Hidden Washington: The Other Vancouver

Explore rich history and vibrant scenery on the north bank of the Columbia River 

Hidden Washington The Other Vancouver_16x9

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

The English explorer George Vancouver and his associates embarked on a naming spree in the Pacific Northwest unlike any seen before. In his fantastic book Passage to Juneau, the late local author Jonathan Raban recounts tales of Vancouver racing around what he dubbed Puget Sound, bestowing English names on Native sites by day, drinking wine with his Spanish counterparts by night. As a relative commoner who aimed to avoid offending his superiors, he named Puget Sound, Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, and Whidbey Island after his friends and colleagues.

Despite his efforts to maintain a low profile, Vancouver still ended up with two cities, one fort, a massive island, and even a National Hockey League team named after him in perpetuity. The Vancouver located south of Seattle is actually quite a bit older than its famous namesake to the north, originally named Fort Vancouver in 1824. Vancouver, B.C., tried to make a go of it as “Granville” for a few years, finally incorporating as Vancouver in 1886.

More history lessons, as well as stimulating hikes and drives, fine Northwest food and drink, and a scenic waterfront location, await in Vancouver, Wash. Throw in an absolutely deluxe hotel casino, and “The Couv” is well worth a weekend visit. Go now to avoid the crowds when Washington’s first In-N-Out opens in nearby Ridgefield, everyone will discover Clark County’s charms.

Explore & Learn

For history buffs, the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site showcases the region’s pivotal role as a major trading post for the Hudson’s Bay Company during the 19th century. Wander through the old fort and ponder the area’s indelible mark on the Pacific Northwest’s narrative. 

Adjacent to the fort lies Officers Row, a charming array of 22 well-preserved Victorian-era mansions that once housed U.S. Army officers. Stroll along the shaded boulevard, tracing the footsteps of bygone dignitaries, or take a walking tour from the Clark County Historical Society.

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

Sunset at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

Photo courtesy of National Park Service

Clark Country Historical Museum

Photo courtesy of Clark County Historical Museum

Stay & Play

The local Cowlitz Indian Tribe has transformed into an economic powerhouse in Clark County with the ilani Hotel & Casino. Ilani (pronounced Ay-la-nay) generates $500 million annually and employs over 1,500 people. The gleaming 14-story hotel tower opened last year, promising more new developments this year. It’s easily a contender for the finest hotel casino in the state.

The hotel features four-diamond-level service, 289 deluxe guest rooms, a spa, and an indoor-outdoor swimming pool. Besides two new restaurants in the hotel, the casino offers a plethora of choices, from gastropub Tom’s Urban to Asian fusion at Bamboo 8, to the brand-new Rock & Brews opening in April 2024. The latter will feature a casual music performance space with free live bands, while the Cowlitz Ballroom hosts national touring bands and comedians for up to 2,500 people.

ilani Resort Hotel & Casino

Photo courtesy of Ilani Hotel Casino

Rock & Brews will be opening later this month

Photo courtesy of ilani Hotel and Casino

The Rock & Brews chain, co-founded by Kiss band members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, is bringing its rock-inspired restaurant and concert bar to ilani

Photo courtesy of ilani Hotel and Casino

Eat & Drink

The shiny new object in Vancouver is The Waterfront, with shops, restaurants, and taverns perched along the riverfront. Come hungry and thirsty, as the complex, still expanding, hosts eight wine tasting rooms and multiple restaurants.

Treat yourself to fresh seafood at the seasonal What a Catch Fishbar, while taking in the epic views of the Columbia River and Mount Hood. Grab a beer at Ruse Brewing or at The Waterfront Taphouse, then browse the unique shops for souvenirs and local crafts. Stretch your legs on the Columbia River Renaissance Trail, a flat five mile path for walking, jogging, or biking.  

Vancouver waterfront

Photo courtesy of Visit Vancouver, Washington

The Waterfront Taphouse

What a Catch Fishbar

Photo courtesy of Wildfin American Grill

A modern cable-stayed bridge with a white pylon over a wooden boardwalk by a river in Vancouver Washington, under a clear blue sky.

Grant Street Pier along the Columbia River Renaissance Trail

Photo by Susan Saul/Washington Trails Association

See & Do

Outdoor lovers will find much more to discover on the lovely Northern Clark County Scenic Drive. Be sure to stop at Moulton Falls, where the Lewis River flows over rocks surrounded by lush greenery. It’s a perfect spot for a picnic. 

Also on the drive, the Cedar Creek Grist Mill is a national historic site and a working museum. Watch volunteers mill grain like it’s 1876. Keep an eye out for upcoming themed events, such as fry bread day, strawberry shortcake day — and who wouldn’t love blueberry pancake day?

Or visit the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge — a fine spot for hiking, biking, and birding. The hotel casino and site of the future burger joint are just a few minutes away.

An old wooden mill with a waterwheel situated beside a lush forest in Hidden Washington, with water flowing into a stream.

The historical water-powered Cedar Creek Grist Mill

Photo courtesy of Cedar Creek Grist Mill

Discover the Moulton Falls by taking a 40-minute drive from downtown Vancouver along the Northern Clark County Scenic Drive

Photo courtesy of Visit Vancouver Washington

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