The Walla Walla Valley is nationally known for its rich agricultural products, namely Walla Walla onions and grapes. With over 150 wineries, the Walla Walla Valley AVA has the highest concentration of wineries in all of Washington State. Indeed, Walla Walla has become the wine destination in the state. Couple this with a rich history, vibrant downtown with historic architecture and unique shops, public art, museums, friendly locals, and fine dining, and you have the perfect recipe for 17 wonderful adventures in Walla Walla.
Located in the southeastern part of Washington state, one can enjoy the 246-mile drive from Portland, Oregon, or there is a small municipal airport if you prefer to fly in.
We were sponsored by Walla Walla Valley Wine, Visit Walla Walla, and local businesses on our trip. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
1. Enjoy A Hearty Breakfast At Maple Counter Cafe
A local favorite, the Maple Counter Cafe serves breakfast fit for a king! The house specialties are pancakes and waffles. All batters are made from scratch. Check out the Swedish flapjacks, apple pancakes, and fruit blintzes. You won’t leave hungry! Take time to enjoy the quaint interior and the artwork featuring displays of raccoons, octopuses, butterflies, peacocks, and leaves.
2. Sip Award Winning Wines at L’Ecole No. 41
Located on the outskirts of Walla Walla, L’Ecole No. 41 is housed in the 1915 historic schoolhouse. L’Ecole has been honored 15 times by “Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries” and was also named “Best Tasting Room” by Seattle magazine. In 2011, its “Ferguson” was called “the best Bordeaux wine in the world” in its first international competition. There is also a tasting room Heritage By L’Ecole Wine Bar in downtown Walla Walla.
We enjoyed the 101 Tasting Flight with a mixture of whites and reds. We finished by toasting Marty, the founder, with the 2018 Ferguson Estate Ferguson Vineyard!
3. Taste Award Winning Wines At Woodward Canyon Winery
Woodward Canyon Winery was the second winery in Walla Walla and the first Washington winery to be award-winning in Wine Spectator’s “Top 10 List”. It has set the tone for high-end wines, producing quality cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Tastings are held in a restored 1870’s farmhouse with lovely gardens and an outside picnic area. Annual tasting events are held in both Portland, Oregon, and Seattle.
4. Visit The Whitman Mission National Historic Site
The Whitman Mission honors the legacy of Marcus Whitman and his wife, Narcissa. Begin at the visitor center to watch the 25-minute historical movie titled A Prophecy Fulfilled, to understand the situation. The Whitmans arrived in 1836 and established a mission to spread Christianity to the Indian People. Conflicts began to arise when the mission ignored the Native American customs. Then, more settlers brought measles, and nearly half of the local native population died. The conflict reached a crescendo when the Indian People mistrusted the settlers resulting in the 1847 massacre of 11 members of the Whitman Mission. You can also watch the historical movie through this link.
Stroll the grounds on a self-guided tour of the Whitman Memorial, Mission house, and Oregon Trail Ruts. Plan to spend 3 to 4 hours here.
Pro Tip: Folks whose ancestors were the original inhabitants of this area prefer the term “Indian People.”
5. Visit Pepper Bridge Winery
Visit Pepper Bridge Winery, owned by three families, all pioneers in developing the Walla Walla Valley Wine Region. Perhaps you will be lucky enough to meet “Storming Norman” McKibbon, one of the original pioneers. Listen to the vineyard stories and how the winery uses natural processes to protect the grapes from predators, encourage high standards of sustainability, and are salmon-safe. Known for its premium wines, the vineyard is certified sustainable. Watch for announcements of upcoming food and wine pairings.
6. Combine An Art Gallery Tour And Wine Tasting At Foundry Vineyards
The two partners of Foundry Vineyards have combined their passion for art with a passion for winemaking. Visit the tasting room housed in the art gallery. Our tasting began with a sparkling Riesling — a delightful refreshment on a hot afternoon. Spend time admiring the artisan wine labels on display. The Foundry is certified as an organic vineyard. Its flagship wine is the 2017 Artisan Blend.
The Gallery is open to the public and hosts an annual art show each November. There is also a tasting room in Pioneer Square in Seattle.
7. Enjoy Authentic Greek Cuisine At Yamas Greek Eatery
Yamas Greek Eatery is the go-to place for authentic Greek cuisine. When we asked the general manager, Dimitris, for recommendations, he suggested four plates. The first,
“Alifes” is a platter of all five homemade spreads: hummus, skordalia, tzatziki, elia, and tirokafteri. Served with pita bread, the spreads are a delight. We then enjoyed a typical greek salad and Padakia, grilled lamb ribs. A fourth plate called “Gigantes” includes giant white beans braised in tomato and topped with feta cheese and olives. Both inside and outside seating are available.
8. Meet First Generation Winemakers At Armstrong Family Winery
While strolling the downtown corridor, stop for a tasting at Armstrong Family Winery, first-generation winemakers. They named their new estate “Journey West” to honor all those who have journeyed west — including themselves. There is live music at the tasting room on Fridays, 5-7 p.m., and they also have a guest cottage at the vineyard.
9. Stroll Downtown Walla Walla
Enjoy the beautiful downtown Walla Walla area. Stop at unique shops like Bright’s Candies, a staple since 1934, producing fine chocolates and candies. After drooling at all the goodies, take time to view the production through the large viewing windows. For a mom-and-pop toy store, visit Inland Octopus. Antique buffs will enjoy searching for treasures at Tre Vigne. Stroll through Heritage Square Park and study the art installation titled Windows On The Past. Saturdays, you can visit the Downtown Farmer’s Market for local produce and unique crafts. There are also numerous tasting rooms downtown. Check this link for locations.
10. Visit Smoky Rose Cellars
Smoky Rose Cellars aims to “craft incredible wines that create long-standing experiences and memories.” The first-generation winemakers are certainly succeeding. Smoky Rose sources all grapes from the Walla Walla AVA. Check out the tribute to its partner, Amy Roznowski. The red is called Stinger #71 to honor Amy’s active deployment in Australia. She is a Marine Corps helicopter pilot.
Click this link for their events calendar.
11. Enjoy Lunch At Walla Walla Bread Company
A local favorite is the Walla Walla Bread Company, a restaurant and bakery. Meet the lead baker, Michele Pompei, who was recently a contender on Food Networks Best Baker In America. His creations of “laminated doughs” of artisan bread and pastries are mouthwateringly delicious. Take home a selection to enjoy later. The restaurant features paninis, salads, Naples-style pizza, quiche, salads, and tartines.
12. Sip Delicious Wines At Spring Valley Vineyards
The tasting room for Spring Valley Vineyards is located in the downtown corridor. We enjoyed the winemaker’s Library Flight. Its namesake wine is the 2013 Uriah, the wine that put Spring Valley Vineyards on the map. Be sure to also taste the Nina Lee syrah and team it with the chocolate from Bright’s.
The family history is fascinating. Kate, the assistant winemaker, is 7th generation with the original family coming over on the Oregon Trail.
13. Visit Fort Walla Walla Museum
Fort Walla Walla Museum truly is a hidden gem. Stroll through Pioneer Village, a collection of 17 historic structures dating from the 1850s to 1920. All the structures are from within a 19-mile radius of the site. The first Fort Walla Walla dates back to 1856 and was in operation until 1910. Five exhibit halls house thousands of artifacts. Look for the collection of horse-era equipment from 1859-1930. Train buffs will enjoy viewing the oldest existing locomotive in Washington State.
Click this link for a listing of special events throughout the year. One could easily enjoy the entire day at the museum. I am excited to return!
14. Enjoy Thursday Night Lights Concert And Food Truck Series At Eternal Wines
Eternal Wines focuses on single-vineyard varietals and utilizes only grapes from premium vineyards. On Thursday nights, Eternal Wines hosts Thursday Night Lights Concert and Food Truck. Each week, there is a different band and food truck. We enjoyed delicious food from Smokin’ Bandits BBQ. Try its signature dish, brisket and West Texas beans. Wasteland Kings, a great band, provided the music. Team this with great Eternal wines, and you have a fabulous evening!
15. Enjoy Smokehouse Barbecue And Mexican Cuisine At AK’s Mercado
Chef Bopp at AK’s Mercado gained recognition from Food & Wine magazine with his namesake Andrae’s Kitchen. Now in a new premise, his loyal fans have followed him to downtown Walla Walla. The tortillas are made fresh daily. We ordered tingo taco, short rib taco, brisket taco, and shrimp taco. I heartily recommend all, but my absolute favorite was the brisket taco. We also enjoyed the Pan De Elotes, a Mexican sweet corn dessert.
16. Enjoy Classical Music At The Walla Walla Symphony
The Walla Walla Symphony is proud to claim the longest-running symphony west of the Mississippi. Monthly concerts are held on Tuesday nights. Check this link to sign up for newsletters and program updates.
17. Sleep In A Historic Hotel Or A Victorian Airbnb
We enjoyed a king suite at the Marcus Whitman Hotel and Conference Center, a downtown landmark dating back to 1927. The hotel has been honored as Washington’s “Hotel of the Year,” and features a spacious lobby, restaurant, lounge, and onsite tasting rooms. Be sure to visit the gallery on the second floor to enjoy the 35 oil paintings depicting the history of the Whitman Mission.
We also loved staying at Marcell’s charming Victorian Airbnb, located within walking distance of downtown. Suite #3 is decorated in a Parisian theme and has two beds, a seating area, and a well-stocked kitchen. We had the most pleasant stay! Walla Walla is indeed a charming area to visit. To help you make your plans, I suggest you order the Official Guide to Walla Walla Valley Wine. Plan a visit soon. You will be glad you did.