For more than 65 years, local Vancouverites have looked forward to the fleet of Christmas Ships that cruise by on the Columbia River in December. The longtime tradition started in 1954 with a single sailboat adorned with a wreath and now attracts eager visitors to Vancouver WA’s waterfront restaurants and shoreline trails.
When You Can See the Christmas Ships
The two fleets (Columbia and Willamette) have grown to nearly 60 boats combined with extravagant light displays seen from both banks. Ranging between 14 and 65 feet long, some of the boats have participated in the parade for more than 30 years. On December 4th, 6th, and 15th, these festive vessels will sail by the new Vancouver Waterfront development on their way to The Cove Restaurant. On December 5th and 13th, the ships will make their way to Wintler Park, and on December 1st and 14th, you can spot them from The Cove Restaurant. On December 8th, the ships will be visible from Wintler Park and Steamboat Landing Marina, and on December 2nd, you can see them from Washougal Waterfront Park. Don't miss this enchanting holiday tradition on the Columbia River!
Don’t let the crowds deter you from experiencing the holiday magic that can now be watched from the Vancouver Waterfront. Bundle up for a stroll along the Waterfront Renaissance Trail or snag a spot on the Grant Street Pier for premier viewing. McMenamins on the Columbia typically opens its patio to customers. Dress warmly; they admit their heaters don’t always ward off the wind chill!
If you prefer to watch from the warmth of a restaurant, here is a guide to ensure a seat for you and the family. But book early. Twigs Bistro and WildFin American Grill are taking reservations as usual—tables are already filling up. If you plan to dine inside at McMenamins on the Columbia, go early. It is first come, first served, and they expect the inside tables to start filling up by 6:30 p.m. Who Song and Larry’s reservations fill up quickly, but walk-ins are typically welcome at a high-volume capacity. In recent years, The Cove has joined the lineup with a location overlooking the Tidewater Cove Marina and Wintler Park! Join Maryhill Winery to view the ships from a reserved seat at their prime Vancouver waterfront location! Above Maryhill, The Waterfront Taphouse, and Willamette Valley Vineyards offer great views from their second-story balconies.
Try Something New
Opening its doors to the public in June 2022, the AC Hotel by Marriott is the first modern hotel to hit the Waterfront with panoramic views of the Columbia River. Don’t skip on food; located on the ground floor, guests will find the AC Lounge and patio (reservations recommended). Just below, find the Vancouver Landing, a great spot to bundle up and catch the fleet. The Vancouver Landing is open to the public and features a floating boat dock as well as an upper dock. The amphitheater, or concrete “park,” is great for sitting, relaxing, and watching the river activity.
Next door, Hotel Indigo, Vancouver's newest boutique hotel, delivers stylish décor and a fun atmosphere looking over the river in the heart of the Vancouver Waterfront Park. The hotel is offering visitors a special Christmas Ships package this season on December 4th, 6th, and 16th. Book your stay here! Sample some premiere Northwest restaurants within the building, like Portland steakhouse El Gaucho and the Seattle mainstay 13 Coins. Plus, find Evoke Wine Bar on the ground floor and the chic outdoor patio of the Witness Tree Lounge above.
For more information about the Christmas Ships, visit their website.
Where to see the Christmas lights in Vancouver
Experience the magic of the holiday season in Vancouver with a dazzling display of Christmas lights that shine all season long! The city comes alive with the warmth of the season as the iconic tree in Esther Short Park casts a twinkle that lasts until the New Year. Venture to Holidays on Franklin at 4616 NW Franklin St, where over 150,000 Christmas lights will illuminate your evenings throughout the season or further North Candy Cane Lane shines in Ridgefield. And the holiday cheer doesn't stop there! Various tree lighting events across the region, like the grand tree at ilani Casino, the festive streets of Downtown Camas, and the celebrations in Ridgefield and Washougal, keep the spirit alive. Each town has its unique hometown tree and light display, making Clark County a winter wonderland where the lights tell the story of the season's joy.