Richland, Washington, is one of the three cities that comprise the Tri-Cities (with Kennewick and Pasco completing the triangle). It has long been a natural spot for human settlements, with the Wanapum, Walla Walla, and Yakama tribes fishing for salmon here. The town was named after Nelson Rich and incorporated in 1910. In 1943, the population swelled when the Hanford Site was established as part of the Manhattan Project, the secret effort to build an atomic bomb. The area is known for its great outdoor activities due to the average of 300 gorgeous sunny days a year. Get out and hike or enjoy a watersport. Bike along the Columbia River on a scenic loop. You’ll want to get plenty of exercise in so you can enjoy guilt-free dining at the many awesome farm-to-table restaurants and stellar bakeries.
Note: Thank you to Visit Tri-Cities for hosting me on a press trip to learn more about the area. All opinions are my own.
1. J. Bookwalter Winery (And Its Restaurant, Fiction)
Wine tasting is a must when visiting the Tri-Cities area, and I love nothing more than a great winery and restaurant. J. Bookwalter Winery and its restaurant, Fiction, fit the bill. I love going to a tasting room that also has a restaurant because you can taste the wine before you order dinner and find the perfect pairing. Winemaker Caleb Foster has been named one of the top winemakers in the United States by Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, and Wine Enthusiast. J. Bookwalter is one of the oldest wineries in Washington, and the tasting room is just gorgeous. Enjoy a farm-to-table experience at Fiction with locally sourced ingredients and house-grown microgreens.
2. Stand Up Paddleboarding
Book an adventure with Northwest Paddleboarding. Stand up paddleboarding, as it is known, is a good low-impact workout and a fun way to spend some time on the water. You will be a pro in no time with the Intro to Paddle Boarding class. Northwest Paddleboarding offers a variety of tours as well as Paddleboard Yoga. This is so much fun, and once you get the hang of it, it is surprisingly easy.
Editor’s Note: Need a paddle board? Here are our favorites.
3. The REACH
The REACH Museum is a great place to learn about the history and culture of the Tri-Cities area. The ice age floods and basalt lava flows had a huge impact on the geology of this area, and the exhibit is fascinating. In Gallery Two, you will learn all about the Manhattan Project, Hanford (the site of the first nuclear reactor), and the role the Tri-Cities played during World War II. In Gallery Three, you learn about the Columbia River and even the Red Mountain vineyards. There is a rotating exhibit, and my favorite, the Outdoor Gallery. There is a 1947 Vagabond trailer set up and a 1954 GMC bus that took workers to the Hanford Site. Take the time to explore the Energy Northwest Animal Trail, which has steel cutouts of 22 animals native to this region. There are also great views of the Columbia River. Plan to spend a couple of hours here, as the history of the area is so interesting.
4. The Uptown Shopping Center
The Uptown Shopping Center is a quirky, vintage destination that is almost indescribable, there is so much going on. When you first arrive, take a few minutes to just drive around it to take it in with all its glory. Neon signs, murals, and lots of artwork. There is definitely a sense of faded glory, but that is part of the charm. The Spudnut Shop is the oldest coffee shop in Richland and a local institution. It is famed for its spudnuts, which are made from potato flour. You can grab some to go or enjoy the coffee shop, which is a local hangout. I met a 95-year-old World War II veteran on my visit.
5. The Hanford Reach National Monument
The Hanford Reach National Monument is a stark place of natural beauty with limited facilities but worth a visit for its panoramic views of the dunes, Columbia River, and mountains. Remnants of plutonium reactors stand ominously along the river, a silent testimony to “Fat Man,” the atomic bomb fueled by plutonium from the site and dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, which ended World War II. The White Bluffs are a popular hiking area. Make sure to bring binoculars and keep a lookout for marmots, otters, beavers, deer mules, coyotes, porcupines, and a large elk herd that likes to hang out in the canyons. Birdwatchers will be enthralled with the bald eagles, great blue herons, white pelicans, hawks, and owls that are often seen in the area. Be aware that there are limited facilities in the area so bring all your food and water. Visit the website to help plan your day.
Pro Tip: Once it reopens from its COVID-19 closure, plan to visit the Manhattan Project National Historical Park to take a tour of the B Reactor National Historic Landmark, which was the world’s first full-scale plutonium production reactor. The four-hour tour takes you out to the Hanford Site, and you will learn about the science, engineering, and people that contributed to producing the plutonium used in the first atomic bombs. It is an unforgettable tour.
6. Goose Ridge Estate Vineyard And Winery
In Washington, many of the wineries have tasting rooms to give Western Washingtonians easier access to their wines and to see where their wine is made. Goose Ridge Estate Vineyard and Winery in Richland has a tasting room that sits amidst their 2500-acre vineyard. Housed in a Tuscan-themed building with both a front and back courtyard, this is a lovely place to try some of their award-winning wine. Goose Ridge is a family-owned business and operates the largest contiguous estate vineyard in Washington, and all their wines are made with 100 percent estate fruit.
7. Frost Me Sweet Bakery And Bistro
For a wonderful surprise place to enjoy dinner, check out the Frost Me Sweet Bakery and Bistro. Featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, this is such a charming place with some unique menu items. For brunch, try the Gravy Train Burger, which takes a beef burger patty and tops it with sausage gravy, egg, and crispy bacon — and serves the concoction on a buttermilk biscuit. For a dinner appetizer, try the Avocado Butterflies, which are avocado cream stuffed wontons served with a chef’s dipping sauce. Pair this with the Spiked Spa Water, a truly interesting craft cocktail blending Pearl cucumber vodka with watermelon, lime, mint, a hint of jalapeno, and a splash of soda. Guy Fieri, the host of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, loved the sweet potato lasagna made with seasoned ground beef, marinara, and a house-made seasoned geta cheese filling all in layers of sweet potato.
You can’t leave without ordering a dessert. I took mine to go, but there are so many options, it is hard to choose. I would stick with a cupcake, as that is what they are known for, with over 250 flavors. Go Frost Me Sweet’s Facebook page to see the cupcakes of the day. Six flavors are also available in a small six-inch cake. There is also a selection of gluten-free and vegan cupcakes each day, as well as featured desserts. Bakery treats include cinnamon rolls, cookies, and macarons. So yummy!
Pro Tips: Richland is a fun town to while away a weekend. Plan to stay in the Columbia Point area. Located on the banks of the Columbia River, this area has a variety of hotels, including the lovely Lodge at Columbia Point and the Courtyard Marriott, both with river views. There are multiple restaurants within walking distance, and you can book a dinner cruise with Water 2 Wine Cruises, which departs from the marina near these hotels.