My son asks me regularly to play nerf guns with him. My daughter wants me to play Rapunzel with her as a doofy version of Flynn Rider. My wife has an endless list of tasks she wants help in accomplishing. I have my list. Far too often it seems that those lists wind up taking priority of imaginative playing with our kids.
When we finally whittle each of our lists down each day, the day is over. The kids march up to their rooms, dejected that the “When are we going to play?” response of “Later” never came. It’s hard, and we have responsibilities our young children simply don’t understand, or perhaps, we just get too busy placing our focus on the wrong to-do list.
Our recent trip to Long Beach, Washington, turned out to be just what we needed. Some time to play with our kids and be able to put more of our attention on them and their growing worlds.
About Long Beach, Washington:
Long Beach is on the Southern Corner of Washington state, not far from Astoria, Oregon. It is where Lewis and Clark ended their Journey to the Pacific. Long Beach also claims the world’s longest continuous peninsula beach, boasting 28 miles of sandy beaches. You can drive on significant portions of the beach, outside of areas that are marked off for conservation purposes.
It is a great spot for grey whale watching. Twice a year, in December and Mid-March to April, you can take advantage of the off-season to watch the grey whales migrate.
In Late August each year, the International Kite Festival is held on the shores. It’s the largest kite festival in North America and draws huge crowds to check out the lighted kite shows and kite fights. Kite fights are when abrasive lines are used to cut the lines of an opponents kite. Some of the kites are massive and it is truly one of the most interesting festivals in Washington.
Where we Stayed:
I spent some time looking around before going. The hotels all seemed to be booked. I found the Sou’wester Lodge. Having seen a handful of the Vintage Trailer park resorts in the area I couldn’t help but feel a bit inclined to stay. They, unfortunately, had all their trailer rooms booked, but they had a handful of RV spaces available. So, we booked one of those and packed up the RV.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of Vintage Trailer Park resorts. Think old shiny airstreams parked on a grass lot with plastic furniture and pink flamingos. The Sou’wester had these but they also had a bit of an off-the-grid commune feel to it as well.
The lodge itself, a large red building was built in 1892 as a vacation him to Senator Corbett, an Oregon Senator, and businessman. Today the lodge features several rooms that are available to rent, a wrap-around porch with an honor system store. Which is great when it’s late and you need a few snacks. They also have a handful of toys for the kids to borrow as well as a collection of movies and various crafts.
The lodge also has a thrift store and art store in small vintage trailers and a Garden Spa and Finnish Sauna. There aren’t fire pits for each RV spot, campsite, or trailer, but there are plenty scattered around giving you the opportunity to converse with the others staying at the Sou’wester Lodge.
What stood out to me was the concert they had in the lodge and the artist in residency programs. I stuck my head in and snapped a few photos of a Wood carving class being taught by Long Beach Local Artist Emilie Rigby. She provided tools and protective gear and walked people through the process of wood carving. If I had known earlier, I would have attended. Some part of me has always wanted to learn how to whittle.
Overall, we really enjoyed staying at the Sou’wester Lodge!
What We Did:
We got to the Sou’wester late, so we didn’t start exploring until the next morning. We walked down the street the Sou’wester sits on, which dead-ends into the Seaview beach. The beach was pretty much empty, except for a few people spread out far and wide. The beach had more Bald Eagles on it than people.
After breakfast, we headed into town and explored a bit. We arrived the weekend before the International Kite Festival, so they were setting up. We wandered along the beach and watched some of the large kites already set up and flying.
I bought two kites from Wind World Kites. A Frozen themed kit for my daughters and a trick kite for my son and me to play with. I hadn’t flown a kite since I was a young child. As I was checking out the person on the counter remarked, “You know this has two strings, right?” I didn’t catch the warning. My three-year-old had no issue getting her Frozen kite into the air. I easily spent an hour with my son failing again and again at getting the kite into the air. I was frustrated but determined, and in the end, I was unsuccessful. It would go up, then immediately dive into the ground. No amount of YouTube videos seemed to give me the skills required to fly it.
About that time the girls were crashing, so while they napped in the RV, my son and I snuck over to ride Go-Karts and check out the horses. There seemed to be two different places to take beach horseback tours. We stopped by the West Coast Horse rides and chatted with the women who were working the booth they were really funny. Unfortunately, our girls were a bit too young, so we couldn’t take the tour. I want to go back as soon as they are old enough! Strangely enough, I spent most of my youth in Texas and have never rode a horse that wasn’t connected to a fair ground spinning wheel.
The Fun Beach Speedway Go-Kart track was amazing. Kids need to be at least 12 to drive, but they have two-seater carts that younger kids can ride. He was thrilled to go on his first Go-Kart ride, and I hadn’t been on a Go-kart in a while either. The track seemed to be oiled just enough to get squirrelly around the corners which he seemed to enjoy. We spent the whole race trying to pass a young girl who would just glance back, laugh, and taunt us. My son loved it.
I visited Long beach once or twice before when I was young and saw Jake the Alligator Man. When I first moved back to Washington, unsure of what or where exactly it was, I spent the last decade of my explorations throughout Washington with my eyes peeled for this mythical creature. And at Marsh’s Free Museum is where I was reconnected with the mummified remains of a half-human, half alligator of tabloid fame that so enthralled me when I was a kid.
I excitedly took my son in to see Jake. He shrugged it off saying, “Dad, that’s not real.” He was much more excited about a wooden box that he could lock his treasures in that had “World’s Greatest Dad,” carved on the lid. I successfully diverted his attention to another toy.
We also drove down to Cape Disappointment State Park. We hung out on the beach for a while climbing on the rocks and exploring. One of my favorite things to do is to check out the driftwood cabins and structures people built on the beach. I think next time we visit we’ll stay here and spend the day at the beach building one.
There was a little stage off the main drag, and we watched Giants in the Trees play. Giants in the Trees is Krist Novoselic’s new band. Krist was the bassist for Nirvana. Our kids joined other kids dancing in front of the stage while we watched. It was super enjoyable.
Other than that, simply stroll up and down the main drag. There are tons of stores to stick your head in, from antiques to art galleries to the Kitschy gift shops filled with Shwag emblazoned with Long Beach Washington.
What We Ate:
The Crab Pot is a must. It is known for basically dumping a bowl filled with your pick of crab legs, potatoes, Corn on the cob, Mussels, Clams, Andouille Sausage onto your table and you just sit there and engorge yourself on the supporting cast of the Little Mermaid. It’s one of my favorite restaurants in the area. They have locations in Seattle and Bellevue as well. They have other more reasonable meals as well, we just haven’t tried anything else outside of the large bowls.
The 42nd Street Café for a low key but delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner. I only wish we had a babysitter with us! Right next door to the Sou’wester this little diner was amazing for breakfast. Probably wasted on our children’s palates, but the New Orleans style Beignets were delicious, and the Chicken fried steak breakfast held me over for the better part of the day.
For a quick bite stop by the Hungry Harbor. It gets busy, but the burgers are delicious which is usually expected from little vacation spot mainstays. If you eat outside, just keep an eye out for the seagulls that are keeping a very keen eye on you/
For dessert try Scoopers! The whole day we saw people eating these brightly colored Ice cream cones. The Ice cream was surreally brightly colored. We had to stop-in. we ordered a waffle bowl of the brightest colored Ice creams we could find, it was a swirl of pinks and reds and blues, so deeply colored I thought it looked like neon playdough. If they sold this stuff in stores, I wouldn’t buy anything else.
Would We Go Again:
All in all, the trip was worth it. We got to put off our busy schedules and get tons of much needed playtime with our kids. They loved it!!! We plan on making Long Beach a regular Washington get-away. It’s also really nice to break away from the humdrum of day to day life. I think our only complaint is this unusually dreary PNW summer.