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Things To Do This Summer in Vancouver, Washington

  |  Neighborhood Insight, Southwest Washington

If you’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest for all four seasons, you know our little secret: There is nothing quite like summer here. With pleasant temperatures, ample sunshine, longer days and unbeatable scenery, summer in the PNW is what dreams are made of. 

To help you maximize the season, we collected some of our favorite things to do during the summer in Vancouver, from outdoor adventures like swimming and berry picking to some more leisurely activities like dining al fresco and shopping at the farmers’ market. No matter what you decide to do, we hope you enjoy your summer! 


Go to Fort Vancouver 

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. And during the spring and summer, the Garden at Fort Vancouver is bursting with floral beauty!


Eat at Uptown Food Cart Village 

Just outside Trap Door Brewery, the Uptown Food Cart Village is a concentrated collection of food carts, which changes on a regular basis. You’ll find everything from Thai food to grilled sandwiches, and tacos to burritos, all served from food carts parked next to the brewery’s outdoor patio. Stop by for a bite to eat if you’re feeling adventurous! For more ideas of what to do while you’re there, check out our guide to Uptown Vancouver. 


Pick Berries at Munoz Berry Farm 

Berry Picking at Munez Farm Ridgefield, WA

Munoz Berry Farm is a small family farm in Ridgefield where you can pick your own berries all summer long! Here, you’ll find top-quality fresh fruit at a reasonable price. Pick strawberries from May–June, red raspberries from June–September, marionberries, loganberries, and blueberries from mid-June–July, and black raspberries and boysenberries in July. If you don’t want to pick your own berries, you can still enjoy the fruits of their labor at their La Center roadside stand and local farmers’ markets all season long. 


Go Swimming 

We have every form of water in the Pacific Northwest, including rivers, lakes, ponds, waterfalls and even an ocean. So naturally, there are plenty of places to make a splash, especially in Southwest Washington, which borders the mighty Columbia River. Check out these refreshing swimming holes in the area this summer, ranging from serene pools at the foot of a waterfall to expansive lakes and rushing rivers. 


Visit the Waterfront 

If you’re not sure exactly what you want to do, just head to The Waterfront. 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 — and no matter what you decide to do, you’ll be enjoying the best view in the whole city. 


Eat Outside 

Outdoor Patios in Vancouver, WA

Photo Courtesy of McMenamins On The Columbia

Summer is the peak of patio season! Take advantage of the pleasant weather by making your way to one of the many outdoor patios in Vancouver, enhanced by lush foliage, sparkling lights, sunshine, fresh air and incredible views. There are plenty of restaurants in Vancouver with outdoor patios, many of which overlook the mighty Columbia River. 


To learn a bit about nature (and help the kids keep the learning going all summer long!), head to the Columbia Springs Environmental Education Center, an environmental education non-profit in Vancouver. This 100-acre urban natural site offers events, programs and workshops designed to teach visitors of all ages about stewardship and environmental science. During your visit, explore miles of nature trails, wildlife viewing decks and local outdoor art installations to gain a better appreciation for our state’s stunning natural beauty and wildlife. 


Splash in the Water Feature at Esther Short Park 

When in doubt, let the little ones get all their energy out at a local park, like Esther Short Park, considered one of the most prominent landmarks and gathering spots for city 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. Your little ones will love climbing on the playground and splashing around in the water feature. 

Pro Tip: Pick up a cup of coffee at Compass Coffee just a few blocks north of the park to sip on while you watch your kids play! 


Explore Mount St. Helens 

Mount St. Helens in the Summer

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, whether you’ve lived here for years or you’re just passing through town. 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 

After a long day outside, there’s nothing quite like a refreshing cocktail or an ice-cold beer. And there’s plenty of that in Vancouver! For wine, head to Maryhill WineryBrian Carter CellarsSuLei CellarsPepper Bridge and Amavi Cellars, or Airfield Estates Winery. For cocktails, consider The Grocery Cocktail and Social and UnderBar. And for a glass of beer, make your way to Loowit BrewingBrothers Cascadia BrewingTrap Door Brewing or Trusty Brewing Company 


Chase Waterfalls 

Don’t listen to TLC — it’s okay to chase waterfalls, especially in Washington state. Here, we have a number of powerful, rushing waterfalls dotting our forests and mountains, just waiting to be discovered. One of the most popular in the area is Moulton Falls. The 387-acre Moulton Falls Regional Park offers a little something for all types of water enthusiasts, including two jaw-dropping waterfalls to admire, calm pools and 2 miles of trails winding along the East Fork Lewis River. Be careful in areas with a swift current and do not attempt to dive or jump off the arch bridge! 


Spend the Day at Vancouver Lake Regional Park 


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When in doubt, head to the lake. Vancouver Lake is surrounded by a massive 190-acre regional park that stretches for 2.5 miles along the west shore of the lake, which is a popular destination for kayaking, canoeing, windsurfing and swimming. Vancouver Lake Regional Park has picnic shelters, barbecue grills, picnic tables, sand volleyball courts, playgrounds, drinking fountains, walking trails, and more. Plus, the park offers incredible views of Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams on clear days! 


Go to the Farmers’ Market 

Stock up your pantry and fridge with fresh, seasonal produce grown by local farmers. Considered the largest in the state, the Vancouver Farmers’ Market takes place at Esther Short Park every Saturday and Sunday from mid-March through OctoberThis exciting market hosts over 250 vendors selling a variety of produce, baked goods, flowers and plants, homemade clothing and accessories, and more. For more information about the market (and others in the region!), check out our guide to Portland area farmers’ markets. 


Eat Ice Cream at Ice Cream Renaissance 

Ice Cream Renaissance Vancouver, WA

Photo Courtesy of Ice Cream Renaissance

Is there anything better than a cold sweet treat on a hot summer day? Ice Cream Renaissance in Uptown was the first small-batch homemade ice cream shop in the area when they opened their doors in 2001, which is very appropriate for a name like “Ice Cream Renaissance”! In addition to their renowned ice cream, Ice Cream Renaissance serves cakes, pies and other desserts from local Vancouver and Portland businesses, in addition to espresso beans from Relevant Coffee. 

The team is dedicated to creating high-quality ice cream, so they create each flavor in 3-gallon batches with hormone-free Alpenrose Dairy products. Plus, they offer a variety of options for those with unique dietary needs, including vegan and gluten-free choices. Some of the classic flavors at Ice Cream Renaissance include honey vanilla, old fashioned milk chocolate, strawberries and cream, peanut butter blitz, cookies and cream, coffee addict’s choice, midnight decadence sorbet, and many more. 


Happy Summer! 

What are we missing out on? Let us know about your favorite summer activities in Vancouver! 

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About the Author

Melissa Peterson, Director of Agent Services and Technology

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