As the weather gets warmer, get prepared with a ready-to-go list of where to take your kids to cool off in the Vancouver area when they start to complain, “It’s too hot!”
Captain William Clark Park / Cottonwood Beach
Cottonwood Beach is 20 minutes outside of downtown Vancouver, or a bit longer if you opt for the scenic Evergreen Highway. Parking is plentiful, but the walk down to the water can feel long, so make a pit stop at the bathrooms and carry in everything you’ll need for the day — including bug spray, as the trees along the shore can be buggy. Kids will love the canoe display, commemorating the Lewis & Clark’s six-day expedition in the area. They noted the site’s “handsome prairie” in their travel logs, still an accurate description. On your way home, check out Ashwood Taps & Trucks in Washougal, a kid-friendly food cart pod with outdoor seating.
Wintler Community Park
A bit closer in is the popular Wintler Community Park — emphasis on popular, as the small parking lot fills up quickly, so head there early to snag a spot. The morning arrival is worth it, as the beach is easily accessible and absolutely lovely. Kids can watch planes take off from the Portland airport, just far enough away that the noise is exciting rather than scary. Older kids will enjoy the walking trail along the waterfront to the marina. Everyone will be glad to end the day at nearby restaurant The Cove. Pro tip: Every kid’s meal comes with dessert!
Vancouver Lake Regional Park
On the other side of town sits Vancouver Lake Regional Park. The $3 parking fee (or $30 for a Clark County Regional Parks yearly pass) is well worth it for families, who will appreciate the narrow beach and the shallow, calm water. If older kids need more entertainment, point them towards the sand volleyball court or the many picnic tables beneath wide trees to get some space and cool down.
Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park
Due west from Vancouver Lake, Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park is just across the Columbia from Sauvie Island. The Clark County parking pass will cover you here; look for the lots nearest to the main picnic shelter for the easiest beach access. Or, if you’re up for more adventure, park near Bluerock Landing and hike or bike in. The beach is long and deep, providing lots of options for families to set up camp — and, if the water’s too cold, you can hang around the playground or watch for cargo ships. A scoop of something sweet at Treat in downtown Vancouver is the perfect way to wrap up your beach day here or at Vancouver Lake!
Pull off at Chuck’s Produce for picnic fare on your way to Klineline Pond. A paved path takes you directly from the parking lot (use your Clark County parking pass again!) to the pond, where you can set up on the beach or beneath the trees. The park provides free life jackets to borrow and has a large restroom facility. And if your kids need a change of pace from the beach, they can play in the splash pad as well as on the updated playground. Truly, this spot shines — especially for families with younger kids.
Explore more family-friendly eateries, activities and events in the Vancouver area here!
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