbia River and Oregon Coast beaches; a multitude of museum and heritage sites; and endless number of hiking trails and outdoor activities—your clan will have a hard time fitting in everything there is to do.
The 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. Reaching 600 feet above sea level, the platform at the top of the column offers visitors breathtaking views of Young’s Bay, the Coast Range, the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean.
The Astoria Column was constructed in 1926 as a tribute to three historic events that are credited with leading to the states of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and parts of Montana and Wyoming becoming part of the United States: the discovery of the Columbia River by Captain Robert Gray; the end of the Lewis and Clark Expedition; and the arrival of the ship Tonquin. Each event is depicted on the external surface of the column.
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.
Getting to the top of the column is and activity that will thrill every member of your family. Upon first glance this structure doesn’t appear big enough to have a stairwell inside of it, but as you approach it you we see a small doorway. Once inside there is a winding metal staircase that shoots straight to the top. Be prepared to scale 164 steps to get to the top where a second doorway will lead you out to a viewing deck that will take your breath away (if you haven’t already lost it on the ascent). Be prepared for some wind (we experienced a ton, and it was fun!), and if they skies are clear you will be able to see for miles and miles and miles.
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. Bring a picnic lunch for after your climb as you are sure to be hungry and there are several picnic benches and table to relax on.
Location: 1 Coxcomb Dr., Astoria
Hours: The column closes at dusk
The Maritime Museum
Grab your little sailors, and get ready for a museum experience that will suck you in for hours. The Maritime Museum will take your family on an adventure that navigates the the water ways and weather along the Columbia River Bar. Get ready to 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 30,000 objects, 20,000 photographs and a 10,000 volume research library. Your little crewmen and crewgirls will love exploring the ships located inside the museum.There are several hands-on displays that allow young visitors to pretend like they are steering their own vessels and navigating the waters of the Columbia like a pro.
The United States lightship Columbia is docked just outside the museum and open for tours daily as well. 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.
Location: 1792 Marine Dr. Astoria
Cost: $14/adult, $12/senior, $5/child 6 years and up
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily
High Life Adventures
Give your little adrenaline junkies an experience of a lifetime with an incredible and unforgettable zip line adventure. 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 a family owned and run business. The course is built on David and Lancey Larson’s stunning 30 acres of property located approximately 15 minutes from Astoria in Warrenton, Oregon. It includes eight zip lines that take your family through timber and over ponds and a lake. Its smartly designed, beginning with shorter and easier zips, that slowly increase in length, height and thrill 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.
One of the best aspects of this tour is its guides. Each one is expertly trained in safety and fun. While the guides take your welfare to heart, don’t expect too much seriousness, their goal is to make sure you have a good time. Guides Brian and Beau, led our tour and had my little thrill seeker zipping on his own in no time at all. He was even willing to try tricks that that some of the adults wouldn’t even consider.
While safety and fun are key to a great zip line adventure, it’s the little extras that really make this tour stand out. At the end of several of the zips there are campfires lit to relax next to, cookies and treats await as key spots to keep your energy up and there are even a couple of extra thrill along the way (watch out for Sasquatch). When the tour comes to an end, there’s a beautiful lodge with a bar/restaurant to relax in.
Location: 92111 High Life Rd., Warrenton, Or.
Cost: $99/adult, $69/children 15 and under
Astoria has a variety of lodging options for your stay. We recommend Best Western Astoria Bayfront Hotel. This lovely hotel has beautiful, spacious rooms with high quality linens and amenities. The customer services is impeccable (they offer free cookies for your tired little travelers at the front desk) and there is an onsite pool, hot tub, fitness room and sauna. The complimentary breakfast is key to helping to make the family getaway affordable and this hotel goes above and beyond by offering a full breakfast complete with waffles and biscuits and gravy.
Location: 555 Hamburg st. Astoria
Cost: Rooms start at $112/night
Fort George Brewery
This sweet little brewery makes Portlanders feel right at home. They serve up a mighty fine selection of craft beers and both pub food and pizza! Their oyster shooters are to die for and they serve a mouthwatering array of burgers, House-made sausages or you can head up to their pizza restaurant for a pie. They also have a kid menu that will please every one of of your younger family members with burgers, quesadillas and hot dogs.
Location: 1483 Duane St. Astoria
Hours: Mon.-Sat., 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sun., 12-11 p.m.
T. Paul’s Urban Cafe
If you are in the mood for some finer dining, this artsy little spot is just the place. They serve contemporary cuisine that includes everything from gourmet soups and sandwiches to pastas, quesadillas and seafood. The food is exceptional and their desserts do not disappoint. We enjoyed Donna’s 4 Berry Cobbler which was enough to make Marilyn envious. They also offer a kids menu with crowd pleasing options like grilled cheese, quesadilla and noodles.
Location: 1119 Commercial St., Astoria
Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 11 a.m-9 p.m.; Sat. & Sun., 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
—Story and photos by Annette Benedetti
This trip was paid for by Maxwell PR + Engagement but all opinions expressed here belong to the writer.