Yakima, in the heart of the Columbia Valley wine grape–growing area, is covered in orchards and grape vines, mint, asparagus, hops, and more. In fact, more than 75 percent of the nation’s hops are grown in the Yakima Valley. That helps explain how craft beer first took hold here in 1982 with the establishment of the first post-Prohibition brewpub. Today, the valley is home to one hop museum, seven breweries, and more than 80 wineries. A fantastic way to taste and tour is on the Spirits and Hops Trail, a route of more than 30 local breweries, wineries, and local restaurants. One must-visit is Bale Breaker Brewing, which pours hoppy IPAs at its tasting room amid the hop fields.
With 300-plus days of sunshine each year, the Yakima Valley is also a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. Opportunities for floating and swimming are in large supply thanks to the valley’s three rivers, 173 miles of flowing water, and 109 lakes. Whitewater rafting and kayaking can be wild on the Little Naches and Tieton; the Yakima River Canyon is perfect for more leisurely floats. A 75-mile stretch of the Yakima River is teeming with enough rainbow and cutthroat trout (and plenty of fly-fishing spots) that it’s considered a Blue Ribbon trout stream.
Thanks to Yakima’s location near the eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains, there’s great hiking to be had, including 30 miles of trails and climbing routes within the basalt walls of Cowiche Canyon. A 20-mile paved path along the Yakima River from Union Gap to Naches by way of Selah—the Yakima Greenway—makes for an easy stroll or bike ride, too.
When the sun finally sets, the house lights come on in town. The historic Capitol Theatre hosts touring Broadway productions and local artists. The Yakima Symphony Orchestra plays September through May, while a former church has been renovated and turned into The Seasons Performance Hall for jazz and classical performances.
-- Julie H. Case