LGBTQ Travel Guide to Astoria, Oregon

View of downtown Astoria and the Columbia River, from the observation deck atop the Astoria Column on Coxcomb Hill

 Tripsavvy / Andrew Collins

Situated at the mouth of the mighty Columbia River, just across from Washington State's infamous and treacherous Cape Disappointment, the historic fishing-cannery town of Astoria (503-325-6311 for tourism information) has emerged as a favorite weekend getaway in recent years, especially with the residents of Portland (just two hours away) and Seattle (a little over three hours). The northernmost community on Oregon's gorgeous, rocky, and hill coastline, Astoria is both a river and a seaside town, containing the best elements of each. It's also just a 45-minute drive up the coast from another favorite gay getaway in Oregon, charming Cannon Beach, and about two hours' drive north of Lincoln City.

New in 2016, the city is also hosting its own Pride Celebration - the first Astoria Pride will take place in June.

Compact Astoria, with a population of around 10,000, has a number of notable museums, including one of the most comprehensive and engaging in the Northwest, the Columbia River Maritime Museum, which chronicles the region's - and the river's - long history, dating back to the days when explorers Lewis and Clark concluded their journey in the area. Astoria is, in fact, the earliest U.S. settlement on the Pacific Coast, having been established by and named for John Jacob Astor as a fur-trading post in the early 19th century. Astoria prospered as a major port settlement, and later as a fish-canning and timber hub (it was HQ for Bumblebee Seafood at one point).

Astoria's industrial fortunes declined steadily in the latter half of the 20th century, but has in recent years found new life as an urbane, arty destination that captures the coast's beauty and easy pace, but has a creative edge and noteworthy food scene that makes it a favorite of Portlanders. You'll find a number of stellar restaurants and coffeehouses in Astoria's historic, compact downtown, plus some excellent hotels. And although the Oregon coast is most popular during the summer and fall months, Astoria stays busy and interesting year-round. A number of gay folks have moved to town, and several businesses in town have a strong LGBT following.

Here's more on gay-friendly nightlife and great restaurants in Astoria, and on two of the top gay-friendly hotels in town, the Cannery Pier Hotel and the Commodore Hotel.

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Astoria Oregon Gay-Friendly Dining - Astoria Oregon Gay Bars

photo by Andrew Collins

Astoria continues to grow in popularity as a friendly, artsy, and progressive town that's a favorite getaway with GLBT residents in Portland and Seattle. While there are no specific gay bars here (or anywhere along the Oregon coast, for that matter), plenty of bars and restaurants in town cultivate a pretty mixed following, and the overall attitude in Astoria is very gay-friendly. A few establishments even have occasional GLBT parties.

Among the latter, the excellent Astoria Coffeehouse & Bistro (243 11th St., 503-325-1787) hosts a queer party, called Q Night. Just about any time, however, this cozy café pulls in plenty of LGBT business. Serving consistently outstanding, reasonably priced food, Astoria Coffeehouse has a full menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner fare (from a Monte Christo topped with lingonberry sauce and Willapa Bay oyster hash in the morning to beet salad with fresh local salmon and roasted lamb with butternut-squash ravioli in the evening), well-made espresso drinks, delectable baked goods, and a full bar. It's open till 8 pm most evening, and 9 on weekends, making a popular early-nightlife option. Across the street, the Columbian Theater, Voodoo Room, and Columbian Cafe (1102 Marine Dr., 503-325-3516 for theater; 1114 Marine Dr., 503-325-2233 for cafe and Voodoo Room) is another wonderfully inviting and atmospheric hangout with a notable gay following and occasional LGBT programming. In the historic theater, you can watch movies (films typically have a one-week run), enjoying beer and pizza. The cafe serves delicious Northwest-inspired fare (breakfast, lunch, and dinner, typically with a global spin (lots of Asian and Latin influences on the menu, and some great seafood); there's a nice cocktail and wine list, and a bunch of beers on tap. In the Voodoo Room, there's drinking, pizza, and live music on occasion.

Other fun spots in town for drinking and socializing include the lovably dive-y and raffish Mary Todd's Workers Bar & Grill (281 W. Marine Dr., 503-338-7291, which is situated below the soaring Astoria-Megler Bridge, which carries the U.S. 101 over the Columbia to Washington; and the Fort George Brewery (1483 Duane St., 503-325-7468), whose brightly colored cans of craft beer (Quick Wit and Vortex IPA are two favorites) are sold throughout the Northwest and gaining a following beyond. The Fort George pub and brewery is set inside a handsomely restored 1920s former auto shop with good-size side patio and an inviting dining room, with tasty pub fare served and live music presented on Sunday nights. Adjacent to the brewery in the same historic building, the Blue Scorcher Bakery & Cafe (1493 Duane St., 503-338-7473) is a funky, friendly, community-supportive spot for artisan breads and pastries, killer coffee, and soups, salads, and sandwiches with a focus on organic ingredients (and lots of vegetarian and vegan options).

An elegant space with top-notch service and creative seafood, Clemente's (1198 Commercial St., 503-325-1067) is a nice choice for a romantic dinner or leisurely lunch. Set inside a light-filled art deco building with large plate-glass windows, the restaurant is known for tuna poke, oysters on the half shell with habanero mignonette, and hearty cioppino. Set on Pier 39, a historic wharf in the Columbia River, Coffee Girl (100 39th St., Suite 2A, 503-325-6900) is located inside the oldest cannery building in the western United States (it was operated by the iconic Bumble Bee seafood company) - part of the fun is getting here, by driving out along a rickety-seeming (but sturdy) wooden bridge. This tiny cafe is in the back of the building, near the free Hanthorn Cannery Museum, a fascinating place documenting the life of workers who toiled for decades here at Pier 39 from the 1870s to the late 20th century). Perfectly prepared coffee is served in this cafe with fine water views (dine out on the balcony in nice weather), and pastries and sandwiches are served, too. Also here at Pier 39, Rogue Ales Public House (100 39th St., 503-325-5964) is a local outpost of the well-known craft brewery down the coast in Newport, Oregon. It's a convivial spot to sample great beer and nosh on reliably good chowders, sandwiches, burgers, fish tacos, and the like.

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Cannery Pier Hotel, Astoria, Oregon

photo by Andrew Collins

One of the most romantic and inviting hotels in town, the Cannery Pier Hotel (10 Basin St., 503-325-4996) sits on the pilings of a former cannery, in the shadows of the huge and striking Astoria-Megler Bridge, offering panoramic water views from its airy, handsomely furnished rooms, which have balconies, gas fireplaces, free Wi-Fi, and tubs with views out the big windows. Corner suites are especially snazzy, with wraparound decks and multiple tall windows. There's a great little spa on-site, and included in this upscale hotels rates are wine-and-salmon-lox hour each evening, Continental breakfast, and transportation into nearby downtown in vintage autos (the '45 Cadillac is especially swanky).

Guests can also use bikes for free, and enjoy an exercise room with sauna and hot tub. Even if you're not staying here, drop by for a look around, and to view the library and displays of vintage Astoria photos and museum displays.

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Commodore Hotel, Astoria, Oregon

photo by Andrew Collins

The cheerful staffers at downtown Astoria's quirky and hip Commodore Hotel (258 4th St., 503-325-4747) are used to hearing guests mention how much the hotel reminds them of the urban-cool Ace Portland and Ace Seattle hotels. Indeed, the vibe here does bear some resemblance to that of the Ace and other indie-spirited urban hotels around the Northwest. This vintage brick building opened in the 1920s as a hotel and enjoyed a good run, popular with passengers of the river ferry, but closed in the mid-'60s, which is also when the bridge across the Columbia was completed. The entire building sat unoccupied as something of a vault until new owners completely rehabbed and reinvented the Commodore as an affordable, 18-room boutique hotel in 2009.

It's a beautifully designed hotel now, with a mix of very compact rooms (that share spotless and stylish hall bathrooms with elegant tile-work and fixtures), which are quite affordable (starting well under $100 nightly), and eight suites, which has sitting areas and private bathrooms - two of them even have river views. The private-bath units start at around $109 in winter. Rooms have wall-mounted flat-screen TVs, good-size windows, comfy beds, and striking contemporary artwork. Those rooms that share hall baths do have their own sinks, and all rooms are outfitted with plush robes, which are perfect for the short trips to and from the shared bathrooms.

On the ground floor, there's a welcoming lobby and library, which is adjacent to a fun little cafe, the Street 14 Coffeehouse, which is a good bet for breakfast, although there are plenty of other great morning options nearby. The Commodore is an excellent choice if you want to be a short walk from local restaurants, the Columbia River Maritime Museum (and the riverfront), and other attractions.

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