14 Fun Things To Do In Astoria With Kids

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Astoria is a quaint seaside (well, technically it is riverside) town that has become a must-visit for its stunning views, fascinating history, lighthouses to visit, a plethora of breweries and restaurants, and tons of fun things to do with kids.

Did you know that Astoria, Oregon is not only the oldest city in Oregon but also the oldest permanent settlement west of the Rocky Mountains?

This means that a visit to Astoria not only means checking out the new ice cream shops and revitalized waterfront but also digging into the fascinating history of the area.

Your kids will be amazed!

Or maybe they will just want to go to the Astoria column every evening and throw gliders off the top. Either way, we can guarantee you’ll have a good time.

Our Recent Visit to Astoria

We recently spent a week just outside of Astoria camping at Fort Stevens State Park with our 4 and 6-year-olds. This state park is the biggest in the state and has A TON of fun things to do for kids. We spent our days exploring the woods and beaches, wandering around Astoria, digging clams, and exploring the shipwreck on the beach.

That’s right, you can walk right up to a real shipwreck that has been trapped in the sand for over 100 years!

Bow Picker Fish and Chips - Fish and chips served from an old gill netter in Astoria, Oregon

By the end of the trip, we honestly wished we had a few more days to stick around as there was still so much we wanted to do.

I may have even spent a few minutes scanning house listings on Zillow after we got back (shhhh).

If camping isn’t quite your style, we’ve also stayed at the boutique downtown Astoria Hotel, the Bowline, which is one of our favorite hotels ever with its chic design and stunning river views.

Here Are Our Favorite Things To Do with Kids While Visiting Astoria.

Throw Gliders Off the Astoria Column

This should be the #1 touristy stop for anyone visiting Astoria with kids…provided it isn’t too windy and rainy which, given its the coast, happens a lot!

Astoria Column

The Astoria Column, standing at 125 feet tall, was built in 1926 and stands high above the city on Coxcomb Hill. It stands as a monument “to the natural riches of the Pacific Northwest and the people who settled there.

Enough about that though, let’s get to the good stuff.

First off are the views. From the column, you get 360-degree views of the coastal range, Astoria, the Columbia River, and the Pacific Ocean. The views at the column are truly magical and for that alone, it is worth the price of admission.

It does cost $5 to park at the column but the money is going to a good cause and the pass is good for an entire year! That’s why I said visit first as you can then visit as many times as you’d like for the rest of the trip.

The pass also gets you a 10% discount at Mo’s Seafood & Chowder so win/win!

Now the Gliders.

Throwing a wood glider off the top of the Astoria Column in Astoria, Oregon

The gift shop at the base of the tower sells those little balsa wood gliders that we all remember from our childhood.

They only cost $1 and, once assembled, you can toss them from the top of the column and watch them glide out over the city or forest, depending on which way the wind is blowing that day.

Tip: The gift shop is open from 10 am – 5 pm in the off-season and 9 am – 6 pm during the summer. If you visit after hours or want to save a couple of dollars, you can usually find gliders scattered around the property. We arrived just after the gift shop closed and were able to find 10 gliders (and pieces of dozens of other gliders) in the bushes and trees downwind from the column. My 6-year-old thought it was hilarious when I jumped and pulled one off the roof of the restroom building.

Throw your glider with the wind to ensure the best glides. Out of the 10 we threw, around half quickly spiraled to the ground while the rest ended up running into the trees around the gift shop.

We had one though that made it past the trees and we lost sight of it after a minute of gliding! There have been gliders that have supposedly been found miles from the tower so who knows, perhaps yours will go on a journey all the way to the river.

Ride the Trolley

Part of the history of Astoria is its canneries. There used to be up to 39 canneries lining the waterfront that packed salmon for shipping all over the world.

Back in the day, you couldn’t even access the waterfront along downtown Astoria as every square inch was taken up by canneries.

Astoria Riverwalk

To move all of this fish a rail line was built that ran along the length of the waterfront. Seriously, there was an entire train line dedicated to moving fish!

When the cannery industry collapsed in the 1980s and 90s Astoria had a bit of a reckoning of which direction to take the city and its now crumbling waterfront buildings.

Luckily, they chose right, and much of the waterfront has now been revitalized and contains a mix of retail and industrial businesses. Part of this revitalization was maintaining the old rail line and adding a trolley that now runs from its home near the Port of Astoria all the way down to Pier 39.

Our kids absolutely adore trolleys so this was a fun way to spend an hour on a sunny July afternoon in Astoria.

For the low price of $1, you can hop on the trolley and ride it through town. The entire trip down and back takes around an hour and you can even buy an all-day pass for just $2!

Check the hours on the Astoria Trolley website as they are somewhat limited, even during the busy summer season. Also, note that this trolley moves pretty slowly so I would look at it as more of an entertainment option rather than a reliable way to commute from one end of town to the other.

Visit the Columbia River Maritime Museum

Much of the history of Astoria can be directly tied to its location near the renowned Columbia River bar. The bar is the part of the river where it meets the Pacific Ocean and is known for its fierce and ever-changing conditions that have shipwrecked 100s of vessels over the past centuries.

Columbia River Maritime Museum Exterior in Astoria, Oregon

The Columbia River Maritime Museum looks at the history of the maritime industry in Astoria and how it has changed over the years.

Our kids loved exploring the boats, looking through photos and artifacts from past shipwrecks, and watching their hourly movies about the sea lions that call this area home.

Admission to the museum also includes a tour of the light vessel Columbia which is stationed directly outside the museum.

Explore Fort Stevens State Park

Fort Stevens is an absolute gem of a park that includes miles of beaches, paved and dirt trails for biking and running, a real shipwreck, old military installations, and the biggest campground in the state of Oregon.

Looking out of a bunker at Battery Russell at Fort Stevens State Park

We camped in the park (more to come on that soon!) but I’d still highly recommend taking the time to spend a day there if you’re staying in Astoria.

Our favorite spots were the Peter Iredale shipwreck, the military installations, and the northern stretches of beach that were nearly empty.

There are also miles of trails that are great for riding bikes or just walking through the woods. During our time there we probably spent just as much time stopping along the trails to pick salmonberries, blackberries, and huckleberries as we did riding our bikes.

This is also a great area for mushroom hunting and digging razor clams when they are in season.

Play on the Miles of Local Beaches

The coast near Astoria has an incredible stretch of beaches that range from super busy (near the shipwreck) to nearly deserted (almost everywhere else). If you have a 4×4 you can also drive on the beaches which makes it easier to escape the crowds.

Beach in Astoria

If you choose to drive on the beaches make sure you have the appropriate vehicle and stick to the firm stretches of sand. Also, know that if you get stuck and the tide starts coming in you may be out of luck so use common sense here.

We chose to stick to the parking lots during our trip as we were borrowing a truck and didn’t want to risk getting stuck or covering the underside in salt.

Ride Bikes Along the Riverwalk

Earlier we talked about riding the Astoria trolley as a fun option for kids and adults alike. Did you know you can walk this same path and enjoy the waterfront views and buildings by foot or bike?

Tip: Look for parking on the streets that run between the riverwalk and Highway 30. Most parking lots directly off the riverwalk are reserved for hotels or businesses but the streets that feed them are open to the public and often don’t have the 2-hour limit that many other downtown blocks streets have.

We spent an afternoon walking the area and visiting some of the local shops.

Our favorite was the ice cream shop Frite & Scoop where our kids both had a scoop of bubblegum (classic!) and we tried the London Fog and a blueberry swirl whose name now escapes me.

If you choose to ride your bikes keep a close eye on the trolley tracks. They are wide and deep enough to swallow a bike tire and send you sprawling onto the boardwalk. That can be a real bruise to the body and ego as this area is usually pretty busy.

Visit the Shipwreck of the Peter Iredale

One of our favorite things to do in Astoria was to visit the shipwreck of the Peter Iredale which is on the beach next to Fort Stevens State Park.

Peter Iredale shipwreck outside of Astoria, Oregon

The Columbia River bar and surrounding beaches hold the remains of 100s of years of shipwrecks and the best preserved is the Peter Iredale. The ship ended up on the beach in 1906 and all that now remains is a skeleton of the body of the ship.

At low tide, you can walk in and around the ship to get a sense of the scale of this huge boat. It is especially eerie on a foggy or stormy morning as you can really get a sense of the conditions that drove this ship onto shore.

Tip: You may be tempted to visit the wreck at sunset but if you do expect a crowd. Especially if the weather is nice! We visited one cloudy, windy evening around sunset and were the only ones there but a few nights later on a nice evening, there were 100s of people around the ship taking photos and enjoying the views.

Play on the “Big Slide”

Up above Astoria, you’ll find turn-of-the-century homes that would fit in well in cities like San Francisco. You’ll also find small neighborhood parks that sport some quirky features.

One of those parks is McClure Park found at the corner of 8th and McClure. Besides offering a great view of the ships on the Columbia River it also features a 45-foot slide that runs down the hillside!

The Big Slide at McClure Park in Astoria

This was one of those you’d never know about it unless you just happened to stumble upon attractions in town that our kids absolutely loved. They spent close to an hour riding the slide and running back up the stairs to take another turn.

We soaked in the views and enjoyed the solitude as we were the only ones at this park the entire time.

Don’t worry about the kids picking up too much speed as there are a few sharp turns to slow them down.

Dig Clams for Dinner

Did you know that the beaches in Claspop County (this is where Astoria is located) are the most productive Razor clam beaches in all of Oregon?

If the clams are in season and safe to eat then I highly suggest checking out the tide table and heading out to try digging your own if there is a minus tide on the calendar.

Purple Varnish Clams dug in Gearhart, Oregon

You can also find purple varnish clams in the bays near Gearhart, Oregon. These are much easier to dig as they live very close to the surface. This is what we went after on our most recent trip as razor clam season had just closed.

Armed with just a shovel and a Tupperware container we headed out and managed to dig up 26 clams in less than 30 minutes. Just look for show holes (holes in the sand where clams spit out water) and start digging.

We left the clams in ocean water for ~6 hours before cooking them up and they were delicious! Our kids even ate a few!

Go Berry Picking

If you’re like us and coming from a more arid climate (go Central Oregon!) then the lushness of the Astoria is quite the welcome change.

I’m sure the locals get tired of the rain (as someone who grew up in Coastal Alaska I certainly did!) but the berries that come with the rain certainly lessen the sting a bit.

Orange Salmonberries at Fort Stevens State Park

In our adventures through Fort Stevens State Park, we were amazed by all the berries growing along the trails. During our trip (mid-July) the salmon berries looked to be nearing the end of their peak while the black and huckleberries were just getting started.

There were also thimbleberries to be found here and there, especially along hillsides in other areas of the region.

Our kids had an amazing time stopping every 50 feet to pick a few berries to fuel their journeys.

Tip: If you’re into mushroom hunting then Fort Stevens is a great place to explore. During our trip, we found bolete and oyster mushrooms throughout the park. We also found what I believe was a matsutake although mid-July isn’t their season so I’m not certain I correctly identified it. They do grow in the park though so keep your eyes out!

Check Out Godfather’s Books and Espresso

Godfather’s Books and Espresso in downtown Astoria is a quirky little bookstore with a fun front door perfect for snapping some photos of the kids.

I get the feeling that they never say no when offered a used book so they had some very interesting selections such as a history of the Penn State Football team (not sure how well that one will sell in the PNW.)

The kids enjoyed looking through the selection of children’s books which allowed us to grab a coffee and take a break from all the action of the day.

Watch the Sea Lions at Pier 39

At the East end of town, you’ll find Pier 39 which is the home to a Rogue brewery, a coffee shop, a fish market, and a whole bunch of sea lions!

From the pier, you will probably be able to catch a glimpse of a few, or a lot, of sea lions sunning themselves on the rocks or nearby docks. These huge marine mammals are a treat to watch as they are impressively large in real life.

Keep your distance from the sea lions as they are deceptively fast despite their seemingly lazy attitude.

Eat Ice Cream at Frite & Scoop or Custard King

While Frite & Scoop already received some acclaim earlier in this post we would be remiss if we didn’t circle back on the ice cream topic to mention Custard King.

While Frite & Scoop has a more modern, foody vibe, Custard King takes you back to the ice cream (or frozen custard) stand you grew up with as a kid.

Custard King ice cream in Astoria

We’ve stopped by here multiple times over the years on visits to Astoria and have never been disappointed. On this most recent trip we stopped by and go a lemon curd and raspberry milkshake and it was, without a doubt, one of the best milkshakes I have ever had!

The kids had dipped cones which, while delicious, melted pretty fast and resulted in a couple of very messy kids and very happy seagulls to move in and help clean up the mess.

Sample the Local Brews at Buoy Beer and Fort George Brewing

Astoria is quickly gaining a reputation for brewing some outstanding beers with Fort George Brewing leading the charge. If you show up on a weekend day in the summer you can expect some long waits to get into their pub or upstairs pizza lounge.

We managed to grab a reservation for pizza at Fort George and enjoyed sampling a couple of beers while the kids munched on cheese pizza for dinner. The spacious upstairs is perfect for grabbing a meal with the kids as there is plenty of space to keep them from bugging other tables around us with their rambunctiousness.

Buoy Beer Restaurant in Astoria, Oregon

We also managed to grab lunch at Buoy Beer and can’t recommend their fish and chips enough. Even our kids loved the fish which isn’t always the case, especially with our youngest who would prefer to live off of fries.

Tip: We had been excited to visit Buoy’s waterfront location but unfortunately it collapsed when the pier failed in the summer of 2022. The future of the waterfront building is still up in the air but for now, you can still sample their beer and food at their new location a few blocks inland.

Other Things To Do In Astoria

While this list will hopefully keep you busy for your visit that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty else to do.

We heard great things about the Oregon Film Museum (Kindergarten Cop was filmed here!), the Flavel House Museum, the underground tours, the Goonies house (we were never Goonies fans so visiting the house wouldn’t mean much to us), the Sunday Market, Lewis & Clark park, and more!

Maybe this means we’ll just need to come back soon and check a few more items off the list!

About the author
Derek Carlson
Pacific Northwest native, cross-country skier, hiker, mountain biker, wannabe fly fisherman, writer and owner of Roam the Northwest