Discover charming small towns, farm-to-table restaurants, family owned wineries, and outdoor adventures in the Yakima Valley.
By Marguerite Cleveland
Here the climate is semi-arid desert, and there are more than 300 days of sunshine each year. The Yakima River flows through the valley as a life-giving force, providing water to support agriculture and a green swath of trees and vegetation which lines the banks. It is such a sharp contrast with the semi-arid desert landscape. Fall is a great time to visit, with local farmers markets running into October and festivals highlighting the bounty of the season.
Craft beverage fans will love this area. Over 75 percent of the nation’s hops are grown in the Yakima Valley, where you can enjoy farm-to-beer experiences with Yakima’s craft beer scene. Wine lovers can explore five American Viticulture Areas (AVAs), including the famed Red Mountain, at more than 90 wineries throughout the valley. This is where Washington’s wine industry began. The dining scene varies from high-end farm-to-table restaurants to a James Beard award-winning tamale stop at Los Hernandez Tamales.
In the Yakima Valley you are dining straight from the source. Chances are what is on your plate for dinner was in a farmer’s field this morning.
You can’t visit the area without dining at Crafted. This farm-to-table restaurant takes the best of the season and crafts delicious, fresh meals from locally sourced ingredients. Multiple chefs with different backgrounds and skills develop the menu each day, creating a unique culinary fusion not seen in other restaurants. To truly savor the experience, have the Chef’s Menu—a multi-course extravaganza. The restaurant is in the Old North Yakima Historic District, and there is plenty of free parking in the area.
Caffé 11th Avenue is the place to go for breakfast or Sunday brunch. Start with their famous feast in a glass, the Monstrous Mary. Their signature Bloody Mary mix is combined with vodka and garnished with bacon, ham, cheese, olives, celery, pickled veggies and more. A unique dish on the menu is the Breakfast Charcuterie that can easily feed two. Similar to a European-style breakfast, you’ll feast on meats, cheeses, fresh fruit, hard-boiled eggs, and Belgian waffles and croissants served with maple syrup and blackberry preserves. Don’t miss the delicious house-made sausage fennel gravy served on tender buttermilk biscuits.
This historic Hotel Maison is the perfect place to stay while visiting the Yakima Valley. Its location in the heart of downtown makes it easy to walk to shops and restaurants after a day touring the valley. Built in 1911, this classic Second Empire-style building was, at the time, the tallest structure between Seattle and Spokane. It has been lovingly restored, retaining the historic details while adding modern conveniences. During your stay make sure to check out the Hotel Maison historical exhibit curated by the Yakima Valley Museum Director Peter Arnold, and Mike Siebol, curator of exhibitions. It shares the building’s history and prominence in the local community. The Hotel Maison Gallery showcases local artists’ work through their partnership with the Larson Gallery. You’ll find photos and paintings of the local scenery including desert images as well as the green lushness around the Yakima River.
Downtown Yakima also has a variety of chain hotels including the Hilton Garden Inn, which is next door to the Hotel Maison.
There is so much to see and do in the Yakima Valley. Plan to take a road trip through the valley and discover charming small towns with cute local shops and restaurants. Tour wineries and breweries. The fall marks harvest time, so visit local farms, which often have fall events. Explore the beautiful Yakima Area Arboretum and take a nature walk among trees adorned with fall foliage.
Take a Canyon River Cruise through the Yakima River Canyon in a specially designed raft with overhead shade canopies and bench seats with back support. There is even a table to enjoy snacks while you sip on some Yakima Valley wine purchased on your trip. The canyon is just stunning with basalt cliffs rising more than 2,000 feet from the river and rolling desert hills. Enjoy a gentle float while keeping an eye out for nesting eagles, hawks, osprey and falcons. Bighorn sheep, deer, elk, and other small mammals call the canyon home. You can often see them in the afternoon coming to the river for water. In the fall, the canyon erupts into yellow, orange and red when the leaves begin to change. The water is a great place to observe the fall foliage.
For more information, check out VisitYakima.com for itinerary suggestions and detailed suggestions for dining, lodging and things to do.
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