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Astoria, Oregon with Kids: Unique and Memorable

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Astoria Column
Astoria Column

Most non-Oregonians know Astoria as the filming location of The Goonies, a somewhat dubious honor. But there is a great deal more to Astoria than cult classics. Astoria has become one of our favorite escapes for either a day trip with the kids or a couple’s getaway. From delicious coffee and seafood to fascinating activities, Astoria has something for everyone. Here’s our guide to seeing Astoria Oregon with kids.

1. Astoria Column: gliders included!

You can’t miss the Column as you drive around Astoria – it sits atop Coxcomb Hill (the highest hill around) in a clearing. Signs point the way up to various streets in Astoria. The Column chronicles American exploration and settlement, beginning with the arrival of Captain Gray and ending with the coming of the railroad.

I could not get enough photos of it! Bring binoculars if you can.

The Astoria Column is a highlight of any visit to Astoria, Oregon with kids.
The Astoria Column

Stop at the Gift shop to get a wooden glider (they were only $1 last time I was there) and enjoy looking around the site. If the Column is open, it is completely worth it to climb the 164-step winding staircase to the top — the views on clear days are breathtaking! (Or maybe you’re just winded from the climb…that was me.) 

Detail of the Astoria Column artwork.
Close-up of part of the Column artwork

Don’t forget to fly your glider off the top of the Column! This was a favorite stop for our kids too.

View from the top of the Astoria Column. Flying a glider off the top of the Column is a great activity in Astoria Oregon with kids.
View from atop the Column

2. Have a Date with Coffee Girl!

Coffee Girl is my all-time favorite coffee shop, which is saying something since the Pacific Northwest has an expert coffee stand on every corner.

Coffee Girl logo outside Coffee Girl entrance. Best breakfast in Astoria.

Coffee Girl sits right on the end of Pier 39 at the edge of Astoria — you have to drive out onto the wooden pier to reach it. Situated in an old cannery building, the shop is set up where the old lunch counter was for the cannery workers.

A wall of windows faces the Columbia River, so you can watch the seals and pelicans play, or observe the barges making their way along from inside.

Sitting on the pier at Coffee Girl in  Astoria. When visiting Astoria Oregon with kids, we recommend coffee girl as a great breakfast with a view.

If the weather is nice, you can sit out on the pier deck enjoying a quiet mocha with incredible foam art on top (seriously, they have a whole photo gallery online of just the coffee art!).

Coffee Girl's scone and mocha are amazing!
Mocha and a chocolate-chip orange scone. A great start to a great day.

Coffee Girl also serves the absolute best scones I have ever tasted- light, slightly sweet, crumbly but not dry. My husband loves their bagel sandwiches and the Mt Hood Mocha. Okay now I’m hungry… 

3. Explore the Cannery

Pier 39 Astoria.
Pier 39 Astoria, Oregon

Right across from the Coffee Girl entrance is a self-guided tour of the Cannery building. We really enjoyed exploring the old equipment and learning about the Bumblebee fish canning industry that built up so much of Astoria in the early part of the 20th century.

It’s quiet and slightly creepy. My husband being the history buff he is, took his time to read everything. Entry is free, and donations are appreciated. 

Salmon For All sign on the Cannery building in Astoria.
Cannery building

4. Columbia River Maritime Museum and Lightship

This kid-friendly museum is a great way to spend a few hours on a rainy Oregon day. The different exhibits are excellent and cover many aspects of maritime history along the Columbia River.

USCG display at the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria. The museum is a popular destination for families visiting Astoria with kids.
USCG exhibit

Our kids particularly enjoyed the huge exhibit on the Coast Guard Search and Rescue boats and the Weather Forecast exhibit.

Kids pretending to be meteorologists in the weather forecast exhibit at the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria, Oregon.
Pretending to be weather forecasters

The mouth of the Columbia River used to be called the Graveyard of the Pacific because of how many ships went down trying to make it into the River. The museum shares many of the stories of the legendary Columbia River Bar, as well as the Bar Pilots who made it possible for ships to safely enter the dangerous mouth of the Columbia.

The Columbia River Maritime Museum is a great place to visit in Astoria Oregon with kids.
Huge ship propeller outside the CRMM

It’s fascinating to see how things have changed and what they looked like in years past. Kids of all ages will enjoy the many maritime artifacts, from fishing implements and boats used by Native Americans, to a Japanese fishing boat that washed ashore here in Oregon after the huge 2011 tsunami.

UPDATE May 2022: Lightship is currently off display for renovations, but will return soon.

The lightship is a retired lighthouse-on-a-boat that used to sit at the mouth of the Columbia (near Astoria) to guide ships as they navigated in from the Pacific. You can tour a lot of the Lightship, and see how the lightship keepers lived (hint: tiny beds and spaces!).

Girl looking through porthole window on the Lightship Columbia in Astoria, Oregon.
Looking out a porthole in the Lightship

5. The Bowpicker

If you love fish and chips, this is the place to get them. The Bowpicker is right outside the Courthouse, and serves only fish and chips, and freshly caught that day. Once they’re out, they’re out!

They serve it out of a boat-turned-kitchen, so it’s fun for the experience, but there isn’t much shelter, so it may not be so great for a rainy day meal.

Bowpicker restaurant. This place serves the freshest fish and chips in Astoria.
Here’s the Bowpicker!

6. Fort Stevens

Fort Stevens State Park has a lot to offer. It’s a short drive from both Astoria and Seaside, and the beach with the wreck of the Peter Iredale is part of the park as well.

rusted shipwreck on beach with people
The wreck of the Peter Iredale

Fort Stevens was a highlight of a recent mother-daughter trip that Burro and I went on.

Military building at Fort Stevens State Park in Warrenton, Oregon. This park has lots to offer when visiting Astoria, Oregon with kids.
One of the many half-buried buildings at Ft Stevens

We were delighted with the elk herds that roam freely across the grounds. Climbing up the old military bunkers and hills gave us a good workout, and we saw a disc golf course as well. The view of the Pacific Ocean from the top of the old aircraft guns was an unforgettable experience.

Elk herd at Fort Stevens State Park.

Ft. Stevens is full of military history, too. American Civil War earthworks are still present (a rarity on this side of the Mississippi). Many buildings remain from when Fort Stevens was an active fort during World War 2.

Signs describing the Japanese Submarine attack at Fort Stevens during WW2.
Here’s the story of the submarine attack

We especially enjoyed seeing the half-buried battery and the huge cannons. We had a great time and spent about three hours at Fort Stevens, and we still didn’t see everything. The sites are spread out on extensive grounds– plan to walk a lot and bring an umbrella if it’s raining heavily since it’s almost entirely outdoors.

Anti-aircraft gun at Fort Stevens.
Anti-aircraft gun

7. Take a drive over the Astoria-Megler bridge into Washington

I’ll admit that I am a sucker for bridges and interesting architecture. The bridge is visible all over Astoria, and picturesque at all times of day and in any weather. It’s the longest truss bridge in North America.

The Astoria Megler bridge as seen from the Astoria Column

You can’t walk on it, sadly, but the views are still pretty from a vehicle. There is no fee to cross.

Astoria-Megler Bridge as seen from a vehicle.
Driving the Astoria-Megler bridge

It’s only a 30-minute drive from the Astoria-Megler bridge to Cape Disappointment (Washington). Cape Disappointment is one of several local sites on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. 

Astoria Riverfront trolley. This is a great activity to do in Astoria, Oregon with kids.

One of the best places to enjoy views of the bridge is while riding the Astoria Riverfront Trolley. The Trolley runs along the Astoria Riverwalk and has easy access to several popular tourist attractions, including the Columbia River Maritime Museum. The most updated schedule information is available on the Trolley website.

Astoria Riverfront trolley.

8. Historic Astoria: Landmarks and Places to see

Clatsop County Historical Society operates several museums in the historic buildings of downtown Astoria. Each is well worth a visit, and the highlights are listed below. Please note that since these are historic buildings, you will need to be able to climb stairs to explore all the floors of each museum.

Flavel House Museum

The Flavel House Museum is a beautifully restored Victorian home that was built in 1885. It was built as a retirement home for Captain Flavel (one of Oregon’s first millionaires) and his family.

Visitors can take a tour of the Queen Anne-style house and learn about the local history. In the hands-on room of this beautiful mansion, kids can play Victorian games and read books just as Captain Flavel’s children might have done. 

Oregon Film Museum

This fun museum is located inside the former Clatsop County Jail. Visitors get to see how a movie set operates as they walk right into the former set where three movies have been filmed (The Goonies, Short Circuit, and Come See the Paradise). This museum is a great place for film buffs and history buffs — plus you can take a mug shot as a souvenir! 

Uppertown Firefighters Museum

A retired fire station houses many pieces of vintage firefighting equipment, and the best part is that admission is free! The Uppertown Firefighters Museum is open seasonally– check the website before planning a visit. 

Heritage Museum

The Heritage Museum is located in the former City Hall building. This museum is dedicated to sharing the rich history of different people groups in Clatsop County. This museum would make a great starting point for an Oregon state history unit study (attention, fellow homeschoolers!).

More Fun in Astoria, Oregon with Kids

Astoria-Megler Bridge.

There are a few other unique places in Astoria that would be fun to make a short stop with kids. The Garden of Surging Waves is a public park in downtown Astoria that was created to honor the Chinese heritage of Astoria. It’s a beautiful, artistic place that older kids will be able to appreciate.

Fort Astoria is another historic landmark in downtown Astoria. It’s a log cabin reconstruction on the grounds where the fort used to be, with some signs relating to the history. Right across the street is the Fort George Brewery, an icon of downtown Astoria, known all over Oregon for its amazing food and beer.

Just writing all this makes me miss Astoria… I can’t wait to go again! We keep hoping to go for the Crab Festival, which by all accounts is a seafood lover’s dream, but it looks like we’ll have to try for 2023.

Nearby Attractions for Families

Several sites on the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail are within an hour’s drive of Astoria (Fort Clatsop is our favorite). Seaside, Oregon is only about 30 minutes south of Astoria, and Cannon Beach is another 30 minutes south. Check out our experience feeding sea lions at the Seaside Aquarium! 

If you’re looking for a unique coastal getaway, Astoria and the Oregon Coast are fantastic destinations.

© Copyright 2022 Jennifer D. Warren. First published: September 29, 2021. UPDATED: May 11, 2022.

Astoria Oregon with kids collage
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About the author

Jenn is a Third Culture Kid (TCK) from Jamaica who married her college sweetheart (Brian) and now adventures with him and their six kids. She loves living in Oregon and exploring new places with her family. Jenn writes about millennial marriage and parenting, homeschooling, ADHD parenting, and anything else that she thinks will be helpful to others who are hurting. Christ follower.

Comments

  1. I’m so heading straight for the Coffee Girl – that chocolate chip orange scone looks amazing. Great fuel for a day of exploring Astoria. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Astoria looks like a stunning destination in the PNW! We have friends that live there and we’ve been itching to get out and visit. First syop, Coffe Girl!

  3. I loved learning about the Columbia River. It’s so interesting, I had no idea how dangerous the water is between the river and the ocean. The column is also a great visit and I love that it’s on this list!

  4. Ooh, I can’t wait to visit Astoria after reading this! So many wonderful things to do. Thanks for all the great info!

  5. I love the view from the top of the column & a coffee on the pier would be great. Astoria sounds like a lovely day out.

  6. Yum, that scone at coffee girl looks so amazing! I’m sure I would love that coffee shop. I’d also love to drive over the Astoria-Megler Bridge for those beautiful views!

  7. I have been to Astoria before . . . but sadly I just did #7 on your list and drove across the bridge. Now I’m pretty upset I didn’t get one of those scones! I’d love to check out that column too.

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