Falling in love with Seaside, Oregon was one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. With its unique whimsical charm and old-timey character, it has become one of my family’s favorite weekend destinations. It’s the kind of place that has the ability to appeal to everyone due to the fact that there is just so much to do, see, eat, discover, and experience. It inspires us to explore, and we take great pleasure in devouring as much of Seaside as we can possibly fit into our multi-day stays. This includes expansive, open beaches, vintage and modern arcade games, boutique shopping, an indoor carousel, delightful restaurants, a 1.5 mile boardwalk affectionately nicknamed the “Prom,” and hotel accommodations ranging from large resorts to small beach bungalows. Incredibly, this treasured beach town in all its splendor is easily accessible by bus.
Our trip begins at Union Station in Portland, Oregon, where we choose the morning bus, departing at 9:30 AM (there’s also an evening departure at 6:20 PM). The scenic ride aboard the NorthWest POINT bus is a comfortable one, with reclining seats, foot rests, free wifi, and an on-board restroom. Once in Seaside, we get off at the second of two stops, which is the Seaside Youth Hostel at 930 N Holladay Drive. From there it’s only about a 10 minute walk to some of our favorite home-away-from-homes, including the Inn at Seaside where freshly baked cookies tempt us at check-in. Travel tip: either pack your things into a comfortable backpack, or use luggage with wheels to make the walk more enjoyable. Also, check with your hotel ahead of time to see if they will stow your bags until they’re ready for you to check in (often not until after 3:00 PM) so you don’t have to carry them around Seaside for the next few hours.
After lightening our load, the first thing we like to do is find a place to have lunch. My kids love the Mexican food at The Stand, but keep in mind they are only open Monday-Friday.
Another favorite lunch spot is the Tsunami Sandwich Company, where we come for the sandwiches, and stay for the ice cream! They offer hot or cold sandwiches, a kids menu, and serve 16 flavors of local Tillamook Ice Cream. For the ultimate local ice cream experience, a visit to Zinger’s Homemade Ice Cream is a must. They have about 40 different rotating flavors, and their ice cream is made right there in the shop using pure, high quality ingredients.
Grownups get to make so many of the decisions in children’s lives, that when we’re on vacation, I like to let them hold the reins a little. After all, these are their fond family memories we’re helping to create. And most likely if they’re having fun, then I’m having fun. After we officially check in to our hotel, the first thing my kids do is make a Seaside itinerary, or as they labeled it, List For Seaside.
Funland always seems to be the first item on their list, and is often the most talked about experience both before and after the trip. Operating since 1931, it is the largest arcade on the Northern Oregon Coast, and is as fun for adults as it is for kids. I am particularly keen on the vintage Fascination Parlor.
Fascination is basically the best game EVER, and the one in Seaside happens to be one of the few remaining Fascination parlors in the country, existing here since the 1950s. To play, roll the ball into the holes and a corresponding light bulb on the board in front of you lights up. Get 5 in a row, and you win! It’s like bingo, but so much more fun. They also have designated times when they play blackout rounds, and the excitement and anticipation of winning is palpable. The kids can exchange their collection of winning tickets for traditional amusement park prizes.
Next on the list is the Buzz on Broadway, a candy store that boasts the greatest selection of candy on the pacific coast. And how! Talk about feeling like a kid again; there’s a certain nostalgia that takes over and my impulse to say yes when my children ask me for candy is at its annual peak. We are generally a very healthy family (i.e. when I serve steamed kale and broccoli at dinner, my son asks for seconds), but our vacation in Seaside just wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t stop in for a few of our favorite pieces of sugary bliss. How does that saying go … What happens in Seaside …
According to our itinerary, we’re supposed to be headed to the aquarium, but now that we’re all sugared up, it only seems appropriate to release that energy in a fun, giggle-inducing way, with a bike or pedal boat rental. Wheel Fun Rentals are the ones responsible for both these beachy modes of transportation, and on this trip we chose water play in a pedal boat on the Necanicum River, which runs through town. It was a lot of fun, and much more of a workout than I was expecting. I suddenly don’t feel so guilty about all that candy.
Back on track, we take a stroll to the aquarium. Founded in 1937, the Seaside Aquarium is one of the oldest aquariums on the west coast. Some highlights we enjoy are the touch tanks, the Giant Pacific octopus, and of course the Harbor Seals. Check out the short video at the end of this article for a look through the viewing window as the seals bark, play, and ask politely for more fish.
Now, I didn’t say the kids get to make all the decisions. Sometimes the pool has to wait for tomorrow. And sometimes they have to summon their developing skills of patience as I peruse every trinket and piece of jewelry in a fancy boutique. But we always manage to fit in all the things we love doing together. Like browsing at the aptly named Beach Books ….
… riding the indoor carousel and shopping at the Seaside Carousel Mall …
… ordering takeout from Pizza Harbor for movie night in our hotel room …
… then going back out for dessert at McKeown’s Restaurant & Bar.
And of course we always make time for frolicking on the beach and braving the “refreshing” Oregon coast waters.
There are so many more highlights in Seaside than I have room for in this article, and while I can’t give away too many of Seaside’s colorful secrets, I wanted to at least share with you some of our favorite experiences. So in the spirit of adventure, I am leaving some seashells unturned, and inviting you to discover your own special moments and delightful surprises. Bussing to the beach has become a spring break tradition for my family, and whether it be an innovative restaurant, an eclectic antique shop, or a welcoming beachfront chalet, each excursion brings something new and worthwhile. Knowing that I have just provided a magical, unforgettable experience for my family is enormously satisfying. As we journey home to Portland, I can say with confidence that we are all looking forward to the next time we get to experience Seaside and all of its enchanting treasures.
Inn of the Four Winds 820 N Prom. Call 1-800-818-9524
Tradewinds Condo/Hotel 1022 N. Prom. Call 503-738-9468
Things we’re looking forward to on our next trip
Treasure Quest 2015 ~ This is a scavenger hunt with photographic and textual clues of local attractions, monuments, points of interest, and dining/shopping locations. The six photos and clues can be found inside the 2015 Seaside Visitor Guide, and three additional clues can be found online. Completing the three bonus clues earns you an extra entry in the random drawing. The Grand Prize, awarded for most creative entry, has an approximate value of $790!
Seaside Audio Walking Tours ~ Seaside righteously prides itself on its rich history. The stories behind some of the landmarks, attractions, and local businesses are fascinating. Local historian Gloria Linkey narrates a series of audio presentations on local points of interest including The Grave of the Unknown Sailor, Lewis & Clark Salt Works, The Seaside Aquarium, The Seaside Museum & Butterfield Cottage, The Historic Gilbert District, and Phillips Candies. You can listen on your smartphone while simultaneously visiting the location, or if you’re eager like me, you can listen ahead of time on your computer at home.
Visit the City of Seaside Visitors Bureau online for an abundance of helpful information and trip planning assistance.
Article by Stephanie Paris
All photos © Stephanie Paris except the following:
Northwest POINT bus courtesy of Northwest-Point.com
Ice Cream Cone by Alex on flickr
McKeown’s Dessert by Adam Sawyer
Lewis & Clark Salt Cairn by Doug Kerr on flickr