There are plenty of fun things to do here in Vancouver, Washington. We’re fortunate enough to live in an area with lots of options for outdoor fun, historical experiences, and environmental education. And best of all, a lot of these options are completely free! Here’s a list of some of our favorite free activities in the area.
Columbia River Renaissance Trail
Image credit: City of Vancouver
The Columbia River Renaissance Trail is a five-mile long trail that connects downtown Vancouver to Wintler Park via a paved riverfront trail that is ideal for a picturesque stroll. This trail also connects to several other free attractions on our list, so it’s a great starting point for a full day of free activities. Enjoy a stroll along the banks of the Columbia River, take a detour along the Discovery Historic Loop trail to visit Fort Vancouver (next on our list), or see the oldest apple tree in the Northwest.
Fort Vancouver National Historic Site
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Fort Vancouver is a national historic site that commemorates the founding of our city, and one of the first pioneer settlements in the Pacific Northwest. Learn about the history of the Hudson Bay Company’s trading post the evolved into the city we live in today. Many activities at the site are free, but there is an admission fee to visit the reconstructed fort. However, the National Park service does offer fee-free days occasionally. Check the NPS website for more information on upcoming fee-free days so you can get the full Fort Vancouver experience at no cost.
Pearson Air Museum
Image credit: National Parks Service
While you’re at Fort Vancouver, make sure to stop by the Pearson Air Museum. Pearson Field was an important airfield during the golden age of aviation in the early 20th century. This airfield was decommissioned after World War II, but was home to some notable events in aviation history. At the air museum, you can learn about these events and maybe even catch some historical aircraft taking off and landing.
Image credit: Visit Vancouver USA
Another free activity in the Fort Vancouver area is Officer’s Row. Here, you can find 22 preserved Victorian houses that were once home to the U.S. Army officers stationed at the Vancouver Barracks. Take a stroll down Officer’s Row and marvel at the exquisite architecture and well-kept grounds of each home. The George C. Marshall House is the crown jewel of Officer’s Row. It once housed the commanding officer of the Barracks.
Esther Short Park
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
The Columbia River Renaissance Trail is anchored in downtown Vancouver by Esther Short Park, so it’s a great place to either start or end your day of free activities. The park is a great activity destination in itself, featuring 5 acres of playgrounds, picnic areas, walking trails, and the oldest public square in the state of Washington. During the summer months, a water feature is open to help you and the kids cool off. Be sure to check out the Salmon Run Bell Tower, a mechanical marvel featuring 25 cast bronze bells and a glockenspiel that depicts Native American lore. The glockenspiel is programmed to play after the chimes at noon, 2pm, and 4pm, so make sure you’re there in time for the show.
Speaking of shows, Esther Short Park also hosts the Six To Sunset Concert Series, an annual free concert series that has been running since 1999. Shows feature local musicians who play Thursday evenings during the summer months. Check the City of Vancouver event calendar for information on the concert series, as well as other free events that happen at Esther Short Park.
Water Resources Education Center
Image credit: Visit Vancouver USA
Aquatic activities are one of the best things about living in the Pacific Northwest. You can enhance your enjoyment of our beautiful rivers, lakes, and oceanfront views by learning more about their ecosystems. The Water Resources Education Center offers free classes to educate you on the wildlife and ecology of our area. Classes and events are free to attend, but an RSVP is required.
Columbia Springs Environmental Education Center
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Another free educational experience in Vancouver is the Columbia Springs Environmental Education Center. This 100-acre park is free and open to the public. Hike along two miles of trails that feature wildlife viewing decks, art, interpretive signage, and historical displays. You can also visit the Vancouver Trout Hatchery to get an inside view on how local ecologists raise trout for distribution in local waterways. Hatchery tours are given on the second Wednesday of every month at 5:30pm, April through October.
The Columbia Springs Environmental Education Center also offers a variety of classes and activities regarding local ecology. Check out their event calendar for a full list. Most events are free to attend, but there is a suggested donation if you would like to support the mission of the education center.
Map Of Free Activities In Vancouver, WA
Here’s a map showing all of the locations mentioned in this blog:
As you can see, there are many options for free activities here in the city of Vancouver. Whether you’re looking for fun on a budget or just wanting to try something new, any of these places is sure to provide a good time. We hope that you have fun in our great city!