When was the last time you visited Vancouver? We have often dismissed our northern neighbor as sleepy and quiet, especially when compared to Portland. However, Vancouver has grown to become one of the defining cities in the Northwest, thanks to a robust economy and creative entrepreneurs putting down roots in the town. Old time Portlanders will be pleasantly surprised by this new Vancouver, with eclectic food offerings, playful street art and a backyard view of rivers and mountains. It's a definite must to make a trip back over the bridge to (re)visit this thriving city and experience what it has to offer—which is a lot. Here's why:

1. See the new waterfront with amazing views.

The most striking change is the city's revitalization of its historic waterfront. A new pier winds with the curves of the mighty Columbia River, complete with restaurants (such as Wildfin, Twigs Bistro & Martini Bar, and Maryhill Vancouver Tasting Room) and grassy parkland to lie on, and you can see Mt. Hood off to the east while you stroll on the boardwalk.

2. The food scene will leave you hungry for more, but with little room left in your stomach.

Twigs Bistro & Martini Bar, located along Vancouver’s waterfront. (Wesley Lapointe)
Twigs Bistro & Martini Bar, located along Vancouver’s waterfront. (Wesley Lapointe)

New waterfront spots offer food riverfront with views, while places like Elements off er indulgent meals, celebrating local produce and presenting beautiful elegant dishes. Or you can enjoy the powerful punch of flavor from Little Conejo, a bright downtown spot serving tacos and mezcal. Or you can hunker down with the comfort of a delicious pizza and a made-to-order Dirty Blonde sundae from Rally Pizza. Anywhere you choose, your appetite will be satiated.

3. So many breweries and so little distance between them.

Loowit Brewery (Wesley Lapointe)
Loowit Brewery (Wesley Lapointe)

Portland, watch out, Vancouver's craft beer scene is coming for you. Last year, Willamette Week raved about the quality breweries you can find in the downtown area—and as an added bonus, they're all within walking distance. Enjoy a locally-brewed cold one from Loowit Brewing, Beerded Brothers Brewing or Trusty Brewing—or maybe go to all of them, they're within a 10 minute walk of each other downtown.

4. Wineries and Tasting Rooms to sip and taste Washington’s bounty.

Maryhill Winery Vancouver Tasting Room (Wesley Lapointe)
Maryhill Winery Vancouver Tasting Room (Wesley Lapointe)

If you don't want beer, don't worry: there's wine. Vancouver has elegant tasting rooms, like Cellar 55, Koi Pond, and English Estate. They offer a decadent evening for the wine enthusiast ready to experience the area's finest offerings. Grab a flight of local wines and sip away.

5. The Vancouver Farmers Market is on every weekend, rain or shine.

Vancouver Farmers Market (Courtesy of Visit Vancouver)
Vancouver Farmers Market (Courtesy of Visit Vancouver)

Whether you're looking for farm-fresh ingredients, northwest-inspired jewelry or handspun garb, the Vancouver Farmers Market at Esther Short Park in downtown is worth a visit. With over 250 vendors each weekend, this market is a great way to kick off a relaxing day in Vancouver. Make it a full-day outing with live music, activities for the little ones and food options like gyros, tacos and traditional American grub. In typical Northwest fashion, the market goes on whether rain or shine.

6. There’s high quality caffeine.

Kafiex Roasters (Wesley Lapointe)
Kafiex Roasters (Wesley Lapointe)

Vancouver's local coffee makers are keeping people caffeinated. The city has become a hub of home-grown inspired coffee connoisseurs, with roasters like Relevant Coffee, Compass Coffee Roasting, and Kafiex—whose imaginative menu includes a creamy robin egg blue matcha and extra-concentrated espresso brewed in what we can only describe as a mad-scientist chemistry contraption. As a result of their love for coffee, the city even has its very own Cold Brew Festival (coming this August 2019, hosted by Kafiex), where local shops and roasters showcase their very best serotonin-inducing concoctions while educating the public on what makes a good cup of coffee.

7. Clark Country Murals capture the spirit of Vancouver.

Chinook Nation mural on 5th and Washington (Wesley Lapointe)
Chinook Nation mural on 5th and Washington (Wesley Lapointe)

A local nonprofit group has been using art to breathe new life and color into public spaces. To date, Clark County Mural Society has commissioned more than 30 stunningly beautiful murals around the city, each illustrating a different aspect of Vancouver's history and culture. The mural "Chinook Nation" depicts the vibrant culture of the Native American tribe whose connection to the land was both their lifeline and the basis of their faith. It's one of the many murals that can be found dotted around the city and livening the streets.

8. Experience international flavor without leaving town.

With taco trucks and small storefronts dishing up smoky and sweet flavors, the International District—just a short distance from the center of town—has quickly become the city's newest place for some good grub. The Fourth Plain Corridor is a cultural hot pot of seductive European bakeries and Asian food markets; the freshest fish in town can be found at Sorya Asian Market, and the mouthwatering seasonal donuts at Tonallis Doughnuts and Cream have received rave reviews from even donut-skeptics.

9. Vintage shopping for any decade—or century.

Most Everything Vintage (Wesley Lapointe)
Most Everything Vintage (Wesley Lapointe)

Flapper dresses, rock 'n roll apparel, neon tracksuits and shoulder pads: whatever fashion decade you want to relive, Vancouver's vintage shops have your back. Most Everything Vintage takes their fashion enthusiasm to the next level with monthly events like "Mad About Plaid" where you can snag that piece your grandma probably wore which recently became cool again. But you don't have to stop at just vintage clothing: vintage furniture, vintage books and even a vintage barber shop nestled in the store Boogie Van Vintage can be found in downtown Vancouver.

10. Festivals and events celebrating the culture, history and vibrancy of Vancouver.

Vancouver keeps visitors entertained all summer long with events hosted in the large downtown Esther Short Park. There's 4 Days of Aloha, a Hawaiian festival, complete with hula dancing and traditional island food; the Recycled Arts Festival, gathering local artists to give new life to old material; and the Craft Beer & Wine Fest that includes a live concert to kick off the weekend festivities. Whether it's building nose flutes, talking to local artists about their inspiration or learning a new dance form, cultural events in the heart of Vancouver offer the best of this multicultural city.

Vancouver waterfront (Wesley Lapointe)
Vancouver waterfront (Wesley Lapointe)

Plan your getaway! Learn more about summer events, places to visit and things to do at VisitVancouverUSA.com.