A local's guide to Vancouver, Washington

Wonderguide by

Cheryl Landes

A local's guide to Vancouver, Washington

Vancouver became my hometown in 2013, and I love living here. There's a lot to do that suits just about any interest. In this guide, I'm sharing some of my favorites. Enjoy!

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Historic sites

Vancouver was among the first settlements in the Pacific Northwest, so it's rich in history. The city and the surrounding area have a variety of lovingly preserved buildings and sites that played important roles in who we are today.

Image - Fort Vancouver National Historic Site | Visitor Center
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site | Visitor Center
Cheryl:I love going on long walks here. The fort is a fun place to explore on days when volunteer actors are stationed in each building and tell stories about what it was like to live and work there. The Victory Garden outside the fort is beautiful year-round.
Image - Pearson Air Museum
Pearson Air Museum
Cheryl:This is a small museum on the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, but it has an interesting collection of vintage planes.
Image - Clark County Historical Museum
Clark County Historical Museum
Cheryl:This is the place to go to learn about the history of our county. The museum has special presentations during the First Friday Art Walks.
Image - The Marshall House: Victorian Jewel of Officers Row
The Marshall House: Victorian Jewel of Officers Row
Cheryl:This home is a beautiful example of Queen Anne architecture on Officers Row at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.
Image - Cathlapotle Plankhouse
Cathlapotle Plankhouse
Cheryl:Connect with nature and the local indigenous culture. This plankhouse is on the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge north of Vancouver.
Image - The Cedar Creek Grist Mill
The Cedar Creek Grist Mill
Cheryl:This mill in Woodland, north of Vancouver, was built in 1876. Watch flour-making demonstrations and take home a bag of fresh-milled flour or cornmeal. Special events are held throughout the year.
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Outdoor activities

For outdoor lovers, Vancouver's parks and recreation areas inside and outside the city are appealing year-round. Our maritime climate generally keeps the weather mild during any season.

Image - Columbia Springs
Columbia Springs
Cheryl:This is the site of a historic fish hatchery that's still in operation. Trails wander past the ponds and through forests. It's a pleasant, quiet place to go for a hike any day. Although it's in Vancouver's city limits, it doesn't feel like you're in an urban area.
Image - Vancouver Water Resources Education Center
Vancouver Water Resources Education Center
Cheryl:From the center, connect with several trails that meander through forests and reveal panoramic views of the Columbia River.
Image - NatureScaping Wildlife Botanical Gardens
NatureScaping Wildlife Botanical Gardens
Cheryl:This is a series of demonstration gardens in Brush Prairie, just north of Vancouver. The gardens are designed to attract butterflies, hummingbirds, rabbits, and other wildlife.
Image - Waterfront Renaissance Trail Vancouver WA
Waterfront Renaissance Trail Vancouver WA
Cheryl:This is a beautiful five-mile walk along the Columbia River from Esther Short Park in downtown Vancouver to Winter Park. The trail is paved and flat.
Image - Lacamas Park
Lacamas Park
Cheryl:Lacamas Lake, waterfalls, and forested trails in this park just east of Vancouver make this park a pleasant place to connect with nature any time. The trails are easy to moderate. In the spring, purple and white Camas lilies bloom in a meadow at the top of a steep hill.
Image - Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge
Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge
Cheryl:This is a birdwatcher's paradise at any time of year. Sandhill cranes stop here during their migrations in the spring and fall. I've even seen a few trumpeter swans here during the spring migration.
Image - Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
Cheryl:Vancouver is on the north shore of the Columbia River, near the western edge of the official natural scenic area. This is one of my favorite drives. There are two options: State Highway 14 on the Washington side of the river or Interstate 84 on the south side in Oregon. The scenery is different on each side of the river. There are a lot of hiking trails to scenic vistas of the gorge and waterfalls on both sides of the river.
Image - Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge
Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge
Cheryl:Another great place for easy walks and wildlife watching. It's in Washougal, east of Vancouver.

Theaters and entertainment

Vancouver has a vibrant arts community.

Image - Magenta Theater
Magenta Theater
Cheryl:This is one of my favorite community theaters. It's located in downtown Vancouver.
Image - Kiggins Theatre
Kiggins Theatre
Cheryl:The Kiggins runs an eclectic mix of movies and films and hosts live entertainment. Regular live shows include Comedy on Tap, Re-Imagined Radio, Science on Tap, pops concerts by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and a local talk/variety show called "Hello, Vancouver!"
Image - The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
Cheryl:The orchestra performs chamber, classical, and pop concerts in several venues throughout the city.
Image - Southwest Washington Wind Symphony
Southwest Washington Wind Symphony
Cheryl:This orchestra performs free concerts three times a year at the Performing Arts Center at Union High School in Camas, just east of Vancouver. Videos of past performances are posted on the symphony's website.
Image - Love Street Playhouse
Love Street Playhouse
Cheryl:This is another favorite theater in Woodland, north of Vancouver.
Image - Billy Blues Bar and Grill
Billy Blues Bar and Grill
Cheryl:A great place to hear talented blues artists. Also great food!


Vancouver has a diverse food scene. Some of my favorite restaurants are listed below.

Image - Arawan Thai Cuisine
Arawan Thai Cuisine
Cheryl:One of my favorite places for Pad Thai anywhere. The iced Thai coffee is delicious.
Image - Stardust Diner
Stardust Diner
Cheryl:A great comfort-food place in a 1950s atmosphere
Image - MADdogs Gourmet Hot Dogs
MADdogs Gourmet Hot Dogs
Cheryl:Gourmet hot dogs really do exist, and you'll find them here! You'll also find several gourmet varieties of tater tots.
Image - Jerusalem Restaurant & Cafe
Jerusalem Restaurant & Cafe
Cheryl:Authentic Middle Eastern cuisine with friendly service in downtown Vancouver
Image - Heathen Brewing Feral Public House
Heathen Brewing Feral Public House
Cheryl:I've met people for happy hour here. I don't drink alcohol (it triggers migraines), but the food never disappoints. The people who join me enjoy the brews. This pub is sometimes a stop on the Exobus, a craft beer tour of the Vancouver area. I've taken the tour, because I'm interested in the brewing process, and highly recommend it. Unfortunately, I can't link to the tour's website from Travelade.
Image - Wildfin American Grill - Vancouver
Wildfin American Grill - Vancouver
Cheryl:Great brunches! My favorite menu item is the smoked salmon scramble.
Image - Warehouse 23
Warehouse 23
Cheryl:One of my favorite local places for seafood. The views of the Columbia River can't be beat, either.
Image - Beaches Restaurant & Bar
Beaches Restaurant & Bar
Cheryl:This restaurant is popular, but it's still a nice place to relax and enjoy the views of the Columbia River. The clam chowder is delicious.
Image - Sweet Peas Tea Room
Sweet Peas Tea Room
Cheryl:A cheery place to go in Battle Ground, north of Vancouver, for traditional English tea time. The owner is from England, and she makes everything from scratch.


Vancouver has a variety of fun events. These are my favorites.

Image - Clark County Recycled Arts Festival
Clark County Recycled Arts Festival
Cheryl:This is a great place to get inspired about recycling your stuff! Vendors sell products made from recycled materials. I've seen birdhouses made from recycled aluminum, earrings made out of recycled cereal boxes, repurposed clothing, and wet bars made from recycled pallettes. And there's the Parade of the Species, where anyone is welcome to dress up as a creature made from recycled materials and march behind a band through Esther Short Park. The creativity never stops flowing!
Image - The Historic Trust
The Historic Trust
Cheryl:The Historic Trust hosts Vancouver's Fireworks Spectacular at Fort Vancouver each year. It's a beautiful setting to enjoy the celebration of America's independence. And the fireworks show lives up to its name - it is truly spectacular!
Image - Vancouver's Downtown Association
Vancouver's Downtown Association
Cheryl:The Vancouver Downtown Association hosts an art walk the first Friday of the month. Each month, different art galleries stay open late. It's a nice way to enjoy a dinner downtown and explore the neighborhood.
Image - Vancouver Farmers Market
Vancouver Farmers Market
Cheryl:The downtown market runs mid-March through late October at Sixth and Esther Streets. Dozens of vendors sell fresh produce, flowers, handmade crafts, prepared food and drinks, and coffee. Two smaller markets are open in East Vancouver and at Esther Short Park from July through September.


Here are a few fun tour activities in and near Vancouver. In addition, I highly recommend the Exobus craft beer tour at http://rideexo.com/.

Image - Pendleton
Cheryl:Shop beautiful items made from the Pendleton wool in the store and tour the mill in Washougal, east of Vancouver.
Image - Chelatchie Prairie Railroad
Chelatchie Prairie Railroad
Cheryl:Ride a historic steam train through beautiful scenery north of Vancouver.
Image - ZiplineX Zip Line Tours
ZiplineX Zip Line Tours
Cheryl:Some friends and I went to this company in Amboy, northeast of Vancouver, for our first zipline tour and had a blast. The guides are very supportive and fun to tour with. After trying other zipline adventures, I can say that ZiplineX is my favorite place to go ziplining.

My Recommendations

Wonderguide map

  1. Fort Vancouver National Historic Site | Visitor Center
  2. Pearson Air Museum
  3. Clark County Historical Museum
  4. The Marshall House: Victorian Jewel of Officers Row
  5. Cathlapotle Plankhouse
  6. The Cedar Creek Grist Mill
  7. Columbia Springs
  8. Vancouver Water Resources Education Center
  9. NatureScaping Wildlife Botanical Gardens
  10. Waterfront Renaissance Trail Vancouver WA
  11. Lacamas Park
  12. Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge
  13. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
  14. Steigerwald Lake Wildlife Refuge
  15. Magenta Theater
  16. Kiggins Theatre
  17. The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
  18. Southwest Washington Wind Symphony
  19. Love Street Playhouse
  20. Billy Blues Bar and Grill
  21. Arawan Thai Cuisine
  22. Stardust Diner
  23. MADdogs Gourmet Hot Dogs
  24. Jerusalem Restaurant & Cafe
  25. Heathen Brewing Feral Public House
  26. Wildfin American Grill - Vancouver
  27. Warehouse 23
  28. Beaches Restaurant & Bar
  29. Sweet Peas Tea Room
  30. Clark County Recycled Arts Festival
  31. The Historic Trust
  32. Vancouver's Downtown Association
  33. Vancouver Farmers Market
  34. Pendleton
  35. Chelatchie Prairie Railroad
  36. ZiplineX Zip Line Tours

Like these tips?
High Five Cheryl