Saturday, September 29, 2012

Weekend Getaway - Astoria, Oregon

For Labor Day weekend, we looked a little bit farther out of our normal range of outside activities to find a place to spend the weekend.  My wife and I both loved the movie Goonies when we were kids, and we decided to go down and check out Astoria, Oregon.

Before we went there, I kept calling it "Uh-story-uh."  After spending the weekend there, I have learned everyone down there calls it "Ass-story-uh."  It's a pretty little seaside town right at the mouth of the Columbia River.  It's only about 3 1/2 hours drive from Bremerton, so it makes for a nice not-too-far weekend getaway.

View from Holiday Inn Express

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express right under the Astoria bridge.  It was a pretty nice place - and the prices reflected it, but we got some sort of weekend getaway discount deal.  They serve a pretty decent continental breakfast in the lobby, too.

It turns out there are several movies that have been filmed in Astoria, not just Goonies.  Some of the others we recognized were Kindergarten Cop and Short Circuit.  If you stop at the Chamber of Commerce, for $1 you can have a paper map and an audio CD that takes you through a tour of the town and past all the movie locations.  We went by the Goonies' house, the winding road where Mikey's older brother chased them on the little girl's bike, the window where Chunk smashes his milkshake while watching the police chase, the museum where Mikey's father worked and was taking down the flag at the beginning of the movie, and the jail.

They have turned the jailhouse into a film museum and will let kids film their own movie inside.  Out in front of the jail they have the black Jeep Cherokee the Fratelli family used in the movie, complete with bullet holes in the back, and the cast of the movie all autographed the dashboard with a black permanent marker.

Driving that winding road that Mikey's brother rode the little girl's bike on takes you up to the top of the hill overlooking Astoria and the Astoria Column.  The view here is truly spectacular and made it worth the drive down from Bremerton.  Heck, even if you didn't want to pay for a hotel to stay overnight, you could make this a day trip - drive down, go to the top of the tower, see the Goonies locations, and drive back in one day.  This picture is looking south from the top of the Column toward the Lewis & Clark River.  The picture at the top of this post is the view toward the Columbia River and the bridge from the top of the column.

They sell balsa wood gliders in the gift shop at the bottom of the column.  They will hand you a Sharpie marker to write your name on the glider before you throw it off the top of the column.  Granted, first you have to climb the 100+ spiral staircase steps to the top, but it was totally worth it. 

The boys conducting pre-flight checks on their gliders.  We had a blast watching our gliders soaring off into the distance.

We had lunch at this boat-turned-fish'n'chips-grill called the Bowpicker.  DANG it was good stuff.  They make fish'n'chips using fresh tuna, and it was absolutely extraordinary!  Small boats aside, there were a plethora of awesome local restaurants in Astoria serving excellent dishes using fresh local produce.  There are a couple of breweries, too, but I wasn't overly thrilled with their beer.  We went to two breweries and they both served the typical Pacific Northwest style of IPA with heavy hops.  I'm much more a fan of New England style lagers.  Oh, but the Crater Lake root beer they had on tap at the Wet Dog Cafe was delicious!

There's a maritime museum on the waterfront in Astoria - the Columbia River Maritime Museum.  I've been to a lot of small-town museums before, and 99% of them have been boring and lame - some collection of random odds and ends and local history with the name "museum" slapped on the building to try and create a tourist attraction.  Not so in this case.

This museum was actually very well done with high quality exhibits about the Graveyard of the Pacific, the local US Coast Guard rescue boats, the Columbia River pilots, the salmon fishing industry, and a wing of Navy stuff from the battleship USS OREGON and the two WWII cruisers to carry the name USS ASTORIA.  The boys loved playing in the tug boat pilot house.

We also visited Fort Clatsop National Historic Park.  After Lewis & Clark reached the Pacific coast, this is where they spent the winter before heading back east.  This is a replica of the fort that was built using the drawings from Lewis & Clark's journals.

We got there just in time for a hike led by a Park Ranger, and I continue to enjoy every chance I can get to learn from them.  Park Rangers always lead awesome tours and have so much fascinating history to teach and explain.

The boys with Sacagawea.  
One of the stories I learned from the Park Ranger was how Lewis & Clark referred to her simply as "the squaw" until one day a canoe full of their precious journals and scientific instruments capsized, and she dove in and saved the stuff.  It wasn't until she saved their gear that they bothered to learn her name and refer to her by her name in their journals.

There's a nice trolley that goes back and forth along the waterfront in Astoria, too.  It only costs a dollar to ride, and we totally got our money's worth.  I would go back and ride the trolley again more for the things I learned from the conductors than for the transportation they provided.

The conductors were full of historic trivia and stories about the area.  Other people on the trolley commented on how each of the conductors had different stories to tell and they learned something new and different each time they rode.

Overall it was a wonderful trip.  If you're looking for a weekend getaway from Bremerton, or even just a day-trip, I highly recommend checking out the view from the Astoria Column, taking a ride on the trolley, visiting the maritime museum, and doing the Chamber of Commerce's driving tour of the movie sights.


Tabor said...

You were busy for just one weekend. Maybe when I am out that way I will take in a tour of the town. I do agree with you on park rangers being the best source of history for the area.

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite trips when we were stationed in WA. Does the owner of the Goonie house still keep "gold coins" on the front porch?

The entire drive down 101 is a worthwhile trip if you ever have the time.