7 Reasons to Visit the Yakima Valley


Yakima, WA, from Lookout Point
Yakima, WA, from Lookout Point (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yakima may not be the first place that comes to mind while planning a trip, but they have so much to offer.

I’ve lived in the Yakima Valley my entire life.  Most of what this valley has to offer, I take for granted.  In fact, when we have guests from outside this area who ask about things they should see while here, I’ve had difficulty coming up with suggestions.  I had to stop and think a bit to come up with my thoughts for this web page.

While researching the topic, I found this short video by the Chamber of Commerce.  It a promo video that gives a quick overview of a number of things to see and do in the Yakima Valley.

Whenever I’ve taken week long vacations with my family to some of the Worldmark resorts, of which we are members, we try to balance our activities with some good old-fashioned relaxation. We want to see some sites and do some activities, but we don’t want to try to cram too much into a short period of time.

Typically we restrict ourselves to one activity per day, during our vacation. The rest of the time, we spend at our condo eating, swimming, playing board games, watching movies, and then eating some more. That way, we don’t return home from our vacation more worn out than when we left.

This list is what I might line up as our daily activities if  I were a visitor to the area.

Water Recreation

One of the most popular activities for Yakima residents in the summer is to float the Yakima River Canyon.  Every summer, thousands of people spend the day relaxing and partying as they casually drift down the river on their rafts.

For those who prefer excitement over relaxation, you may wish to try your hands at white water rafting on the Tieton River when the flows from the Rimrock reservoir begin to increase in the late summer and early fall months.  During this time, this stretch becomes the fastest white water rafting in the state.

Capitol Theatre

The Capitol Theatre in Yakima, Washington
The Capitol Theatre in Yakima, Washington (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Capitol Theatre is a historic building that continues to offer concerts, broadway shows, and a variety of performances throughout the year.  It may be hit-and-miss as to whether or not they have something playing during your trip to Yakima, but if they do, it would be one of the activities you should consider.

When I was young, the Capitol Theatre was being used as a movie theater.  At one point, the building caught fire and was badly damaged.  It sat vacant for quite some time before a group came in and renovated the building.  They’ve done a fabulous job and the theater has continued to operate in it’s current fashion ever since.  It is a great asset for the community of Yakima.

Wine Tours

I’m really not even a wine drinker, but I’ve added this to the list because the winery business plays such a strong role in the Central Washington agricultural scene.  I’ve been to a number of the winery’s in the valley and find the business to be very fascinating.

The Yakima Wine Association provides a list of suggested wine tours that are recommended.  I could probably get away with driving myself around to the various locations, but for some others, it may be recommended that you enlist a limo or a bus to assist you on your tour.  Stay safe.


Yakima Valley Museum
Yakima Valley Museum (Photo credit: Frank Fujimoto)

The Yakima Valley Museum is located in Franklin Park on Tieton Drive to the west of downtown Yakima.

I had driven by the museum probably a hundred times without ever stopping to go through it.  Recently, I joined a group from my workplace that held a social event in one of the meeting rooms inside the museum.  We were allowed to wander around the museum while we were there.  I was completely surprised as to how much history they housed there.

The Yakima Valley Museum is the best and most interesting place to go for learning about the history and culture of the area.

Recreational Sports

All year round there are a number of sport tournaments and events being held in Yakima.  From the high school district volleyball and basketball tournaments that are held in the Sun Dome in the fall and winter, to the baseball at Kiwanis Park, to the Hot Shots 3 on 3 basketball tournament held in the middle of Yakima Avenue in the summer, there are sporting events for everyone all year ’round.

As I write this post, the city is preparing for the Pirate’s Plunder Adventure Race.  This obstacle course will require extreme strength and endurance in the contestants.  This October 5, 2013 event is just one example of the quality recreational events held in this area.

Old West

Toppenish is a half an hour south of Yakima, along the I-82 corridor.  It’s a small town where the west still lives.  It also just happens to be the town that I was born in.

Shortly after I graduated from high school and moved away from this little town, they began a couple new initiatives.  They adopted an “old west” theme, and they started painting murals around the town.  In fact, every June, they hold an event that they call Mural in a Day where a number of artists band together to paint a new mural.

Today, nearly every business in town sports an old west look and as you walk around the town, you can find more than 70 spectacular murals painted in various locations.

On top of all that, they have a number of fascinating museums, including the Rail & Steam Museum, the American Hop Museum, and the Yakama Nation Cultural Center.


It hardly makes any sense at all to come to the Yakima Valley and not pick up some locally grown produce. Many people come to Yakima from around the state just to stock up on the local delights for canning or just eating good fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Yakima Farmer’s Market is open in downtown Yakima every Sunday from early May through late October is a great place to find your produce, local crafts, and much more.

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Birchfield Manor – Yakima, WA

birchfield-manor-restaurant-and-bnb-1The Birchfield Manor has served guests from all around the world.  Some of their guests have even traveled hundreds of miles for the sole purpose of dining here.  Only the finest dining establishments can claim to be a destination for travelers, and the Birchfield can legitimately make that claim.

When I was still a teenager, like so many my age, I could barely rub 2 nickels together.  The Birchfield Manor was hardly a place I could afford to frequent.  Though not outrageously expensive, they are a business and thus have to produce some profit.  They use the best ingredients, provide first class service, and surround you with beautiful and comfortable decor.  They have to charge prices that cover their overhead, and given my circumstances at the time, seemed quite lofty.

Fortunately for me, I worked for a restaurant whose owner had become a personal friend of Wil and Sandy Massett who, at that time, owned the Birchfield Manor.  Because of that relationship, my boss occasionally held events for his restaurant staff at the Birchfield Manor.  What a privilege it was for me to be able to frequent an establishment that held such class and style.

Around that time, I save up my nickels for awhile and was able to take a special young lady to the Birchfield for dinner one evening.  During the meal, I presented her with a promise ring and expressed my wishes to her that we would save ourselves for one another.

That young lady and I have now been happily married for more than 30 years.

The Food at Birchfield Manor

As far as the food goes, I must say that I’ve not ever had anything there that I didn’t like.  Even though they have served some dishes to me that just didn’t sound all that good, and I was sure that they wouldn’t be that pleasant, I’ve always enjoyed every bite.  One time, they served me something called gespacho…..really?  C’mon, now….cold tomato soup?  I don’t even like tomatoes…unless they’re cooked into something like spaghetti sauce.  As it turns out, the way they prepared it was quite tasty.

Certain Items on the menu really get my chops watering.  My all-time favorite is their fresh filet of salmon in a puff pastry with wine sauce.  You owe it to yourself to try that.  Or, for the red meat crowd, you can’t go wrong with their filet mignon.

Birchfield Manor’s Service Quality

Let me tell you a brief story that describes the type of service that you will receive at the Birchfield Manor.

One time, my wife and I were dining at the Birchfield with another couple who were friends of ours.  Near the end of the meal, the server came to our table and asked if we would like coffee or tea.  My friend blurted out that he would like some hot chocolate.  The server offered up that they could provide that for us and brought us what turned out to be the best tasting hot chocolate that I’ve had anywhere, still to this day.

Approximately one year later, my wife and I were at the Birchfield Manor once again.  We happened to recognize that we had the same server as the year before, but we had not been there anytime between that evening and this one.

When it came to the part of the dinner that the server offers coffee or tea, the server started to make those offerings, but suddenly stopped himself and the proclaimed, “Wait!  You want hot chocolate, don’t you.”

Bed and Breakfast at the Birchfield Manor

My wife and I have even spent a night at the bed and breakfast.  That may seem  a little silly, since we live within 5 miles of their property.

It was on one of our wedding anniversary dates that we wanted to make a little special.  We decided to splurge for our special occasion, but we didn’t have enough time to be able to leave town.  So, we found a babysitter to watch after the kids (Grandma and Grandpa), and drove down the road to the Birchfield Manor.  As it turned out, this was as nice a vacation as any other we could have taken.

The setting is quiet and comfortable.  Their swimming pool was cool and refreshing – just right for relaxing in the hot summer evening.  Their grounds were immaculate.  The rooms were plush, yet homey.

We stayed in one of the upstairs rooms in the main farmhouse.  The new addition that they call the cottage had been built not long before our stay.  It was quite a bit more spendy, and a little too much for our budget at the time, so we did what we were able to do.

I don’t remember much about the specifics of our breakfast – it was a long time ago, and being our anniversary, I had other things on my mind.  What I do remember was that for part of the breakfast, they served some homemade granola.  I had never cared much for granola, but this breakfast at the Birchfield changed all that.

My Recomendation

I suppose I’ve made it very apparent that the Birchfield Manor holds a special place in my heart.  They’ve been very hospitable to my wife and I over the years and have added a touch of class to our dining experiences.  I can add my strongest endorsement to this establishment. Whether for dinner or for a stay at the bed and breakfast, try it.  I’m sure you’ll like it.  It isn’t the cheapest place around, but it’s well worth every penny.





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