Sunday, January 1, 2012

Bermtopia-by-the-Sea: Seaside

December 26

A stay at the beach isn't complete without a pilgrimage to Seaside to visit the aquarium, feed the seals and troll the arcades for a few rousing games of Skeeball.

Seaside is a funny little town. Despite a fancy new logo and some storefront rehab, it has never quite shaken the wonderfully tired tawdry feel of a resort town still living in its 1920s-1930s glory.

Growing up as a beach rat, a trip to Seaside was magical. There was an amusement park in the middle of town, a saltwater natatorium and penny (literally) arcades where you could watch old silent movies on hand-cranked wooden projectors. We would devour corn dogs smothered in mustard, salt water taffy and cotton candy, chased by toe-curling sweet lemonade.

Some things remain frozen in time.

These awnings haven't changed in 50 years! Seriously.
On the other hand, the natatorium was torn down for this.
Sadly, the amusement park is gone, replaced by pizza joints and T-shirt vendors. So is the natatorium, which was an amazing, magnificent shout-out to everything art deco. As was much of the Seaside of my childhood.

But not all things change. . . .

The Seaside Aquarium is tiny yet charming in its own fishy way. I've been going there for 50 years (gulp - can't believe I just typed that) and it's still magical. There are no dolphin shows or leaping orcas. Instead, simple tanks showcase many of the denizens who reside in the surf and tide pools of the Pacific Northwest.

The octopi are still mysterious, the sinister dogfish and rays who used to circle silently and eternally in the center tank have been replaced by wolf eels for an updated aquarium creep factor.

I'm really quite nice once you get to know me.
The harbor seals continue to be incorrigible showmen who will do almost anything for a piece of herring, including dousing you in water from head to toe which the Wonderfully Patient Spouse and Number One Son learned from first hand experience. (Since our last visit, the aquarium apparently acquired the plans for the Berlin Wall and re-fortified the seal tank making it virtually impossible to take pictures but visit this link and you'll get the idea.)

We think there must have been a harbor seal somewhere in Ben's family tree. The resemblance is quite startling -- aside from the fact he hates the water.

From the aquarium, we meandered along The Prom to the Turn-around and headed down Halladay Street, Seaside's main drag, looking for some fun. It didn't take long to find it.

One of the last vestiges of art deco in Seaside
We played Skeeball, had several invigorating games of Shoot Out

and wrapped things up with some Tic-Tac-Toe. Sadly, the Whale Races were closed for the day.

You can't have everything.

Little known fact: The Lewis & Clark expedition almost imploded
after a particularly fierce round on the bumper cars in Seaside.
William took a hard hit from Meriwether
and developed a BAD case of whiplash.
That's the real reason they wintered over at Fort Clatsop.
True story.
And trust me. I'm a history major.


  1. Seaside sure has changed, I agree, but the beaches are great for dog running and we had the BEST salmon fish & chips ever at Bell Buoy!

  2. We visited Seaside last summer with the dogs and saw the new condos in your photo. Neat to know what was there before but I guess sad that the place is slowly losing some of it's old-timey-charm establishments. Guess it's always onward and upward.