Being new to Washington state, my family and I are always trying to explore and learn about our new home… basically spending our free time seeing where the road takes us. Venturing just 15 miles outside of downtown Vancouver, we recently spent the day in Camas. On the way there, as we traveled east along the Columbia River with perfect views of Mount Hood, my daughter researched why the city was named Camas. Fun fact: It’s a plant. It’s edible and supposedly delicious!
When we arrived, we were welcomed by roundabouts and winding roads lined with waving lamppost banners celebrating the Papermakers, a local high school mascot (named after the prominent employer Georgia-Pacific paper mill located in town). The main road led us straight to downtown Camas with residential neighborhoods tucked into the hillside on our left.
Places to Check Out
Downtown Camas certainly gives you the warm fuzzies with its picturesque landscaping and timeless buildings. The canopy of trees and ornamental structures were a welcome sight as we drove to find a parking spot. We made our way past yoga studios, boutiques, restaurants, bars and art galleries to our first destination. Coffee, of course. We found Natalia’s Cafe, a fun throwback diner serving comfort breakfast and lunch. With black and white checkered decor and a little bit of Russian flair on the menu, this spot is a must. The smell of home cooking will make your mouth water from the sidewalk!
As we walked around downtown, the streets were busy with shoppers, children leaving dance class and moviegoers heading into the historic Liberty Theatre. This majestic building has been around since 1927, entertaining locals and visitors. Since its last renovation, the theater now offers beer, wine and a large concessions menu to make for a unique experience.
Antiquing in Camas
My kids are now old enough to visit an antique shop without fear of breaking something, so we ventured to Camas Antiques, located just beside the theater. This store is something special. With vendor booths filling both stories of the corner building, we were lost in vintage heaven. We had to walk the store twice to make sure we didn’t miss anything! From feeling like I was playing dress up in my grandmothers’ closet, to admiring the date stamped silver and my favorite — the fantastic selection of vintage cameras — Camas Antiques had something for everyone.
Where to Eat
The options in downtown Camas made it hard to choose the lunch spot, but we ended up at Mill City Brew Werks, a small craft brewery and restaurant in the heart of downtown with such a large menu the whole family had plenty to choose from! The portions are large — so beware of good food overload! Pro tip: Get the pork cracklins with cajun seasoning (you’re welcome). The large windows in this locally owned spot make for great views of the downtown hustle and bustle. This was just one of the many spots to enjoy a meal downtown and we look forward to coming back and trying more!
Throughout the day, one noticeable feature of downtown Camas was the abundance of bronze statues lining the streets. Just a couple we stopped to see were Millie the dog and the penny fountain ducks. In fact, there is a “Hidden Bronze Bird Tour” you can follow to seek out the 13 hidden figures, one on each block. My kids had a blast with that. The Downtown Camas Association has obviously worked hard to offer many of these unique features throughout the main strip — our favorite being a sidewalk painting teaching you cha-cha dance steps just outside the theater.
After a day of strolling the streets, window shopping and finding hidden birds, we needed something sweet! We hit up Cake Happy for some homemade cupcakes and Mt. Hood Roasters coffee. This shop offered a sugar high as soon as you walked in the door. They offer custom cakes and pastries for your events as well — something to keep in mind. The corner bench seat and coloring sheets for kids made for the perfect ending to a great day in downtown Camas.
Bonus stop: On our way out of town we drove around Lacamas Lake, only a mile or so outside of downtown. The weather that day didn’t make it ideal for activities, but we found two public boat load-in docks and a three-and-a-half-mile trail surrounding the southern end. Lacamas Lake has long been a popular spot with the locals for water sports and fishing… note to self for a visit this summer!