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Oregon Coast with the Kids - Without Sacrificing the Finery

(Oregon Coast) - There are two things that most people go to the Oregon coast for: a day with the kids - or a romantic weekend alone, generally enjoying the finer things.

Often, those two missions are conflicting: taking the little ones generally prohibits partaking in the upscale pleasures the coast has to offer.

Or does it? There are options for kid-friendly lodgings, restaurants and towns which pull out the stops for the kidlets or bring out the kid in everyone – yet don’t force Mom and Dad to sacrifice the finery. (at left, Manzanita)

On Oregon's north coast, the tiny town of Manzanita is endowed with a mysterious, woodsy vibe just above its vast expanse of crystalline beach. Here, the San Dune Inn provides a vast array of freebies like bikes, game equipment, popcorn and movies. Stay at this charming, unassuming place just blocks from the beach and you'll find stuff for volleyball and other games suitable for the sand, as well as beach balls, bikes and simple sandcastle-making gear like buckets. Owners Brian and Billie Hines have an enormous selection of movies, and their choice of board games is a kick as well. It's a kid's dream come true.

The Hines say they’re having steadily increased repeat business in the three years since they took over this little charmer. People are coming back more and more, bringing their kids, their dogs – or both, since it is very pet friendly. www.sandune-inn-manzanita.com. 503-368-5163.

Head northward, and you'll encounter dozens of sandy and rocky beaches perfect for playtime. Drive about 12 miles and you'll find the ritzy resort town of Cannon Beach. Near a famed Lewis & Clark landmark, Fultano's Pizza sits and emits wonderful smells of Italian cuisine. With an outdoor patio here, you can still see some of the sights available at the end of Second Street, and enjoy exceptional - even gourmet quality - cuisine at a family pizza joint price.

Fultano's delivers to local hotels, and they feature slices for lunch. They have a special thin crust recipe that's especially tasty, crunchy and yet still tender in a way that manages to combine both those latter qualities seamlessly.

There are many of the standbys, as well as gourmet varieties like the Margherita (garlic and herb olive oil, three cheeses, red onion and more), a Greek-themed specialty, a Goat Cheese pizza, and specialties with Teriyaki Chicken, Linguica, BBQ Chicken and a variety of seafood selections. One item features a distinctive sausage with mashed grapes for the sauce, providing a subtle, sweet tang. The sausage is spicy and zippy, making a nice balance to the slight sweetness.

One must-try is their pasta (about $10). They have a homemade tomato sauce that is one stunning, mother-of-all sauces, and their meatballs are a serious delicacy. Still, even with its decent wine and microbrew selection, this is a place that welcomes the kiddies nicely. 200 N. Hemlock and Second Street. (503) 436-9717.

Drive north again, to Seaside, and you'll find a beach town full of things to do for children - most notably Broadway Ave. with its almost dozen arcade businesses, kooky gift shops, bumper cars and other attractions. See www.seasideor.com or the Seaside Virtual Tour for more.

One option for the connoisseurs as well as the kiddies is Zinger’s Homemade Ice Cream, featuring – you guessed it – gourmet ice cream. Mike Exinger makes his own here, including his own cones, and the difference is remarkable. Highlights include the powerful fresh fruit taste of the marionberry, using real Marion County berries, and the seasonal mango, which is tangy and unforgettable, often coming with juicy chunks of mango to chew on. Sugar free and diabetic options are available, but mostly Zinger's specializes in frozen excess. Singles are actually two scoops and doubles - well, they're twice as large.

Exinger admits his prices aren't arcade-cheap (cones are almost three dollars), but they are bigger than usual and it is ice cream of almost snooty standard. 210 Broadway. (503) 738-3939.

One highlight is Seaside Helicopters, which whizzes you around above the town for about $25 per person. It's thoroughly spectacular, as the helicopter takes you over the headland of Tillamook Head and Cannon Beach as well, allowing you extraordinary glimpses of the sea and these landmarks from this unusual vantage point. You even get to see "Goonies Rock" (pictured here) - where part of the cult film was made. Hwy 101, S. Seaside. www.seaside-helicopters.com. (503) 440-4123.

Down on the Central Oregon Coast - about 100 miles south - it's a vast playground for kids and adults. Lincoln City is filled with miles of super clean beaches and tons of shops and restaurants.

Just south of Lincoln City, you'll find another haven for families in a very unique resort called Bella Beach. Really, it's a collection of rather upscale, gorgeous beach cottages that are vacation rentals or for sale. There are about 40 rentals available inside this pretty place, and more are still being built.

The philosophy of Bella Beach is to create a place with a "neighborly feel," and indeed they've succeeded. Set in the midst of a Central Coast wooded area, there are the rustic architectural themes common to places like Manzanita or Cannon Beach, where garages are tucked away behind the buildings and front porches are the emphasis.

There's a playground for the kiddies, and the homes vary from hideaway lodgings for two with oceanfront hot tubs, to larger accommodations for bigger groups. Bella Beach also offers up accommodations for groups as large as 60, if you happen to have a business retreat or reunion of some sort.

Then there's that wondrous beach. Like many of the beaches in the area, the tide line is at a rather steep slope, so waves come in fast and hard, but dissipate quickly to shyly lap at your feet. 866-994-7026 or www.bellabeach.com.

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Oregon Coast New Year's Eve Secrets

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In Awe of AstoriaASTORIA
Where the Columbia meets the Pacific, Land of Lewis & Clark and loads of atmosphere & history
Serenity in SeasideSEASIDE
The Promenade, Tillamook Head, family fun & broad, sandy beaches
Cavort in Cannon BeachCANNON BEACH
A mysterious lighthouse, upscale yet earthy, a huge monolith, fine eateries & an art mecca
Annihilating  Beauty of Nehalem BayNEHALEM BAY
Manzanita's beaches, Nehalem and Wheeler's quirky beauty; laid back Rockaway
Time Trip Around Tillamook BayTILLAMOOK BAY
Garibaldi, Barview, Bay City, Tillamook & an oceanfront ghost town
Triple the Pleasure in 3 CapesTHREE CAPES LOOP
The hidden secret of the coast: Cape Meares, a lighthouse, Oceanside, Netarts and Pacific City
Lovely Lincoln CityLINCOLN CITY & THE CORRIDOR OF MYSTERY
Miles & miles of unbroken beaches, Cascade Head, Neskowin and many manmade attractions
Divine Depoe BayDEPOE BAY
A spouting horn downtown, freaky hidden cliffs and whales, whales, whales
Nature in NewportNEWPORT
Time-tripping Nye Beach, a bustling bayfront, marine science-central and two lighthouses
Staggering Seal RockWALDPORT / SEAL ROCK
Pristine, even secretive sands and wild geologic landmarks
Aargh, there's no alliteration with Yachats - but it IS unbelievableYACHATS
Constantly dramatic wave action, a mix of the rugged & upscale
Unsurpassable Upper LaneUPPER LANE COUNTY
25 miles of deserted beaches & oodles of wonders
Fine Times in FlorenceFLORENCE
A lighthouse, ancient bayfront and miles and miles of fluffy dunes

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