The Nearby Tourist: Vancouver Is Worth a Visit!


It is officially that time of year. The gray has become too much, hunkering down with cozy socks is no longer charming or cozy, and the wanderlust is overpowering. I’m dreaming of Palm Springs, Belize, Prague, and the numerous other locations on my bucket list. We are, however, in a classic “champagne tastes with a beer budget” situation. The astronomical price of plane tickets right now means plane travel with a family of four is off the table.

With spring break looming and no vacation plans in sight, I’ve been mulling over how to spend nine days together without going insane and visiting our same spots that are starting to grow a little stale. And then it occurred to me to be something of a hometown tourist: why not explore areas that aren’t too far away but still feel new?

Seeking inspiration from nearby towns, I’ve been exploring and plotting out worthy day trips to break up the monotony and scratch a bit of the travel itch. For the first part of this series, I decided to start things off with my hometown, Vancouver. I know many of my Portland friends think there’s no reason to head up north. (We once voted Taco Bell as the city’s best Mexican food, so I get it.) But if you are reluctant to cross the river, let me convince you that Vancouver is worth a day trip or two!

The Waterfront

The new waterfront area is getting a lot of buzz — and for good reason! There’s a little something for everyone, and after taking kids for a stroll and a chance to play in the sand and climbing structure overlooking the water, we hit up one of my favorite restaurants or shop.

Consider eating at Stack 571 Burger and Whiskey Bar for great burgers and drinks, Grassa for laid back and delicious Italian food, or the Yard Milkshake Bar if you want to impress your children with the obscene amount of things you can actually fit into a milkshake. If you like to shop and support local artisans and entrepreneurs, Pop Local stocks new locally made items all the time and I dare you to leave without a plant.

Downtown Vancouver

I love this area and its charm – if you’re here on a weekend, the Farmers Market at Esther Short Park is lovely with plenty of space for kids to run. Coffee shops and restaurants are anywhere you could possibly want, but here are a few of my favorites: First, I love to support Dandelion Tea House – a delightful spot to get delicious tea concoctions and marvel at their bright, festive décor. If coffee is more of your jam, Terrain Coffee is just around the corner and is cozy and charming with all the brick walls and high ceilings your heart desires. Kindred Homestead Supply, a relatively newer shop on the same block, is full of eco-friendly items, plants, and bulk refills that will leave you feeling inspired and invigorated.

Kindred Homestead; photo by Emily Shirron

If your kids are the creative types, Kilnfolk is an adorable spot for pottery painting and classes, with even some classes set aside for toddlers to experience a potting wheel. In the mood for dessert? Try Treat or Ice Cream Renaissance –  you won’t regret it! 

Outdoor Areas

If you want to take kids on some easy but beautiful outdoor trails, we’ve got parks everywhere! Dinosaur Park is a particular favorite in our family, and Burnt Bridge Creek Trail is amazing and full of small wooded areas reminiscent of fairies and gnomes. Whipple Creek has a multitude of trails that are great for young hikers. Salmon Creek Trail is mostly flat and lovely, great for biking, and passes by Turtle Pond which has been a favorite animal spotting site for my kids for years. Just a ways outside of Vancouver in Yacolt is Moulton  Falls, the stunning hiking and swimming area. It’s so worth it!

Indoor Recreation

Sky Zone, the trampoline park, is a favorite around here and a good way to kill a few hours and ensure your kids will sleep well at night. Firstenburg Community Center has great pool facilities with water slides and play areas. And if you have adventurous kids, I’d highly recommend Source Climbing Center for kids of all ability levels to try out indoor rock climbing.

Eastward Bonus

If you feel like traveling a little to the east into Camas, one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon is the Round Lake trail, a beautiful area and a kid-friendly hiking area and is also a gorgeous spot for kayaking as well. At the end of the hike is a restaurant/bar/floral shop called The Acorn and the Oak that has midwestern supper club vibes. It’s adorable, it’s delicious, and the décor alone keeps me coming back.

I promise we’re cool! We have a lot to offer and just might be the spice you need to get out of your own hometown rut! I’ll be back with other nearby locations worth exploring soon! 

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Emily Corak has spent the last three decades in the Pacific Northwest and prefers to live in Vancouver because parking in Portland terrifies her. A mom to two kids, ages 3 and 7, Emily has been an educator for the past decade and she currently works with middle school English language learners. She wasn't planning on becoming a mother, but she's glad she was so careless because it turns out she really likes being a mom. Most days. Emily is now going back to school for her MFA in creative writing after deciding she had more to offer the world than breast milk and unsolicited grammar advice. When the world allows, she spends any spare cash on plane tickets, and she lives for books, tea, and all things Top Chef. She occasionally writes about anything and everything that comes to mind, and you can find her work here: