Day Trip: Playing Tourist Across the Border in Vancouver, Wash.

Waterfront Vancouver, the gleaming (and in some cases unfinished) real estate development, is a collection of mixed-use buildings and inviting outdoor spaces,

Ah, Vancouver. If it’s not being confused with the city in Canada, it’s constantly compared to Portland. And yet, there’s no better thing to do when you’re on the Washington side of the Columbia River than to look back at Oregon, and boy, does Vancouver know it. The city’s business and tourist energy is focused hard on its waterfront, which offers both a great view of Mount Hood and the hills of Forest Park.

What’s officially called the Waterfront Vancouver, the gleaming (and in some cases unfinished) real estate development, is a collection of mixed-use buildings and inviting outdoor spaces, including the 7.3-acre Vancouver Waterfront Park, Grant Street Pier, and Columbia River Renaissance Trail. The area is a magnet for both visitors and businesses eager to feed and entertain them, both new (Dosalas, Ruse Brewing Crust Collective), old (Kafiex Roasters, Be Well Juice Bar) and chainlike (El Gaucho, Stack 571 Burger & Whiskey Bar, 13 Coins).

The buildings themselves could just as easily be on Southeast Division Street or Portland’s South Waterfront, but the open space and views cannot be beat in Vancouver. And, next up, on the east side of the Interstate Bridge, the demolished Red Lion at The Quay and Joe’s Crab Shack will give way to a public market à la Seattle’s Pike Place. Hey, it’s not like Portland has ever wanted something like that for itself!

There’s a lot more to the city than the waterfront and downtown, including Hazel Dell, Salmon Creek, the many restaurants in the Fourth Plain International District, and even Vancouver Mall. However, this day trip is mostly compact, and maybe even walkable. And if you leave Portland in the morning and come back in the evening, you’ll be going against the flow of Interstate 5 traffic. Though you’ll still probably get stuck behind a Ford F-150 flying a giant Gadsden flag.

Saturday Morning

Visit the Other Downtown Farmers Market

Why yes, you should start your day in Vancouver just like a tourist would in Portland at the downtown farmers market. The Vancouver Farmers Market (605 Esther St., 360-737-8298, claims to spread more than 200 vendors across Esther Short Park, which is also dotted with historic plaques and home to the Salmon Run Bell Tower’s tribute to tribes and fish. Whereas Portland places its farmers and craftspeople in entirely different markets, Vancouver happily mixes the two, so you’ll find jewelry as well as pork, woodworking as well as berries.

Get Your Chilaquiles and Carnitas Fix

Another difference between Vancouver and Portland is that our northern neighbor’s flagship market takes place both Saturday and Sunday—the latter of which is smaller and more chill. A Sunday visit also means you can hit Little Conejo (114 W 6th St., 360-718-2633, during the only day it serves brunch. By 10:45 am, people are already waiting outside the door, and 45 minutes later, every seat will be taken, even at the bar (where there are more than 100 mezcals to choose from). Not here on a Sunday? The regular lunch menu of tacos and tortas is just as good.

Walk to the Old Fur Trading Post

The changes to the Waterfront make it easier than ever to walk to the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site (612 E Reserve St., 360-816-6230, Depending where you start, it’s less than a mile to the Vancouver Land Bridge, which is a lovely, miniature park in itself, developed by the Confluence Project, architect Johnpaul Jones and artist Maya Lin. The site’s art honors both nature and Native American culture, and there are great views of Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens, and planes taking off and landing at Pearson Field. Once you come off the bridge, the reconstructed fur-trading fort—the original burned down in 1866—is not much farther. If it’s raining, all the more reason to check out the exhibits inside the visitor center, as well as the neighboring Pearson Air Museum (1115 E 5th St., 360-816-6232,

Saturday Afternoon

Don’t Order Pizza at One of Vancouver’s Best Pizza Places

Head a few miles east to Rally Pizza (8070 E Mill Plain Blvd., 360-524-9000,, where in addition to the usual lineup of pizza and ice cream, there’s a lunch-only menu of muffalettas on house-baked sesame rolls. The traditional Meat-Cute—topped with Calabrese salami, mortadella, spicy coppa, Olympia Provisions cotto salami, aged provolone, fontina, almond pesto and mayonnaise—is the way to go (and don’t knock the mayo ‘til you’ve tried it).

Drink All the Brews in Uptown

Mere blocks from downtown, Vancouver’s Uptown is its own little village—something of a mini-Hawthorne, where you can be at a bakery or thrift store one minute, then buy a Stihl chainsaw from a hardware store the next. Caffeinate at either end of Main Street: RichlandHub (2420 Main St., 360-433-2623, is a unique spot with coffee, cacao and cashews all imported from Tanzania, while Relevant Coffee (1703 Main St., Suite A, 971-319-5773, makes some of the best macchiatos in the region in a bright, beautiful space with a visible roasting operation.

By now you’re probably more than ready for beer, though, with Trap Door Brewing (2315 Main St., 360-314-6966, and Uptown Barrel Room (2011 Main St., 360-949-7255, all ready to oblige. For the sober or sober curious, there’s also the Vancouver location of Soma Kombucha (2407 Main St.,, which is an experience in itself. The 24/7, self-serve bar feels like a private club. Simply scan the QR code and pay a $1 fee to open an account and unlock the door, at which point you can help yourself to strawberry CBD or pear fennel jun kombucha. And (shhhhh!) there’s also a private restroom.

Break Some Laws

Washington dispensaries not only have different products than Oregon dispensaries; they are also head shops. Being at Main Street Marijuana (2314 Main St., 360-828-7737, is kind of like walking into New Seasons after shopping at a CVS because of its vast collection of colorful glass along with case after case of edibles, topicals, tinctures and soaps. You can also just walk right in—no separate security lobby. Bring purchases across the state line at your own risk.

Take a History Class

Formerly Vancouver’s public library (a Carnegie library built in 1909), the Clark County Historical Museum (1511 Main St., 360-993-5679, is entertaining, edifying, charming and compact. Outside, you’re welcomed by the Black History Highlights of Southwest Washington timeline by historian and artist Claudia Starr Carter. Naturally and unfortunately, it includes several important 19th century Black Washingtonians who only ended up in that state because they weren’t welcome in Oregon. Inside, the museum has exhibits like Music, Movement and Sound, which explores Clark County’s musical roots and features a Covington piano—the first brought to the Pacific Northwest by ship, as well as History A-Brewin’, which tells the story of brewing, distilling, temperance and Prohibition in Southwest Washington.

Saturday Night

Go on a Fancy Bar Crawl

Amaro’s Table (1220 Main St., Suite 100, 360-718-2942, is not named for the drink, but rather the family who owns it. However, you’ll still find more than 50 amari and digestifs on the menu as well as a separate list of fernets, aperitifs and whiskeys (American, Japanese and Irish).

After that, head back to the waterfront, which has attracted renowned wineries from across the Pacific Northwest. There are now more than half a dozen tasting rooms for producers that hail from Richland, Woodinville, Walla Walla and Goldendale. Maryhill Winery (801 Waterfront Way, Suite 105, 360-450-6211, was the first to open in the new development three years ago, and has direct views of the Columbia River from its patio as well as a handsome, 1885 wood-crafted Brunswick bar. A block east of that lies Airfield Estates (760 Waterfront Way, 360-216-1106,, whose vineyard was once a training school for World War II pilots. The brand pays tribute to that history with black-and-white photos in the tasting room as well as wines named after vintage aircraft.

Eat Dinner With a Waterfront View

Before you return to Oregon, splurge on dinner somewhere new, like Dosalas (777 Waterfront Way, Suite 201, 360-768-5249,, the latest restaurant from Jorge Castro, who owns the Margarita Factory mini-chain. High-end sharing options include the paella brimming with shrimp, clams, mussels, pulled chicken and andouille sausage for $80 as well as a $180 48-ounce, bone-in tomahawk rib-eye. However, if you’re not looking to break the bank, Dosalas has a collection of less expensive small plates, like baked queso ($15), Mexican street corn ($12) and short rib empanadas ($18).

Or just go get a pizza and more beer. Portland-based Ruse Brewing’s buzzed-about second location, Crust Collective (650 Waterfront Way, 360-953-8394,, has a solid menu of Detroit-style pies, including the Double Vision with pepperoni, pepperoncini and hot honey, and the North Shore, which goes all in on the pro-pork-and-pineapple argument.