Newport, Oregon with Kids

Newport, Oregon is a similar destination to Cannon Beach, Oregon for the annual family vacation. You’ve got the lovely, cream-toned sand, the toy stores and kite shops, the upscale and midrange restaurants.

But there’s one big difference between Cannon Beach and Newport — you won’t sleep at Cannon Beach hotel prices (which can easily leap into the $300- $400-dollar range). Plus, Newport offers many outdoor and indoor attractions, whether you’re there on a sunny summer day or on a rainy weekend getaway.

The downside? It’s a haul from Portland, Seattle or further north or east. You’ll tack on about two hours of drive time each way to reach Newport (we typically get a Priceline room to rest on the journey between Seattle and Newport). So once you’ve arrived, you might as well stay for a few days, exploring the historic community of Nye Beach, combing for beautiful stones at Agate Beach or perusing the c-shaped Bayfront district.

Fun things to do with kids in Newport

Newport Aquarium with kids

Newport Aquarium’s plexiglass tunnel

The Oregon Coast Aquarium’s top attraction is undoubtedly the over 200-foot-long acrylic tunnels, where tropical fish, reef sharks, graceful rays and other denizens of the deep swim right above you. I’m also partial to the 29-acre aquarium’s Bizarre and Beautiful Gallery and the Dangerous and Deadly Gallery – how does an electric eel make sense in any way? One of my favorite, kid-friendly aquariums in our area. If you’re an AAA member, bring your card, as you’ll get a discount on admission.

Hatfield Marine Science Center a fun thing to do in Newport with kids

Hatfield Marine Science Center

Hatfield Marine Science Center overflows with nerdly fun. All the center’s signs seem to gush over science, courtesy of Oregon State University’s marine science research facility. My kids liked the slightly icky exhibit on invasive species and the please-touch tidepool exhibit. It’s worth the donation (all they ask for). The museum shop’s books can help identify critters you see on any upcoming tidepool walks; if you’re going to buy a book on your trip, why not buy it here?

Yaquina Head Lighthouse Center

Yaquina Head Lighthouse Interpretive Center

Yaquina Head Lighthouse’s Interpretive Center is worth a half-hour visit or so. The center describes lighthouse history, a lightkeeper’s life and how lighthouses work with hands-on exhibits; there’s a small children’s area with activities and period-era toys. Chat with the well-informed staff and volunteers and pick up a few insider tips on touring Yaquina Head.

Devil's Punch Bowl

Never swim in the Devil’s Punch Bowl

Devil’s Punch Bowl is a deep bowl-shaped rock formation where vivid blue ocean water enters, swirls around and makes a scene. During low tide, spot ocean creatures along nearby shoreline. The Punchbowl is a neat stop, but not worth more than about 5 minutes or so.

Sea lions at the Newport Pier

Sea lions in Newport

Walk along Bay Boulevard’s charming mural-infused waterfront, past fishing boats and working fish processing plants and canneries, restaurants and ticky-tacky shops. You won’t be able to miss the noisy, rowdy (and slightly disgusting) sea lions, which eat and burp and hoot and fart. The Homer Simpsons of the sea, as it were. Not the best role models for dinner table behavior, but the seals are an amusing spectacle. You won’t miss the loudmouths if they’re in the harbor — just follow the braying.

A fun toy store in Newport Oregon with kids

Sandcastle Toys, Newport Oregon

Serious fun! Sandcastle Toys offers a lovely collection of card games, beach toys, Playmobil and more. If the knowledgeable owner’s in, ask him for a new toy or board game recommendation.

If you’d rather pick up a flying toy, visit The Kite Company, a delightful 6500-square-foot shop offering high quality kites for every age and skill level. You’ll soon realize what you’ve missed out on by buying kites from lesser shops — as the staff at this store guide you to the perfect kite for your toddler, teen or tangle-prone husband.

AVOID: The Undersea Gardens, Wax Works and the Ripley’s Believe It or Not. The first two because they are in no way worth the expense. The latter two because it’s too scary for young kids, culturally insensitive and seriously run-down with buzzy videos featuring Jack Palance. I complained even as we left, and I rarely do that. It didn’t matter — the teen staff didn’t seem to care a bit. Not a destination I can recommend.

Family Restaurants in Newport, Oregon

A family restaurant in Newport Oregon

Local Ocean in Newport

Pick up a really fresh cut of fish at the informal, casual Local Ocean Seafoods – you’ll see just-caught seafood behind the fish-market counter as you enter, and the restaurant is right across from the fishing boat “parking lot,” as my son called the pier. With so many options on the salad, soup, sandwiches and big-plate menus it can be hard to pick just one item per person. I recommend ordering a diverse selection so you can try more dishes. There is a kids’ menu, but try to talk the kids into sharing your feast. One of my favorite restaurants along the Oregon Coast. My picks (so far) are the diverse Salade Nicoise and spicy Los Fish Taco with fennel slaw and avocado salsa verde.

Newport Oregon restaurant for families

Saffron Salmon interior

Saffron Salmon isn’t a typical “kid-friendly” restaurant, so go here with the kids when you’re reasonably sure they’re going to behave well, you’ve brought your own small playthings/crayons and the kids aren’t crazed with hunger. I would recommend heading to Saffron Salmon during lunchtime for a less-formal (and less-expensive) experience. Kids will enjoy the bayside view of fishing boats heading in and out of the Newport harbor. With a commitment to local farms and wild food, the restaurant serves natural-beef burgers, fresh Dungeness crab and kid-pleasing shoestring frites.

OK, so you’re a little tired of fish ‘n’ chips by day two at the beach. Head to the unassuming little shack Noodle Café for some pan-Asian dishes. The noodle dishes, pho, and Korean meals are tasty and yes, you can still have just off the boat seafood if you like. We ordered food and brought it back to our room for a no-stress dinner with the kids.

More family restaurants in Newport: My husband has fond childhood memories of Mo’s Annex’s, a Newport institution. Rogue Brewery is a solid choice wherever you find one. Rogue features kids’ menus and the signature Pacific Northwest family-friendly pub atmosphere.

Newport Oregon Hotels for Families:

View from our family hotel room at the Hallmark Inn

View from our room at the Hallmark Inn

On our recent trip, I stayed at the Hallmark Inn. I visited a few family hotels before we chose our room, and we liked what we saw at Hallmark. We slept soundly in the Queen/Queen Stateroom: a spacious double queen with a.ma.zing ocean views and a small kitchenette. To reach the sandy shore, you have to hike down a series of steps, but it shouldn’t be too difficult with toddlers.

If you’re seeking large, apartment-style rooms with kitchenettes, look at Greenstone Inn, located in Newport’s teeny-tiny (but adorable) Nye Beach community. I visited a few rooms — the facility was built so recently that it still has a “new building” smell. Greenstone boasts about its eco-approach to building and outfitting rooms.

Additionally, people rave about the Elizabeth Street Inn, although we did not stay there. I would still recommend the hotel; I stopped in and liked what I saw.

50 Free Museums in Washington & Oregon for Military Families

This summer, military families get free passes into over 50 fantastic Pacific Northwest museums. The Blue Star Museums initiative is a partnership among Blue Star Families, the National Endowment for the Arts, and more than 1,000 museums across America. Blue Star Museums offer free admission to active duty military personnel and their families from Memorial Day, May 30, 2011, through Labor Day, September 5, 2011. Read more at the Blue Star Museums page.

A few of my favorite family museums: High Desert Museum (in Bend, Ore.), Portland Art Museum (Portland, Ore.), University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History (Eugene, Ore.), Kids Discovery Museum (Bainbridge Island, Wash.), KidsQuest Children’s Museum (Bellevue, Wash.), Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum (Leavenworth, Wash.), and the Burke Museum, Museum of Flight, Seattle Art Museum and Museum of History & Industry (Seattle).

Oregon Museums participating in Blue Star Museums

Washington Museums participating in Blue Star Museums

Eugene with Kids: Activities and restaurants for family fun

Eugene offers multiple options to keep your family entertained and well-fed. For this piece, I visited Eugene, and I also consulted with Melanie Willson, a Vancouver Island mom that lived in Eugene for several of the past few years; she still visits regularly. I trust Melanie’s opinions and found her Eugene-with-kids suggestions wonderful and spot-on accurate. I hope you find them equally useful.

Here are over 15 things to do with kids in the Eugene area:

Ride a six-foot wave at Splash! At Lively Park in Eugene’s neighboring city of Springfield, about 20 minutes from downtown Eugene. This swim center is a lap above similar community pools; there’s a baby pool, a corkscrew slide, hot tubs – and oh yeah – that crazy, deep wave pool that tosses swimmers around like driftwood. In a fun way, of course. This is one of my favorite pools in the Pacific Northwest.

Eugene Playground

Lively Playground

Once you’re done playing in the pool, a giant climbing playground waits outside for a second round of fun (as in, yes, you should bring lunch/snacks – you’ll be here a while).

University of Oregon Eugene museum with kids

Sitting in a meteorite outside the U of O’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History

My favorite Eugene experience? The University of Oregon’s Museum of Natural and Cultural History, where kids can consider ancient traditional slippers and examine dioramas of traditional Native American life. Then, inquisitive kids give archeology a hand in the “Think Like a Scientist” lab, where they can use a magnifying glass to unravel bone and fossil mysteries or wonder at the evolution of a horse’s hoof.

At the U of O, learning about the Oregon Coast (and a great stop pre-Coast).

The compact, child-friendly area of the museum is clean, new, and stocked with interesting artifacts and hands-on options that make history and science come alive.

Eugene Raptor Center a kid-friendly thing to do in Eugene

Avian eyes at the Eugene Raptor Center

Spy an eagle or falcon at the evergreen-sheltered Cascades Raptor Center, where over 60 resident birds represent 33 species in outdoor cages. Each bird’s short story is right next to their cage, so you can discover more about each raptor – or maybe even “adopt” one. Wear sturdy shoes, as the ground is uneven.

The Science Factory, a fun thing to do with kids in Eugene

The Science Factory in Eugene

Play for an hour or two at the Science Factory Children’s Museum & Exploration Dome, the petite, well-loved cousin of science museums. You won’t find the multi-story experiences offered in the big cities, but it’s a fine way to spend an half-hour or so, and admission is only $4/person.

Science Factory in Eugene with kids

Inside the Science Factory in Eugene

Check the website for the current exhibit; when we were there, the museum focused on balls and ramps.

Run it off at RiverPlay Discovery Playground, where kids can uncover fossils in sand dig, climb a 25-foot replica of Skinner Butte or make a dam of sand and water in a replica Willamette River.

Browse nature’s bounty at the Eugene Saturday Market; farmers deliver fresh produce to downtown Eugene while artisans sell their eco-wares. Order lunch from an on-the-go restaurateur dishing up Mexican, Thai, Indian cuisines or US-style sandwiches. Listen to live music and give the kids a few bucks for a treat or two. “More tie-die stands than any other market I’ve encountered,” Melanie says, “and awesome Afghani food in the food court. The adjacent farmer’s market with everything you can imagine from the Willamette Valley, from duck eggs to huckleberries.”

Hike the 209-acre Mt. Pigsah Arboretum with your family – and bring the camera for photo-ready moments along wildflower meadows and in Evergreen forests. Check the website before you go and see if there’s a guided family walk on the calendar – then sign up for an educational ramble through the woods.

If you’re going to visit a toystore in Eugene for travel-ready playthings, The Elephant’s Trunk should be your destination. Located in downtown Eugene, this shop crams hundreds of toy options into a tidy, well-organized store. Dolls, animals, toddler toys and more.

Eugene 5th Street Public Market

The store’s nestled in the adorable, flower-strewn shopping center 5th Street Public Market.

Eating Out with Kids in Eugene

Dig into Thai at Ring of Fire, located in an unassuming strip mall. Ask for a seat in the back room, where your family can sit under giant umbrellas. This is a good option with adventurous, older children.

“So many kinds of beer from all over the world, the best local and far-away microbrews, and simple soups and delicious panini,” Melanie says of The Beer Stein. “It’s where U of O students and faculty often head for a beer, and where my playgroup would occasionally meet. As a Canadian used to paying 3-4 times as much for beer, I was in heaven.”

“Hideaway Bakery has a sandbox under cover on their patio, which is also heated,” Melanie says. “They have a terrific brick oven and yummy breads and treats, and the sandbox is filled with baking stuff for digging, like measuring cups, ladles, etc.”

Pluck a pie or pick up a tart at Sweet Life Patisserie. This patisserie takes its sugar seriously, with dozens upon dozens of cakes, pies, cupcakes, cheesecakes, tarts and tiny delectable chocolates, all laid out in several glass cases (try to refrain from licking the cases, it’s just not becoming of a mom). An amazing selection – even Eugene’s vegans are catered to — and it’s hard to go home with just one dessert.

kid-friendly Eugene restaurant

Morning Glory Cafe, a kid-friendly restaurant in Eugene

Get in touch with your inner tofu-yoga queen at Morning Glory Café. Yes, this is crunchy hippie food (you will find tempeh and sprouts) but there’s lots of food (split plates!) and those scrambles taste good. This café sits within a stone’s throw of the railroad terminal, so toddlers will have something to watch for, while you’re watching for breakfast’s arrival. A good option for those sensitive to wheat, dairy and other issues. “Don’t overlook their amazing tea blends,” Melanie says.

Laughing Planet and Café Yumm are both solid options with babies, toddlers, preschoolers and other picky personalities. The menus offer simple and  straightforward wrap, soups and bowls with Mexican and Asian twists. “Café Yumm is a Eugene classic,” Melanie says. “Rice and bean bowls with the ubiquitous Yumm! sauce that all of the locals are so addicted to that there are cafe yumms all over town, and sauce to buy and take home if you can’t wait for your next fix.”

How about Laughing Planet? Melanie made up a song to entertain toddlers en route to the popular stop: To the tune of  Frere Jacques: Laughing Planet, Laughing Planet/ Where are You? Where are you? / I want a burrito, I want a burrito/ And some soup, And some soup. “The soup of the day is generally delicious and the Che Burrito (Plantain, black bean and sweet potato) is not to be missed,” she says.

“In a city with lots of Thai restaurants, Sweet Basil is the place we went for consistent and delicious curries,” Melanie says. “”Good, basic Thai food at reasonable prices.”

“Iralia serves amazing Mediterranean food,” Melanie says. “They use simple, whole ingredients and a variety of influences to create amazing hearty dishes. Iraila is Eugene’s best kept secret.”

Thanks, Melanie! Readers, do you have any kid-friendly Eugene suggestions? For more information on the Eugene area, consult with Travel Lane County.

North Oregon Coast with Kids

Check out that view to the right of this post. Looks pretty sweet, right? The photo wasn’t taken in Cannon Beach, Seaside or Lincoln City, but in the tiny burg of Pacific City, on The Pelican Pub’s outdoor, beach-facing deck. If you’re ready to explore further, along the North Oregon coast, consider these 11 options (heading from south to north, about two hours if you’re driving straight through). Whether you want to watch whales or watch storms for spring break or just book your summer getaway, there’s a town for you:

Newport. One of my favorite coastal towns for activities, dining and accommodation options. Kids love the Newport Aquarium and the Mark O. Hatfield Science Center and there are multiple delicious restaurant options. Skip anything titled or associated with “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” or the Underwater Aquarium (ignore the coupons and discounts!) and spend your time on the beach instead.

Newport Aquarium

We stayed at The Hallmark Resort for just $99 for a lovely autumn-season oceanfront room. I also visited Elizabeth Street Inn and kitchen-equipped Greenstone Inn – they’re all great options; the latter doesn’t have the views of the first two, but there are suites available.

Depoe Bay. A slip of a town lining the Oregon Coast Highway. One recommendation: Stop at the donation-only Whale Watching Center (you won’t miss it, but it’s on the western side of the highway) to whale-watch on the western horizon. Trained volunteers will help you spot the distinctive spouts and kids can look at whale skeletons and facts. Although it’s an adorable town, I’m not sure I would stay here with younger kids, as the road traffic is very busy. More info: Depoe Bay.


Lincoln City. This was where my family vacationed when I was a kid. It’s a built-up conglomeration of mega-hotels, jam-packed antique stores, family fun centers and restaurants designed to feed and house thousands in summer. Sounds like fun? You’ll have a good time here. More info: Lincoln City.

Neskowin. As if designed in direct contrast to Lincoln City, the upscale town of Neskowin seems to say, “We want a piece of coastal peace.”  Here, the cozy grid streets are filled only with kids on bikes and city cars (cars filled with Costco buys — dining picks are slim to none).

Indy 500 vacationers not welcome in Neskowin

Dozens of hand-painted “slow down” signs decorate houses, electrical posts and fences. Look for rental houses through VRBO or Grey Fox (not much in the way of hotels, either). This town is very cute, and just right for the family wanting to get away from it all. More info: Neskowin.

Pacific City. Incredible views and good eatin’ put Pacific City on the map. Sit right in the shadow of a haystack rock (one of a few along the North Oregon Coast)  and drink a beer on Pelican Pub’s porch and watch the kids play in the sand. Breakfast or lunch at kid-friendly, window-surrounded The Grateful Bread is always a wise idea. The well-heeled Inn at Cape Kiwanda has a wine and cheese hour, lovely views, cute giftshop with kids’ toys and a DVD rental option; I loved this homey hotel. A caveat: The rooms can get noisy, as sit right on the two-lane highway.

Pelican Pub, Pacific City

In the morning, drive north from Pacific City along the Three Capes highway, which winds through mountains and valleys to heart-stopping viewpoints.More info: Pacific City.

Oceanside. It makes me nauseous to look at the houses built into the cliffs – but at the same time, I absolutely want to stay in one of the tottering homes (I’ll just pray that my stay won’t coincide with an earthquake or tsunami). The Oceanside community is tiny, at just 326 residents, so the town’s another quiet get-away spot.

Oceanside’s steep hills

One coffeeshop, (Brewin’ in the Wind), one upscale restaurant (Roseanna’s Oceanside Cafe). Not much on the web for Oceanside, other than a rather useful real estate broker’s website.

Garibaldi. Founded in 1867, but there’s not much to draw crowds today. Skip it, unless you really want to visit the Myrtlewood Factory Outlet. More info: Garibaldi.

Rockaway Beach. Vacation homes, antique shops and a family fun center line the streets of this small destination town. It welcomes all visitors — Upper Crust pizzeria even dishes up a gluten-free pizza. The famous 7-mile sandy beach is a treasure for families. More info: Rockaway Beach site and Greg Goes to Rockaway Beach.

Wheeler. A quaint two-block town with a romantic and rustic vibe. No beach here in the town proper, just lovely views of ships and piers. A pleasant getaway for mom and dad at the B&B-style Wheeler Inn. More info: Wheeler city site.

Nehalem. This town is unusual for the area; it’s located on Nehalem River, not the ocean. It’s a touch warmer too, removed from the cooling Pacific winds. Houseboats bob, and a vintage village vibe hums in summer. Hanging flower baskets decorate white-painted porches.

Nehalem’s false-front buildings

It’s not far from the Nehalem Bay State Park, a perfectly picturesque campground featuring yurts, a playground, campsites — all amid short pine trees and twisted sitkas. More info: Nehalem city site.

Manzanita. If you love Cannon Beach’s views but want to get away from the crowds, Manzanita’s a stellar selection. Well-heeled restaurants, spas, yarn shops, bookstores; like a mix of a New England village and Oregon coast. Manzanita attracts repeat visits from families, year after year. Look for a vacation rental, but book it early or go off-season, because most families made plans last summer for this summer.  More info: Manzanita site.


What’s YOUR favorite family-friendly Oregon Coast town, village or city?

Coastal Kids: Things to Do in Florence, Oregon with Kids

Today, we interview mom (and Eugene, Ore., native) Emily Forsha. Emily grew up with the central Oregon coast as her playground. She knows that a foggy day in the Willamette Valley often means clear sunny skies at the coast, and that salt water taffy is best enjoyed sitting on the boardwalk in Old Town Florence. Now as the Tourism PR Manager at Travel Lane County and a mother to a 4 year-old and 15 month-old, Emily offers her fresh perspective as both a tourism industry professional and busy mom. All photos were provided by Emily.

Q. Do you have a favorite Oregon coast town? Why do you like it?

Emily: For us, Florence, Ore., is perfect; only an hour’s drive from Eugene and Interstate 5, we can go for just a spur-of-the-moment day trip, or stay for the whole weekend. The boardwalk in Old Town Florence is a special place for the entire family – it has an authentic, less “touristy” feel. We usually have a bowl of clam chowder at Mo’s, then head across the street for a scoop of homemade ice cream and salt water taffy from BJ’s Ice Cream Parlor.

Q. What’s your favorite family activity on the Oregon coast? What kinds of things do you like to do (with kids) in Florence and nearby?

We’re a family of hikers, so the hikes around this area are usually our go-to destinations. Washburne State Memorial Park’s Hobbit Trail is an easy 0.4-mile trail that evokes imaginative fairies and gnomes and leads to a flat, sandy beach. If your family is up for a longer, steeper jaunt, the 6-mile round-trip trail to the Heceta Head Lighthouse has outstanding seascape views.

Washburne State Park.

Cape Perpetua is the highest point on the Oregon coast, and alive with trails to explore. We’ve spent many days wandering old-growth forests and whale watching, but the best trail for families is the easy 0.6-mile walk on Captain Cook Trail, where you can investigate tidepools rich with marine life.

The giant dune buggy tour is the best way to see the 40 miles of Oregon Dunes in the Siuslaw National Forest – a truly awesome sight. We took both of our boys on our last trip to Florence, and it was the highlight of the trip for all of us. We rode the buggies from Sandland Adventures, then made an afternoon of it with fun train and go-kart rides, bumper boats and miniature golf.

Oregon Sand Dunes

Oregon Sand Dunes

But if I had to pick only one destination for families, it would probably be Jessie M. Honeyman Memorial State Park. You can canoe, kayak, paddleboat or swim one of two freshwater lakes (Cleawox is our favorite). There are summer interpretive programs in the amphitheater for children, and huckleberries and blackberries galore.

Emily and son canoeing

Q. Any favorite kid-friendly restaurants in Florence? Formal/foodie (but where kids are OK) and informal?

We love having breakfast at the Nature’s Corner Cafe & Market – I let my kids fill up on the house-made organic chocolate milk and pancakes. Feast is the newest addition to Florence for foodies, and it is delicious. Definitely a more formal atmosphere, but we’re comfortable taking our kids for an early-evening dinner or Sunday brunch (my favorite!).

Q. Do you have a favorite time of year or season to visit Florence?

This is a tough question. It’s sort of a well-known secret that fall is a beautiful time on the central Oregon coast; less windy and often sunnier and clearer than in the Willamette Valley. As a kid, I loved the winter and spring whale watching weeks, and still enjoy them as an adult.

We’ve taken the kids for a winter getaway at Driftwood Shores; even if we don’t get lucky with weather, the hotels has a brand-new indoor kids’ pool and water play area that they absolutely love.

Florence oregon places to stay

Indoor pool!

Winter is also the best time to see the sea lions perched inside the Sea Lion Caves. In 2009 there were a record number of California sea lions inhabiting the caves during the winter months – between 300-500 on any given day. We’re excited to see how many will show up this year.

And for some reason, they know that during the winter months I’m more likely to let them sample the homemade fudge from the gift shop on the way out.

Read More about Florence with Kids:

Eugene, Cascades & Coast Tourism Information on Florence, Oregon

Florence Chamber of Commerce

Disclosure: I have worked with Emily in a professional context. When I wrote two articles for the Travel Lane County Visitors’ Guide (my employer was Saga City Media), I met Emily while in Eugene, while I was performing research. We hit it off (Emily’s super sweet) and she knows a lot about Florence, so we thought a joint post might be a great addition to Cascadia Kids. I am responsible for all links to businesses offered here.

Seaside, Oregon with Kids

Fall might be the perfect time to hit the beach. At least according to Jackie Boucher, a Vancouver, BC mom who also blogs at Wee Life (and that beautiful blog is more than a wee bit addictive). Last year, Jackie traveled over six hours to reach the gorgeous Oregon Coast, along with her husband Adrian and their son, Spenser, then age 5.

The family loved their destination, the outrageous family-fun town of Seaside. “It was quirky and kitschy and fun with loads of stuff for kids,” Jackie says.

Jackie and hubby had been to the Oregon Coast before, pre-baby Spenser. But back then, the coast was only a stopover on a longer trip. “We always knew that one day we would make it our destination and give it the attention it deserves,” Jackie says. “The coastline is simply stunning.”

Q: What did your family enjoy doing in Seaside, Oregon?

We walked the two- or three-mile promenade. We brought hockey and soccer equipment to play on the firm smooth sand, and hung out on the beach. We ate razor clams and candy (in particular, salt water taffy) because that’s what you do when you are in Seaside.

Playing hockey on the Oregon Coast

Playing hockey on the Oregon Coast. Photo courtesy Jackie Boucher

We noted other unique culinary delights too. I wish now I was brave enough to try the chocolate covered bacon at the Buzz on Broadway.

Another must-do is renting a surrey to pedal up and down the main drag. We also took a half-day trip to Cannon Beach where they have a nice playground, gorgeous beach, good shopping and The Wayfarer, a good restaurant with a killer view.

Riding bikes on the Oregon Coast.

Riding bikes on the Oregon Coast. Photo courtesy Jackie Boucher.

Q. What kinds of kid-friendly things did you do in Seaside? Which activities did your son enjoy most?

Seaside’s main drag. We walked up and down that street several times stopping in candy shops, riding the carousel at Seaside Carousel Mall, and spending time on the bumper cars in Funland, the arcade. Our favourite candy store was Seaside Candyman. The Seaside Carousel Mall has a great toy store, Under the Big Top Toys.

We went in last October and stumbled across a captivating pumpkin festival; we witnessed a giant pumpkin smash an old surrey to smithereens. I documented the craziness on my Wee Life blog here.

Q. Where did you stay?

The Sandy Cove Inn was a bit off the beaten track but had a kitchen, a good restaurant across the street as well as a small family run grocery store and the beach/prom was practically right there.

Q. Did you find any kid-friendly restaurants to eat in?

If you love seafood, this is your part of the world. Our favourite was the Bell Buoy at 1800 S Roosevelt Drive. This establishment has two parts, a factory/fish market and a restaurant. The first is the fish market and micro-cannery. They smoke their own salmon and make their own cocktail sauce. This is where you would get your razor clams to take back to your kitchenette (if you are so lucky to have a kitchenette).

Bell Buoy a kid-friendly restaurant in seaside oregon

The Bell Buoy, a kid-friendly restaurant in Seaside, Oregon

The Bell Buoy also offers a family-style restaurant, which cooks up delicious clams, oysters, crab cakes or just simple fish and chips. Oh, and clam chowder.

A Stop-By-Stop Guide to the Oregon Coast with Kids

 

Kids at the oregon coast dig in the sand

Oregon Coast with Kids

A friend recently told me about her upcoming Oregon Coast trip, and asked, “Where should I stop along the Oregon Coast?” So I’ve made up a quick itinerary of where I’d go and what I’d do if driving the Oregon Coast, from Astoria to the California-Oregon border.

This stop-by-stop guide down Hwy 101 along the Oregon Coast shows great stops and kids activities. Plan frequent stops into your day, and you’ll discover less complaining and more cooperation.

Drive along the Oregon Coast’s Hwy 101 with my Google Maps directions. (But always double-check directions and open hours, etc. before going anywhere)

Stop 1. Start your trip in Astoria. Pick up pastries for a snack from Blue Scorcher Bakery Café.

Stop 2. Drive 8 miles, about 16 minutes to Lewis and Clark National State Historical Park. Check out the recreated cabins where Lewis and Clark spent their first dreary winter and check out some of the kids activities.

Stop 3. Drive 14 ½ miles, about 22 minutes to Seaside. Ride the Carousel in Seaside Town Center or play a few games in the Funland Arcade.

Stop 4. Drive about 9 miles or 12 minutes. Stop at the gorgeous Haystack Rock and Tolovana Beach and poke around in the tidepools.

Stop 5. Drive 38 miles or about an hour to the Tillamook Cheese Factory for a quick tour (if available) and a sample or two – plus lunch.

Stop 6. Drive 45 miles (about one hour) to Lincoln City and visit The World’s Shortest River: D River.

Stop 7. Drive 27 miles or about 45 minutes to Oregon Coast Aquarium. Eat dinner. Sleep!

Stop 8. Drive 37 miles or about 1 hour 15 mins to the Sea Lion Caves and meet some stinky lions of the sea. (Kids love this attraction, but it is a little … redolent). If Sea Lions aren’t your thing, visit Heceta Head Lighthouse, two minutes away.

Stop 9. Drive about six miles to the 18-acre Darlingtonia State Natural Site (or Darlingtonia Wayside), where the kids can meet another sort of wild creature – carnivorous plants that only grow in S. Oregon and N. California.

Stop 10. Drive 12 minutes to and stop in Florence at Nature’s Corner Café and Market and pick up sandwiches, chips and an almost-bad-for-you drink.

Stop 11. Drive about 21 miles or a half-hour to Umpqua Lighthouse State Park and the Oregon Dunes National Recreational Area, where towers of beach sand reach up to 500 feet high. Enjoy a picnic.

Stop 12. Drive 75 miles or about two hours to the Prehistoric Gardens, a wild, weird spot that dino-loving kids will adore and older kids may find a bit cheesy, but still amusing.
Order fish and chips at at Crazy Norwegians in Port Orford.

Stop 13. Drive 30 miles or about an hour. Stop in Gold Beach, Oregon and go crabbing.

Stop 14. Drive those last 36 miles (about an hour) to Alfred A. Loeb State Park to visit the only stand of Myrtlewood and Redwood trees in Oregon. Cook your Oregon crabs and sleep in an Oregon yurt!

Read more about the Oregon Coast with kids at Travel Oregon.

 

Oregon Family Deals and Savings

Oregon deals, coupons and savings for family vacations in Eastern Oregon, Bend, the Oregon Coast, Newport, Mt. Hood, Portland and Southern Oregon.

Eastern Oregon Visitors AssociationPackages and deals

Eugene, Cascades and CoastDiscounts and special offers

Mt. Hood Territory: Coupons and deals

Newport, OregonSpecial deals and promotions

Oregon’s Adventure Coast (Coos Bay, North Bay, Charleston): Lodging specials

Oregon Coast Visitors AssociationTravel promotions and deals

Seaside Chamber of CommerceDeals and coupons (including kids eat free)

Travel PortlandSpecial offers, coupons and hotel deals

Travel OregonSeasonal offerings

Visit BendHotel and motel deals

Cannon Beach Guide: Family-friendly picks

Oh, the Oregon Coast — golden beaches, great food, and thriving coastal communities full of art galleries and cool toystores and bookstores. Enjoy a misty morning tidepooling adventure with a hot coffee in hand. Or recline in a beach chair with a new book — while the kids create turreted castles from crystals of warm sand. Your choice.

Haystack Rock

One of my favorite destinations along the Oregon Coast is Cannon Beach, only about an hour west of Portland. Cannon Beach’s Haystack Rock offers probably one of the most-photographed scenes in Oregon: Sundown, when the skies turn impossible shades of pink and purple, and the sun sinks behind the basalt monolith.

Keep in mind — all of the photos here were shot in November. Yes, November. It was awesome.

Go tidepooling. Pick up delicate anemones and grouchy crabs at Haystack Rock, near Tolovana State Park. Bring binoculars to find nesting birds in Haystack Rock’s cliff face (and oh yeah, watch your head). Look for one of the HRAP volunteers, who will tell you all about the creatures and features of the park.

Pick up Haystack CookieCannon Beach Bakery, where a bag  of Haystack Macaroon Cookies is only a few bucks. Named after the signature landmark, these treats are thankfully NOT made from rock and bird poo. Nope, just flour, dates, coconuts and walnuts.

Sea stacks off of Ecola State Park

Hit the trails. I like Ecola State Park, where the kids can count rings in felled trees, hike up and down a bluff, gather smooth coast stones and watch surfers catch the perfect wave. Don’t miss the striking sea stacks right off shore.

Eat fish ‘n’ chips. Sit at Ecola Seafood’s vinyl-covered tables. You’ll love the enormous, perfectly cooked portions of salmon, razor clams and halibut. Kid meals are served with a lollipop – as if they’d have room after all that fish fare.

Rent bikes. Check out Family Fun Cycles (1160 S Hemlock St.), where the knowledgable staff will get your butt in the gear. Rents during low tide – check those tide tables.

Pick up a picture book. Sit a spell at Cannon Beach Book Company, the solution to a sandcastle full of rain. You’ll also find Klutz books, great for little crafters, and nice chapter book selection.

Sandcastle construction at Surfsand Resort

Sleep in. I love Surfsand Resort, where kids can enjoy roasted hot dogs, craft projects and ice cream socials. And that’s before you get to the two-pager DVD list and luxe rooms featuring kitchenettes, Haystack-rock-view rooms and the sound of the surf. The hotel is right on the beach — perfect for quick cleanup.

Wind down. “Bedtime Stories,” on 89.5 (KMUN) from 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., an evening radio program of kid-oriented stories and songs.

Go fly a kite. Pick your high-flier from one of dozens at the Kite Factory (339 Fir St.), then head to Tolovana State Park.

Bring home taffy. Choose your chewy goodness from Bruce’s Candy Kitchen, a local landmark, where the stretchy goodness is made on-site. Toss together a bag from the choices offered, whether you want traditional (root beer) or different (pomegranate).

This is just the tip of the monolith — I list more Cannon Beach restaurants, activities, restaurants and shops in my book Northwest Kid Trips: Portland, Seattle, Victoria, Vancouver.

9 Amusement Parks in the Northwest and BC

We don’t have any mega-big-deal-amusement parks* here in Cascadia. But we do have several options within easy driving distance of major cities, including water parks and kid-friendly rides. The parks are all fairly inexpensive (at least when compared to airfare for four, lodging and ticket prices at mega-big-deal-amusement parks). It’s low-key fun, an easy getaway in pleasant weather.

Oaks Amusement Park

Oaks Amusement Park

1. Oaks Amusement Park. Portland, Oregon. One of the Pacific Northwest’s oldest operating amusement parks, Oaks Park pops with options: a year-round roller rink, big kid thrill rides, gentle toddler rides. I love this quaint amusement park. Free admission, pay per ride. It’s well-shaded and nestled along the banks of a river, so you can take over-excited kids for a chill-out walk before hopping back into the car. A 15-minute drive from downtown Portland in the quaint Sellwood District.

2. Wild Waves: Theme & Water Park. Federal Way, Washington. In the summer, corkscrew-style slides deliver hordes of screaming kids. It’s not all wild, as the gentle wave pool welcomes younger children. Post-swim, visit the the Enchanted Park and drive bumper cars, ride the ferris wheel or discover your scream on a kiddie coaster. Big problem though – the food here is distinctly sub-par, and you can’t bring in your own. Plan for a car picnic.

3. Great Wolf Lodge. Grand Mound, Washington. Located halfway between Portland and Seattle, this indoor waterpark offers raging river slides, family-friendly rooms (with bunk beds), a kids’ spa, and a magical wand that kids can use to play an interactive game throughout the building. Caveat: You can’t enter without staying the night – but a night’s stay allows you to come and go from the water as you please. It’s sort of like an all-inclusive, right here in the Pacific Northwest.

Playland at PNE

4. Playland at the PNE. Vancouver, BC. Like a county fair in the big city, all summer long. This amusement park is about a 15-20 minute drive from downtown Vancouver, and worth the cost with elementary-age kids or middle schoolers. But even my son (then 2) found plenty of just-ride rides among the selection of over 20 options. Cool big-kid rides: The wooden roller coaster and the “Hellevator.” Bring sunscreen or go during evening hours (like we did); buy the pass for hours of fun.

5. Enchanted Forest Theme Park. Turner, Oregon. If you find yourself driving along Oregon’s I-5 this summer, check out this campy, cheesy and amusing park. Stand in a giant’s mouth, get mildly spooked in the Haunted House, take a stroll through Storybook Lane, Western Town or English Village. It’s the sort of amusement park you’d enjoy if you like old-school Paul Bunyan statues, Roadside America and other oddities still hanging around the Northwest like old moss. I’d go; I’m not sure you would. But you should.

6. Cultus Lake Waterpark and Slides. Cultus Lake, BC. In British Columbia’s Fraser Valley, about 80 km (50 miles) east of Vancouver, the weather dries out and the lakes warm up. So Cultus Lake Waterpark is a fine place to spend the day. Tweens can tear down the maze-like Blasters and Twisters, while the more hesitant (like me!) can enjoy the milder Kiddie Slides. The unusual “Valley of Fear” slide is set up like a skater’s half-pipe; families can slip along in double or triple tubes. Bonus feature: You can bring in your own food.

7. Riverfront Park. Spokane, Washington. I lived in the Pacific Northwest for decades, ignorant to this unique – and diverse — park. In Spokane, the 100-acre Riverfront Park offers: a SkyRide past waterfalls, tour train, wide grassy areas for picnics and running, mini golf, a garbage-eating metallic goat, a ginormous red wagon, a pavilion of amusement rides, an IMAX theatre and water bumper boats. Whew. I’m tired from just listing the options. Worth a weekend’s exploration.

8. Dinotown. Bridal Falls, BC. Yes, it’s a theme park based on dinosaurs.  Three hours from Seattle and a 1 ½ hours from Vancouver, this park is basically like an outdoor Chuck-E-Cheese, but with a sorta-dino-themed train, a musical tribute to the Flintstones, dinosaur mascots, bumper cars and other quasi-dino choices. Not a must-see unless your kid really, really, really loves pink dinosaurs. Update 7/25 CLOSED.

9. Slidewaters. Lake Chelan, Washington. It’s almost always dependably sunny and hot on Washington’s eastside – so there will never be an excuse for skipping the eight slides. At Slidewaters, the new “Purle Haze” ride slips you through 420 feet of disorienting darkness. As a parent, you’ll probably prefer the hot tub and cool pool. Wear sunscreen, because the sun’s rays are a bit sneaky — I think I still have scars from my Chelan burns.

*Full disclosure: My husband works for The Mouse.

Did I miss an awesome waterpark, theme park or fabulous fun center? Let me know.