First-time visitors to Oregon's breathtakingly rugged and beautiful coast are sometimes surprised by just how dramatic the scenery is - unless you live in the Northwest, there's a good chance you haven't heard much about this part of the country that's relatively far from major population centers compared with much of Atlantic and Gulf coasts as well as the California portion of the Pacific. As the Pacific Northwest continues to enjoy more and more popularity, however, and increasing numbers of gays and lesbians visit and move to Portland, Eugene, and the Willamette Valley (not to mention the not-too-far Seattle-Tacoma region), the Oregon Coast is steadily developing cachet as a gay vacation getaway.
Towns along the northern coast, such as Astoria and Cannon Beach have become very popular (nearby Seaside is even hosting a women's weekend in early October 2016), and farther down along the central coast, bustling and festive Lincoln City and nearby Newport also rank among the top Oregon seaside getaways.
With GLBT tourism playing a growing role in this region, there has also been an Oregon Coast Pride festival, formerly known as the Iris Pride Festival, held along the coast in recent years. Unfortunately, the event was cancelled last year, and as of this writing, the organizers haven't announced any future plans for the event.
Happily, the diverse and increasingly LGBT-frequented small city of Astoria, occupies a beautiful setting at the mouth of the Columbia River and at the northern end of the Oregon Coast, has launched its first Gay Pride event this year. The inaugural Astoria Oregon Gay Pride is set to take place the weekend of June 9 through June 11, 2016.
The festivities kick off on Thursday, June 9, with a performance of groundbreaking play, The Madness of Lady Bright, at 8 pm at the One Act Readers Theater, and Big Fat Gay Movie Night at the Columbian Theater at 10 pm. On Friday, the Pride Gala Celebration will feature performances from drag stars Shitney Houston, Annie DePressant, a dance party, and much more (doors open at 7 pm, the show starts at 8 pm).
The celebration culminates on Saturday, June 11, with a River Walk Parade with the fabulous and always-entertaining Portland-based drag personality Poison Waters and Astoria's favorite local queer leader Dida DeAngelis both on hand. Other events on Saturday include a Queer Art Show, Lesbian DJ Dance Party, AIDS Memorial Quilt Viewing, and all-age Dance Party with DJ Ali Aht, and more.
If you're looking for lodging options while in town, check out my article on the romantic and upscale Cannery Pier Hotel & Spa, which sits right on the riverfront, and the artsy and decidedly urbane Commodore Hotel, which is more moderately priced but also has relatively few rooms, so you might want to book early if you wish to stay here. You can also consult the Astoria Gay Nightlife and Dining Guide for more on what to see and do in this inviting community.
Astoria Gay Resources
Astoria is roughly a two-hour drive from Portland (which celebrates Portland Gay Pride a week later) and a three-hour journey from Seattle, which hosts its hugely popular Gay Pride celebration during the last weekend in June. The Astoria Warrenton Chamber of Commerce has an excellent website packed with information and tips on exploring the area, and you'll find plenty more to see and do in the area just a short hop down U.S. 101 along the Oregon Coast.
Definitely set aside some time to visit Cannon Beach, with its colorful art galleries, inviting seaside cafes, and superb hiking at nearby Ecola State Park and Oswald West State Park. Check out the Cannon Beach Gay Guide for more on what to see and do in the area.
Lincoln City Gay Resources
Its about 2.5 hours up the coast from Lincoln City. Although you won't find expressly gay bars on the Oregon Coast, restaurants and lounges in most communities, including Lincoln City, are very welcoming. Macadangdang's Reefside Bar and Pier 101 Bar and Grill have been official sponsors of Oregon Coast Pride, as have been a number of hotels and motels in the area, including Chinook Winds Casino, as well as the Inn at Wecoma City, the Viking Motel, the Palace Inn & Suites, and the Liberty Inn.
For more information on visiting and traveling to Lincoln City and the surrounding central coast region, check out the website of the Lincoln City Visitor and Convention Bureau, which was a major supporter of Oregon Coast Pride, as well as the Oregon Coast Visitors Association for guidance on the state's entire coastline.