The Ultimate Travel Guide To Vancouver, Washington & Things To Do

The name Vancouver sparks thoughts of the city in Canada’s British Columbia province, not a small city in Washington State, US. In fact, it’s slightly overshadowed by its neighbor, Portland, which is about 10 miles away. Washington’s Vancouver sits right at the border of Washington and Oregon, and it’s a gem that tourists discover on a road trip to or from Seattle.

However, Vancouver, WA, is more than just a road trip pit stop; it’s a full-fledged city and tourist destination. The city is located right next to the Columbia River which has several nature trails running beside it. There’s also a lake — Vancouver Lake — which is a popular site for fishing, canoeing, kayaking, and even swimming. There’s no shortage of things to do in this destination and this ultimate travel guide to Vancouver, Washington will help those planning a trip to make the most of their stay.


When To Visit Vancouver, WA

Waterfront in Vancouver, WAVia: Shutterstock

Waterfront in Vancouver, WA

Vancouver offers visitors something to do whatever time of the year they visit. However, to find the best time to visit, a tourist should consider the cost of travel, weather, and preferred activities.

Spring (March to May)

This is the best time to visit for those interested in outdoor activities. At this time, the biting cold of winter has started abating, with temperatures averaging highs of 60 degrees Fahrenheit (16 degrees Celsius) and lows of 42 degrees Fahrenheit (6 degrees Celsius).

Since it’s neither hot nor too cold, outdoor activities like hiking and kayaking are ideal at this time. The number of tourists in Vancouver is also low in spring, so rates are still affordable.

Summer (June to August)

Temperatures rise to the 80s range (26 Celsius) at the height of summer. This is the peak tourist season so the parks, trails, and other attractions will be crowded.

Room and flight rates are also high at this time, but early planners will get lower prices.

Autumn (September to November)

From September, the summer crowds have left, but the weather is still good. Although temperatures have started dropping as Vancouver approaches winter, it’s still in the 60s range (18 degrees Celsius) in October and the 50s to 40s in November.

At this time, rates have dropped, but the weather is still pleasant enough for outdoor activities.

Winter (December to February)

Winter is considered a low season in Vancouver, so rates are quite low at this time. However, lovers of winter activities like skiing come to the city as it’s close to several slopes.

Getting Around Vancouver: Best Ways To Travel

C-Tran Bus on The Vine route, Vancouver WAVia: Wikimedia Commons

C-Tran Bus on The Vine route, Vancouver WA

Vancouver is served by the Portland International Airport, which is just 10 miles away. Most visitors arrive via the airport but those who drive here use Interstate 5, which connects Portland to Seattle.

Once in the city, there are different ways that one can get around. Here are the best ways to get around Vancouver, Washington.

This is the cheapest and easiest way to explore Vancouver, Washington. The city isn’t too big, so most of the attractions are within a short distance of each other.

By Bike

Vancouver is a bike-friendly city with paved paths and cyclist lanes that make it easy to navigate around the city. Visitors can rent bikes to explore the city.

Plus, public buses have bike racks, allowing cyclists to bring their bikes when they need to use the bus.

Related: Boston To Portland: What To See On This Coastal Road Trip

By Bus

C-Tran, the public transportation system in Clark County, operates buses in Vancouver. There’s a Bus Rapid Transit route known as The Vine, which operates between Vancouver Mall and Downtown Vancouver every day.

  • The Vine operates from as early as 5 am to after midnight every day. Other routes run from around 6 am to 8 pm.
  • Bus fares cost as little as $1 for a single ride.


C-Tran also operates an on-demand rideshare service known as The Current.

  • This service is only available from 8 am to 6 pm on weekends, and from 5:30 am to 7 pm on weekdays.
  • Rides can be scheduled on the C-Tran app and costs are as low as $1.

Visitors also have the option of using Uber, Lyft, or other similar services. However, these are costly, especially over long distances.

Where To Eat In Vancouver, Washington

Breakfast: Breakfast at Valerie’s

pancakesPhoto by Gabriel Gurrola on Unsplash

A photo of pancakes

For a filling breakfast at a reasonable price, Breakfast at Valerie’s is the place to head to when in Vancouver. This restaurant has a quaint ambiance with a homely appeal.

They serve an all-American breakfast that’s made up of eggs, pancakes, French toast, and potatoes. Valerie’s also has classics like hashbrowns and Belgian waffles.

  • Address: 516 SE Chkalov Dr Suite 1, Vancouver, WA 98683, United States
  • Hours: Mon – Sat: 6 am – 2 pm; Sun: 6:30 am – 2:30 pm

Lunch: WildFin American Grill

a steak and grilled tomato with green herbsVia: Cruise Radio

WildFin is located on the banks of the Columbia River, offering a meal with a view. The restaurant has an elaborate lunch and dinner menu with starters like avocado toast, garlic prawns, and clams.

Their specialty is grilled food (it’s even in their name) so dishes like baby back ribs, smoked turkey, and Cajun chicken are popular.

  • Address: 777 Waterfront Way Suite 101, Vancouver, WA 98660, United States
  • Hours: Sun – Thu: 11:30 am – 9 pm; Fri & Sat: 11:30 am – 10 pm

Dinner: Thai Orchid Restaurant

Thai food optionsVia: Unsplash

Thai food options

The Thai Orchid is renowned for its delectable Thai food. The menu is made up of cuisines like Pad Phet, which is made up of eggplant, bamboo shoots, and some meat.

There is also a variety of curries, noodles, as well as sushi.

Visitors can also try the restaurant’s house cocktails, which include Asian Pear Mojito, and ones with interesting names like The Empress Chii, and The Painkiller, among many others.

  • Address: 213 W 11th St, Vancouver, WA 98660, United States
  • Hours: Sun – Wed: 11 am – 9 pm; Thu – Sat: 11 am – 10 pm

Drinks: The Grocery Cocktail & Social

Cocktail optionsVia: Unsplash

Cocktail options at a bar

The Grocery Cocktail and Social is located close to Downtown Vancouver and the Columbia River, in an area with a vibrant nightlife.

This establishment serves a variety of drinks, including classic cocktails like Old Fashioned. They also have an extensive list of house cocktails, wines, and whiskeys.

Their happy hour starts when they open at 2 pm until 5 pm, and all Sundays are considered happy hour.

  • Address: 115 W 7th St, Vancouver, WA 98660, United States
  • Hours: Tue – Sat: 2 pm – 11 pm; Sun: 2 pm – 8 pm (closed on Mon)

Things To Do In Vancouver, Washington

Explore Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

A building at Fort Vancouver National Historic SiteVia: Wikimedia Commons

A building at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

This site is found in the Hudson Bay area, a short distance from the waterfront. Fort Vancouver has a rich history that started with it as a fur trade fort to it becoming army barracks.

There’s a lot to learn here about the Pacific Northwest’s past. Plus, visitors can tour Fort Vancouver Garden, which acted as a source of food for those who worked at the fur trade fort. Even today, the garden bears various fruits and vegetables.

  • Address: 612 E Reserve St, Vancouver, WA 98661, United States
  • Hours: Tue – Sat: 9 am – 4 pm (closed on Sun & Mon)
  • Fees: General (over 15 yrs): $10; Free for ages 15 yrs and below

Stroll Along The Waterfront Renaissance Trail

Buildings along the Waterfront Renaissance TrailVia: Shutterstock

Buildings along the Waterfront Renaissance Trail

The Waterfront Renaissance Trail is a paved path that stretches for 5 miles along the Columbia River. Tourists can walk, bike, or rollerblade on this path, which offers scenic views of the river.

Restaurants dot the trail route, and sites like the Henry J. Kaiser Shipyard Memorial are worthwhile stops.

Learn About Aviation History At The Pearson Air Museum

The Pearson Air Museum interiorVia: Wikimedia Commons

Aircraft displays in the Pearson Air Museum

This is a small museum that showcases aviation-related artifacts that are connected to the military.

The site has exhibits of World War I-era planes and hand-painted murals and visitors get to learn about the site’s history as a military airfield as well as its connection to World War I.

  • Address: 1115 E 5th St, Vancouver, WA 98661, United States
  • Hours: Tue – Sat: 9 am – 4 pm (closed on Sun & Mon)
  • Fees: Free

Shop At Vancouver Mall

Vancouver Mall entranceVia: Wikimedia Commons

Vancouver Mall entrance

Vancouver Mall has over 140 stores, with outlets like Claire’s, H&M, JCPenny, and MAcy’s found here. There are also a number of eateries, including Cinnabon, Outback Steakhouse, and Panda Express, as well as a cinema.

This mall is easily accessible using The Vine bus, which operates every day from Downtown Vancouver.

  • Address: 8700 NE Vancouver Mall Dr, Vancouver, WA 98662, United States
  • Hours: Mon – Fri: 11 am – 8 pm; Sat: 10 am – 8 pm; Sun: 11 am – 6 pm

Enjoy A Day At Vancouver Lake Regional Park

Vancouver Lake aerial viewVia: Wikimedia Commons

Vancouver Lake aerial view

As the name implies, the chief attraction at this regional park is Vancouver Lake. This park sits on the lake’s western shore, with a serene beach area and the opportunity to go canoeing, kayaking, or even windsurfing.

Visitors can hike the park’s 2.5-mile trail, which leads to Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park. There are also picnic spots and barbecue grills. Plus, visitors get to enjoy views of Mount St. Helens, Mt Hood, and Mt Adams.

  • Address: 6801 NW Lower River Rd, Vancouver, WA 98660, United States
  • Hours: 7 am – 7 pm (daily)
  • Parking fees: Motorcycle: $2, cars: $3, buses: $8

Day Trip Destinations From Vancouver, Washington

Vancouver’s location places it within a few hours’ drive to some of Washington and Oregon’s top natural attractions. These spots are great for hiking, camping, and even skiing.

Here’s a look at some of the top road trip destinations from Vancouver.

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area

  • Location: Vancouver, Washington
  • Distance from Vancouver: 87 miles,
  • Time from Vancouver: 1.5 hrs
  • Activities: Camping, hiking, horse riding

Mt Hood National Forest

  • Location: Oregon
  • Distance from Vancouver: 65 miles
  • Time from Vancouver: 1hr 20 mins
  • Activities: Skiing, snowboarding, sledding,

Mt St. Helens

  • Location: Washington
  • Distance from Vancouver: 60 miles
  • Time from Vancouver: 1.5 hrs
  • Activities: Hiking, nature viewing, educational visits, skiing

Gifford Pinchot National Forest

  • Location: Washington
  • Distance from Vancouver: 150 miles
  • Time from Vancouver: 3 hrs
  • Activities: Camping, hiking, birding

Clatsop State Forest

  • Location: Oregon
  • Distance from Vancouver: 80 miles
  • Time from Vancouver: 1.5 hrs
  • Activities: Hiking, fishing, horse riding, camping, hunting

Tillamook State Forest

  • Location: Oregon
  • Distance from Vancouver: 50 miles
  • Time from Vancouver: 1 hr
  • Activities: Hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, picnic

Where To Stay: Top Neighborhoods And Accommodation

A street in Vancouver, WashingtonVia: Wikimedia Commons

A street in Vancouver, Washington

Fisher’s Creek

Fisher’s Creek is a popular neighborhood located about 10 miles from Downtown Vancouver, in a quiet part of the city. This location is close to several parks: Lacamas Park, Wintler Community Park, and Fisher Basin Park.

Since Lewis and Clark Highway is just adjacent to Fisher’s Creek, those who stay here have easy access to the city center and Vancouver’s places of interest.

Eco Friendly Tiny Container Home Retreat

  • Address: Camas, Washington
  • Price: From $150
  • Amenities: Queen bed, private back yard, porch swing, grill, kitchenette

Candlewood Suites Vancouver/Camas, an IHG Hotel

  • Address: 2010 Southeast 192nd Avenue, Evergreen, WA 98607, United States
  • Price: From $130
  • Amenities: WiFi, smoking area, fitness center, barbecue facilities

Vancouver Heights

Vancouver Heights is located just 5 miles from Downtown Vancouver. Its proximity to most of the city’s attractions makes it a popular place to stay among locals and visitors.

Parks like Wintler Community Park and David Douglas Park are just a short walk away. Plus, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site is only an 8-minute drive from the neighborhood.

Layla’s Hideaway

  • Address: Vancouver Heights, Vancouver, Washington
  • Price: From $87
  • Amenities: 1 bedroom, WiFi, workspace, smart TV, kitchenette

Newly Furnished Cozy Private House

  • Address: Vancouver Heights, Vancouver, Washington
  • Price: From $262
  • Amenities: 2 bedrooms, 3 baths, WiFi, carport, smart TV, washer, full kitchen

Esther Short

This is the most vibrant neighborhood in Vancouver since it has the downtown area within its borders. Esther Short is popular among tourists, not only because it encompasses downtown but also because it’s close to Portland International Airport, which is just 12 miles away.

Those who stay here also have easy access to Downtown Portland, which is about a 15-minute drive away.

Hilton Vancouver Washington

  • Address: 301 West 6th Street, Vancouver, WA 98660, United States –
  • Price: From $230
  • Amenities: Indoor pool, WiFi, business center, flat-screen TV, hot tub

Downtown Couv’ Corner Suite

  • Address: Esther Short, Vancouver, Washington
  • Price: From $194
  • Amenities: 1 bedroom, 1 bath, queen bed, WiFi, full kitchen, TV

Tips To Know When Visiting Vancouver, Washington

Esther Short Park in Vancouver, WashingtonVia: Shutterstock

Esther Short Park in Vancouver, Washington

  • The public bus in Vancouver covers most routes along which the city’s main attractions are found.
  • C-Tran’s The Vine route is covered by buses from 5 am to after midnight. This route connects riders from the downtown area to Vancouver Mall and has about 17 stops along the way.
  • Travelers can opt to use the county’s rideshare service, The Current, which costs as little as a bus ride.
  • There are about 20 parks within Vancouver, Washington, all of which offer a different experience.

Spending The Perfect Day In Vancouver, Washington

Vancouver is a city for outdoor activities, so the perfect day should incorporate a lot of time in nature.

This day would start with breakfast at one of the popular joints in the downtown area. Afterward, head to the Waterfront Park and stroll along the Waterfront Renaissance Trail.

Related: Explore Washington’s Capital: The Ultimate Travel Guide To Olympia & Things To Do

Along the way, a tourist will be able to see sites like the Vancouver Land Bridge and the Discovery Historic Loop. Get to Surprise Beach and head to one of the beachside restaurants for lunch.

In the afternoon, visit Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and Pearson Air Museum before heading to the Vancouver Lake Regional Park for some kayaking.

Then, head back to downtown Vancouver for dinner and then a movie at Regal City Center, or a show at Magenta Theater.


Q: Is Vancouver Washington a good place to live?

Yes, Vancouver, Washington is a good place to live. There are about 20 parks in the city and its proximity to the Columbia River and Vancouver Lake makes it a haven for nature lovers. The city also enjoys beautiful mountain views of Mt St. Helens, Mt Adams, and Mt Hood.

Q: How cold does Vancouver, Washington get?

The coldest months in Vancouver, Washington are December and January when it can get as cold as 33 degrees Fahrenheit (1 degree Celsius).

Q: What is unique about Vancouver WA?

Vancouver is surrounded by natural attractions that make it one of the most beautiful cities in Washington. The Columbia River, Vancouver Lake, Mt. Hood, Mt. Adams, and Mt. St. Helens all surround the city with views of the mountains from most parts of Vancouver.