So you came to the coast for the calming clap of the surf and some much-needed family R&R. But, inevitably, even with the sweetest kids, something goes wrong: attention spans wane, sunburns appear, sugars crash and you are left wondering what to do next without taking out a second mortgage. Luckily, the North Coast and lower Columbia cater to the kiddos with plenty of entertainment options that won’t break the bank.
There’s more than enough to do for the whole family both indoors and out. Try your hand at feeding the seals at the Seaside Aquarium or learn about the Graveyard of the Pacific at the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria. Visiting Jake the Alligator Man at Marsh’s Free Museum is always a trip. Even if you don’t make it up to Long Beach for the Washington State International Kite Festival held in August, there are plenty of places to buy or rent kites and you can follow a breeze into the World Kite Museum and check out their Hall of Fame.
If spilling pins is your thing there’s also Lower Columbia Bowl in Astoria and Gearhart Bowl located in the little hamlet of its namesake just north of Seaside on U.S. Highway 101.
See? You’ve got this. Just remember: a stimulated kid is a kid that goes to bed earlier and a sleeping child is the most relaxing part of any parent’s holiday. Follow our recommendations to these cheap retreats and save a few bucks to put toward a local bottle of wine.
Long Beach, Washington
Situated right downtown, the Funland Family Fun Center offers over 9,000 square feet of gaming, including a midway complete with carnival-style games and laser tag. Grab a futuristic gun and chest plate at $9.95 for two rounds or $14.95 for four rounds. High score winners receive a free round.
Rev your engines on a go-kart at the Fun Beach Speedway. Now under new management, the track has been completely revived. Single karts start at $10 and doubles at $15. Kids must be 12 to drive alone and drivers of a double need to be over 17 with a valid driver’s license to chauffeur anyone 3 or younger. While the speedway is open year round, hours do depend on weather.
No visit to the North Coast is complete without a trek to the top of the Astoria Column to take in the panoramic views of the region. First dedicated by the Great Northern Railway in 1926, the column recently received a polish to preserve its historic uniqueness as a Northwest landmark. Buy a balsa wood plane at the gift shop for $1 and let it sail from the top. Visiting the park and entering the column is free, though parking is $5.
If the weather is nice, Tapiola Park on the south slope of Astoria overlooking Youngs Bay has an impressive playground featuring recreations of some of Astoria’s most notable landmarks. Named after the Finnish god of the forest, Tapiola also has a skate park for older kids.
Whether going for a stroll, riding the trolley or biking down the Astoria Riverwalk along the mighty Columbia River, take a moment to stop in for a bite or a pint at the waterfront Buoy Beer. Kids go wild for the slab of glass flooring they have in the main dining room which overlooks pilings. The lapping shore is often home to some very lazy and very loud sea lions. The beer and food at this family-friendly brewpub is reasonably priced.
Rain or shine, kids always go crazy for the Funland Arcade, which, oddly enough, has no relation to the similarly named business in Long Beach. The arcade has plenty of new and classic video games as well as bumper cars, fascination and an in-house Fultano’s Pizza for when the kiddos get hungry. Open since 1931, Seaside’s Funland is the area’s oldest amusement though it has certainly changed with the times. Putting money onto one of their Power Play Cards lets you control how much or how little money and time you want to spend there.
But the fun doesn’t stop at Funland. It spills down the block towards the Pacific where there’s more bumper cars, a Tilt-A-Whirl and a 10 hole putt-putt golf course, all collectively known as Interstate Amusement Co. All benefit from being indoors and under the same roof. Each ride is $2.50. Kids below a certain height are only $1.50. Interstate is also the home of the Seaside-famous Pronto Pup concession stand, which hand-dips corn dogs to order for $3.25 a pup, er, pop.
Captain Kid Amusement Park, like all kids, just keeps growing. Adding onto an 18 hole mini golf course and a go-kart track, they now boast a 26 foot rock climbing wall, a small, three-horse carousel and GyroXtreme! Rotate and Tumble for the tykes to try out some astronaut training like they might at NASA space camp. To find them on U.S. Highway 101 just look for the helicopters.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
Wrapped around Tillamook Head, Ecola State Park is comprised of 9 miles of rugged, breathtaking coastline studded with Sitka spruce. The name is attributed to explorer Captain William Clark who misspelled the Chinook word for “whale.” Miles of trails shatter through a forest teeming with wildlife. Tide pools will keep the tykes happy for hours at no extra charge. Parking for $5 is the only cost unless you pack for a picnic.
Just in case you forgot to bring your bikes or need a more sturdy ride, Family FUNcycles in Cannon Beach rents recumbent tricycles and other models that really move on both street and sand. Kid bike trailers are available too. Feel like a real Goonie cruising past Cannon Beach’s famous Haystack Rock on the shore.
Nothing bonds a family like spending time together trying to get out of a locked room and the Cannon Beach Escape Room offers just that. Experience being locked in the pirate One-Eyed Jack’s captain’s quarters with only 60 minutes to get out before ye walk the plank. No matter the theme, up to 10 participants are given an hour to work together to find clues and develop strategies to find the key that will release them. These games require communication and using your wits and keen deductive skills. Think you can make it out in time? Adults will have to pay $25 and children 14 and under $20 a head to know for sure.