Vancouver, Washington, the fourth largest city in Washington, combines the excitement of a major metropolitan area with easy access to recreational opportunities. Vancouver’s vibrant downtown and a public square was named one of the Great Public Spaces in America by the American Planning Association.
Vancouver’s signature attraction may be Fort Vancouver National Historic Site was one of the first permanent settlements west of the Mississippi and was the central hub for trading in the Pacific Northwest. Set on 191-acres next to the Columbia River, it was established in the mid 1820’s.
The current reconstructed fort has restored buildings in their original locations. Those buildings include the Chief Factor’s House, a bastion, seasonal gardens, an outlying village and working trade houses for baking, carpentry, and blacksmithing.
The entrance fee into Fort Vancouver is only $5 for those 16 years and older, and visitors can take advantage of free National Park Service days on specific holidays and during National Park Week.
The Pearson Air Museum is free of charge, and features rotating exhibits celebrating the area’s military and aviation history. Both the reconstructed fort and Pearson Air Museum are open to the public Tuesday through Saturday.
September 9th is the annual Campfires and Candlelight event, which brings the fort to life at night with only lanterns, candles and campfires. Volunteers in 19th century period costumes lead living history demonstrations and give tours.
The restored Victorian homes include the General George C. Marshall House, built in 1886 and his residence from 1936 to 1938 while Marshall commanded the Third Division’s fifth Infantry Brigade and the region’s Civilian Conservation Corps camps.
The General O.O. Howard House is an Italianate-style home built in 1878 and was the last historic structure to be rehabilitated on Officers Row. It was first occupied by General Oliver Otis Howard, founder of Howard University, and the commanding general of the Department of the Columbia from 1874 to 1880. The house is the headquarters for The Fort Vancouver National Trust, which handles day-to-day operations of Officers Row. Stop in the Eatery at the Grant House for a glass of local wine on the veranda.
The Confluence Project is creating interpretative public art, environmental restoration and providing educational programming at the community level.
For views of the Columbia River, walk or bike across the land bridge and along the Waterfront Renaissance Trail to check out Beaches Restaurant or McMenamins on the Columbia. Both eateries offer outdoor seating with great views of the river.
Vancouver Farmers Market, open every Saturday and Sunday through October is next to Ester Short Park, in the center of downtown Vancouver. Fall events for the Market include the urban pumpkin patch, kids’ activities and and live musicians. It’s a lively and engaging free family activity.
Established in 1853, Ester Short Park, is the oldest public park in the state of Washington and one of the oldest public parks in the West. The park hosts many outdoor summer concerts, many free and was honored as one of the nation’s “ten great public spaces” by the American Planning Association.
Interesting architecture includes a brand new library and the newly remodeled Kiggins theatre.
Vancouver’s Community & Economic Development Department says the SW Washington region is home to software companies, printer and tablet manufacturers, audio and optoelectronics firms in the high tech sector.
The Port of Vancouver USA is an economic engine for Southwest Washington. Port of Vancouver exports were up 3.8% in 2015. Grain – wheat, corn and soybeans – continues to be the port’s largest export by volume. Grain overall increased by 6.4% to 4.56 million tons. While wheat exports saw a slight decrease, corn exports increased by 19.5% and soybean exports grew by 58.6%. United Grain is one of the leading wheat export companies in the Pacific Northwest.
The Port manages about 2,100 acres of public property, including 58 acres of shovel ready industrial land at the Centennial Industrial Park project and 10 acres near the Red Lion, including Terminal 1 that is adjoining Grammor Development’s 35 acres for the Vancouver Waterfront project.
Washington Trails Association’s free mobile app now makes it easier for hikers to get out and give back to trails. Vancouver Trails include family hikes such as Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, Lacamas Park trail and Columbia Springs Hike, all near Vancouver.