Umbrella sculpture and Kiggins

Vancouver, Washington – Main Street

Main Streets 2017: Washington

Umbrella sculpture and Kiggins
Visit Vancouver HD Kiggins
Esther Short Park
Cruisin The Gut Crowd
River Mural
Umbrella sculpture and Kiggins Visit Vancouver HD Kiggins Esther Short Park Cruisin The Gut Crowd River Mural

Local is the working word along Main Street in this large suburb across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon. Vancouver has eight local breweries, most with tasting rooms, plus more than ten local restaurants, at least 20 locally owned shops, a historic movie theater with local history, a locally owned and run performing arts theater — even local food trucks.

All this homegrown vitality is enhanced with locally made art. Main Street “is festooned in bright, creative murals — including 18 of its storm drains,” wrote Sunset magazine in naming this one of the “West’s Best Main Streets.”

Among Main Street’s landmarks is the Kiggins Theater, a filmgoer’s Art Deco mecca that was built in 1936, then reopened in 2011 after a restoration kept most of its furnishings and flourishes intact. Also on Main is the Magenta Theater, a community performing-arts venue that’s in the heart of what locals call the downtown arts district, where Main is home to some seven art galleries and art shops.

For those interested in Northwest history, the Clark County Historical Museum is in a 1909-built Carnegie library on Main. Along with its rotating exhibits on local and regional history, the museum is home to the Brautigan Library, a unique collection of unpublished book manuscripts from around the world inspired by an idea in a 1971 novel by the noted Washington author Richard Brautigan.

As recently as a decade ago, Main Street and Vancouver’s downtown was struggling. But a determined revitalization project led by Vancouver’s Downtown Assocation has turned things around. The association is affiliated with Main Street America, a subsidiary program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation that is helping revive and restore downtowns across the U.S.

Here, “the rejuvenation has been helped by a growing number of events in the downtown area,” reports The Columbian, Vancouver’s local paper. An ongoing favorite is First Friday, when each month the city center fills with “great art, great food, options and inspiration,” says the Downtown Association.

Just a short walk from Main, most every Saturday is Open Saturday at the Pearson Field Educational Center, part of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. Next door is Pearson Field, the city airport, which is the oldest continuously operating airport in the Pacific Northwest (a plane first landed here in 1911), and one of the two oldest in the U.S.

All photos courtesy of Visit Vancouver USA

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Primary min 15

Olympia, Washington – Columbia Street NW

Main Streets 2016: Washington

The Pacific Northwest is world-renowned for its spectacular outdoor settings. And the city of Olympia, Washington, on the southernmost tip of Puget Sound with sweeping views of the Olympic Mountains from the waterfront, embraces all the region’s assets, from its outdoor attractions to its deep commitment to music and the arts.

You can soak it all in along Columbia Street Northwest, which leads from the waterfront, with its marinas full of sailboats, to the heart of this capital city’s downtown. Exploring the street starts with its western end at Percival Landing Park, a 3.38-acre park named after the old commercial steamship wharf built here in 1860. A boardwalk extends along the eastern shoreline, where the lawn is a huge draw for families and couples who gather for picnics, and where the community comes for special events.

Percival Landing links Olympia’s maritime roots to its more recent commitment to public art. Olympia describes itself as one of the best small cities for the arts, and it promotes a walking tour of public art throughout town. The park is a major draw on that tour — it’s home to the Percival Plinth Project, which has installed stands, or plinths, for sculptures along the waterfront. Each year a new selection of sculptures is loaned by local and regional artists for display. The community votes on a favorite, which is purchased and put on permanent display elsewhere in Olympia.

There are shops, restaurants, and plenty more to see and do along Columbia Street and its nearby neighborhoods. The city’s Parks, Arts & Recreation Department is up the street at The Olympia Center, which also hosts private and community events. Olympia’s community and cultural life is enlivened by several local institutions of higher learning, including the Evergreen State College and South Puget Sound Community College.

Within a few blocks of Columbia Street are more attractions — including the Washington Center for The Performing Arts, the Olympia Downtown Association and the Old Capitol Building, a beautiful structure that dates to Olympia’s earliest days as the state capital.

Street photo courtesy of Washington Center for the Performing Arts
Percival Landing photo courtesy of

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