Celebrating its 150th year in 2009, and located in southeastern Washington, with the charming rejuvenation of its downtown and booming wine industry, Walla Walla has become a pleasant stop for tourists and new residents alike as they flee the larger cities of the coast and California — be it for a weekend get-away or something more long-term.
Known originally for its funny name and famous Walla Walla Sweet Onions, the long-established farming community with an "Old West" history has seen a major shift in agriculture in the last decade as traditional crops have been replaced by the vineyards of the rapidly growing wine industry. Walla Walla is at the heart of wine country, boasting over one hundred wineries – including some of the area and nation's best cellars – with tasting rooms conveniently located downtown, around the airport, and throughout the scenic countryside.
But don't expect the stodginess of elitist wine areas elsewhere; the area is still an affordable and welcoming community with small town roots, and there's plenty to do besides taste the vino. Walla Walla also offers a taste of Oregon Trail history in Fort Walla Walla and the Whitman Mission, gorgeous views in the country, a charismatic Main Street, and the liveliness of a college town: hosting both the prestigious private liberal arts school Whitman College and private SDA Walla Walla University in neighboring College Place. And should the wine bars and tasting rooms get to be too much, you can always escape into a classically red-neck bar, many of which are clustered near the Washington State Penitentiary in the northeastern part of town. This town is also the seat of Walla Walla County.
The valley itself offers a diverse variety of striking landscapes: bordered by the Columbia River basin and its desert beauty as you enter from the west, rolling wheat fields and vineyards through the surrounding countryside, and the scenic Blue Mountains to the southeast. Expect the best of the four seasons with cold and snow in winter, temperamentally sunny springs, blustery winds and fog in the fall, and golden sun warmed days of a hot, dry desert summer.
Main access is US Highway 12, running east-west. It can be accessed from several interstates, as well as US and State highways.
From the North West: From I-90 take I-82 east toward the Tri-Cities, then exit onto I-182 east. I-182 will merge into US Hwy 12 eastbound, follow it for about fifty miles to Walla Walla.
From the North East: Take US Hwy 395 south to the Tri-cities and then exit onto US Hwy 12 east, fifty miles to Walla Walla.
From the South East: From I-84 exit in Pendleton,OR and take Oregon Route 11 north to Milton-Freewater, OR. Continue through Milton-Freewater on OR-11 which will become WA-125 north at the stateline and continues into Walla Walla.
From the East: No major interstates, numerous state and local routes can be used to access US Hwy 12 westbound.
By plane, train, or bus
Pendleton (PDT) and Pasco (PSC) airports are both about an hour drive from Walla Walla.
Greyhound has three stops in Walla Walla. The main station is at: TRVL Washington Grapeline 108 W Main. The other stops are at the Walla Walla Airport and College place. They are limited service stops so tickets can only be purchased at the main terminal or online in advance.
On foot: Within town no place is much more than a half-hour walk away, an hour at the most, and many things to do are easily found in the small downtown area. The streets are pedestrian and bicycle friendly - with sidewalks and bike lanes on most major roads, and low traffic on others.
Best Biking Around: Great biking through surrounding vineyards and wheatfields. To Waitsburg and Dayton, to Milton Freewater and Touchet, numerous 15-60+ mile routes. But mind those hills! Stop into the following bike shops for info on routes and rides:
- Bicycle Barn, 1503 E. Issacs, ☎ +1 509 529-7860. Mon through Sat 10AM to 6PM.
- Allegro Cyclery, 15 South Spokane St., ☎ +1 509 525-4949.
The Valley Transit local bus service runs in the daytime around town, costs only 75 cents a trip with free transfers, and also provides bike racks on most buses. It's main transfer station is located downtown, and it also runs to the airport.
With many peaceful parks and quiet streets lined with large old, shade trees to wander along and admire the charming neighborhoods, leaving the car behind is more than plausible.
With wheels: Bring your own car to drive around town or out on the country roads with, or rent one from one of four available companies easily found online. Even if you plan to explore mostly on foot, having a car can be a boon for a trip up Mill Creek or getting to some of the wineries located around the airport and out in the country.
- Whitman College, 345 Boyer Ave., ☎ +1 509 527-5111, e-mail: email@example.com. Nestled next to Walla Walla's charming Main Street is the campus of Whitman College, a small, liberal arts college that has been gaining national acclaim. Stroll its attractive campus with its varied sculptures, including the popular fish balancing a lemon on its lips. In the spring, stop by "Lakum Duckum" on Boyer Avenue to feed the bevy of tiny ducklings. During the school year, consider catching a play at Whitman's Harper Joy Theater or a concert at its impressive Cordiner Hall.
- Ft Walla Walla, 755 Myra Rd, ☎ +1 509 525-7703, fax: +1 509 525-7798, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. 10-17h daily, April through October. Museum and historical reenactment site. Adults $7, students and seniors $6, children 6-12 $3, younger free.
- Ft Walla Walla / Ft Nez Perce monument. The original location of Fort Nez Perce, later called Fort Walla Walla, was flooded when McNary Dam created Lake Wallula. All that remains is a marker on US 12 to the west of town.
- Wine Tasting. Over 50 wineries in the valley with tasting rooms, starting at affordable and working their way up.
- Winery Directory. This new domain is your field guide to wine tasting in Walla Walla. Soon to be an application for your wireless device.
- Walla Walla Local Music Scene. Over 30 bands and music organizations in the Walla Walla area make this local music scene something to take notice of.
Spring & Summer
- Spring Release Weekend. Have the first taste of just released wines. First weekend of May.
- Balloon Stampede Weekend. Walla Walla Fairgrounds. A valley classic held the second full weekend in May, featuring vendor booths, balloon launches and the Night Glow.
- Farmer's Market. 4th & Main (next to Valley Transit transfer center). Every Saturday and Sunday May through October. Hours 8AM - 1PM.
- WWCC Outdoor Summer Musical. Fort Walla Walla Amphitheather. Held in mid-summer. Purchase tickets at WWCC.
- Sweet Onion Festival. Walla Walla Fairgrounds. Mid July.
Fall & Winter
- Fair and Frontier Days. Walla Walla Fairgrounds. Labor day weekend.
- Holiday Barrel Tasting. Tour local wineries for a taste of vintages to come. First weekend of December.
- Little Theatre, ☎ +1 509 529 3683. 1130 Sumach. Various productions through fall, winter and spring.
- Walla Walla Symphony Orchestra. Cordiner Hall, Whitman College Campus and other venues, 509 529 8020. Celebrating its 100th year in the 2006-2007 season. Performances with nationally recognized artists through fall, winter and spring.
Coffee,this is Washington after all. Try a blend from a local roaster such as Dyer Straits or Walla Walla Roastery.
A T-shirt that says "Walla Walla: Where Men are REALLY Hung." and featuring a good old fashioned rope noose from Gotta Go Embroidery. They have the largest selection of original Walla Walla T-shirts. If you have any questions please e-mail them at email@example.com. (Walla Walla is also home to the State Penitentiary.)
A cinnamon roll from Merchants, but get there early before they run out.
Chocolate Mousse cake from John's Wheatland Bakery. True divinity.
Walla Walla Burrito from Taqueria Yungapeti. Good, so very, very good.
Anything from a Taco Truck, such as El Taco Loco or Monarcha. Often these are the best places to find good Mexican food.
Art from one of the many downtown galleries.
Any other souvenirs that suit your fancy.
Don't miss the desserts and coffee at the Colville St Patisserie, the cheese plates at Grapefields Wine Bar, a gourmet dinner at Whitehouse-Crawford or Sunday brunch at 26 Brix!
There is an excellent Sushi bar downtown - Aloha Sushi.
- Wineries--There is certainly no shortage of places to drink if wine is your beverage of choice. The Walla Walla area has between 100 and 120 wineries, many of which feature tasting rooms to sample their creations.
- The Green Lantern. If you are interested in a dive bar, head to the Green Lantern, located on Isaacs Avenue. Popular with a random mix of locals as well as your typical college students, "The Green" will quench your thirst for beer and provide you with the opportunity to test your skills at darts or "beer pong." Beware the peanut-shell strewn floor!
- The Marc. Has a nice, elegant bar if you have a mind to drink a couple of cocktails or have a tasty glass of wine.
- Vintage Cellars. A lovely wine bar located downtown.
- Best Western Walla Walla Suites Inn, 7 E Oak St, ☎ +1 509 525-4700, fax: +1 509 525-2457. Located near downtown, this affordable hotel merits mention for its clever name (a reference to the area's famous onions, Walla Walla sweets).
- Holiday Inn Express, 1433 W Pine St, ☎ +1 509 525-6200.
- Green Gables Inn Bed and Breakfast, 922 Bonsella, ☎ +1 509 525-5501, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. A homey Bed & Breakfast
- The Inn At Woodhavenfarm, 1341 Walla Walla Ave, ☎ +1 509 529-4746, e-mail: email@example.com. This bed and breakfast sits on 1 1/2 acres graced by over 50 trees. Located near to Whitman College, beautiful downtown Walla Walla, and wineries.
- Walla Walla Vineyard Inn (firstname.lastname@example.org), 325 East Main St, toll-free: +1-877-747-8713. The property has 85 spacious guest rooms, including three mini-suites with kitchenettes and large jetted tubs. Located in the heart of downtown Walla Walla, right across from Whitman College.
- Whitman Mission National Historic Site (8mi west of Walla Walla off of Highway 12), ☎ +1 509 522-6357. 08-18h summers, 08-16:30h other seasons, every day except three holidays. The 1847 Whitman "Massacre" horrified Americans and impacted the lives of the peoples of the Columbia Plateau for decades afterwards. Free.
- Frenchtown (9mi west of Walla Walla off of Highway 12). Cemetery and small outlook with information about the largest battle fought in Washington state. free.
|Routes through Walla Walla|
|Richland ← Pasco ←||W E||→ Dayton → Lewiston|
|Ends at WA-124 ←||N S||→ College Place → Pendleton|