It’s probably been a few years since you put your worries aside and just had fun at the beach. They remember that holiday experience – salt air beach walks and kite flying, freshly made fudge, corner shops, bumper car slams and slow sunsets captured by the sand.
Families looking for a return to sweet, sweet fun can do Back to the Future in Seaside, Oregon, not far from the Washington border on the Oregon Coast. All the classic beach town Play ‘n’ Stay hits are here, complemented by easy access to tax-free shopping, spectacular wild and historic sites, and miles of sand. And a few modern surprises along the way. So you can use Seaside for yourself.
downtown by the sea
Downtown Seaside offers hundreds of fun options along the streets that are great for slow-moving and people-watching. Most shops and restaurants are clustered along and near Broadway, with hotels, inns, vacation homes, and bed and breakfasts fanning out. More than 100 gardens dot the city center and 64 flower baskets hang from lamp posts.
“I love how walkable Seaside is,” says Kerri Lambert, a Seaside-based mother of two, ages 10 and 14. “You can park your car at your hotel or in our free public parking and don’t have to get in your car again for most activities and restaurants by the sea.”
Broadway’s wide sidewalks accommodate strollers, wheelchairs, and multi-generational groups. Activities for every interest and age fill the streets and create memories that last a lifetime. Seaside Skooters plays childhood hits: tilt-a-whirl, indoor mini-golf, and bumper cars. Nearby arcades test reflexes and produce prizes. The Carousel Mall features a classic toy store and a historic carousel.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, classic Seaside cuisine includes fish ‘n’ chips and caramel corn, as well as newer high-end fare like Maggie’s on the Prom. Seaside’s numerous local and seasonal breweries, cafes, and restaurants place the city on the North Coast Food Trail , which runs 85 miles along the Oregon coast. Visit the Dough Dough Bakery for scones, the Seaside Brewery for a pint or the Seaside Farmer’s Market for locally grown produce.
Lambert recommends Pig ‘N Pancake as an excellent all-ages spot that serves breakfast all day. The Pronto Pup is perfect to take with you. For treats, consider Zingers Ice Cream, the 170 flavors at Sea Star Gelato, or watch toffee being pulled at Phillips Candies, a tradition since 1897.
Wheel Fun Rentals nearby offers rental Surrey bikes for two (or six or nine), as well as child trailers and beach-ready two-coupes. “The Swan Paddle Boats on the Necanicum River are a fun way to experience the waterway,” says Lambert.
The North Seaside Outlet Mall is home to tax-free Northwest favorites like Nike and Pendleton. Downtown Seaside’s boutiques cover the entire spectrum, including beach souvenirs, kid-friendly bookstores, year-round Christmas decorations, folk art and musical instruments from around the world, locally made goods and imported alpaca clothing.
Visitors can even use a Seaside vacation photo from their phone to create a custom screen-printed t-shirt at Crafted In Seaside, a new shop selling locally made crafts and art. “The sand dollar kits are a great way for kids to make a souvenir,” she says.
Broadway ends at The Turnaround, which doubles as a U-turn and a beautiful selfie backdrop. Choose from different perspectives for your Instagram photo: Pacific Ocean, Tillamook Head or a statue of explorers Lewis and Clark.
beach by the sea
Many of the North West’s beaches are rocky and sheer, but Seaside offers an idyllic, quintessential coastline. The sand by the sea is just the thing for building sandcastles and sunbathing, while the waves provide the H2O for wading on the beach, surfing the bay and even whale watching. On those cloudy days you can still see kites soaring and dancing in westerly winds.
Or bring binoculars to spot migratory birds (without getting sand in your shoes) on the 1.5-mile boardwalk, an Oregon Historic Landmark built in 1921. Stroll the 12-foot-wide cobbled oceanfront path that’s flat enough for toddlers to navigate and offers plenty of sights for adults who have seen it all. Fine restaurants and inns, towering vacation homes, hundred-year-old beach houses and the family-friendly Seaside Aquarium line the oceanfront boardwalk.
Lambert recommends the aquarium for touch tanks and a way to feed seals. “Go in the morning when the seals are hungry,” she suggests.
As cyclists and walkers head north, they soon find the trail quieter and tall grasses frame priceless Pacific views. Head south and you’ll find the Lewis and Clark Salt Cairn Historic Monument, Painted Rock Beach and a magnificent, misty view of the protruding Tillamook Head.
“Seaside is a great place for families,” says David Posalski, who has lived in Seaside since 2010 when his son was in 7th grade. Posalski’s Tip: Look for Sand Dollars after storms near the mouth of the river north of 12th Avenue.
Volunteering is a timeless pastime, often its own reward. But this year at Seaside, everyone who pitches in deserves a free cup of joe (or hot chocolate for the kids) too. Each person who removes a bag of trash from the beach earns $5 in redeemable coins with the city’s new Coffee for Clean Beaches program. Pick up free cleaning bags and gloves at the Seaside Aquarium gift shop, pick up litter on the way back from the beach, and snap a selfie showing off your handiwork before leaving the full sacks next to a trash can at prom. Then, show the selfie at the Welcome Center on Highway 101 and Broadway to receive your beach cleanup tokens.
Explore and soar beyond Seaside
Seaside acts as the perfect stepping stone to the deep end of Northwest Oregon – rich in history, nature and wild fun – perfect for families with older children or parents and adult children traveling together.
About 20 miles north of Seaside, discover the Fort Clatsop National Park Visitor Center, where a replica of the fort and costumed guides explain Lewis and Clark’s whereabouts during the rainy winter of 1805-1806. Miles of family-friendly walking trails surround the fort, taking visitors through towering firs and unfolding ferns. Play Lewis and Clark by hiking the 6.5-mile Fort to Sea Trail through the treetops and rolling grasslands to Sunset Beach on the Pacific Ocean.
For a more serious challenge, try nature’s stair climbing at Saddle Mountain State Park. A zigzag trail offers sheer difficulty on the way to the summit. In fact, it’s so steep that wire partially covers the trail to give hikers a steady footing. But the rewards are far better than at a gym — good weather puts Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood in focus, and you can see the entire North Coast region, including the Columbia River and parts of Washington.
Brave families with children as young as seven can get an adrenaline rush at High Life Adventure Park, where visitors navigate an obstacle course on tightropes 20 to 40 feet above the ground. Families 15 and older can connect with Discover Paragliding and pull ashore when the gusts blow north of Seaside to soar even higher.
When you head home, you might be glad you brought a bag of toffee for the kids, a cool t-shirt for your partner, or warm alpaca socks for your parents. But each will cherish the unique memories of fun, sun and sea for decades to come.
Seaside has long been Oregon’s enduring beach town, the meeting place for traditions like kite flying, bumper car rides, ice cream eating and more. Experience the legendary 100-year-old boardwalk this fall and win prizes just by showing up!