Vancouver lies just across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon. While most people would skip over it in favor of the more well known city, Vancouver is a lively town with an especially festive Fourth of July.
The premiere place to stay is the Hilton Vancouver, a hotel right in the center of downtown. The lobby is extensive with high ceilings and three elevators, and is connected to Gray’s Restaurant right next door.
Our room was on the fourth floor and gave us a beautiful view of Esther Short Park across the street, which included the Salmon Run Bell and Clock Tower. The design evokes art styles of the local Chinook Native American tribes and chimes its bells at 12, 1, 2, and 4 pm.
The room included a king size bed and a full bathroom, along with a mini fridge and television. Additionally in our room we were set up with in-room delivery items which included a delicious Washington Hills Cabernet Sauvignon wine, and a plate of fruit and cheese and crackers.
Down on the third floor is both a fitness room for exercise, and a room adjacent featuring a full pool and small spa hot tub. It’s the perfect place to wind down in the hot tub or cool down in the pool on a hot day.
We ate at Gray’s restaurant, connected to the hotel lobby. Filled with tables and big booths there’s plenty of room for either couples or big families. The menu was filled with great choices, but we were interested in the tater tots, topped with melted cheese and sprinkled sriracha ketchup. We also began with a cocktail, the seasonal sangria, which delivered both a nice sweet fruity taste and a cool refreshing drink for the summer evening. Paired with the caesar salad, it was a perfect opener for the meal.
For our main courses we tried the juicy Sirloin Steak, and Gray’s Mac ‘n Five Cheese. The steak came with a house made dipping sauce and creamy mashed potatoes, and had a large quantity of meat and very little fat. The Mac and Cheese was made from shell style pasta and baked in five cheeses, and covered in gorgonzola.
Unfortunately it was just too much food for us to include dessert, but the menu was very enticing. Fudge cake, salted caramel cookie, creme brulee, even drinks like the Irish Coffee, and the Warm Brandy Alexander. Should we return, it will absolutely be our next thing to try.
After eating we walked over to Fort Vancouver to watch the display of fireworks for the Fourth of July festivities. The Fort itself is on the list of national historic sites, and was originally an important stop for fur traders and travelers on the Oregon Trail. Today it has been restored to good condition and can be toured during the day, and typically has an all day celebration on Fourth of July. However, they have retooled the festivities this year to focus on an evening Firework show accompanied by music.
The entry is free, and aside from a brief security check to prevent alcohol from entering, you’re given free reign to wander throughout the outdoor areas of the fort. The show is centered on a giant grass field, there is a radio station tent offering giveaways, and some food and drink stands to replenish yourself. There’s nothing provided to sit with, so you’ll have to bring your own towel, cushion, or seat to reside on.
When the sun has set and 10 pm hits, you get treated to a twenty minute deluge of fiery colorful explosions, and various tunes reflecting American styles like country, rock, and traditional marching band. Watching these fireworks under the stars in a warm summer night among hundreds of people is just how they were meant to be seen, and it was a second to none experience.
War Memorial Wall
In addition to the fireworks, there are several shops and restaurants downtown to explore. We were very struck by the art demonstration that was the Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Wall. We had heard about it as a nice tribute to those who gave their lives for our country, but upon seeing it we were struck by its emotional impact and size. The wall extends around 250 feet and has separate murals denoting each major war in US history since the second World War. It’s quite poetic in both its heroic and dour portrayal of war, something you don’t typically see in a memorial.
Vancouver is a great spot to visit and check out on your way to Seattle or into Portland. It’s right on the Columbia River and has an amazing historic vibe with lots of things to do. Visit Vancouver has a great guide of things to do and see to plan your next trip perfectly!