Kennewick is a charming city located on the banks of the Columbia River and, along with Pasco and Richland, is part of an area known as the Tri-Cities. This destination is known for its sun; there are 300 days each year to enjoy this outdoor paradise. Most people think of Walla Walla or Woodinville for Washington wine tasting, but this area is the heart of Washington Wine Country, with more than 200 wineries in a 50-mile radius. In Kennewick, you can enjoy any one of three golf courses or picnic at one of 27 area parks.
Note: Thank you to Visit Tri-Cities for setting up a press trip and itinerary for me to visit this destination. All opinions are my own.
1. Gesa Carousel Of Dreams
The Gesa Carousel of Dreams is a historic 1910 carousel that once was a highlight of the Silver Beach Amusement Park in St. Joseph, Michigan. It was carved by famed master carver Charles Carmel, and he created horses that are true works of art. The dismantled carousel was discovered in Roswell, New Mexico, in 2002 and brought to the Tri-Cities area. The vision came to life 12 years later after volunteers, donors, and experts worked tirelessly to make it a reality. Michael Thornton, a Tri-cities artist, carved a Washington State University cougar, and the Missoula Carousel Carvers created a University of Washington husky. Even if you don’t like to ride, it is worth a visit to see this very special work of art.
2. Columbia Park
Columbia Park is a beautiful city park located on the banks of the Columbia River. The park is 400 acres and is comprised of Columbia Park East in Kennewick and Columbia Park West in Richland. This park is hugely popular with locals and a great place for a morning walk along the 4.5 miles of shoreline. The paved multi-use trail is also a great biking destination, as it is part of the Sacagawea Heritage Trail, which is 23 miles and forms a loop on both sides of the Columbia River. The park also includes a privately run golf course, a disc golf course, and a family fishing pond.
A must-see sight in the park is the Regional Veterans Memorial. At 40 feet in height, it is the tallest freestanding granite structure in the United States. It is very dramatic looking and worth a visit. On an interesting historical note, the famous “Kennewick Man” was unearthed here in 1996. At almost 10,000 years old, the skeletal remains are considered one of the most significant archeological discoveries in Washington State.
Pro Tip: If you stay at one of the hotels in Columbia Point, it is easy to access the park. My favorite is the Lodge at Columbia Point. It has great views of the river and is within walking distance of an incredible farm-to-table restaurant, Lu Lu Craft Kitchen and Bar.
3. Atomic Ale Brewpub And Eatery
The Atomic Ale Brewpub and Eatery is the first brewpub in the area. It is kitschy with its atomic theme, but it is so interesting learning about the history of the area and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the site of the world’s first operating plutonium reactor. Thousands of people worked at the site over the years. During World War II, the women’s barracks were located across the street from what is now the Atomic Ale Brewpub. Owner Aaron Burks decided to use that history as the theme of the restaurant, which is filled with historical photos from that era. Burks handcrafted ales were influenced by his travels to 21 countries. Make sure to try the Radioactive Tumbleweed Gruit, an ancient style ale that has yarrow, rosemary, and lemon balm in the mix. There are always unique seasonal blends available to try.
Pro Tip: You can ask your server if a brewer is available and take a tour of the brewery.
4. Monterosso’s Italian Restaurant
For a unique, romantic meal, visit Monterosso’s Italian Restaurant, which is located across the street from the Atomic Ale Brewpub and Eatery and also owned by Aaron Burks. You will dine in a 1947 Northern Pacific Pullman dining car which has been restored to recreate the elegance once found on train trips. Monterosso is named after one of Burks’s favorite towns on the Italian Riviera. The cuisine is fresh and Italian-inspired. There is an excellent wine list with Italian wine as well as the great local wines. As COVID-19 restrictions begin to lift, check their calendar for special events, such as wine dinners, cooking classes, and wine tastings. Some evenings have wine tastings to go with the chef’s specials.
5. 9-11 Memorial
The 9-11 Memorial is located at the Southridge Sports and Events Complex. It was a labor of love from local businesses and community members, which was dedicated on September 11, 2011, to mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The memorial is a 30-foot, 6,000-pound steel column which was recovered from the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. Kennewick is one of the few cities in the United States to have an artifact from the tragedy. It was obtained by the city from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The memorial is 40×40 feet and contains two columns of basalt the symbolize the twin towers. An American flag extends from the top, and there are benches around the structure.
6. Badger Mountain Vineyard
Washington’s first organic wine estate, Badger Mountain Vineyard, was founded by Bill Powers in 1982. Visit the tasting room, which sits amid 75 acres of certified organic vineyard, and enjoy their lovely picnic area. Grapes are grown without the use of pesticides and herbicides while the wine is made with only naturally occurring substances. The Badger Mountain Vineyard label wines are gluten-free and vegan. On a hot day try one of their wine slushies. The setting here is just gorgeous.
Pro Tip: Plan a Badger Mountain hike either before or after visiting the tasting room. The peak will give you 360-degree views, and on a clear day, you can see Mt. Rainier, Mt. Hood, and Mt. Adams — the epic peaks in the Cascade Mountains — to the west. To the south, the Blue Mountains are visible. Well worth the effort to climb to the top.
7. Candy Mountain Hike
The Candy Mountain Interpretive Loop is the perfect easy hike. The loop trail is 1.2 miles round trip starting from the parking lot, and the elevation gain is minimal. I found the interpretive signage fascinating, with all the information on the Ice Age floods, geological history, native plants, and even the history of the Hanford Site. For a more strenuous hike, take the main trail to the summit. It is 1.8 miles each way, and after one-half mile, it transitions to a steady 10 percent grade to the top. I did the shorter loop trail and found it a nice short walk, perfect to start a day of sightseeing and wine tasting in the area.
There is plenty to keep you busy in Kennewick and the Tri-Cities area. Plan to stay for a weekend to take it all in.