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Day trip to Vancouver, Washington

Explore historic sites a short two-hour drive from JBLM

Fort Vancouver Bastion. Photo credit: Visit Vancouver USA

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In the drive south on Interstate 5, Vancouver is often overlooked, since people visit its more famous sister city, Portland, just across the Columbia River. However, Vancouver is a vibrant city with lots to see and do, particularly if you like history.

First stop is the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. The fort has a rich history that encompasses its early days as a frontier fur trading post, its military history as a fort, the beginnings of flight and the stories of local settlers. Learn about this history at four different locations: the Hudson's Bay Company's Fort Vancouver, the U.S. Army's Vancouver Barracks, Pearson Field and the McLoughlin House in Oregon City.

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Saturday, 1501 E. Evergreen Blvd., Vancouver, 360.816.6230,

For lunch, a must-stop is the Eatery at the Grant House. This farm-to-table restaurant is in the historic Grant House, which was built in 1846 and is part of Officer Row overlooking the parade field of Vancouver Barracks. You can still see some of the original logs used to build the home, which were left uncovered.  The restaurant offers brunch until 3 p.m. each day with an eclectic menu built around what produce is in season.  Speaking of produce, it is delivered fresh every day. Children and adults will love the tomato basil soup with a grilled Tillamook cheddar cheese sandwich. There are also burgers, fresh salads and breakfast foods available.

Eatery at the Grant House, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., daily, 1101 Officers Row, Vancouver, 360.906.1101,

After lunch, head over to the Esther Short Park, which is located in downtown Vancouver. It was established in 1853 and is the oldest town square in the state of Washington.  The five-acre gem has a playground kids are sure to enjoy. It is surrounded by a vibrant neighborhood with lots of shops and restaurants to explore.

Esther Short Park, 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., daily, 605 Esther St., Vancouver, 360.487.8311,

The Columbia River Waterfront Renaissance Trail connects Esther Short Park to Wintler Park.  It is a paved five-mile-long trail that follows the Columbia River waterfront and offers great views of the bridges over the river and Mount Hood. There are shops, restaurants and areas to play.  The Water Resources Education Center is worth a stop to learn about protecting our water (closed on Sundays). Another stop along the way is the Henry J. Kaiser Shipyard Memorial, which has a tower you can climb up for views of the remnants of the shipyard where World War II liberty ships were built.

Columbia River Waterfront Renaissance Trail, daily, North Bank of the Columbia River, Vancouver, 360.619.1111

Late afternoon, head back home on I-5 North. For dinner, consider a stop at the many mom-and-pop burger joints along the way.  Just watch the exit signs and try something local. For more information about planning your trip to Vancouver, visit for a wealth of information.

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