Explore the Pacific Northwest

Vancouver, Washington

Explore the Pacific Northwest

Waterfront Revitalization Complements the City’s Natural and Historic Charms

new vancouver waterfront complex

Standing on a restaurant deck overlooking the Columbia River in the new waterfront complex in Vancouver, Washington, I marvel at the activity around me. A stately paddle wheeler cruises by, and airplanes on their way into Portland fly overhead. An auto bridge to the left and a train bridge to the right frame the view. Below, the visual centerpiece of the project, a V-shaped, cable-stay pier, juts out into the water like the bow of a ship with a high mast. Just a short walk from downtown’s Esther Short Park, this campus of offices, restaurants, homes and public green spaces is being built on 32 acres that Esther, one of the area's early settlers, deeded to the city in the mid-19th century. With its phased opening now underway, the project is restoring public access to riverfront property and bringing modern touches to an area steeped in natural and historic charms.

strolling and sightseeing

vancouver wa land bridge

Strolling Vancouver’s extensive, paved urban trail system can’t be beat for soaking in the sights downtown and on the waterfront. The Discovery Historic Loop Trail links downtown to the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site to the east via the Vancouver Land Bridge, a curvy, earth-covered path designed by site architect Johnpaul Jones, in collaboration with nationally reknowned artist Maya Lin, as part of the Confluence project.

The star attraction in Old Apple Tree Park, just west of the bridge, is the state’s oldest apple tree, planted in 1826. (This year's Old Apple Tree Festival, which includes a giveaway of cuttings from the famously gnarled tree, takes place on at the park on Oct. 6.) From the park, you can continue along the 5-mile Waterfront Renaissance Trail, which extends to a park in the new waterfront project. In the center of downtown, Esther Short Park is a great place to watch the comings and goings of locals and visitors. On weekends through October, it’s home to one of the state’s largest farmers markets.

Exploring Fort Vancouver

fort vancouver watchtower

You could easily spend several hours exploring living history and period buildings inside Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. The grounds include Fort Vancouver, established in 1825 as the headquarters of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s interior fur trade (destroyed by fire in 1866, its reconstruction began in the 1960s); Vancouver Barracks, the first U.S. Army post in the Pacific Northwest, dating back to 1849; and Pearson Air Museum. In addition to normal daytime hours, fall brings the return of the popular Lantern Tour series after dark. The ranger-led tours of the fort or barracks by lantern light are offered on select dates, October through March.

Delicious restaurants

little conejo in vancouver wa

The city is also home to an eclectic dining scene. Among the exciting newcomers, Little Conejo entices with mouthwatering lamb barbacoa tacos served on freshly made tortillas. Nom Nom Restaurant and Grill specializes in modern Vietnamese and Thai cuisine, served in an airy space. Crowd-pleasers include its huge portions of Nem Kao, lettuce wraps with minced chicken, crispy rice and fresh herbs. Nearby, The Smokin’ Oak brings Texas-style barbecue to town. At Elements, chef/owner Miguel Sosa offers modern cuisine with global influences, such as a vanilla-brined pork chop bathed in handcrafted mole. Barring delays, the newest WildFin American Grill, a growing family of upscale seafood spots, will be among the first restaurants to open on the waterfront.

A Lively Arts Scene

vancouver sun newspaper building mural

Citywide, murals and outdoor sculptures reflect the lively arts scene Vancouver shares with neighboring Portland, Oregon. Downtown Vancouver spaces such as Angst Gallery and Art at the Cave do more than just showcase local artists, they also serve as community gathering places, hosting artist talks and, in the case of Angst, readings and forums, too. The Downtown First Friday Art Walk is a great way to immerse yourself in the scene, as shops and restaurants join galleries in creating a festive setting for perusing locally created works.

—Written by Jennifer Burns Bright

The Essentials

Downtown Vancouver is about 10 miles north of downtown Portland. The Hilton Vancouver Washington and Homewood Suites by Hilton Vancouver-Portland are among the top AAA Diamond Rated hotels and inns in the downtown Vancouver area. Visit your nearest AAA store for maps, guidebooks and other travel-planning assistance, including assistance from one of our expert Member Travel Counselors. Map it.