It is often overlooked en route to Portland or mistaken for that other Vancouver to the north. But Vancouver (Washington) offers opportunities to enjoy our state’s considerable history, remarkable parks, and humble community with great food, drinks, and quirky stops. The state’s fourth-largest city has a long pedigree, with longhouses along the Columbia River established by the Chinook and Klickitat nations. In 1825, the Hudson’s Bay Company established a fur trading outpost. Today, Vancouver still acts as a hub for entertainment and commerce – or at least for shopping.
Your first day in Vancouver could be better spent in the city, orienting you towards the downtown area, the waterfront, and the Uptown Village area, all on the walking map suitable for pedestrians. Vancouver’s downtown arts district encourages visitors to take advantage of the city’s independent businesses, a non-profit art gallery featuring the works of over 50 artists, a glass blowing workshop with demonstrations and a First Friday Artistic Walks. Luminous murals decorate the sides of the building, and more than a dozen public art works can be found throughout the central area. the Kiggins Theater Seats will fill up again this summer for participatory events such as “Grease Sing-Along”, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Comedy on Tap”.
The quirky shops are sure to delight older kids, teens and / or your inner hippie Love Potion Magickal Perfumery and Gift Shop (for magic wands, capes, fairy houses and tarot card readings), I love comics (for new releases and discounted comics) and Dandelion apothecary and tea shop (for personalized tea treats, like a banana latte with banana dulce herbal tea, homemade vanilla bean syrup, whipped cream, chocolate sauce and sprinkles).
Plenty of vintage and antique shops line the Main Street and nearby, and tend to have cool retro clothing and antique housewares due to the city’s considerable historical record. Most all VintageThe owner creates new and recycled clothing and crafts based on past fashions, as well as authentic vintage clothing and housewares (check out current offers at Instagram if you want to buy in advance and pick up).
Further north, roughly between 19th and Fourth Plain Boulevard along Main Street, you’ll find vibrant Uptown Village. An afternoon can easily be spent here, touring the pubs, cafes and shops. But the food options are particularly compelling. Order donuts on Porte Bleue bakery, nibble on food truck pods at Uptown Food Village, grab a pint and New York style pizza at The Hungry Sasquatch while playing pinball, and enjoy under the radar canapes (literally), baked brie and strong drinks on an underground couch at Lower bar.
Castings are increasingly popular, with 50 breweries and taprooms, and dozens of cellars and vineyards in and around Vancouver. Vancouver’s waterfront along the Columbia River is teeming with new growth – view of the Mount Hood River near the New Grant Street Pier are even better when accompanied by a glass of wine. Casual tasting rooms, bistros and eateries have opened in recent years, with a total of eight wine tasting rooms slated to take place on the waterfront by the end of the year.
Vancouver’s first boutique stay, the sparkling fountain Indigo Hotel, will open to guests from the fall. Other options include the Heathman Lodge, sister property of the Heathmans of Portland and Kirkland, and Hilton Vancouver Washington, close to the action of downtown.
Soon, Washington’s only franchise of The Milkshake Bar will also land on the waterfront, which serves up some pretty intense twists on the milkshake. Think marshmallow ice cream with fruity pebbles, enhanced with more marshmallows and more fruity pebbles. Name: The grain killer. The children will remember it forever.
To fill your second day, pack snacks for Clark County’s many historic, arts-rich and otherwise quite unique parks. Visiting some of the county’s green spaces this summer could have some surprising benefits as well. Those who complete 15 of 20 Clark County trails and paths are entered to win one of three $ 100 certificates for a local leisure business. Simply register for the challenge, then register at locations using your phone to participate until August 31st.
The jewel of the city is the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. The site itself is a sprawling 191-acre site, with four main activities: the Pearson Air Museum (closed until August 2021), beautiful historic US Army barracks, walking trails, and a reconstructed fort. The latter is fascinating for all ages and is based on the original fort established by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1824 to manage fur operations along the entire west coast.
The fort’s 10 buildings are based on excavations and archaeological finds, and include a prison, kitchen, bakery, fur room full of skins, and carpentry workshop, among others. Costumed reenactors can show off blacksmithing tasks in a richly scented building or recreate an ancient recipe in an 1840s kitchen. Even the on-site garden features mid-19th-century herbs and vegetables.
Esther Court Park In downtown Vancouver is a five-acre community center – complete with the 69-foot Salmon Bell Tower, rose garden, and playground – and Washington state’s oldest public plaza. On weekends until October, the edge of the park welcomes the abundant Vancouver Farmers Market with over 150 market stalls. You’ll find produce from the local fields and food trucks, along with artisanal fermented foods, handmade soaps, pottery and clothing – and even a bookbinder.
From Esther Short Park you can ride on the Columbia River Renaissance Trail. The 8 km long paved path runs along the river, offering beautiful views on foot or by bike. Contemporary and indigenous art are on display at the plunging, covered with earth Vancouver Land Bridge, designed by architect Johnpaul Jones with consultation with artist Maya Lin – part of the ambitious six-site project Confluence Project which stretches 438 miles along the Columbia River.
Stop for lunch just north of Vancouver at the pod food truck located in Brothers Cascadia Brewery for Cajun okra, banh mi, or a salad, bowl or burrito.
Heading north, take the driving loop through the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge to enjoy a surprisingly diverse collection of wild animals. Print it wildlife checklist before going to find a Pacific jumping mouse and a Roosevelt elk, among hundreds of listed fin, fur and feather creatures. Or visit the 19th century Cedar Creek Grist Mill’s demonstration of grinding cereals with water to collect a souvenir bag of flour or cornmeal.
Just beyond Vancouver itself, if you’re hoping to extend your vacation along the Columbia River, you can drive west towards the coastal city of Long beach, or follow highway 14 east, towards Gorges of Colombia.
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