Though similar to Portland in many ways, Vancouver, Wash., a large suburb located just across the Columbia River to the north, can also feel like it’s a world away.
Connected to Oregon by a rugged, steel, vertical-lift bridge that alludes to the city’s blue collar values, Vancouver is a throwback, with a quaint Main Street loaded with ice cream shops, pubs and antique galleries. Home to the largest Independence Day fireworks display west of the Mississippi, the city’s biggest tourist attraction, Fort Vancouver, is a family-friendly National Historic Site, consisting of a rebuilt 1800s fur-trading camp, a mid-1900s airstrip and a stretch of restored 19th century homes. Dating back to 1853, the city’s Esther Short Park is Washington’s oldest public square. Featuring a Glockenspiel-clad tower that announces the time throughout the day, the five-acre park is a bustling all-ages playground on sunny days. Kiggins Theater, a renovated single-screen treasure located downtown, shows family-friendly fare, second-run films and midnight screenings of fan favorites. But Vancouver’s most timeless charm may be its parking, which is free in many areas; if your spot has a meter, you can still pay the fee in nickels