I’ve been to Yakima a few times, but never for longer than a week. Hence, for this post I thought I’d get my recommendations from my awesome friend Amelia, someone who actually knows what she’s talking about in terms of the city. Enjoy her suggestions below. But first I’ll share a fun fact about Yakima that I
actually knew: in the Nickelodeon
, the title character’s grandfather is from Yakima – though the characters rarely pronounce the name correctly (According to the City of Yakima
site). In fact, here’s an excerpt from one of Carly’s blogs, entitled, “I Was Almost a Yakimite!!!”: “This week was ALMOST the worst week EVER! OMG, I thought I was gonna have to move to YAKIMA! Try saying “Yakima” out loud — it sounds like a person vomiting (no offense to the nice people who live in Yakima!)”
But despite how Carly makes it sound, Yakima actually offers a lot of great – and free – activities. Here are some of Amelia’s ideas.
Weeping Cherry Tree and Daffodils at the Yakima Area Arboretum
Amelia’s Favorite …
: Yakima Area Arboretum
. This 46-acre arboretum is a colorful feast for the eyes and boasts over 2,000 species of flora along the Yakima River. Looking for a particular flower? Check their web site to see what’s currently in bloom. The arboretum, which is open daily from dawn to dusk, is also the site for Yakima’s Relay for Life luminary walk.
Inside the kitchen at Mercedes & Family
Restaurant: Mercedes & Family Food to Go. In a city with a myriad of Mexican restaurants, both Amelia and her boyfriend Mike assure me that this is the real deal. They recommend the tamales. Aside from the meals being the tastiest in town, most of them are also under $10, including a $3.99 burrito.
View from inside a cave at Boulder Cave National Recreational Trail
Outdoor Activity: If you’re willing to drive a little outside of town, head over to Boulder Cave National Recreational Trail, in the Okanagan-Wenatchee National Forest. The trail is about 1.5 miles round trip and Amelia says the waterfalls alone are worth the trip. If you choose to stay all day, the Boulder Cave Campground is available nearby.
Yakima Quick Facts:
Founded: 1883 as “Yakima City” (City of Yakima web site)
Population: 85,832 (2009 U.S. Census estimate)
Name Origins: The most popular theory of Yakima’s etymology is that a Native American chief’s daughter fled from her home after breaking tribal rules and made her home on the Yakima River. The word Yakima in this legend means “runaway.” (City of Yakima web site)
Driving distance from:
Ellensburg: 40 minutes
Seattle: 2 hours, 24 minutes
Portland: 3 hours, 11 minutes
Spokane: 3 hours, 21 minutes
Bird's Eye View of Pasco
Central Washington is labeled by some as “middle of nowhere” status. But the Tri-Cities – which consist of Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland – have plenty to offer. In fact, the cities have received a number of accolades in the last few years. Last year Kennewick was named one of the top 10 American cities to raise a family in by Yahoo! Richland is home to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hanford Reservation. And Pasco is the hometown of novelist Chuck Palahniuk, poet Ron Silliman, and Detriot Tigers pitcher Jeremy Bonderman.
For this post, I’ve solicited the help of my wonderful friend Chris, who has spent most of his life in Kennewick.
Chris’s Favorite …
Brick House Pizza in West Richland
Restaurant: In Kennewick, Chris recommends The King & I, a Thai restaurant. But beware, this extremely spicy food is not for the faint of heart. If you’d rather opt for non-spicy food, try Brick House Pizza in Richland. Chris says their pickle and pepperoni pizza is one of the best pizzas he’s ever had.
Columbia Point Marina
Outdoor (and Free) Activities:
In the summer:
- Try boating in the Columbia River or Snake River
- If you’d rather fish, head over to the Ice Harbor Lock and Dam area on the Snake River, McNary Lock and Dam area on Lake Wallula, or Two Rivers Park. At Columbia Park, the family fishing pond is stocked with fish for kids.
For most of the year:
- For bikers and joggers, Chris recommends a 14-mile trail in Kennewick that starts at Columbia Point Marina, goes through Howard Amon Park, and ends just past WSU Tri-Cities.
- You can also try the trail between the Blue Bridge (in central Kennewick) and the Cable Bridge (in downtown Kennewick). The path stretches along the Columbia River and is about six miles round trip. If you start at the Cable Bridge and take the trail west, you can cross over the Blue Bridge and end in Pasco.
- If you’re up for a serious jog or bike ride, try the Sacagawea Heritage Trail Loop (19-24 miles) or the Yakima River Loop (45 miles).
The Cable Bridge Run
Annual Events: Check out the Cable Bridge Run the Saturday before Christmas. Or if you’re there in the summer, go to the Columbia Cup Tri-City Water Follies hydroplane races. These races take place on the Columbia River during the last weekend of July.
Quick Facts about the Tri-Cities:
- Kennewick: 1904
- Pasco: 1891
- Richland: 1905
Populations (2009 U.S. Census estimates):
- Kennewick: 67,814
- Pasco: 58,647
- Richland: 47,527
- Kennewick is believed to be a Native American name for “grassy place.”
- Pasco was named by Virgil Bogue after the Peruvian city Cerro de Pasco.
- Richland is named after Nelson Rich, who in 1892 co-founded Benton Land and Water Company.
Driving distance from:
Yakima: 1 hour, 18 minutes
Ellensburg: 1 hour, 53 minutes
Spokane: 2 hours, 25 minutes
Seattle: 3 hours, 36 minutes
Remember my wonderful housemate Caitlin from three posts back? Well, in addition to being an expert on all things Forks, she has also spent substantially more time in Leavenworth than I have. I’ve asked her once again to be our virtual tour guide of this Bavarian-themed town, which National Geographic named one of the 50 best places to live and play in the U.S.
Caitlin’s Favorite …
Restaurant: King Ludwig’s. Voted Restaurant of the Year by Leavenworth’s Chamber of Commerce, this restaurant provides a full Bavarian experience. Servers are dressed in their finest Bavarian get-ups, and live accordion music plays in the background while you enjoy your meal. Come here with your family or a large group of friends, and try Caitlin’s favorite dish, King Ludwig’s family-style platter. This feast, made for four or six people, consists of Schweinshax’n (rotisseried broiled pork hock), half a rotisserie chicken, Schweine schnitzel (breaded, pan fried pork cutlet), sausages, Leberkäse (Bavarian meatloaf), and much, much more. The food may be foreign to most Americans, but Caitlin advises to not judge the food before you taste it.
Places to Shop: Downtown Leavenworth offers a myriad of fun places to shop. Kris Kringl sells hundreds of Christmas ornaments year-round. Caitlin says the Hat Shop is a great place for those with kids, or if you’re immature yourself. Here you can find pizza hats, Viking heads, and basically any other hat you can imagine. The Hat Shop is also connected to the Leavenworth Wood Shop, a toy store. Have a sweet tooth? Get a caramel apple at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. And while there, get your picture taken with the bear outside the store.
Christmas Lighting in downtown Leavenworth
Seasonal Activity: Leavenworth’s annual Christmas Lighting. This event actually consists of an entire weekend of events, but the highlight is when the downtown businesses’ Christmas lights are turned on at once. Caitlin says the town is already beautiful as it is, but the lights add another dimension of beauty. In 2007, reporters from Good Morning America visited Leavenworth to help light the town.
When I told my boss I was writing about Leavenworth, she told me about the following YouTube clip, created by the Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce. This music video takes an interesting twist on Bavarian life. Enjoy.
Quick Facts about Leavenworth:
Founded: 1890 (According to the City of Leavenworth web site)
Population: 2,347 (2009 U.S. Census estimate)
Name Origins: Leavenworth was named after Capt. Charles Leavenworth, president of Okanagan Investment Company, who helped found the town. (According to 11worth.com)
Driving distance from:
Ellensburg: 1 hour, 7 minutes
Yakima: 1 hour, 41 minutes
Seattle: 2 hours, 9 minutes
Spokane: 3 hours, 20 minutes