Just about two hours away from the Eastside is a magical place where the sun shines more than 300 days per year. That translates to major photosynthetic growing power, which is why the Yakima Valley grows nearly 80 percent of the world’s hops, bushels of orchard fruits, and was named the first wine appellation north of California in 1983. Today the charming town of Yakima makes for an easy weekend getaway complete with great food, locally crafted beverages, startling scenery, and an active to-do list.
Yakima’s geographically central location means many hotel chains have invested here — Holiday Inn Express and Hilton Garden represent just two of several options. Additionally, several quaint B&Bs dot the valley, like the historic Rosedell Mansion. But the star lodging of Yakima has to be the Hotel Maison — a beautifully renovated Masonic lodge replete with modern luxury and smack in the beating heart of the town.
Downtown Yakima begs for a stroll. The easy-to-navigate core radiates around the rail line and features authentic early 20th-century train depot architecture converted into tasting rooms, coffee shops, and boutique retail. Cappuccinos and pastries definitely taste better under the soaring ceilings at North Town Coffeehouse. If possible, catch a show at The Capitol Theatre. The frescoed ceiling, vaudeville flourishes, and red velvet curtains are almost as entertaining as the performers, ranging from comedian Brian Regan to Seattle music legend Chris Cornell.
Speaking of shows, live music venues abound in Yakima. Many tasting rooms and tap houses entice guests with evening or weekend performances and, downtown, First Fridays are a guaranteed party. During the warmer months, Gilbert Cellars hosts outdoor concerts at its Hackett Ranch amphitheater located just a few minutes southwest of town. Wine is sold by the glass and bottle; snacks are available for purchase from locally selected food vendors.
Situated at the edge of Cowiche Canyon just northwest of town, Naches Heights Vineyard is accessible via more than 15 miles of canyon trails (don’t worry; you can also drive there!). They host live music each Wednesday night in a large outdoor amphitheater. The shared tasting room serves Wilridge Vineyard and Harlequin Wine Cellars wines in addition to the Naches Heights Vineyard label.
Craft beverage producers have flourished in the Yakima Valley. Within easy walking distance downtown are the tasting rooms of Gilbert Cellars, AntoLin Cellars, and Kana Winery. Those of the “hopped” persuasion can belly up for a pint at Yakima Craft Brewing Co. and Hop Nation Brewing Co. without breaking a sweat — though things do heat up at the latter when Hoptown Pizza fires up the wood-fired pizza oven in the parking lot. Each flavorful pie is topped with a dash of Cascade hops. Bale Breaker Brewing Co. is a short drive to the east, but Tieton Cider Works is just around the corner pouring half a dozen varieties of valley-sourced fruit ciders.
It’s worth the short drive south of town to stop in at Owen Roe and Treveri Cellars Sparkling Wine House. The patio at Treveri offers sweeping views that only improve with a flight of bubbles ranging from extra brut (driest) to doux (very sweet). Book a premium tour and tasting for a look at how it’s made, including a chance to disgorge your own bottle to take home ($50; $45 for Bubble Club members). Expect big changes in the coming months up the road at Owen Roe, including construction on “destination” structures (think vacation cottages). Of course, everything will be built to Owen Roe’s highest standards of sustainability and land stewardship.
Cycling enthusiasts should check out the “Your Canyon For A Day” event on Sunday, May 22, when 35 miles of the scenic Yakima River Canyon are closed to car traffic. The full-day event features food concessions at the staging area and T-shirts for purchase with bike maintenance available, if necessary. Registration costs $50 per person or $85 per family and benefits Yakima County Crime Stoppers.
With an entire valley to serve as its “kitchen garden,” the Yakima dining scene is a cut above what one normally finds in small rural towns. The best and brightest new star is Cowiche Canyon Kitchen & Ice House. Billed as an elevated American tavern, the décor strikes that great balance between refined, comfortable, and hip. All breads (and pastries) are made fresh daily, enveloping juicy pink prime rib (prime rib dip), marinated pork belly (bánh mí sandwich), and gourmet burger options.
Upcoming Downtown Yakima Events
- May 14: Yakima Roots and Vines Festival — Roots, country and Americana music combined with local foods and craft beverages.
- May 22: Your Canyon for a Day Fundraiser — more information.
- June 11: Blues and Local Brews Bash — Live blues from national and regional performers, locally crafted brews, and food.
- July 18: Chris Cornell performs at The Capitol Theatre.