Five Reasons Why Astoria Is the Cultural Hub of the Oregon Coast

Come for the Oregon Film Museum and the shipwreck, stay for Stout Month, the vintage music venue, and the FishersPoets Gathering

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Astoria is the Portland of the Oregon coast.

Some coasties will certainly scoff at that description, and to be sure, Astoria and neighboring town, Warrenton, have their own identity. But what other seaside town has such a similar aura of eccentricity that it could act as the setting for a movie as weird and wonderful as The Goonies? Where else is one of the main tourist attractions the remains of a sunken ship still half-stuck in the sand? What other quaint coastal village spends a whole month celebrating dark beers, has multiple rad record stores, a classic old theater and an art gallery on practically every corner?

On second thought, since Astoria is in fact the oldest city in Oregon, it might be accurate to say that Portland is the Astoria of the Willamette Valley.

In any case, it’s not much of a stretch to call Astoria the North Coast’s cultural hub. Most people are aware of The Goonies and the Peter Iredale Shipwreck, but there’s many more activities and sights to see in this gorgeous, working town community.

Planning a trip soon? Here’s just a few suggestions on what to do and where to visit when you get there.

Stout Month

For over two decades, Fort George Brewery has dedicated the grayest, drizzliest month of the year to the darkest, smoothest and most soul-warming of beers: stouts. Sadly, the annual Festival of the Dark Arts, which stuffs Astoria’s brewery blocks with hundreds of dark beer fanatics for one Saturday in February, is going dark (pun somewhat intended) for the second straight year due to the pandemic. But that doesn’t mean the brewery is simply dumping all its surplus stouts into the sewer. Rather, Fort George will be spreading its celebration of black-hearted brews throughout the entire month, with weekly live music and events, special tap takeovers and more. And if you’re still dying to attend a proper beer festival, wait until May for the brewery’s annual IPA-focused Lupulin Ecstasy Festival, which, as of now, is still a go.

Second Saturday Art Walk

Want a crash-course in the Astoria art scene that’ll get you fully immersed in a single afternoon? The Second Saturday Art Walk is your one-stop shop. A long-running civic tradition, it’s pretty self-explanatory: On the second Saturday of each month, downtown’s growing assemblage of studios and galleries open their doors and set up on the sidewalk, with special exhibits highlighting local artists in a variety of mediums. One participating institution is the Astoria Art Loft. Housed in a century-old white-paneled building above an art supply store, it’s a space that’s proudly for artists, by artists. Founded by painters Jeanette Gran-Dravis and Jo Pomeroy-Crockett, it’s a combination gallery and teaching center, exhibiting a rotating selection of local, regional and international creators while also hosting workshops and classes covering everything from watercolors to fused glass. And with its classes geared specifically toward children, it’s a place that doesn’t just showcase artists, but fosters the next generation—from the ages of 6 and up.

Liberty Theatre

This performance hall isn’t just the most gorgeous venue in Astoria, but possibly the entire coast—heck, maybe even the whole state. First built in the 1920s, the former movie house underwent a full-scale restoration in 2005, revitalizing the original architecture while maintaining the vintage vibes. Its winter programming has been canceled due to COVID, so bookmark the online event calendar for upcoming spring events. One performing arts event that’s still going forward—albeit in virtual form—is the annual FisherPoets Gathering, in which members of the fishing industry get together to perform poetry and spoken word about sea preservation and other oceanic matters. See the Travel Astoria website for more information.

Oregon Film Museum

Yes, everyone knows The Goonies was filmed in Astoria—much to the chagrin of the current owners of the so-called “Goonie House”—but what do you know about Short Circuit 2? Or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III? Or, if you’re an extreme deep-cut cineaste, 1909′s The Fisherman’s Bride? Oregon’s film history is rich yet underappreciated, and that goes double for Clatsop County specifically. The Oregon Film Museum contains bits and pieces of many of the productions to take place on the North Coast, with a special emphasis, naturally, on The Goonies. The best part? The building is the former home of the Clatsop County Jail, and much of the interior remains intact. Step inside the cell used to house a member of the villainous Fratelli gang in the Spielberg-produced classic, and get your mugshot taken to really freak out your mom.

The Peter Iredale Ship Wreck

Astoria is crazy for shipwrecks. As mentioned earlier, there’s the famed Peter Iredale, an English vessel which ran aground on the coast of Warrenton in 1906 and whose remains are still stuck in the sand at Fort Stevens State Park. But it’s far from the only example of maritime carnage to occur along the Columbia River Bar—nearly 2,000 vessels, in fact, have sunk over the last three centuries, earning the region the name “the Graveyard of the Pacific.” The Columbia River Maritime Museum’s upcoming exhibit dedicated to the history of shipwrecks details how such disasters happen, and what we’ve learned from them. Want something more interactive? Check out the museum’s remote control boat pond, or head out to sea yourself via Arrow Tugboat & Tour. Don’t worry, we’re pretty sure you’ll make it back to shore.

Visit TravelAstoria.com for more information on planning your trip to Astoria.