“Where are you from?”
“Oh. Canada, huh? What’s it like there?”
“I wouldn’t know. I’m from Vancouver, Washington. You know, in the state of Washington?”
“*insert heavy sigh here* I live just north of Portland, Oregon.”
“Oh, so you’re in Oregon, then?”
That is a common conversation that happens in my travels. It’s funny how people often forget about the state in between Oregon and the Canadian border unless you’re talking about Seattle. I’ve often had to say, “Do you know where Seattle is?” *nod from the other person* “I live about 2 and a half hours south of there,” yet still receive a blank stare. A similar conversation even made into the New York Times back when Vancouver, BC hosted the Winter Olympics.
The great state of Washington is more than Seattle. I’m serious. There is a lot more to the state of Washington besides our biggest city! Hi, we’re not the second largest wine-producing state just because of the beautiful city of Seattle. Seattle, I love you. I really do. However, you often overshadow our great state and what we have to offer!
One of the hidden gems of Washington state is tucked in the SW Corner of the state.
Where to stay
Vancouver, WA has many familiar hotel brands. Seriously. I’ll give you a minute to search for “Vancouver, WA hotels”. How many familiar brands did you find?
Downtown Vancouver is graced by the presence of the Hilton, which doubles as the city’s convention center. There are many amenities within walking distance of the Hilton, including restaurants, shops, breweries, and wineries. The beautiful Esther Short Park is also directly across the street. Pick a weekend during the summer, and you will find that Esther Short Park serves as the heartbeat for Downtown Vancouver. From the Vancouver Farmers Market to weekend festivals, there is *always* something going on at Esther Short Park!
Further out, closer to the tech corridor that makes up the eastern border of Vancouver and the western border of the city of Camas, there is a brand new Candlewood Suites. This hotel is conveniently located across the street from 4 restaurants, and is a short walk or drive from numerous others.
If you want to stay in a central location, then the Heathman Lodge is where you should lay your head! Located near the newly remodeled (and rebranded!) Vancouver Mall, the Heathman Lodge offers a sophisticated, genuine Pacific Northwest experience. Again, it is a short walk or drive to numerous restaurants, if you don’t choose to eat at the hotel restaurant, Hudson’s Bar and Grill.
Where to eat
Being in the shadow of Portland makes it tough for restaurants in Vancouver, since we all know that Portland has some great food (oh, hai Bananas Foster French Toast from Screendoor. Yes, I love you too…I don’t love the wait to indulge in your deliciousness though). If you don’t want to get caught up in a crazy long wait, here are some great options!
After spending the morning wandering the grounds of Fort Vancouver, I would recommend going to The Grant House. The menu gives you a history on the house, and a history of the restaurant.
The day I visited, I enjoyed the Chicken Salad Lettuce Cups. Served in butter lettuce, this chicken salad is delicious and is highlighted by creamy avocado, pickled onions and crunchy bacon.
To suffice your sweet sweet tooth, I highly recommend the Creme Brûlée. Thick bourbon vanilla custard is encased by a crunchy, perfectly caramelized sugar crust and topped with a fresh strawberry. It is heaven in a dish.
Another great restaurant, and one that I personally recommend when people are asking where to eat is Lapellah. They locally source as many of their ingredients as they can, and the results are divine. You haven’t lived until you’ve had the Lapellah Burger. *drools* If you’re on the eastside, near Camas, visit their sister restaurant, Three Sixty Kitchen, where the equally delicious Three Sixty Burger is on the menu.
If a sit down meal isn’t your style, don’t sit in line for McDonald’s or Burger King. Oh no. Go ahead and hit up our local quick-service chain, Burgerville. Locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients are the hallmark of this long time institution. According to their “about” section, 72% of their ingredients are sourced from within 400 miles of their headquarters in Vancouver! No wonder this place has been a favorite of mine since childhood.
Where to drink
Oh my. There are so many great places to grab a drink in this area!
One of my all time favorites is The Grocery Cocktail and Social. They have a fun vibe, a rotating list of cocktails and the food ain’t shabby either. Think farm-to-fork (a term which I’m coming to loathe, but that’s another story) street food…in a sit down atmosphere.
Sometimes, at the end of the day, you don’t necessarily want to sit down and unwind at a bar, though. What about sitting down with a glass of wine? Downtown Vancouver hosts a plethora of opportunities to do just that. If you want a little culture with your wine, head over to Niche Wine Bar, which has an art gallery, Angst Gallery on one side and an Art Deco theater which hosts a mix of older movies and community events (check the website for details), Kiggins Theater, on the other.
If you want to enjoy the best of Eastern Washington, I recommend Cellar 55 Tasting Room. Cellar 55 serves as a satellite tasting room for three Eastern Washington wineries, my beloved Basel Cellars, VanArnam Vineyards, and Five Star Cellars.
If neither of these options are what you want, head over to Vancouver’s newest wine bar, Veraison Wine & Events. This place is just plain ol’ FUN. The space is clean, fresh, and has a history for the family who owns Veraison. The history is documented on the walls. If you download the Flok app and join their loyalty program, you get some cool perks!
If wine isn’t your style, then check out any one of the breweries on the Brewcouver passport! My favorites on the passport are Trusty Brewing, Trap Door Brewing, and Loowit Brewing.
Where to Play
Where to play. Oh boy. Vancouver has a plethora of places to play. From our stunning waterfront, to the numerous parks we have. There is something for everyone.
If you want a day of fun and sun with the family with a variety of activities, then head on down to one of the many waterfront parks. There is an easy-to-walk trail along the Columbia River where you can sit and shoot the breeze on one of the park benches placed along the path. If you’re more active, then head on over to Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park or Vancouver Lake Regional Park for everything ranging from beach volleyball to paddleboarding. Heck, you could even drown a hook and sinker to try your luck at fishing! However, before you just grab a rod and go, please check out the rules and license requirements with the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.
On the off chance that being near water isn’t your idea of a fun day, there are plenty of other things to! However, keep in mind that Vancouver is a city that was built by the mighty Columbia flowing through it, so chances are, you will at least see some sort of a reference to a local body of water.
You can take a nice walking tour of downtown Vancouver, especially through the Fort Vancouver National Site. From the beautiful Providence Academy to satisfying the aviation geeks at Pearson Field and Pearson Air Museum, the Fort has it all. Yes, if you’re a private pilot, you can land at Pearson Field, which is the oldest continuously operated airfield in the Pacific Northwest and one of the two oldest in the United States. Information on services and landing at Pearson can be found here.
Getting to Vancouver, WA is easier than you think! In addition to being located along Interstate 5, Portland International Airport is 10 minutes away from most points in the city. There is daily service from multiple Amtrak trains, including the Coast Starlight and the Empire Builder.
So c’mon. Join those of us who live and work here by playing here in beautiful Vancouver, WA!
LOL – I love the “you’re from Canada” line because I’ve heard that myself! Vancouver (the WA State one) is a fun place to visit for a lot of reasons. Thanks for tackling it!