As if there aren’t already plenty of reasons to visit Astoria, that lovely Oregon city at the mouth of the Columbia River: the windswept column, the Columbia River Maritime Museum, the quaint and fascinating Flavel House with its prim gift shop … the list goes on. But now there’s another attraction opening June 5, 2010 guaranteed to draw tourists from all over Oregon and movie buffs from across the United States: the Oregon Film Museum.
Astoria is quite a haul. It takes a little over six hours to drive from Southern Oregon to Astoria. But it’s such a nice town.
I was there last when I was writing a long travel piece for family.com about the Oregon Coast and the towns to visit along the northern Coast. Astoria, Oregon was high on the list.
So this time I’ve decided that the whole family should go to Astoria.
We rented The Goonies and watched it in anticipation of this trip.
All the kids enjoyed watching it.
I enjoyed the movie too though I found it a bit silly.
But apparently hundreds of Goonie fans make a pilgrimage to Astoria each year in honor of the film.
Housed in the county jail that was in operation from 1914-1976 and the site of the Fratelli brother break-out in Steven Spielberg’s 1985 “The Goonies,” the Oregon Film Museum will open its doors on the 25th anniversary of what has become a film with a cult following.
In case you need a refresher: “The Goonies” is a coming-of-age story about two brothers (Brand Walsh, played by Josh Brolin, and Mikey Walsh, played by Sean Astin) and their misfit friends from the wrong side of the tracks (the “Goon Docks”). The friends embark on an absurd adventure to find pirate treasure in order to rescue the Walsh house from bespectacled evil developers who want to build a golf course.
Goonies groupies have been flocking informally to Astoria since the movie was made, not only to see the outside of the jail and other sites depicted in the film, but also to pilgrimage to the house Mikey and Brand are trying to save. A tattered hand-written sign welcomes Goonies fans to view the house, located at 368 38th street, up a steep gravel driveway (no cars allowed).
“This whole Goonies thing is big,” says Jack Harris, who has lived in Astoria for 12 years and whose son attends Astor Elementary School, featured in the Arnold Schwarzenegger 1990 comedy “Kindergarten Cop.” “Every summer I get stopped by people on the street looking for the Goonie house.”
“The Goonies” is only one of a dozen recent movies filmed in or around Astoria and one of more than 300 movies that have been filmed in the state of Oregon.
Other movies that have been filmed in Astoria include “Free Willy,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III,” and “Wendy and Lucy.”
Why is Astoria, Oregon such a popular place for Hollywood? It’s not just the gorgeous views of the Columbia River, the impressive Astoria-Megler Bridge, the green and blue mountains surrounding the town, the colorful Victorians or the steep San Francisco like streets, though that is all part of the town’s draw.
“Astoria gets it,” MacAndrews Burns, Executive Director of the Clatsop County Historical Society and one of the driving forces behind the project, explains. “The citizens of Astoria love having films here. We don’t mind closing roads, we’re happy to open our houses, and we like being on film.”
When Mike Mitchell, his wife Tamara and their two kids (Blake, 14, and Chelsea, 12) from Redmond Oregon crept in the open door Burns gave them an impromptu tour.
“I brought my Oregon movies with me,” Tamara Mitchell says, explaining that was one reason they came all the way to Astoria. “We’re getting ready to watch ‘Overboard’ with Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell tonight.” Several scenes from “Overboard” were shot on the Oregon Coast, near Newport.
There are no extant copies of the first movie set in Astoria, “The Fisherman’s Bride,” which was made in 1908. Burns is hoping a viewable copy in someone’s attic will materialize after the museum opens.
Not much of movie buff? There’s still an abundance of activities to keep you busy in Astoria. Scale the 164 steps to the top of the Astoria Column, enjoy the high-concept Tapiola Park playground with the kids, check out the old-fashioned firefighting equipment at the Uppertown Firefighter’s Museum, visit Fort Stevens State Park on an amphibious vehicle, ride the Riverfront Trolley, catch a show at the 1920s vaudeville Liberty Theater, and stroll on the Riverfront Walk.
But even if you haven’t been infected by Goonie fever, the Oregon Film Museum will be a requisite stop on your Astoria itinerary next time you come to town.
Published: May 17, 2010
Last update: January 23, 2020