It’s likely been a few years since you’ve tossed aside worries and enjoyed simply having fun on the beach. You remember that vacation experience — salt-air beachside walks and kite-flying, fresh-made fudge, mom ‘n’ pop shops, bumper car slams and slow sunsets caught from the sand.

Families seeking a return to sweet, sweet fun can go “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 spaces, and sand for miles. And a few modern surprises along the way. Here’s how to Seaside for yourself.

Downtown Seaside

Downtown Seaside presents hundreds of fun options along streets great for slow cruising and people-watching. Most shops and restaurants cluster along and near Broadway, with hotels, inns, vacation homes and bed and breakfasts fanning outwards. More than 100 gardens dot the downtown area, and 64 flower baskets hang from lamp posts. 

“I love how walkable Seaside is,” says Kerri Lambert, a Seaside-based mom to two kids ages 10 and 14. “You can park your car at your hotel or in our free public parking lots and not have to get into your car again for most Seaside activities and dining.”

Broadway’s wide sidewalks make space for baby strollers, wheelchairs and multigenerational groups. Activities for every interest and age fill the streets, creating memories for everyone to last a lifetime. Seaside Skooters plays all the greatest childhood hits: Tilt-A-Whirl, indoor mini-golf and bumper cars. Nearby, arcades test reflexes and produce prizes. Carousel Mall features a classic toy store and a historic carousel.

After you’ve worked up an appetite, classic Seaside fare includes fish ‘n’ chips and caramel corn, alongside newer high-end fare like Maggie’s on the Prom. Seaside’s multiple local and seasonal breweries, cafes and restaurants place the town on the North Coast Food Trail, which traces 85 miles of Oregon shores. Stop by Dough Dough Bakery for scones, Seaside Brewery for a pint or the Seaside Farmer’s Market for locally grown produce.

Lambert recommends Pig ‘N Pancake as an excellent place for all ages, serving all-day breakfast. The Pronto Pup is perfect for grab-and-go. For treats, consider Zingers Ice Cream, the 170 flavors at Sea Star Gelato, or watch taffy being pulled at Phillips Candies, a tradition since 1897.

Nearby Wheel Fun Rentals offers rentable surrey bikes built for two (or six, or nine) and kids’ trailers and beach-ready deuce coupes. “The Swan Paddle Boats on the Necanicum River is a fun way to experience the waterway,” Lambert says.

North Seaside’s outlet mall hosts tax-free Northwest favorites like Nike and Pendleton. Downtown Seaside boutiques run the gamut, including beach keepsakes, kid-friendly bookstores, year-round Christmas decor, folk art and musical instruments sourced worldwide, locally made goods and imported alpaca wool 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 store that sells 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 fine selfie backdrop. Choose from various perspectives for your Instagram shot: Pacific Ocean, Tillamook Head or a statue of explorers Lewis and Clark.

Seaside beach

Many Northwest beaches are rocky and steep, but Seaside offers an idyllic, quintessential shoreline. Seaside’s sand is just the stuff for building sandcastles and sunbathing, while waves provide the H2O for wading while beachcombing, surfing at the Cove and even whale-watching. On those overcast days, you’ll still see kites soar and dance on westward winds. 

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Or bring binoculars to spot migrating birds (without getting sand in your shoes) on the 1.5-mile Promenade, a historic Oregon landmark constructed in 1921. Amble along the 12-foot-wide paved path right next to the ocean, flat enough for toddlers to navigate and providing plenty of sights for seen-it-all adults. Fine restaurants and inns, towering vacation condos, hundred-year-old beach cottages and the family-friendly Seaside Aquarium line the oceanfront Promenade.

Lambert recommends the aquarium for touch tanks and a chance to feed seals. “Go in the morning when the seals are hungry,” she suggests.

Moving north, cyclists and strollers find that the trail soon becomes quieter, with tall grasses framing priceless views of the Pacific. Going south, you’ll find the Lewis and Clark Salt Cairn Historic Monument, Painted Rock Beach and gorgeous, filmy-mist views of jutting 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 estuary north of 12th Avenue.

Volunteering is a timeless pastime, often its own reward. But this year in Seaside, pitching in also earns a free cup of joe (or hot chocolate, for the kids). Each person who removes a bag of litter from the beach earns $5 in redeemable coins with the city’s new Coffee for Clean Beaches program. Get free cleanup bags and gloves at the Seaside Aquarium’s gift shop, pick up litter on your way back in from the beach and take a selfie showing off your handiwork before leaving the full bags next to any trash bin on the Prom. Then, in the Welcome Center at Highway 101 and Broadway, show the selfie to get your beach cleanup coins. 

Explore and soar beyond Seaside

Seaside acts as a perfect springboard for Northwest Oregon’s deep end — rich with history, nature and wild fun — perfect for families with older kids or parents and adult kids traveling together.

About 20 miles north of Seaside, discover Fort Clatsop National Park’s visitor center, where a replica fort and costumed guides explain Lewis and Clark’s rainy winter 1805-1806 stay. Miles of family-friendly trails surround the fort, taking visitors through towering firs and unfurling ferns. Play Lewis and Clark by hiking the 6.5-mile Fort to Sea Trail through the forest canopy and rolling pastureland to Sunset Beach on the Pacific.  

For a more serious challenge, attempt nature’s stair-climber at Saddle Mountain State Park. A zigzag trail offers sheer difficulties en route to the summit. In fact, it’s so steep that in parts, wire covers the path to provide solid footing for hikers. But the reward is far better than in a gym — good weather brings Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood into focus and you can see the entire North Coast region, including the Columbia River and parts of Washington.

Brave families with kids ages seven and up can enjoy adrenaline thrills at High Life Adventure Park, where visitors navigate a ropes-based obstacle course 20-40 feet off the ground. Families aged 15 plus can connect with Discover Paragliding and coast on gusts north of Seaside to soar even higher.

As you head home, you might be glad you picked up a bag of taffy for the kids, a cool T-shirt for your partner or warm alpaca socks for your parents. But everyone will treasure the only-in-Seaside memories of fun, sun and sea for decades to come.

Visit Seaside, Oregon! We’re a walkable, bikeable, lovable beach town with a 100-year-old Prom and lots to see and do.