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Welcome to Vancouver, Washington – a city located in the North Clark County of Washington State, just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon. Vancouver is a charming city that offers a diverse range of activities for visitors, from exploring its rich history and vibrant art scenes to enjoying delicious dining and fantastic outdoor adventures.
In this article, I will take you on a journey through the best things to do in Vancouver, WA, in 2023. Whether you’re a history buff, an outdoor enthusiast, or a foodie, Vancouver has something for everyone. So, let’s discover all that this beautiful city has to offer!
Bella’s TL;DR for Vancouver, WA
- Vancouver, Washington, is a charming city located in the North Clark County of Washington State, just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon.
- Visitors can explore the city’s rich history, enjoy delicious dining, and experience fantastic outdoor adventures.
- Vancouver offers a diverse range of activities for visitors, from exploring its vibrant art scenes to connecting with nature through family-friendly activities.
Discover Fort Vancouver
The Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is a must-visit destination for those interested in history. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to the Ulysses S. Grant House and General George C. Marshall’s former residence. The site has undergone extensive restoration efforts to preserve its historical significance for future generations.
As I explored Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, I was transported back in time to the early 19th century. This historic site was established in 1825 by the Hudson’s Bay Company and was a bustling fur trade hub that brought together people from different cultures. Today, visitors can explore the reconstructed fort, Officers Row, the heritage garden, and Pearson Air Museum, all of which offer a fascinating glimpse into the past.
I also made sure to visit the Vancouver Land Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that connects the Fort to the Columbia River waterfront. Along the way, I encountered the Clark County Historical Museum, Old Apple Tree Park, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Plaza, all of which added to the historical richness of Vancouver.
Finally, I took a stroll along the waterfront Renaissance trail and was rewarded with stunning views of the Columbia River. With so much history and beautiful scenery, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is an unmissable stop on any Vancouver, WA adventure.
Unwind at Waterfront Park
The best place I found to relax with a view was Waterfront Park. Situated along the Columbia River, this park offers picturesque walking paths, Grant Street Pier, and a variety of nearby restaurants and shops to explore.
Managed by the National Park Service, the park’s highlight is the Columbia River Renaissance Trail, providing a scenic route for walking, jogging, or biking along the waterfront. As I wander the trail, I soak in the spectacular views of the Columbia River, the I-5 and I-205 bridges, and the breathtaking sunsets that the Pacific Northwest is known for.
The Burnt Bridge Creek Trail offers outdoor enthusiasts another picturesque path to explore. Looking for more excitement on the water? Try kiteboarding or stand-up paddleboarding on the Columbia River for a thrilling outdoor experience.
With so much to see and do, Waterfront Park is the perfect spot to unwind and connect with nature. Don’t forget to check out nearby Wintler Park and Wintler Community Park, which offer beaches and more opportunities to enjoy the Columbia River waterfront.
Savor Local Wine and Beer
Vancouver, Washington is home to a thriving wine and beer scene, with over 20 wineries and 30 breweries to explore. The Clark County Wine Trail Pass is a great way to get discounts at participating wineries and even win prizes while tasting some of the best local wines.
Some of the local favorites include Trap Door Brewing, Brothers Cascadia, Heathen Brewing, English Estate Winery, Amavi Cellars, and Pepper Bridge Winery.
For those interested in learning more about the art of winemaking or brewing, several tours and classes are available in the area. Many of the wineries and breweries offer guided tours of their facilities, where you can see the production process up close and learn about the history and culture of the industry.
Wine and beer-tasting classes are also available, where you can learn about the different flavors, aromas, and textures of various beverages and how to pair them with different foods.
For an even more unique experience, consider taking a hot air balloon ride over the vineyards. This will give you a truly unique perspective on the beauty of the area and the wineries that call it home.
Whether you’re a seasoned wine and beer connoisseur or a curious beginner, Vancouver’s wine and beer scene is sure to delight and inspire you. Come raise a glass and experience the flavors of the Pacific Northwest!
Shop in Charming Downtown
I love exploring Vancouver’s charming downtown area, which is a shopper’s paradise with a treasure trove of unique vintage shops, antique stores, and boutiques. The heart of this shopping haven is located on Main Street and Washington Street, where you can find an array of locally owned shops and artist studios to explore.
Some of my favorite spots include Persnickety, House of Vintage, Urban Eccentric, and Old Glory Antiques & Vintage. As you wander through the downtown area, keep an eye out for signs and murals showcasing the city’s trading and military past, which adds to the rich atmosphere of this historic district.
For an added dose of local charm, I recommend venturing to Uptown Village, a vibrant neighborhood with a mix of restaurants, antique shops, and interesting dispensaries. Shopping in downtown Vancouver is a delightful experience that perfectly blends history with modern flair.
Don’t miss the Salmon Run Bell Tower, which is located in the heart of the downtown area and is a popular landmark that celebrates the city’s fishing heritage. The tower is a must-see for anyone visiting the area.
If you’re in town on the second Saturday of the month, be sure to check out the Second Saturday Art Walk. This event showcases the work of local artists and is a great way to experience the city’s vibrant arts scene.
When you’re ready for a break from shopping, head over to the Vancouver Community Library or the Slocum House, which are both located in the downtown area and offer a glimpse into the city’s rich history.
Overall, shopping in downtown Vancouver is a must-do for anyone visiting the area. With its unique shops, vibrant arts scene, and charming atmosphere, it’s no wonder why this area is a favorite among locals and visitors alike.
Experience Coffee Culture
As I explore Vancouver’s coffee culture, I cannot miss visiting Relevant Coffee, a local favorite that offers creative coffee drinks and delicious pastries. I recommend trying one of their seasonal drinks, such as the smoked cardamom latte or pumpkin spiced latte, to get a true taste of the region. Sweet Touch Cafe is another great option for coffee connoisseurs.
Not only do they offer a cozy atmosphere, but they also have an array of mouthwatering desserts to pair with your cup of joe. With these fantastic coffee spots, I am fueled and ready to explore all that Vancouver has to offer.
Support Local Vendors at Farmers Markets
Visiting farmers markets is one of the best ways to experience the local charm of Vancouver. The Vancouver Farmers Market offers three locations, including one situated on the west and north boundary of Esther Short Park at 605 Esther Street. Here, you can find fresh produce, handmade goods, and a lively atmosphere that showcases the city’s vibrant community spirit.
By supporting local vendors at farmers markets, you are not only getting high-quality products but also helping small businesses thrive. Plus, it’s a great way to take home a unique souvenir from your trip. Don’t miss the chance to explore the Vancouver Farmers Market and discover all the amazing goods made by local vendors.
Dine at Award-Winning Restaurants
Vancouver’s dining scene is a culinary paradise with a variety of award-winning restaurants that cater to every palate. During the annual Dine the Couve event, participating restaurants offer special 3-course meals for $25 or $35, making it an affordable way to experience some of Vancouver’s best cuisine.
Amaro’s is a local favorite that serves up delicious Italian fare. Table is another popular spot known for its mouth-watering fried chicken sandwich and doughnuts. If you’re in the mood for something different, Dediko is a Georgian eatery that’s sure to impress with its khinkali pork and beef dumplings.
For those looking to unwind with a drink, the AC Hotel Marriott’s Lounge offers a picturesque sunset cocktail with a view of the Columbia River.
If you’re a fan of barbecue, don’t miss out on Smokehouse Provisions. This family-owned restaurant serves up some of the best barbecue in the area, with a variety of meats and sides to choose from.
No matter your tastes, Vancouver’s dining scene has something to satisfy every craving.
Catch a Sunset Cocktail with a View
As the day winds down, there’s no better place to enjoy a stunning sunset than at AC Hotel Marriott’s Lounge. With a breathtaking view of the Columbia River, this chic lounge is the perfect spot to relax and unwind after a day of exploring Vancouver.
I highly recommend trying their popular Terminal One Pier drink and indulging in a delicious bite from their menu, like the mouth-watering carrot cake. The lounge’s stylish decor and stunning views create an unforgettable atmosphere, making it a must-visit destination for anyone looking to have a memorable evening in Vancouver, WA.
If you’re looking for a more secluded spot to enjoy the natural beauty of Vancouver, head to Surprise Beach. This hidden gem offers a tranquil atmosphere and a serene retreat from the bustling city. Simply find street parking and follow the path next to the parking lot to discover this sandy haven.
As you step onto the secluded beach, take a moment to breathe in the fresh air and appreciate the peaceful surroundings. With its tranquil atmosphere and natural beauty, Surprise Beach is the perfect spot to unwind and relax.
Embrace Outdoor Adventures
As an outdoor enthusiast, I highly recommend exploring Vancouver’s vast array of outdoor activities. With its stunning location in the Pacific Northwest, Vancouver offers a wealth of opportunities for outdoor adventures.
Hikers will find plenty of trails to explore, including the challenging Moulton Falls Trail, a four-mile round trip trail along the Lewis River that offers stunning views of the surrounding area. For those seeking a more serene experience, the Salmon Creek Trail is a 5-mile path that winds through Salmon Creek Park and offers a peaceful walk through wetlands.
Cyclists will enjoy the Burnt Bridge Creek Trail, a 8.5-mile paved trail that runs through Vancouver’s urban areas and provides a great opportunity to explore the city. For more advanced riders, Mount St. Helens and Mount Hood offer challenging routes with breathtaking views.
Water lovers will enjoy paddling at Whipple Creek Park or taking a walking tour of Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, a 5,218-acre sanctuary that provides a haven for wildlife and a beautiful setting for nature lovers.
No matter what your outdoor interests are, Vancouver has something to offer. So, grab your gear and start exploring the great outdoors!
Take a Day Trip to Oregon
I highly recommend taking a day trip to Oregon from Vancouver. Portland is a bustling city with plenty of landmarks and attractions to explore, such as the Portland Japanese Garden and the Oregon Zoo. For a more nature-focused excursion, visit the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, which offers an 80-mile stretch of incredible scenery, forests, waterfalls, mountains, and historical sights.
With so many nearby destinations to discover, Vancouver, WA is the ideal gateway to the Pacific Northwest. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to go on a road trip and explore all that Oregon has to offer.
Art and Culture Scene
As I explored Vancouver’s streets, I was amazed by the colorful murals and striking sculptures that showcase the city’s creative spirit. The Clark County Historical Society Museum, located in the Vancouver Community Library building, offers a fascinating insight into the city’s past and its connection to the Columbia River and the surrounding region. Another must-see is the Kiggins Theatre, a historic single-screen indie movie theater located on Main Street that offers a diverse range of artistic offerings.
In addition to these landmarks, Vancouver is home to several museums, including the Pearson Air Museum. This museum showcases the city’s rich aviation history and features a collection of historic aircraft. The Clark County Mural Society also adds to the city’s vibrant art scene by creating public art installations throughout Vancouver. Finally, visitors can enjoy the Glockenspiel Diorama, a unique public art installation that tells the story of Vancouver’s history through mechanical figures and music.
Vancouver, WA offers a wide range of family-friendly activities that cater to all ages. Spend a day at Esther Short Park, a beautiful city park located in the heart of downtown Vancouver. The park features a playground, picnic spots, and a large open grassy area perfect for outdoor recreation. Take a stroll through the park’s stunning rose garden or catch a concert at the outdoor amphitheater.
For those looking for an indoor activity, The Source Climbing Center is a popular spot for kids and adults to challenge themselves with climbing walls and obstacles. Alternatively, learn something new at the City of Vancouver Water Resources Education Center, which features exhibits about science, the environment, and water resources.
No matter your family’s interests, Vancouver, WA has something to offer. With its numerous parks, indoor and outdoor activities, and educational opportunities, you’re sure to have a memorable experience.
Connect with Nature
As a nature enthusiast, I highly recommend visiting the natural attractions near Vancouver, Washington. Vancouver Lake Park, Salmon Creek Regional Park, and Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge are just a few destinations that offer breathtaking landscapes and unique opportunities to connect with nature.
Vancouver Lake Park is perfect for water sports such as kayaking, canoeing, swimming, and windsurfing. Salmon Creek Regional Park offers a serene setting for a leisurely walk through the wetlands, where you can spot various birds and wildlife.
Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge is a must-visit spot for wildlife lovers. Here, you can observe diverse wildlife such as turtles, Canadian geese, cougars, raccoons, and black-tailed deer.
If you’re interested in gardens, Columbia Springs and the Rose Garden are great options. For water resources education, the Water Resources Education Center is a must-visit spot.
With so many natural wonders to explore, Vancouver, Washington is a haven for outdoor adventurers and nature enthusiasts.
Vancouver, WA is a city that offers a diverse range of experiences for all interests. History buffs can explore the rich heritage of Fort Vancouver, while outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the natural surroundings at Silver Star Mountain and Vancouver Lake Regional Park. Art lovers can visit the rotating gallery exhibits during the Downtown Association’s monthly First Friday Art Walks, and foodies can indulge in farm-to-fork cuisine at one of the fantastic restaurants or farmers markets. Don’t miss the chance to embark on an unforgettable journey through the best things to do in Vancouver, WA in 2023.
Frequently Asked Questions
Vancouver, WA has many hidden gems that are worth visiting. Some of them are:
- Lacamas Lake Regional Park
- Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
- Cedar Creek Grist Mill
- Officers Row
- Burnt Bridge Creek Trail
- Kiggins Theatre
What is unique about Vancouver, WA?
Vancouver, WA has a unique combination of urban and natural environments. It is located on the banks of the Columbia River and has a thriving downtown area. It also has many parks and natural areas, making it a great place for outdoor enthusiasts.
What’s Vancouver, Washington, known for?
Vancouver, Washington is known for its beautiful natural surroundings, including the Columbia River Gorge and Mount St. Helens. It is also known for its historic downtown area, which is full of shops, restaurants, and art galleries.
What is Vancouver, Washington, close to?
Vancouver, Washington is close to many popular destinations in the Pacific Northwest, including:
- Portland, Oregon (10 miles)
- Mount St. Helens (50 miles)
- Seattle, Washington (175 miles)
- Cannon Beach, Oregon (90 miles)
Does Vancouver, Washington, have a downtown?
Yes, Vancouver, Washington has a thriving downtown area. It is home to many shops, restaurants, and art galleries, as well as historic landmarks like Officers Row and the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.
Where can I find the best coffee in Vancouver, WA?
Vancouver, WA has many great coffee shops, but some of the best include:
- Relevant Coffee
- Compass Coffee Roasting
- Paper Tiger Coffee Roasters
- Torque Coffee Roasters
- Brewed Cafe & Pub
What are some popular things to do in Clark County, WA?
Clark County, WA has many popular attractions, including:
- Pearson Air Museum
- Clark County Historical Museum
- Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
- Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge
- Vancouver Farmers Market
What are some must-see attractions in the Portland-Vancouver area?
The Portland-Vancouver area has many must-see attractions, including:
- Powell’s City of Books
- Portland Japanese Garden
- Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
- International Rose Test Garden
- Pittock Mansion
What are some fun outdoor activities to do in Camas, WA?
Camas, WA has many fun outdoor activities to offer, including:
- Lacamas Lake Regional Park
- Camas Meadows Golf Club
- Lacamas Creek Trail
- Round Lake
- Heritage Park
What is Vancouver, WA best known for?
Vancouver, WA is best known for its beautiful natural surroundings, historic downtown area, and thriving arts and culture scene.
Why is Vancouver, WA a great place to live?
Vancouver, WA is a great place to live because it offers a high quality of life, with access to great schools, affordable housing, and a strong job market. It also has a vibrant arts and culture scene, and is located in a beautiful natural setting.
About the Author
Bella Hartley, founder of TraveLover Planet, hails from San Francisco and has a background in Anthropology and Journalism. Her love for travel and storytelling led her from a media career to creating a platform dedicated to global exploration. A seasoned traveler, Bella cherishes the stories and connections she makes on her journeys. Off the road, she enjoys yoga and experimenting with international cuisines. Join Bella as she inspires others to embrace the wonders of travel.