Known for having 300 days of sunshine, the Yakima Valley is also known as Washington state's wine country as its perfect for growing grapes. However, the Yakima Valley offers visitors more than just great food and drink and friendly hospitality; it also has several history museums, nature trails, outdoor activities, and exciting music, dance, and theater performances. Whether you're a fan of the great outdoors or you'd rather spend your day inside a climate-controlled exhibit, the Yakima Valley has something for everyone to enjoy year-round.
Set just east of the Cascade Mountain Range, the Yakima Valley is sunny and scenic, perfect for all sorts of outdoor exploration during your trip. One of the most popular destinations for backpackers and hikers, though, is the Yakima Greenway, which features 15 miles of improved trails along the Yakima River. Walk, run, or bike along the path as you pass through parks and by quiet ponds and busy boat ramps or stop to watch the wildlife instead.
Play a Round of Golf
The sunny terrain of Eastern Washington state is the perfect setting for unique, professional golf courses. If you want to spend some time trying to improve your swing, head over to one of the many courses in the Yakima area for a round of golf. One of the most popular courses, the Apple Tree Golf Course, is located at the Apple Tree Resort in the city of Yakima and known for its apple-shaped floating green. Alternatively, visitors can also stop by the lesser-known Suntides Golf Course, which features an 18-hole course and an RV Park.
Sample Fresh Produce and Local Cuisines
You can spend days tasting your way around Yakima Valley, which is one of the richest agricultural areas in North America. Be sure to stop by local farmer's markets and roadside farm stands to pick up a selection of the season's fresh offerings of grapes, hops, and apples.
Top restaurants where you can try local dishes in the Yakima Valley include the Cowiche Canyon Kitchen, the Carousel Restaurant & Bistro, and Zesta Cucina. Additionally, food- and wine-themed festivals are also popular in the Yakima Valley throughout the year. Stop by the annual Cinco de Mayo Fiesta Grande in May for Mexican cuisine or the Catch the Crush event in October to crush your own grapes at vineyards across the region.
Over 70 wineries are scattered across the Yakima Valley, and many offer tasting rooms and patios where guests can relax and enjoy the fruits of the region throughout the year—but especially during the fall and summer harvests.
Take a trip down Interstate 82 from Yakima to Benton City and stop along the way to experience wines from each of the region's five wine areas: Yakima, Rattlesnake Hills, Columbia Gorge, Prosser, and Red Mountain. Each region has its own varieties of wine, so you'll have to stop in each if you really want to get a taste of Washington's wine country.
The Yakama tribe, the valley's native people, continue to make an impact on the region to this day through community organization, engagement, and events. Visit the Yakama Nation Museum and Cultural Center to view exhibits and artifacts that illuminate their history, culture, and traditions before and after the founding of the United States. The facility also includes a gift shop, a movie theater, and a library full of literature about the region and its people.
Enjoy Musical and Theatrical Performances
After spending a day on the river or touring the countryside, sit back and enjoy a live performance at one of two theaters and performance halls in the Yakima Valley: The Capitol Theatre and the Seasons Performance Hall in the city of Yakima.
The Capitol Theatre is a historic venue hosts a range of diversions—from Broadway-style musicals to lectures to performances by the Yakima Symphony Orchestra. Meanwhile, the Seasons Performance Hall, located in a historic and eclectic church building, is an intimate performance space that hosts live music concerts, dinner shows, and other special events throughout the year.
The city of Yakima preserves the last remaining early 20th-century interurban electric railroad. Take a short trip on the Yakima Valley Trolleys, which run routes between Yakima and Selah on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from Memorial Day through Labor Day each year. After your ride back to Yakima, stop by the museum at West Third Avenue and West Pine Street to learn about the history of this antiquated method of transportation and conservation efforts for the trolley.
Immerse Yourself in Nature
While much of the Yakima Valley is covered in uninterrupted nature, there are two places you should definitely check out if you're a fan of flowers, trees, and other plant life of the region: the Hillside Desert Botanical Gardens and the Yakima Area Arboretum.
The botanical gardens are a well-established facility that focuses on plants that thrive in the Pacific Northwest's climates—including high deserts. After checking out the experimental gardens, you can also purchase plants for your own landscaping needs, but appointments are required for visits. Alternatively, stop by the Yakima Area Arboretum & Jewett Interpretive Center, a "living plant and tree museum" that covers 46 acres with gardens and natural areas to wander and explore.
Local history and culture are the focus of the Yakima Valley Museum, which offers an intriguing variety of exhibits. The permanent collection includes Native American artifacts, regional art, homestead era items, and natural history exhibits. The museum's special exhibition galleries change topics over time and can address all sorts of topics of local interest, from Sasquatch to bicycling to movie cowboys. A section of the museum facility includes a historic soda fountain, preserved and now open as the Rooster Diner and Ice Cream Shop.
The Northern Pacific Railway was one of the first transcontinental railroads in the United States, which operated routes across the northern portion of the country from Minnesota to the Pacific Northwest, including the town of Toppenish in the Yakima Valley.
To learn more about the history of this important mode of transit while visiting the valley, head to the Northern Pacific Railway Museum. Located in Toppenish is a Northern Pacific Railway depot that was built in 1911, this Yakima Valley museum preserves the glory days of the American railroad. An old steam engine and several vintage rail cars are part of the museum's collection.
The Yakima Valley is one of the world's premier hop-growing regions, producing over 75-percent of the hops grown in the United States. The American Hop Museum is located in the historic Trimble Brothers Creamery building in Toppenish. Their collection includes equipment, artifacts, and memorabilia related to the hops and the hop industry. This is a must-see for beer aficionados and anyone interested in craft brewing.
While you're in Toppenish, don't miss out on one of this small city's most unique features: the Toppenish Murals. What started as one mural in the middle of town has now spread across town to include over 70 large-scale paintings, most of which depict scenes from local history. Take a walking tour of Toppenish and see how many you can count yourself.