Vancouver in Washington (not to be mistaken for the Canadian city in British Columbia) is a city on the northern banks of the Columbia River. The fourth-largest city in the state is on the Washington-Oregon border and combines the buzz of a metropolitan area with the charm of its small-town appeal.
This small city is rich in history and has beautiful architecture, street art and sculptures, lush parks and an exciting waterfront precinct. These things to do in Vancouver, WA, will whet your appetite for more.
- Vancouver WA
- Things To Do In Vancouver WA
- 1- Step Back Into History At Fort Vancouver
- 2- See Vintage Aircraft At Pearson Field and Air Museum
- 3- Stroll Along Officer’s Row
- 4- Visit Clark Country Historical Museum
- 5- Explore the Columbia River Gorge
- 6- Hike To Moulton Falls
- 7- Stroll Around Esther Short Park
- 8- Explore Uptown Village
- 9- Admire Street Art
- 10- See The Vancouver Land Bridge
- 11- Explore Vancouver’s Waterfront
- 12- Hike Burnt Bridge Creek Trail
- 13- Walk The Waterfront Renaissance Trail
- 14- Bond With Nature At Columbia Springs
- 15- Go Shopping And Eating
- 16- Have Raging Fun at OutRaged Rage Room
- 17- Drink Local Craft Beer
- 18- Watch A Movie At Kiggins Theater
- 19- See Wendy The Welder Sculpture
- 20- Check Out Old Apple Tree Park
- Things To Do In Vancouver WA
Things To Do In Vancouver WA
1- Step Back Into History At Fort Vancouver
Fort Vancouver was established in 1825 as the Hudson Bay Company’s interior fur trade headquarters and a hub for industry and trade.
The company chose its strategic location to allow the fur trade to prosper in the “Columbia Department”, from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.
Washington’s Vancouver was one of the main colonial settlements in the Pacific Northwest, and the “Columbia Department” covered areas that are now the present-day states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and parts of Northern California, Montana, Alaska and Canada’s British Columbia.
During its heydey, the fort had a multicultural community that included English, French-Canadian, Irish, Scottish and Métis employees of the Hudson’s Bay Company and over 25 American Indian tribes.
Many of the fort’s buildings – including the Bastian, bakehouse, jail, village and counting-house – have been reconstructed where the original fort once stood between 1829 and 1866.
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is at 1501 E Evergreen Blvd, Vancouver, WA 98661.
For more things to do in Washington state read:
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2- See Vintage Aircraft At Pearson Field and Air Museum
One of the USA’s oldest working airports, during the 1900s, Pearson Field’s 3,275-foot runway was the landing spot for the first aerial crossing of the Columbia River.
Interestingly, Pearson is the only U.S. airport operating within the boundaries of a national historic reserve, but the land was once a polo field and, later, a spruce mill.
In 1925, the airfield was named after flying legend Lt. Alexander Pearson who was the first to complete an aerial survey of the Grand Canyon. Pearson also won the first cross-country air race.
The museum houses a full-scale replica of a World War I French Voisin III bomber.
Pearson Field and Air Museum is at 1115 E 5th St, Vancouver, WA 98661.
3- Stroll Along Officer’s Row
With 22 beautifully preserved Victorian homes listed on the National Historic Register and a tree-lined promenade, strolling along Officers Rows is one of the things to do in Vancouver, WA, to soak up the historical ambience.
It’s right next to Fort Vancouver and is a showcase of houses that the U.S. Army officers once occupied at the Vancouver Barracks.
The oldest house, the Ulysses S. Grant House, was built in 1850 because the Union Army general was stationed there as the quartermaster at Fort Vancouver in 1852.
4- Visit Clark Country Historical Museum
The Clark County Historical Museum has over 60,000 historical items that tell the story of the region’s heritage.
Besides documenting the past, the museum also puts on activities, events, workshops and walking tours to highlight how history has influenced the world.
Look out for the spooky ghost tours in October.
The museum is in the Carnegie Library building, which dates back to 1909 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Clark Country Historical Museum is off Main Street between downtown and Uptown Village, Vancouver, WA.
5- Explore the Columbia River Gorge
It’s one of the USA’s 10 National Scenic Areas and is a stunning 80 miles of spectacular scenery, with forest, waterfalls, mountains and plenty of historical sights along the way.
Carved by the natural forces of the Columbia River, which winds through the Cascade Mountains, you’ll also find lots of activities to enjoy on the river, such as kiteboarding and stand-up paddleboarding.
History buffs should check out the Pendleton Woolen Mill for dyeing, spinning and weaving demonstrations.
Other popular spots are the Cape Horn Overlook, Bonneville Lock and Dam for its fish ladder viewing station and the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum.
Follow Highway 14 for one of the most scenic drives in Washington state.
6- Hike To Moulton Falls
Hike the Moulton Falls Trail along the Lewis River.
The four-mile roundtrip trail is mostly flat, after a short steep section from the parking lot and a pleasant hike for all ages.
More energetic hikers may want to go on a side adventure to climb Big Tree Falls or the Bells Mountain Trail viewpoint.
The drive to Moulton Falls is along the Clark County Scenic Drive and is an adventure in itself as the road follows a stunning stretch of the Lewis River with volcanic rock formations.
7- Stroll Around Esther Short Park
One of the free things to do in Vancouver is to wander around the downtown area, which is full of historic buildings and inspiring public art.
Discovering the city on foot is the way to go, and you can tick off several attractions like the Clark County Historical Museum, Kiggins Theater, the Proto-Cathedral of St. James and Esther Short Park.
Esther Short Park is the green heart of downtown Vancouver and the oldest public square in the Pacific Northwest.
The historic park dates back to 1853 and is still a hub for entertainment and a venue for free concerts.
It has walking paths, a picnic stage, a rose garden, a children’s playground, an impressive fountain and the historic Slocum House.
One of the park’s striking features is the 69 ft Salmon Run Bell Tower, which has an impressive Glockenspiel diorama.
Esther Short Park is open until 10 pm at 605 Esther St, Vancouver, 98660.
8- Explore Uptown Village
Another fun thing to do in Vancouver is to explore Uptown Village’s antique and vintage shops, restaurants and bars.
Uptown Village encompasses the historic Shumway, Arnada, Carter Park and Hough neighbourhoods, with Main Street as the artery that connects the communities.
The Hough district is the place to admire Victorian and bungalow-style homes dating back to the early 1900s.
From vintage shopping to dining and sipping cocktails, there’s plenty of fun in Uptown Village.
9- Admire Street Art
One of the free things to do in Vancouver is to walk around and admire the city’s public art.
This city has a strong artistic leaning, and in downtown Vancouver, public artworks are on display, such as commemorative memorials, artistic sculptures and eye-catching murals.
10- See The Vancouver Land Bridge
The Vancouver Land Bridge is a 40 ft wide pedestrian bridge that arches over State Route 14.
The bridge is quite a feature and has indigenous plants and views of the Columbia River.
The artistically impressive Welcome Gate stands at the southern end and was designed by Native American artist Lillian Pitt.
The bridge joins the Columbia River Renaissance Trail with the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and Discovery Historic Loop Trail.
Vancouver Land Bridge is at WA-14, Vancouver, 98661.
11- Explore Vancouver’s Waterfront
The Waterfront is a $1.5 billion project and a revitalised entertainment hub on the Columbia River with parks, fountains, residential and office buildings, restaurants, breweries, bistros, wineries, shops and bars.
Grant Street Pier is the waterfront’s central feature and is only 10 minutes from Portland (Oregon).
The Waterfront Park is a public recreation area with green lawns, an urban beach and picnic areas.
Vancouver Waterfront is at 695 Waterfront Way, Vancouver, 98660.
12- Hike Burnt Bridge Creek Trail
Hike the Burnt Bridge Creek Trail through grasslands, wetlands, forests, city neighbourhoods and Arnold Park.
The trail is eight miles, takes around 2.5 hours to complete, and is open all year round.
Burnt Bridge Creek Trail is at 1617 N Devine Rd, Vancouver, 98661.
13- Walk The Waterfront Renaissance Trail
If you are looking for opportunities to take a stroll, take photos and admire lovely views, the Waterfront Renaissance Trail is a great option.
Stretching a few miles along the Columbia River, the paved pedestrian path is a lovely trail for a long stroll.
It links many of the community spaces in the city, passing various attractions and offers tons of fun options, including places to shop and dine in the outdoors.
Highlights include the Wendy Rose sculpture and World War II-era Kaiser Shipyards.
Waterfront Renaissance Trail is at 115 SE Columbia Way, Vancouver, 98661.
14- Bond With Nature At Columbia Springs
Connect with nature at Columbia Springs Environmental Education Center, 100 acres of urban natural space within Vancouver.
Columbia Springs is a non-profit organisation that works with local academic institutions on educational programs of all levels, from kindergarten through to college students.
The centre offers activities in the classroom and on-site, and its self-guided nature walk and interpretive displays are also open to the public.
You can also join other volunteers to help with native species planting and invasive species removal.
Columbia Springs is at 12208 SE Evergreen Hwy, Vancouver, 98683.
15- Go Shopping And Eating
Vancouver Mall opened in 1977 and has 120 retail shops, eateries, and a state-of-the-art AMC 23 movie complex.
In a city where it often rains, Vancouver Mall is a good fallback option to grab a quick bite, watch a show or fill out your suitcase with something new.
The mall has plenty of eateries, but if you’re looking for a top spot for eateries, there are many places to eat on Main Street, too, from posh riverside restaurants to food trucks and brewery taprooms.
Vancouver Mall is at 8700 NE Vancouver Mall Dr, Vancouver, 98662.
16- Have Raging Fun at OutRaged Rage Room
A unique way to vent is to book some time in Vancouver’s OutRaged Rage Room, where you can smash away your stress.
Break objects of different sizes, shapes and materials in a safe, judgment-free environment.
The venue offers a range of products and packages, from a short session with a half bucket of breakables to group sessions for up to six people.
OutRaged Rage Room is at 12308 NE 56th St Unit G 1301, Vancouver, 98682.
17- Drink Local Craft Beer
Vancouver has a thriving beer scene, with more than 24 breweries and taprooms.
From smoky stouts to IPAs and barrel-aged saisons, you can explore the breweries on a walking or cycling tour, where you’ll meet new friends.
Taste excellent craft beer and hear the stories behind the passionate brewers. You’ll need several days to visit the best breweries in ”Brewcouver”.
18- Watch A Movie At Kiggins Theater
The historic Kiggins Theater was established in 1936 and is a single-screen independent movie theatre on Main Street in downtown Vancouver.
Named after the former businessman and Vancouver mayor John Phillip Kiggins, the theatre shows a range of movies, from classics to indie films.
The venue also hosts stand-up comics every month, theatre performances and lectures.
The building is on the list of the National Register of Historic Places.
Kiggins Theater is at 1011 Main St, Vancouver, 98660.
19- See Wendy The Welder Sculpture
Pay a visit to the Wendy the Welder sculpture while walking the Columbia River Renaissance Trail, a mile east of the I-5 bridge.
The 10 ft 1000-pound stainless-steel sculpture represents Wendy the Welder, sister of Rosie the Riveter, who worked at the Kaiser Shipyards during WWII.
The artwork by Women Who Held is surrounded by other local symbols of the era, which celebrates the spirit and legacy of thousands of women of World War II.
At night, the statue looks even more intriguing in enough lighting and becomes an excellent spot for a selfie.
Wendy, the Welder Sculpture, is at 502340-000, Vancouver, 98661.
20- Check Out Old Apple Tree Park
Look for the oldest apple tree in the Pacific Northwest at Old Apple Tree Park, next to the Welcome Gate of Vancouver Land Bridge.
The park is built around an apple tree believed to be the oldest in the Northwest and the matriarch of Washington State’s apple market.
The tree lived from 1826 to 2020, but its legacy continues through saplings that share its genetic makeup.
Every October, the city holds a festival to celebrate it.
The park has no entrance fee, and the facilities include walking paths, benches, and a water fountain.
Old Apple Tree Park is at 112 Columbia Way, Vancouver, 98660.
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