Yakima, Washington is a worthwhile visit for Tri-Citians and Washingtonians alike. There is so much to see and do in town that whether you’re taking a day trip or planning a weekend getaway, Yakima should be on your list of places to see. With food and drink options galore, outdoor activities to be experienced, and museums to delve into, the “Palm Springs of Washington” will be the focus of our destination series today.
Situated in the heart Washington State, the city of Yakima sits in the valley of the same name (Yakima Valley). This valley is extremely important agriculturally, producing most of the apples, wine, and hops that our state exports. It is located approximately 60 miles southeast of Mt. Rainier and provides stunning views of the towering mountain on clear days. The junction of Interstate 82 and Highway 12 meets in Yakima. To get there, simply travel west for about an hour and 20 minutes (~80 miles) on I-82 from the Tri-Cities.
As stated above, the Yakima Valley is a highly productive agricultural region. Chief among its produce are the little green flower buds known as hops, which are used throughout the world in the production of beer. Hops are a key ingredient in beer, acting as a bittering, flavoring, and stabilizing agent. The famous flowers are what give different beers their bitter tastes, as well as fruity, floral, and citric aromas. As of 2011, the valley produces some 77% of all hops grown in the United States (yes, you read that correctly), and is single-handedly responsible for our state being one of the largest exporters of hops in the world. The largest foreign importers of Yakima Valley hops include Germany, Belgium, and New Zealand. This means that if you find yourself enjoying a beer in one of these countries, there is a high likelihood that you’re tasting hops from our neck of the woods here in the Pacific Northwest.
The name Yakima is derived from the Yakama Nation Native American tribe. The tribe comprised the first known inhabitants of the valley and maintains its reservation south of the city today. The Lewis and Clarke Expedition came through the region during their famous 1805 westward journey, prompting many homesteaders to settle in the area after the discovery of highly fertile land and hospitable climate. Much later in 1980, the eruption of nearby Mount St. Helens savaged the area, causing immense amounts of volcanic ash to rain down on the city for days. Ash overloaded the city’s water treatment plant and caused visibility to drop to near-zero.
When visiting the city of Yakima today, there are a few places a traveler should take time to experience. The historic downtown area has been undergoing a revitalization and now offers many shops and eateries geared toward tourists. Local breweries take advantage of the region’s world-famous hops and wineries offer a taste of the finer side of life. Miner’s Drive-In Restaurant has been serving famously massive burgers to locals and travelers alike since 1948. The burger joint has become something of a regional legend and is well worth the stop while in town. Just make sure you’re very hungry before stepping through those hallowed doors!