With its charming coastal homes, year round amusements, and lively ways to have fun, Seaside is a first rate family playground. Rain or shine it offers history that intrigues, shops to browse, and madcap activities that enthrall the young and the young at heart alike. Less than 100 miles from Portland, you arrive before anyone in the back seat asks "Mommy, Daddy, are we there yet?"
Start your trip with one of Seaside’s favorite attractions: feeding the seals at the aquarium on the Promenade. "The Prom" is a 1.8 mile walkway built in 1920 which parallels the ocean and offers smooth travel for baby strollers. As you enter Seaside on Roosevelt Drive, turn left on Broadway and park for free on the street, as near the ocean as you can. As you walk up Broadway to the Prom, you’ll reach the automobile turnaround and a statue of Lewis and Clark that marks where their odyssey ended and they turned around to go home.
Turn north on the Prom and walk to the aquarium. As you enter, pick up some seal food-capelin smelt-that will make seals do everything but fly. Seals are intelligent but hungry and impatient. If you don’t throw fish fast enough to please them, they’ll encourage you with barks, grunts, bellows, flipper claps, and gymnastic leaps that often drench people standing nearest their pen. But few kids get this close to wild animals, so it’s worth a soaking to hear shrieks of delight as the seals catch their treats right out of the air.
When you’ve explored the aquarium, return to Broadway which is Seaside’s main shopping street. On the south side, find Above It All, a kite store whose wares are limited only by human imagination. Here you’ll see balloon, scarecrow, witch, chicken, and frog kites.
There’s a P 40 Warhawk kite that spins and flashes its famous shark teeth in the wind. No wonder kids of all ages think kites are magic. If you’re still looking for the kite of your dreams, it’s probably in this shop.
Now pack up your kites for later this afternoon and head down Broadway to the Funland arcade. They have bumper cars to ride with no fenders to bend. You may think you’re immune to the lure of gambling, but Funland’s video games could prove you wrong. Because you can stop any time, right? Be careful of Wheel of Fortune and Spin-N-Win. They generate credit for more games and more. . . until you’re hooked like a gaffed fish.
To escape the clutches of video land, cross the street to the Carousel Mall, a circle of shops with a working carousel at the center. Animals to ride besides horses include rabbits, ostriches, cats, seahorses, giraffes, and reindeer. The outside ring of animals moves faster than the inside ring at an estimated 20 mph. If your child has never ridden a carousel, you can stand and hold her on a horse.
If you’ve brought two or more generations to Seaside, stop in the mall’s Old Time Photos shop for a family picture that will mean much in years to come. You can sit in front of a curtain, or stick your heads through holes in a special background, such as a saloon scene or a Victorian fireplace scene, and get a picture with everyone in it. It’s often grandparents who know the value of multi generation photos that become family heirlooms over time.
A final stop before leaving the mall is Under The Big Top, a game, book, doll, and puzzle store for kids. The quality of their toys, including their plush puppets, is high and prices are lower than you might think. They offer favorites such as Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls with original stories by Johnny Gruelle, who wrote these tales in 1918 for his daughter Marcella.
If you’re making it an overnighter, try the Best Western Ocean View Resort for good rates and superlative ocean access and views. If your dog is a part of the family you can’t leave behind, bring it along. Pets are allowed at this Best Western on the first and second floors for an extra $20 per pet per night.
After checking in, pack your beach gear (including kites) and stop by Doogers on Broadway for sandwiches to go. Their Beachcomber of ham and Swiss on rye is big and can be ordered as half a sandwich. Or try their Carnwich, a Dooger’s trademark with its medley of chicken strips and cheese.
Then head out for an afternoon of sea and sand. Older kids can fly kites on the beach or throw a ball for the dog. Young ones can blow soap bubbles from that bottle of bubble fluid you brought along. Best Western Ocean View has swings behind their facility, and every age loves these. When your crew tires of kites, switch to the frisbee. Volleyball works if you have a net. Sand castles are another favorite pastime. Just be sure to heed all warnings when playing near water. The ocean is pitiless and unpredictable. A perfect day means never turning your back on the sea.
Salvatore’s Café and Pub at Best Western offers a popular and reasonably priced dinner solution for traveling families. Their family style pizza costs less than ten dollars and comes with a family sized salad bowl with choice of dressing, warm breadsticks, and a pitcher of soda. Other options include a vegetarian pizza or a seafood and pasta combo like their six-cheese ravioli with scampi and prawns.
After a warm family dinner, end your day with a goodnight walk on the beach. The ebbing tide with its stranded fish attracts seabirds such as gulls, surf scoters, plovers, and terns. Droves of sand dollars appear for collecting. A calm dusk quiets active minds and promotes closeness between parent and child. Hang on to toddlers when you walk near water to be sure your perfect day ends as perfectly as it began.
Before you leave Seaside in the morning, take your family to breakfast at Pig’N Pancake on Broadway. They serve everything from Dungeness crab or shrimp omelets to a yogurt granola plate with six kinds of fruit as well as "sand dollar pancakes".
Seaside is kid-friendly and will make you want to stay. It won’t be long before you’re planning your family’s next perfect day on the Oregon Coast.
What and Where:
Seaside Aquarium (200 North Prom; 503-738-6211)
Best Western Ocean View Resort (414 North Prom; Reservations 800-234-8439)
Salvatore’s Café and Pub at Best Western (414 North Prom: 503-738-3334)
Above It All (19 Broadway; 503-738-3333)
Old Time Photos in the Carousel Mall (300 Broadway; 503-738-6728)
Under the Big Top in the Carousel Mall (300 Broadway; 503-738-6728)
Pig’N Pancake (323 Broadway; 503-738-7243)
Doogers Seafood & Grill (505 Broadway; 503-738-3773)
What to Bring:
Sensible walking shoes, Sandals for beach, Sun screen and hats, Sweater for beach combing, Soap bubble blowing kit, Frisbee, Volleyball and net
Catherine Crawford is a former technical writer, editor, and course materials developer for high-tech industries. She has taught college English at the four-year degree level, and published two award-winning chapbooks of poetry. She lives and works as an editor in Vancouver, Washington.