Washington's Yakima Valley was an absolutely delightful surprise. As a first-time visitor to the state of Washington, I envisioned the entire state as a gloomy, rainy, Nirvana loving mecca. The Yakima Valley was absolutely not that, in fact, this region of Washington experiences 300+ days of sunshine annually. Come see what it's all about with this list of things to do in the Yakima Valley,
Things to do in the Yakima Valley
First things first – let's talk about exactly where Yakima Valley is and how to get there.
How to get to the Yakima Valley
The Yakima Valley is a productive agriculture region. In addition to multiple fruit and vegetable crops, the Yakima Valley is home to the first American Viticultural Area (yes, that means this area is loaded with vineyards and wine grapes.) Additionally, nearly 70 percent of the world's hops are grown in the Yakima Valley, so think about that the next time you crack open a beer.
The Yakima Valley is about 60 miles from Mount Rainier, which can be seen from parts of the valley on a clear day. Yakima is about 142 miles – roughly a two-hour drive – from Seattle. If you're flying, you'll have several options for flights in and out of Tri-Cities Airport, which is 78 miles (about an hour's drive) from the city of Yakima. You will need a car to get around the Yakima Valley.
Yakima also has a small airport. Alaska Airlines offers service from Yakima to Seattle/Tacoma and you can connect to just about anywhere in the world from there.
You might also like: The best things to eat and drink in the Yakima Valley
Drinking in the Yakima Valley
Since this area is a major producer of hops and wine grapes, you'd be correct if you guessed that wine and beer tasting are big things to do. Here's an overview of breweries and wineries I visited in the Yakima Valley.
This is only a small sampling of what's available in the Yakima Valley but these are businesses I've visited and can personally recommend.
Of course the place where most of the world's hops are grown is going to have great breweries.
508 N 20th Ave, Yakima, WA 98902
Wandering Hop has outdoor seating and a cute taproom. They brew onsite in their Yakima location (there's a second location in Zillah) and also offer growlers and kegs to go. There's a small food menu if you want to grab something to eat.
My fave: Wander Down Under.
Cowiche Creek Brewing
514 Thompson Road BLDG #2, Cowiche, WA 98923
Cowiche Creek Brewing offers indoor and outdoor service in a fun, family friendly setting. They have a robust food menu, too. You can't go wrong with a burger or the charcuterie board, which is surprisingly elegant for a brewery. Check their website for special events/live music.
My fave: East Livengood IPA
If you haven't figured out that I'm an IPA gal, let me remove that doubt. Cowiche Creek has lots of IPAs on tap and I enjoyed them all but East Livengood tops my list.
Bron Yr Aur Brewing Co.
12160 US-12, Naches, WA 98937
Bron Yr Aur (diehard Led Zepplin fans might recognize the title) offers indoor and outdoor seating. We ate inside but the outdoor space is really lovely and is kid and pet friendly.
Go hungry and enjoy a selection of creative pizzas and appetizers. I sampled several things and enjoyed everything. If you really, really love garlic, I recommend the Date Ender.
My fave: Rattlesnake IPA
1801 Birchfield Rd, Yakima, WA 98901
Bale Breaker is a laid back, family-run brewery with great beer and onsite food trucks. They have a large selection of classics and limited release beers. The brewpub staff can make a recommendation or you can try a flight and sample several different things. I know what I like and I was the only one in my group that didn't order a tasting flight.
My fave: Bottom Cutter, with Top Cutter being a close second. I think I learned more about hops production here than I did anywhere else in the Yakima Valley.
Washington Wines are fun to experience. I am a dry white kind of gal but I enjoyed sampling a variety of reds, whites, and sparkling wines. I visited during spring barrel tasting – which is kind of a thing in the Yakima Valley – and got to sample some young wines still in process, which was a cool thing to do.
2231 Roza Dr, Zillah, WA 98953
This family and pet friendly winery is located in a beautiful garden setting. Reservations are recommended but not required. The selections are always rotating but are heavy on the reds. We enjoyed a lovely charcuterie board with our tasting but I've heard a rumor that there's pizza on the weekends. Call in advance of your visit for food options.
My fave: A tie between Boss Block and the Chardonnay, the latter which isn't listed on the online menu.
Wilridge Winery, Brewery, and Distillery
250 Ehler Rd, Yakima, WA 98908
This winery experience was probably my favorite. Wilridge has a stunningly beautiful grounds with some hiking opportunities (wear sturdy shoes) and you can even camp on the property.
Fave: 2018 Estate Nebbiolo. Full disclosure – I didn't sample everything available on this visit. We went very early in the morning and I wasn't quite in full drinking mode yet. Wilridge had a nice variety of whites and fruit brandies I'd love to sample. I look forward to a return visit.
2620 Draper Rd, Yakima, WA 98903
Gilbert Cellars is a scenic winery with lots of summer entertainment options. Check out their calendar of events in advance of your visit – this is a popular wedding venue so make sure you won't be wedding crashers when you visit.
Fave: I did five tastings of young reds straight out of the barrel and I didn't record the names and vintages. I really enjoyed my chats with the winemakers and the gorgeous scenery so I'd love to go back and do a tutored tasting to get more familiar with the wines offered.
71 Gangl Rd, Wapato, WA 98951
If you love bubbly, Trevari Cellars is your place. I love bubbly. These luxurious sparking wines were probably my favorite Yakima Valley wines.
There's something for everyone here from the very dry to the very sweet. The Sparkling Syrah Brut is very unique – I don't think I've ever had a sparkling dry red before and it is absolutely gorgeous in the glass.
My fave: Blancs de Brut Zero. I love the dry stuff, but if you like sweeter bubbles, you won't be disappointed.
J. Bell Cellars
124 Purple Lane, Zillah, WA 98953
This beautiful winery and lavender farm has a high-end yet unpretentious vibe. Lovely reds in French and American barrels beg for spring tasting. J. Bell also has a delicious small plates menu so I recommend you go hungry and sample something.
Sip Safely with the little hopper bus
I recommend The Little Hopper as the ultimate party bus. Take a wine tour, a beer tour, or use the Little Hopper as a hop on, hop off bus. Little Hopper partners with several area wineries and breweries and can get you from spot to spot in a fun and safe way.
Check out Little Hopper's FAQs here and decide what type of tour is right for your group.
Eating in the Yakima Valley
All of the beer and wine establishments I described above offer food but here are some additional foodie experiences I think you shouldn't miss in the Yakima Valley.
I don't call myself a vegetarian or pescatarian but I don't eat a lot of meat. At home, I enjoy no meat or low meat meals and on the road, I usually eat all plant based or fish. I eat dairy and eggs but I usually just do bites of meat and poultry.
Hoptown Wood Fired Pizza
2560 Donald Wapato Rd, Wapato, WA 98951
Hoptown Wood Fired Pizza is excellent pizza. The owners are absolutely delightful and they serve a variety of creative pies and good beer. Their inside space is fun (and you can watch the pizzas being prepared) but if you visit on a warm, sunny day, the outdoor space is primo.
If you're a fan of creative pizza toppings, you'll love Hoptown. Their website lists their classic pizzas but things rotate seasonally. As you can see below, Hoptown makes use of local produce in their pizzas.
22 N 1st St, Yakima, WA 98901
If you find yourself in Yakima and want an upscale and elegant food experience, book a table at Crafted. Reservations aren't required (unless you've got 8+ people) but Crafted is very popular, especially on weekends. It's fresh, clean space with a rotational menu. The service is a bit unique in that all dishes are designed for sharing and they'll be brought to your table as they're ready.
Our group sampled and shared several dishes and everything was beautifully plated and delicious. My favorite was the steak and asparagus, which is surprising since I'm not a huge meat eater.
Crafted also offers a chef's tasting menu for $75 per person but everyone at the table must participate if you're going to order that.
The award for best cocktail name ever goes to Shrub is a Guy Who Thinks He's Fly.
Essencia Artisan Bakery
4 N 3rd St, Yakima, WA 98901
Essencia Artisan Bakery is a great spot to enjoy breakfast and your morning coffee. They have a rotating variety of pastries and other baked goods, as well as other breakfast items such as fruit and yogurt bowls and oatmeal.
I ordered a triple berry scone and fresh fruit and had a bite of my friend's giant cinnamon roll. Both were delicious. I love a good bakery and wanted all the things so I'll definitely go back next time I visit Yakima.
Canyon River Grill
Canyon Road, 14706 WA-821, Ellensburg, WA 98926
This eatery is located inside Red's Fly Shop and is mere steps from the Yakima River.
Los Hernandez Tamales
3706 Main St, Union Gap, WA 98903
When I was preparing for my trip to the Yakima Valley, one of my hosts mentioned that the best tamales in the world were to be found it Union Gap. I did a little eye roll and thought to myself “Well, aren't you cute, thinking Washington has the best tamales.” This is probably the typical reaction of any diehard Tex-Mex fan from South Texas who hasn't tried a Los Hernandez tamale from Union Gap Washington.
Panderia Aguilla Bakery3206 Main St, Union Gap, WA 98903
If you're craving something sweet after your tamales, head over to this traditional Mexican bakery and grab dessert.
2415 S 1st St, Yakima, WA 98903
A burger and a shake at Miner's in Yakima* is a rite of passage for the region's young athletes. This is a popular stop for sports teams traveling for tournaments. On our Monday night visit, I think we saw four different sports teams present.
Although waiting in line behind 25 chattering tweens might not be your preferred way to start a meal, there is plenty of seating and Miner's is very efficient. The burgers, fries, and shakes are worth a little bit of a wait.
*Miner's is officially in Yakima but part of the building is in Union Gap. I'm not sure which part, so I might have had dinner in Yakima and I might have had dinner in Union Gap. I'm OK with a little ambiguity.
Jean's Cottage Inn
3211 Main St, Union Gap, WA 98903
If you want really good home cooking in a fun, throwback retro atmosphere, Jean's Cottage Inn is your place. I ate breakfast here – they have a full menu of traditional breakfast favorites, including some really great French toast. They also serve lunch and dinner and produce Deccio's Seasonings, which you can buy on site or order online. They gave me a seasoning back to take home and I use it on my fish and vegetables.
Javi's Chicken and Churros
632 E Edison Ave, Sunnyside
I recommend Javi's with the caveat that I have tried neither their chicken nor their churros. They have both of those on the menu but I switched it up last-minute and ordered fish and shrimp tacos, which I immensely enjoyed. The veggies were really fresh and I loved the spicy sauce. The atmosphere is eclectic and funky, with almost a nightclub vibe. Check out their Facebook page for entertainment schedules. I would return to any of the restaurants I've listed but I think I return trip to Javi's probably tops my list.
Things to do in the Yakima Valley
Although you could easily fill a visit with just eating and drinking, there are other things to do in the Yakima Valley if you want to mix it up.
Learn about the produce industry and shop at Washington Fruit Place Barrett Orchards
Washington Fruit Place Barrett Orchards is an active farm and store. Buy fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as gifts, and hand dipped ice cream. The farm dog is especially delightful.
The small city of Tieton Washington is a great spot to spend an afternoon in. Shop in the Nomad Mercantile and check out the current exhibit at the Boxx Gallery. If you're looking for unique, locally sourced cuisine, check out 617 Nomad. We didn't eat here but popped in for a quick tour and I loved the vibe of this place and the smells coming from the kitchen. Tieton also has several lovely tile murals that depict the area's agriculture industry.
Umatanum Creek Recreation Area
Canyon Rd, Ellensburg, WA 98926
This is a scenic and pristine area managed by the BLM that has hiking trails, campsites, and boat launches. If there was a spot in the Yakima Valley that I'd put at the top of my list to return to, this is it. We didn't spend nearly enough time here and the sunshine and beautiful weather was absolutely everything I didn't expect Washington to be. Our trail guide was Shannon from Girls with Grit, who has lots of adventure opportunities on her website.
Explore the Yakima River and Learn to Fly Fish
Red's Fly Shop has everything you need to fly fish on the beautiful Yakima River, including boat rentals, guided fishing tours and instruction. If you've never been fly fishing, the folks at Red's are happy to show you how. We didn't go out on the water but we had a brief casting lesson and I can't wait to get out in a boat and really try this. Red's Fly Shop also has larger boats that they use for river tours in the summer if you're interested in seeing the river without actually going fishing.
Central Washington Agriculture Museum – Explore the Museum and Hike Ahtanum Ridge
4508 Main St, Union Gap, WA 98903
I'll be perfectly honest – I was a little ho-hum when I saw a visit to an agricultural museum on our itinerary but it turned out to be one of the coolest things we did on our four-day trip. This museum has some artifacts inside but most of the fun is in the open air exhibits outdoors. You can park and walk – most of these exhibits have inside space to explore as well – or drive your car through. You can link up to a guided tour online and learn more about each exhibit. This is a free activity but donations are welcome. It's a really cool activity and a definite don't miss if you have kids.
There's a system of trails on Ahtanum Ridge behind the museum that we hiked after exploring the museum. There are several trails up but we hiked a moderate 1.8 mile out and back trail of hard packed dirt. There are a few steep spots but overall, I'd label this as the higher end of moderate. The views from the top were beautiful. To check out the trails, I recommend hopping on the All Trails Map to make sure you get the trail you want – there are a few ways up that are much steeper than the path we took.
Escape the Maddness Escape Room
208 Ahtanum Rd, Union Gap, WA 98903
If you love a challenging escape room, Escape the Maddness (not a typo) has several puzzlers to choose from. We love doing these as a family but navigating an escape room is a great way to get to know people quickly. We were a group of six who'd met only a few days before and it was very interesting to see little bits of people's personalities come out and the different ways people handle problem solving and stress.
Check out the Murals in Toppenish
504 S Elm St, Toppenish, WA 98948
If you're looking for fun mural backdrops for your Instagram photos, the small town of Toppenish is a place to stop. The address above it to the Toppenish visitor's center, which has paintings of the murals in town as well as lots of information on things to do in the area.
Yakima Area Arboretum
1401 Arboretum Dr, Yakima, WA 98901
If you're looking for easy, paved trails, or a place to relax and enjoy a bit of nature, the Yakima Area Arboretum is a lovely slice of tranquility. Check the website in advance of your visit to see available classes and tours.
Where to stay in the Yakima Valley
Hilton Garden Inn, Yakima
The Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Yakima is in a great location where you can walk to a lot of things. There's a bar, breakfast buffet (not included in the price of your room) a fitness center, and indoor pool.
Holiday Inn Express, Union Gap
The Holiday Inn Express in Union Gap is a great hotel. There's a fitness center, indoor pool, and hot breakfast buffet (included.) I absolutely loved my King room. It was comfortable and had tons of space. The only complaint I had about this hotel is that it's not near anything and there's no restaurants or bars to walk to. If there was a brewpub with a food truck, it would be perfect.
Canyon River Ranch
I mentioned the Canyon River Grill and Red's Fly Fishing above. Canyon River Ranch is their onsite resort where you can book a suite that overlooks the Yakima River.
Cherrywood B&B and Farm
If you fancy glamping in a teepee, you'll want to check out Cherrywood B&B and Farm.
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