No matter how long you’ve lived in Vancouver, planning an itinerary for visiting guests can be an overwhelming task. In our routine of grocery store runs, soccer practice and appointments, it’s difficult to remember what it’s like to visit Vancouver for the very first time.
That’s why we put together a list of ideas to guide your time with friends and family coming from out of town. You’ll find a mix of touristy must-dos and some hyper-local insight, providing an excellent overview of our amazing city.
History buffs must experience all that Fort Vancouver has to offer. This 190-acre site has a rich history, starting with its roots as a Native American settlement, then a fur trading post in the 19th century, and finally, a military facility. There is so much to do and see at the fort, so it’s best to start your visit at the Vancouver National Historic Reserve Visitor’s Center, where you’ll find interpretive exhibits, an educational film and knowledgeable staff to guide you. Throughout the complex, you’ll encounter historic officers’ homes, barracks, war memorials and plenty of grassy park areas. Don’t miss the reconstructed fort, the home of Chief Factor, and the blacksmith shop at the southern end of the complex.
Go to the Pearson Air Museum
Situated within the Fort Vancouver complex, Pearson Field is a city-owned municipal airport with a popular aviation museum on site. The Pearson Air Museum hosts an impressive collection of aviation artifacts and educational exhibits, all telling the complex and fascinating history of the airfield. After all, Pearson Field is the oldest continuously operating airfield in the PNW and one of the two oldest in the country! Admission to the museum is completely free and it is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Avoid heavier foot traffic by visiting on a weekday if your schedule allows!
Debut some of the finest restaurants in the city with a relaxing brunch. Make sure you make a reservation at one of our favorite brunch spots in Vancouver, including the Eatery at the Grant House in historic Officers’ Row, Warehouse 23along the river, and the everyday brunch at LUXE. Savor the most important meal of the day (complete with mimosas!) while you plan out the rest of the day’s itinerary.
Hang Out at Esther Short Park
As you know, Esther Short Park is one of the most prominent landmarks and gathering spots for residents. Situated in the heart of downtown Vancouver, the 5-acre Esther Short Park is the oldest public square in the state of Washington. It has plenty of benches, a gazebo, an open lawn, a picnic shelter, a stage, a playground with swings, walking paths and a water feature/fountain. Head here to be a part of the excitement of the city and soak up the sun on a nice day!
Take a Stroll Through The Waterfront
Have you been to The Waterfront yet? If not, now’s your chance to explore this new and exciting addition. Situated along the Columbia River just south of downtown, this state-of-the-art mixed-use development features various parks, apartments and condos, offices, a boutique hotel, restaurants, shops and more! You could spend an entire afternoon exploring all that The Waterfront has to offer — plus, you can show off the incredible river views we enjoy in Vancouver.
Vancouver has no shortage of dining options when hunger strikes. For lunch or dinner, consider showing off the delicious seafood the PNW is known for. Some of our favorite Vancouver restaurants serving seafood and Northwest fare include Warehouse 23, Hudson’s Bar and Grill, Grays and Elements.
Go to Officers’ Row
As a real estate company, we are particularly passionate about architecture and homes — especially historic homes. That means we simply must make time on the itinerary for a visit to Officers’ Row, a collection of 22 fully restored 19th Century homes. The homes were originally used as housing for U.S. Army officers and soldiers stationed at Vancouver Barracks. And today, the buildings are used as offices and residences, and some are even open to the public. Make time to visit the Ulysses S. Grant House, the oldest house on the block and home to an amazing restaurant. The General George C. Marshall House is also open and available for guided tours.
Sip on Local Wines
In a wine-rich state like Washington, it’s only right to sample the local harvest with a visit to an urban winery or tasting room near the heart of downtown Vancouver. Some of our favorite nearby options include Burnt Bridge Cellars, English Estate Winery and Cellar 55. But if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous (and feel like crossing the state line into Oregon!), check out one of these must-visit wineries in the region.
Visitors travel from all over the country to see Mount St. Helens, an active stratovolcano most known for its destructive eruption on May 18, 1980. So it’s only right to make the trek to this iconic Pacific Northwest landmark just an hour and a half away from Vancouver. While there may be a large number of visitors on site, it is worth traveling to the Mt. St. Helens Visitor Center to get the full story of this fascinating volcano. The Johnston Ridge Observatory offers some of the clearest views of the volcano, with several viewpoints along the way.
Grab a Drink
Top off your adventurous day with a drink, whether you’re craving a cocktail, a glass of wine, or a locally brewed beer! A few favorite watering holes include The Grocery Cocktail and Social and Low Bar for their hand-crafted cocktails and The Thirsty Sasquatch for their impressive selections of beers on tap.
Enjoy your time with your guests! And let us know in the comments what must-do activities you would add to the list.