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Off-season bargains beckon families to the coast

Updated November 2008

Between Labor Day and Memorial Day, rates for hotels and resorts on the Washington and Oregon coasts can be significantly cheaper. Storm watching is often spectacular. The crowds have disappeared. And even when the weather is cold and wet, there are fun activities to do with kids.

Cannon Beach is on the north coast of Oregon, south of Astoria. The small town is full of charming shops and restaurants. Famous Haystack rock towers over a long beach of soft white sand, perfect for building sandcastles.

Cannon Beach has several resorts with kid-pleasing indoor pools, including Tolovana Inn, the Hallmark Resort and the Surfsand Resort . The staff at the Surfsand caters to families. They offer a beach bonfire package with everything you need to make tasty s'mores, plus the assistance of a staff member to help start your fire. They loan out complimentary sandcastle tools, beach balls, kites and pool noodles. And on Saturdays they feature an ice cream social.

For even better rates, stay somewhere without a pool and ocean view. The Harrison Street Inn is just one block from the beach. The inn offers spacious suites with kitchens. Each unit also contains books, board games and a television with a VCR/DVD player.

The Artist Cottage is a particular good choice for families with noisy little ones. Nestled in the back of the inn away from other guests, the cottage features warm wood accents, a copper sink in the bathroom and the exquisite glasswork of the inn's owner, artist Jim Hannen.

You'll be welcome for dinner with the kids at the Surfsand's oceanfront restaurant, the Wayfarer. The restaurant offers upscale dining in a family friendly atmosphere with a breathtaking view of the beach. For the best dinner prices and the warmest welcome for your kids, dine between 4 and 6 p.m. and ask for the casual dining menu. Don't miss their dessert tray.

For a more casual atmosphere, try Mo's restaurant next to the Tolovana Inn for delicious chowder, or Fultano's Pizza in town. Cannon Beach is home to several bakeries, including Grain & Sand Baking (located midtown at  1064 S. Hemlock St.; 503-436-0120), and the famous Cannon Beach Bakery in its new location in the Coaster Village. Kids can enjoy ice cream at Osburn's Ice Creamery (240 N. Hemlock St.; 503-436-2578) or at the Lazy Susan Grill and Scoop (156 N. Hemlock St.; 503-436-9551), which features an old-fashioned soda fountain.

For moms in search of some relaxation, have dad take the kids to the beach and try the Soku Japanese Foot Spa at the Cannon Beach Spa. The truly rejuvenating experience includes a foot soak, delicious tea and an amazing foot massage.

Minutes from Cannon Beach, the town of Seaside offers an escape for families on a rainy day. The Funland Arcade on Broadway has the latest video games and vintage pinball machines. Seaside Town Center has an indoor beautiful wooden carousel that little kids love to ride.

Washington's coast offers spectacular beaches in remote locations. La Push, on the northern Washington coast, is home to the Quileute Tribe and some of the most scenic beaches on the Olympic Peninsula.

Next to First Beach is the La Push Ocean Park Resort featuring motels, townhouses and cabins. The cabins vary from new upscale oceanfront units to the charming and worn variety, including one that is 75 years old. The wild and beautiful beach offers families excellent beach-combing and storm-watching opportunities.

Nearby, older children will enjoy the hike down Second Beach trail. Less than one mile, the trail ends at a beach with beautiful tide pools, huge driftwood and views of sea stacks.

Large families with dogs treasure Iron Springs Resort at Copalis Beach. The resort has cottages with fireplaces and views of the ocean, along with an indoor heated pool. The larger cabins can accommodate up to 11 people, and for a fee the family dog is also welcome.

Several coastal towns offer special holiday events and activities during the off season. In November, Cannon Beach hosts the Stormy Weather Arts Festival and in December the entire town is decorated for Haystack Holidays .

Kathleen F. Miller is a Sammamish-based freelance writer and mother of two.

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