Peering down on the Astoria–Megler Bridge from the Astoria Column park.
Image: Brian Barker
Peering down on the Astoria–Megler Bridge from the Astoria Column park.

"If you ever plan to motor west, travel my way, take the Highway [30]"...but don't wait until summer! Astoria and the rest of Oregon's North Coast offer plenty of action during the season of storms and snow.

EAT & DRINK

Pint with a View: Fort George Brewery's recently-remodeled second story pub is home to a blazing-hot pizza oven and ample bar and table seating—a welcome respite from the crowded waiting area on the first floor. Need another reason to go? Head out in February for Fort George's Stout Month and the brewery's lauded Festival of Dark Arts (Feb 14). 1483 Duane St, Astoria

New Kid on the Block: Albatross, the just-opened venture from chef Eric Bechard of Thistle restaurant in McMinnville (and the shuttered PDX game restaurant Kingdom of Roosevelt), occupies a cozy space across the street from the Commodore, offering sandwiches, salads, and some damn good French fries served with a rotating selection of housemade sauces. 225 14th St, Astoria

Reading Time at Blue Scorcher: Hip, bright, and erected next to the site of the original Fort of Astoria, Blue Scorcher serves toothsome pastries, breads, and cakes using vegetarian and local ingredients (with tons of gluten-free options). Don’t miss the freshly baked cinnamon rolls or house-spiced chai, and check out the free-to-browse stacks of magazines for a hunkered-down afternoon of bliss. 1493 Duane St, Astoria

↑Astoria Coffeehouse & Bistro: Part neighborhood hub, part coffee counter, part eclectic eatery, this Astoria standby offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, and happy hour geared toward the locals.  locally-sourced produce, meats, and direct caught seafood, everything is made from scratch—from the house corned beef in the morning's hash to the can't-miss chocolate cake and ice cream. 243 11th St, Astoria

Bosnian-Style Comfort Food: When Astoria’s fog clamps down, you’ll find no better consolation than at Drina Daisy. The owners make meals much like they did at their family restaurant outside Sarajevo for more than 30 years, roasting whole, tender young lambs on a spit; baking fresh bread; and stewing richly spiced beef goulash. 915 Commercial St, Astoria

Astoria's Pier 39
Astoria's Pier 39

←Keep Caffeinated: Some of the coast’s best storm-watching seats can be found inside Astoria’s intimate Coffee Girl, a coffee shop perched on Pier 39, home to the West’s oldest Cannery. From behind the original 1875 counter, the Coffee Girl’s baristas serve artfully decorated lattes made with Seattle roaster Caffe D’Arte beans. Add an enormous slab of lemon bread or an oversize coconut-mango scone (made on site, of course) to your latte and pull up a seat at one of the wall-sized picture windows. Wipe down your pane (squeegees are provided), kick back to Etta James’ rich refrains, and revel in the warmth while Neptune stirs up the water just outside. 100 39th St #2, Astoria

Let the Good Times Roll: Finish the night with live music and another local beer at the Big Easy–inspired, gloriously divey Voodoo Room bar. 1114 Marine Dr, Astoria

Coming SoonAstoria’s working waterfront may be best known for its canning culture, but today the historic fishing town has its eyes set on another canned commodity: beer. Opening in early 2014, Buoy Beer will start production on a three-barrel pilot system with plans of increasing up to a 20-barrel system. The brewery sets up shop in the old New England Fish Company building on the Columbia River waterfront and will feature a full restaurant serving fresh seafood from Eric Jenkins, former executive chef at Oregon State University’s Seafood Cooking School. 

DO

Plan Ahead: Mark your calendars for February 20-23. the annual FisherPoets Gathering. This heralded celebration brings together Northwest fishermen and women to share salty tales and touching lines in a smattering of intimate Astoria venues.

Get Schooled (and Stay Warm): Want to escape the rain and snow? Astoria is home to several museums for the history buff, wannabe seafarer, movie lover, and more:

  • For anyone who wants to understand the city’s deep connection with the cold waters at its edge, the Columbia River Maritime Museum (→) is a must-do. Beautifully crafted exhibits drop you in the middle of the aquatic action, including creaky, deep-sea fishing vessels, giant commercial tankers, and a dramatic Coast Guard rescue.
  • Architecture fans can explore the Flavel House Museum, the grand Victorian in downtown Astoria built by Captain George Flavel in the 1880s. 
  • The city’s history may stretch back for centuries, but in some circles Astoria’s biggest claim to fame is serving as the setting for The GooniesHoused in the jail used in the film’s opening scene, the Oregon Film Museum is an altar for Gooniephiles, with props, original scripts, and memorabilia. Some of the city’s other cinematic achievements, such as Kindergarten Cop and Free Willy, are also chronicled here.

Go Clamming: Winter's frequent minus tides make Seaside razor clamming by lantern light a must for seafood lovers. According to the Oregon Coast Visitors Association, this season’s remaining minus tide opportunities in Seaside will occur on December 30-January 3 and January 28-February 2.

Custom spice blends at Pat's Pantry
Custom spice blends at Pat's Pantry

←Get Spicy at Pat's Pantry: Stock up on global flavors and custom spice blends at Pat Milliman and Tom Leiner's minimalist herb, salt, vinegar, oil, and spice shop in downtown Astoria. The pair offer in-store demos, product tastings, and an array of cooking classes. 1133 Commercial St., Astoria

Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah: High Life Adventures zip line park in Warrenton, Ore. offers “Twinkle Tours” every Friday and Saturday evening through the month of December. Lanterns and headlights guide zippers across 1,600 feet of line over lush forest on the Oregon Coast at dusk. Tours start at 5 p.m. and reservations are required—book online or call 503-861-9875.

STAY

There's a Room for Everyone: 

  • Hip Portlanders flock to the Commodore Hotel, a 1920s travelers’ boardinghouse converted into 17 chic, European-style rooms. 
  • One of Oregon's oldest hotels, Astoria's Norblad Hotel and Hostel recently got a facelift. The owners of the Commodore Hotel purchased the property (formerly the Hideaway Inn and Hostel) in 2007 and have been slowly restoring the near 100-year-old hotel with marble showers, a community kitchen in the hostel, and updated euro-style rooms. 
  • Cannery Pier Hotel
    Image: Brian Barker
    Cannery Pier Hotel
    For a taste of Astoria's past, you can't beat Hotel EliottBuilt in 1924 (and remodeled in 2003), this Art Deco hotel places you in the heart of downtown, within easy walking distance of almost every restaurant, museum, waterfront bar, and kooky used bookshop in town. Grab a room with a fireplace and get cozy—there's no better place to watch the rain fall—and when it's time to venture outside, head upstairs to the hotel's Rooftop Terrace for stunning views of the Columbia River, Astoria Column and neighboring Victorian neighborhoods.
  • For a romantic escape on the river, check into the Cannery Pier Hotel (→). Built on the original pilings of the Union Fish Cannery (established in 1897), this lavish hotel marries turn-of-the century charm with modern comfort. Historic photographs festoon the lobby walls while floor-to-ceiling windows practically put you in the Columbia River and on the passing freighters. 
Every other Tuesday: Weekend escapes, travel deals, lodging and dining picks, and ideas for Northwest getaways. (See an example!)