Food, Drinks, and History
Astoria is dense with history. Whatever brings you to town, it's impossible to miss the pull of two centuries packed with violence, optimism, greed, good intentions, disasters, revivals, and a struggle as constant as the Columbia waters that rage past every day. It's well worth it to plan a day in Astoria diving into the city's multifarious past. Not to worry―this is no boring museum-hopping trip. Astoria's history is interwoven with its daily life. You can experience the city's rich past while eating and drinking your way through a couple quasi-educational days.
Start your visit to Astoria with lunch at the Fort George Brewery (15th and Duane, a short two blocks from the Commodore). Like a lot of the establishments you'll be visiting, the Fort George is housed in a historical building. Built in 1924, the Fort George building was home to an auto service station from its construction through the late-1990s. You can get started on your history tour by asking the staff what they know about Astoria. Everyone in town has at least a few good stories. If you talk to the locals, you'll start seeing some patterns (and probably a few inconsistencies).
After lunch, walk a block-and-a-half over to the Heritage Museum at 16th and Exchange. This is your official history lesson. You get the big picture of Astoria's rich history as well as a lot of intriguing facts about this unique city. (For example: Clark Gable started his acting career in Astoria in 1922.) The wide-ranging collection of artifacts gives you a good feel for how Astoria looked, felt, and smelled during its heydey at the previous turn of the century. The upstairs features a recreation of the kind of bar and gambling palace that Astoria was famous for in the late-1800s, when it was one of the West Coast's wildest boom towns.
Next, head eight blocks across downtown to the Flavel House Museum, a well-preserved mansion built by Astoria's own eccentric rich guy, Captain George Flavel. This museum recreates the Victorian-era home of the city's leading family, an infamously quirky bunch to say the least. This will give you another taste and smell of Astoria (of the more genteel type) during the late-1800s.
Now that you've had your official history lesson, it's time to check in to the hotel and take a break. Drop off your bags and luxuriate in the room for a bit. Shower up. Wear the robe. Watch some TV.
As evening comes on, it's time to get out into the city. Go to Albatross, right across the street, for a top-notch drink and a bite. You'll probably want to stay at the Albatross all night, but other adventures await.
Head three blocks over to the Voodoo Room (1114 Marine Drive). Cocktails, witchcraft and live music lie in wait for you at this eclectic, ramshackle establishment.
The next morning, get breakfast at Columbia Cafe (1114 Marine Drive, adjacent to the Voodoo Room). This place features fresh, locally-sourced ingredients and an up-close and personal griddle-based experience.
After check-out, grab a last coffee at Street 14 Coffee and hit the Columbia River Maritime Museum on the way out of town (you could walk too―it's only 4 blocks away at 1792 Marine Drive). This is totally worth it. It's a big-city museum experience right here in small-city Astoria. Just take a look at the outside of the building. Yes, that's a full-sized boat being tossed on 50-foot seas. Whatever else you did or didn't learn (or remember) from your other museum jaunts, you'll have some good takeaways to prove to your friends back home that you didn't just go on an Astoria pub crawl.