Before you say goodbye to Oregon and head north, crossing the mighty Columbia River into Washington, it’s good to stop in a small city that celebrates the uniquely Oregon way of life. Astoria is perfectly positioned to fill that role. Its small-town business district is — almost literally — in the shadow of the bridge that will take you away, while at the same time, making you wish you didn’t have to leave. And the restaurants and businesses you’ll find here will make it clear that you’re surrounded by people who think a bit differently.
Go ahead and find a parking spot along Commercial Street, which doubles as US 30 — within walking distance of the end (or for the optimist, the beginning) of the transcontinental highway. Speaking of walking, take a stroll and check out the storefronts. There are actual businesses here — still open and busy.
I was pleased to see that the Urban Cafe was still here. I had lunch here, back in 2004. For some reason, at the time, I picked up a business card and slipped it in my wallet. I don’t know why, but I carried it with me for years. On this visit, however, I wasn’t in need of a meal.
There’s quite a bit of interesting architecture to appreciate in Astoria. Much of the downtown district dates back to the 1920’s. The Copeland, Hobson, and Carruthers buildings (circa 1923) are all tied together, with an art gallery and restaurant on the first floor.
The Liberty Theatre was built in 1925, and neglected for many years. A major restoration effort, which began in 1998, paid off in 2005, when it re-opened as a performing arts venue. If you’re very lucky, you might be able to catch a showing of The Goonies, which was filmed in Astoria.
On the other side of 12th Street, just south of Commercial, you’ll find one of Astoria’s classiest places to stay. The restored boutique Elliott Hotel offers 32 rooms in a great location.
Another grand old hotel now offers apartments instead. The John Jacob Astor Apartment Building used to be the Hotel Astoria, back in 1924. It was abandoned, with broken windows looming over downtown for years, until it was renovated in 1984.has details on its rich history.
You simply can’t visit Astoria without walking through a few of its quirky art galleries. Back in 2004, I picked up a t-shirt from Lunar Boy (on the left).
On the way out of town, you’ll take the Astoria-Megler Bridge. It’s slightly longer than 4 miles, which makes it the longest continuous truss bridge in North America. It was also the final segment of US 101 to be completed, between Olympia, Washington and Los Angeles.
Don’t miss the Astoria Column, on a hill above town, where you’ll enjoy a great view of the Columbia River (it’s where I took the previous photo of the bridge, back in 2004).
Here’s the time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from Astoria, across the Columbia River and into Washington, ending at Raymond: