Blake Walsh

15 Free Things to Do in Vancouver, WA

  • Published 2022/12/21

Many people mistakenly connect Vancouver, Washington, to its namesake in Canada.

However, there is also a city of Vancouver in Clark County, Washington, along the northern banks of the Columbia River.

Vancouver is on the edge of the Washington-Oregon border.

This city mainly features a bustling metropolitan scene with a charming small-town appeal.

Like most significant cities, Vancouver has a rich and fascinating history.

At the same time, its streets are famous for gorgeous architecture, vibrant local art scenes, and lush parks.

Spending your weekend or short vacation in Vancouver is a worthwhile experience.

If you’re on a tight budget, don’t worry because Vancouver has plenty of attractions and activities that won’t ask you to break the bank.

Discover the best free things to do in Vancouver, Washington.

Wander the Esther Short Park

The grounds of Esther Short Park

Harold Stiver /

Esther Short Park is one of Vancouver’s most beautiful outdoor attractions.

It’s situated in Vancouver’s downtown area, making it a convenient place to visit once you arrive.

This five-acre square is the northwest’s oldest public park, constructed in 1853.

People at Esther Short Park

Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This park has been developed into a gorgeous urban plaza equipped with a performance pavilion, an interactive fountain, a Victorian rose garden, and a children’s playground.

Perhaps this park’s most impressive feature is its 69-foot Salmon Run Bell Tower which has a glockenspiel diorama that details the Chinook Indians’ story.

Besides these features, Esther Short Park has numerous public art installations.

Paved trail at Esther Short Park

Joe Mabel, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Learn New Things at the Water Resources Education Center

The Water Resources Education Center is a beautiful place to learn about the environment and other relevant stuff in a fun way.

You can visit this place along SE Columbia Way.

This place offers a free program for the public to learn about water resources.

It has interactive exhibits, community events, hands-on activities, and environmental artwork.

Many people love to visit this place to hike and join guided tours.

It takes you to lush wetlands and natural sceneries along the Columbia River.

One of its main attractions is the 350-gallon aquarium that houses a massive sturgeon.

At the same time, it boasts a gorgeous garden and other sections that are fascinating to explore.

Bring your family or friends to the Water Resources Education Center and take advantage of its free admission and worthwhile activities.

Walk along Officers Row

A house at Officers Row

Emily Marie Wilson /

Officers Row is renowned for its well-preserved beautiful century-old mansions that line its streets.

This area in Vancouver is your go-to place if you’re looking for a fascinating and gorgeous historical attraction.

Stroll through 21 acres of an area filled with 22-well preserved Victorian homes constructed back in the 19th century, all listed on the National Historic Register.

Gazebo at Officers Row

Emily Marie Wilson /

However, some houses ask for an admission fee for an inside tour of these mansions.

Still, you can enjoy posing for photos outside these houses while getting mesmerized by their beautiful architecture.

A stroll along Officer’s Row is one of Vancouver’s best activities, so don’t miss listing this in your itinerary.

Exterior of a house at Officers Row

Emily Marie Wilson /

Meet Locals at Downtown Vancouver

Your visit to Vancouver won’t be complete without strolling through Downtown Vancouver.

This area which serves as the city’s heart, offers you a combination of modern and historical buildings that line its streets.

Meanwhile, public art installations are scattered throughout the downtown area, adding more vibrance to its bustling scene.

Strolling through this downtown area gives you a more meaningful experience on your visit to Vancouver.

Marvel at its old buildings that house various businesses.

At the same time, take photos of the city’s public art installations and historical landmarks.

There are plenty of exciting sights to see and do in Downtown Vancouver, so don’t miss dropping by this district.

Traverse the Columbia River Renaissance Trail

Pathway of Columbia River Renaissance Trail

Andriana Syvanych /

The Columbia River Renaissance Trail is a convenient and highly accessible trail that takes you to some gorgeous spots around Vancouver.

You can visit this trail along SE Columbia Way.

This five-mile trail passes through Esther Short Park, Downtown Vancouver, and Winter Park, offering an exciting hike.

Besides hiking, many people love to jog or bike on this trail to enjoy the scenery and the calm ambiance.

Walking down the Columbia River Renaissance Trail is a worthwhile outdoor experience, so pack your hiking boots.

Search for Public Art in Vancouver

If you’re intrigued to discover the city’s vibrant arts scene, look for public art in Vancouver.

You can grab a virtual map through the Clark County Mural Society.

You can also search these magnificent artworks for a more exciting experience.

These murals and sculptures have existed since 2004.

Over 40 murals and sculptures are scattered throughout Vancouver’s streets, parks, alleyways, and buildings.

The “Railroad Bridge” and “Welcome to Vancouver” murals in Downtown Vancouver are some of the most famous artworks.

Of course, you can find plenty of public art in Vancouver, so don’t miss this one-of-a-kind experience.

Discover Aviation History at the Pearson Air Museum

Exterior of the Pearson Air Museum

Van Rossen /

The Pearson Air Museum is a fascinating place that allows you to step back in the early days of aviation.

You can visit this museum along E 5th Street at Pearson Field, one of the nation’s longest-operating airports.

It’s one of the few places with a full-scale replica of a French Voisin III bomber that ruled the skies during World War I.

Interior of the Pearson Air Museum

Van Rossen /

That plane and several other vintage planes will surely give you a memorable visit.

Besides vintage plane displays, the Pearson Air Museum has other exhibits that detail fascinating and enriching history about the early days of aviation.

These exhibits display artifacts related to aviation, such as uniforms, tools, photographs, documents, and plenty more.

Aircraft in the Pearson Air Museum

Van Rossen /

Hop on a Boat at the Vancouver Lake Park

Head to Vancouver Lake Park for a different kind of outdoor adventure.

You can visit this N.W. Lower River Road.

The entire park encompasses 234 acres of natural area on the west shore of Vancouver Lake.

Many locals and visitors love to return to this park for water activities such as boating, kayaking, and canoeing.

At the same time, rowing competitions are happening there, which are exciting to witness.

Hopping on a boat and paddling through this pristine lake is an exciting experience you mustn’t miss when visiting Vancouver.

To add more excitement, you can bring your fishing gear to Vancouver Lake Park to catch some salmon, sturgeon, or perch to complete your experience.

If you’re not into boating or fishing, you can sit on the park’s bench and appreciate its natural beauty while passing the time.

Watch the Boats at the Vancouver Waterfront

Daytime view of Vancouver Waterfront

JoanieB /

The Vancouver Waterfront is a favorite hangout place for locals and visitors.

You can visit this famous outdoor attraction along Waterfront Way.

This waterfront serves as Vancouver locals’ gathering place to relax after a busy day at work or school.

The entire park, which encompasses 7.3 acres, is a beautiful place to pass the time and watch the scenic view of the river.

People at Vancouver Waterfront

Reinhardt and Co /

At the same time, you can enjoy a picnic with your loved ones at this scenic waterfront.

You can also head to its cable-stayed pier for a hike and take a closer look at the Columbia River.

Besides sightseeing, you can also explore the entire stretch of the Vancouver Waterfront for more scenic areas.

Pier of Vancouver Waterfront

Reinhardt and Co /

Enjoy Sightseeing along Frenchman’s Bar Trail

The Frenchman’s Bar Trail is situated north of Downtown Vancouver.

This quaint outdoor attraction is a spectacular place to explore, especially if you want to go sightseeing.

This trail connects Vancouver Lake Park to the Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park.

It features a wide paved path that many hikers and joggers love to traverse.

During sunny weather, you’ll see some of the best views of Mount Adams, Mount Hood, and Mount St. Helen’s from a distance.

As you follow this trail, you’ll also enjoy the scenic view of the Columbia River and Sauvie Island from a distance.

Go on another hiking adventure at the Frenchman’s Bar Trail and see beautiful views of its surrounding natural areas.

Cross the Vancouver Land Bridge

Prairie overlook at Vancouver Land Bridge

Van Rossen /

The Vancouver Land Bridge is a unique historical attraction that takes you back to the time of the Native Americans.

You can visit this famous land bridge along the WA-14 highway.

This land bridge connects Vancouver Waterfront Park and the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

It was inspired by the old land bridge used by Native Americans and early European settlers in the area to cross the Columbia River back in the day.

Pathway of Vancouver Land Bridge

Van Rossen /

Crossing this bridge is a worthwhile experience as it offers you a breathtaking view of the Columbia River and Vancouver’s skyline.

At the same time, it leads you to some of the city’s famous historical attractions.

Remember to cross the Vancouver Land Bridge for a unique historical side trip.

A person walking his dog at Vancouver Land Bridge

Van Rossen /

Commune with Nature at the Columbia Springs Environmental Education Center

The Columbia Springs Environmental Education Center is like what the Water Resources Education Center offers.

It also offers educational programs to raise awareness about protecting the environment and nature.

You can visit this place along S.E. Evergreen Highway.

However, it’s mainly famous for its hundred-acre natural area, serving as an urban green space with various wildlife habitats.

You can explore its urban green space to immerse yourself in nature.

The whole place offers scenic greeneries and various wildlife habitats through its self-guided nature hike.

At the same time, you can join its educational programs, including its volunteer program in terminating invasive plant species in the area.

Remember to visit the Columbia Springs Environmental Education Center for another splendid experience with nature.

Follow the Burnt Bridge Creek Trail

Scenic view from Burnt Bridge Creek Trail

Williampfeifer, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Burnt Bridge Creek Trail is a famous paved trail that is excellent for outdoor activities such as hiking, jogging, or biking.

One of the best access points of this trail is along N. Devine Road.

Traversing this trail allows you to see the other side of Vancouver’s beauty, particularly its natural areas.

You’ll pass through wetlands, thickly forested areas, grasslands, sleepy neighborhoods, and parks along the way.

The trail stretches for eight miles, taking about three hours to hike, so bring water and wear proper gear for an enjoyable experience.

Above all, bring out your adventurous spirit when visiting the Burnt Bridge Creek Trail to make the most of your time there.

Browse the Vancouver Community Library

Exterior of Vancouver Community Library

Another Believer, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Vancouver Community Library proves that spending time in libraries doesn’t have to be dull.

You can visit this library along C. Street.

The library is inside an 83,000-square-foot building, the second-biggest library in the Portland metropolitan area.

Interior of Vancouver Community Library

Visitor7, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

With that in mind, this library is fascinating, especially if you’re not planning to head outdoors for the day.

This library is home to thousands of books, magazines, and other valuable resources to make your visit there worthwhile.

Check out the Vancouver Community Library whenever you want a break from the outdoors.

Word wall at Vancouver Community Library

Another Believer, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

See Vancouver’s Oldest Apple Tree at the Old Apple Tree Park

The grounds of the Old Apple Tree Park

Visitor7, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Old Apple Tree Park got its name for being Vancouver’s oldest apple orchard, dating back to the early 1800s.

Visiting this park allows you to dive deeper into the city’s history by seeing the oldest apple tree in the northwest.

Since it’s a pioneer in the apple industry in Washington State, Vancouver has a lot of fascinating stories to tell.

The oldest apple tree at Old Apple Tree Park

Visitor7, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Experience these stories by visiting this park.

Above all, Old Apple Tree Park is Vancouver’s living testament to its prosperous orchard industry.

Drop by this park before going home!

Marker of the Old Apple Tree Park

Visitor7, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Final Thoughts

Vancouver has it all, whether you’re a budget traveler or someone who wants to take advantage of the free exciting stuff.

You won’t run out of free things to do in Vancouver, Washington!

Add Vancouver to your travel bucket list for a free and fun adventure.

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