10 fun things to do in Walla Walla, Washington

Walla Walla is the city so nice they named it twice; think sun-soaked hills blanketed in vineyards, views of the Blue Mountains, and a historic downtown district with boutiques, eateries and lively patios. The city is at the heart of the Walla Walla Valley which is home to more than 100 wineries (!!), and has a gastronomy scene to match which makes this the ultimate spot for foodies.

Valdemar Estates in Walla Walla

Valdemar Estates

This post may contain affiliate links, which Globe Guide receives compensation for with each click or purchase at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support!

From sunrise hot air balloon rides over the countryside to fun festivals to sipping at show-stopping tasting rooms, here are 10 fun things to do in Walla Walla Washington.

Bennington Lake in Walla Walla

1) Explore downtown Walla Walla

The charming, tree-lined Walla Walla downtown core dates back to the 1800s, and has been beautifully preserved over generations. Trolley cars glide by, the brick buildings hold an eclectic mix of boutiques, cafes, wine bars and restaurants, and outdoor patios spill out onto the streets.

Downtown Walla Walla, WA

Downtown Walla WallaThe best shopping in Walla Walla is along the aptly-named Main Street, where you’ll find everything from home treasures to galleries to cowboy gear to high-end clothing.

The road linking Main and Alder Street has been converted into a pedestrian-only area called Plaza on 1st, and has tables topped with cute yellow umbrellas which is a great spot to grab lunch. You’ll also notice how pet-friendly the city is, and four-legged friends are welcome at many wineries, inside stores and on patios.

Plaza on 1st in Walla Walla

Plaza on 1st

2) Visit the best wineries in Walla Walla

The Walla Walla Valley region in southeast Washington has an astounding amount of vineyards and tasting rooms, even stretching into Oregon in an area which is called the Rocks District due to the stone-covered soil.

Waterbrook Winery

There are six different districts, with the Westside having some of the most established wineries while downtown has the highest concentration of Walla Walla tasting rooms (top picks include Kontos Cellars which has a beautiful patio area complete with swings and a long family history in the area, Seven Hills Winery, Elephant Seven and Mark Ryan Winery).

Kontos Cellars in Walla Walla

Kontos Cellars

The top varieties grown in Walla Walla wine country are Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot, and the welcoming, down-home atmosphere at the wineries means there’s a good chance you’ll rub shoulders with the owner or winemakers.

While it’s impossible to choose the best winery in Walla Walla, some of the most memorable are:

L’Ecole No. 41: A couple of retired educators fittingly started this acclaimed winery in Walla Walla at the site of a former elementary school, which dates back to 1915. The original charm still exists, like the principal’s office that’s now a wine cellar, the gym and cafeteria that’s a tasting room, and even an old bell that guests can ring when they arrive.

L'Ecole No. 41 in Walla Walla

L’Ecole No. 41

L'Ecole No. 41 in Walla Walla

Valdemar Estates: The tapas and excellent wines from both Washington and Rijoa, Spain are excellent; however, it’s safe to say most people come here for the patio. The gorgeous, high-design tasting room at Valdemar Estates leads out to a deck with views of the Blue Mountains, a reflection pool, a 58-foot long waterfall wall and spritzers to help guests cool off from the heat, making this the ultimate summer hangout.

Valdemar Estates

Valdemar Estates

Valdemar Estates

Revelry Vintners: This relative newcomer to the Walla Walla wine scene originally started in the Airport District, before moving into its Instagram-worthy tasting room on the Southside. Aside from the architectural award it won, Revelry’s D11 Cabernet Sauvignon also took top prize in the first competition it was entered in, and someone even paid a jaw-dropping $100K for a case of it during an auction.

Revelry Vintners in Walla Walla

Revelry Vintners

Revelry Vitners

Revelry vitners tasting roomLong Shadows: The view of the surrounding countryside is spectacular, but the real showstopper is inside the tasting room where there are a number of massive Chihuly glass sculptures.

Long Shadows in Walla Walla

Long Shadows

Long Shadows in Walla Walla

Garrison Creek Cellars: Limited seatings are available at this Walla Walla winery in the Southside Wine District, and that’s just the way they prefer it at this small production vineyard where everything is hand sorted. Focusing on big, bold reds, the barn-style tasting room wows, and you won’t want to miss a tour of the ‘library’ downstairs.

Garrison Creek Cellars

Garrison Creek Cellars

Garrison Creek Cellars

Reservations are recommended at most wineries, and there are plenty of organized wine tasting tours that transport guests throughout the region using e-bikes, limos or old fashioned cars. A fun way to explore is with Tesla Winery Tours, which offers custom tours for up to six people from the comfort of a high-tech Model X or Model S Tesla.

Tesla Wine Tours in Walla Walla

3) Take a hot air balloon ride

A Walla Walla hot air balloon ride is an unforgettable way to watch the sunrise or sunset over the valley. Blue Mountain Balloons has been operating in the area for more than four decades, offering group and private tours that launch from the outskirts of the city. Enjoy a birds-eye view of the Columbia River, Blue Mountains, the rolling fields and even parts of Oregon.

4) Learn about the area’s history

The Walla Walla region has a long history starting with the Wanapum, Cayus and Palouse peoples who occupied these lands thousands of years ago, and some of those experiences were documented as part of the Lewis & Clark Expedition.

A couple of places worth checking out when you visit Walla Walla are:

Whitman Mission National Historic Site

The Whitman Mission National Historic Site details the impacts of the arrival of protestant missionaries Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, who established a mission among the Cayuse Tribe in 1836. Unfortunately, the presence of the pioneers brought a measles epidemic which decimated the Indigenous people, and in retaliation the Whitmans along with about a dozen others were killed during an attack the Cayuse hoped would eliminate the illness.

Whitman Mission National Historic Site

Whitman Mission National Historic Site

Today, the site has interpretive trails, and is marked by the 27-foot-tall Whitman Memorial Shaft which was erected 50 years after the massacre. There’s also a full-size replica of an Oregon Trail wagon, in a nod to the immigrants who came to this area on the Columbia Plateau.

Whitman Mission National Historic Site

Whitman Mission National Historic Site

Fort Walla Walla Museum

The Fort Walla Walla Museum is on the grounds of a 19th century military fort, and houses a number of exhibits detailing pioneer settlement, the military, Indigenous culture and agriculture throughout the region. There’s also a WWII Memorial, gardens, picnic area, recreation trails and a BMX track.

Fort Walla Walla Museum

Fort Walla Walla Museum

Fort Walla Walla Museum

Fort Walla Walla Museum

5) Visit the Blue Mountain Lavender Farm

Every June, the fields at the Blue Mountain Lavender Farm begin their brilliant transformation from green to purple as the fragrant lavender starts to bloom. The farm is a 20 minute drive southwest of the city of Walla Walla in Lowden, and was founded in 2000 by the Grimaud family who are originally from France.

Guests can enjoy beautiful views of the valley and mountains, and wander through the fields which are best seen from early June to mid-July. There’s also a u-pick, boutique and craft classes.

6) Eat at the fantastic Walla Walla restaurants

Perfectly paired with the award-winning Walla Walla wineries, the foodie scene is also exceptional. From food trucks to farm-to-table restaurants to tapas spots, you’ll find it all here–heck, there was even a renowned eatery in a gas station at one point!

One of the top restaurants in Walla Walla is Hattaways on Alder. The menu is inspired by Pacific Northwest ingredients, and gives them a Southeast flare in dishes like the pan seared halibut cheeks, chicken & grits and braised beef cheeks with gnocchi. The wine list is extensive, and the chic, rustic ambiance makes for a great night out.

Hattaways on Alder in Walla Walla

Hattaways on Alder

Hattaways on Alder in Walla Walla

Other options for downtown dining is the Yamas Greek Eatery which is known for their souvlaki and lamb and beef gyro, Bacon & Eggs which is a popular brunch spot, and there’s also a farmers market on Saturdays from May to October. If you need a java jolt, grab a cup at Coffee Perk, or head up to the airport to the Walla Walla Roastery which has a large outdoor space.

The Walla Walla Roastery

The Walla Walla Roastery

For casual fare, head to the Burwood Brewing Company up by the airport. Along with their craft brews on tap, there are food carts parked outside that serve the likes of wood-fired pizza, pho or BBQ which can be enjoyed in the outdoor picnic area.

Burwood Brewing Company in Walla Walla

Burwood Brewing Company

Finally, don’t miss AK’s Mercado which is one of the most fun places to eat in Walla Walla and famous for its tacos (the corn used in the tortillas comes straight from Oaxaca, Mexico). Headed by Chef Andrae Bopp, the original restaurant was in a nearby Cenex gas station, earning it accolades by Food & Wine Magazine as “without any question the best restaurant located in a (working) gas station in the U.S.”

AK's Mercado in Walla Walla

AK’s Mercado

In 2021, AK’s Mercado moved to a large space in the heart of Main Street, allowing for the expansion of a market complete with a wine bar, cheese shop, plant store, bar and lounge areas. The casual grab ‘n go style lends to the laid back atmosphere, and with an all-day menu this is the kind of place you can return to over and over again during a trip to Walla Walla.

AK's Mercado in Walla Walla

AK's Mercado in Walla Walla

7) Blend your own wine

One of the most unique things to do when visiting Walla Walla is channeling your inner winemaker and blending your very own bottle of vino. Northstar Winery offers the Northstar Blending Experience, where guests get to try some of their limited release wines, then craft their own red wine and leave with the bottle.

Northstar Blending Experience in Walla Walla

Northstar Blending Experience. Supplied.

The 90 minute experience is offered Friday through Sunday, and is a memorable way to learn more about the process and science involved with making Walla Walla wine.

Northstar Blending Experience in Walla Walla

Northstar Blending Experience. Supplied.

8) Explore the great outdoors

Work off all that food and wine by enjoying some outdoor activities like golfing, water sports, fishing, horseback riding and cycling.

A great place to go hiking near Walla Walla is around the Mill Creek Dam and Bennington Lake areas, which have more than 20 miles of recreation trails through open grasslands, past creek beds and the lake, and along the dam which was built in 1942 for flood mitigation.

Bennington Lake in Walla Walla

Bennington Lake

Mill Creek Dam in Walla Walla WA

The Mill Creek dam

Birders will want to head to Bennington Lake, which has Blue Mountain views and a trailhead for the Sun & Safe Loop which is part of the Great Washington State Birding Trail (more than 300 species of birds have been documented in the county). There are also picnic areas and washroom facilities, which makes this a great place to spend a summer day and go paddling on the water.

Hiking around Bennington Lake, Walla Walla

Hiking around Bennington Lake

For more of an adventure, drive one hour north to Palouse Falls, a 180-foot-tall waterfall which is one of Washington’s top attractions.

Palouse Falls, Washington

Palouse Falls, Washington

There are a handful of golf courses in Walla Walla including the 18-hole Veterans Memorial Golf Course, and the Wine Valley Golf Club which is close to Walla Walla attractions like the Whitman Mission and the Westside Wine District.

Wine Valley Golf Club in Walla Walla, WA

Wine Valley Golf Club. Supplied

During the winter months, you can hit the slopes at nearby Ski Bluewood. The resort has 24 runs and an elevation of 5,670 feet, making it the second highest base elevation in Washington state.

9) Celebrate at a fun festival

If you time your visit to Walla Walla right, you might get to take part in one of the many annual festivals. Most focus on wine, like Spring Release weekend in May, Holiday Barrel Tasting in December, and Celebrate Walla Walla Valley Wine in July which brings together wine makers and experts over a series of dinners.

Other events in Walla Walla include the Balloon Stampede where more than two dozen hot air balloons light up the night sky, and the Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival which celebrates Washington State’s official vegetable (yes, that’s a thing).

The Walla Walla Balloon Festival. Supplied.

The Walla Walla Balloon Festival. Supplied.

10) Watch the sunset over the Walla Walla Valley

The sight of the sun setting over wide open wheat fields and vineyards is mesmerizing, and a popular place to watch it is north of the city near the airport. Drive along Lower Waitsburg Road, and you’re sure to find plenty of people sitting on the roofs of their parked cars with a drink in hand, toasting to the end of another great day in Walla Walla.

Sunset in Walla Walla

Places to stay in Walla Walla

Eritage Resort: This Walla Walla resort is a 10 minute drive from downtown, and surrounded by wheat fields and vineyards which makes it an idyllic retreat.

Eritage Resort in Walla Walla

Eritage Resort

The luxury rooms range have king size beds, private patios or decks overlooking the lake or Blue Mountains, spa-like bathrooms, and lounge areas with fireplaces. Some suites in the main resort building, while others are in separate lakefront bungalows for even more privacy.

Eritage Resort in Walla Walla

Perched on the shores of Lake Sienna, Eritage has a restaurant as well as on-site activities like free bike rentals, paddleboards and kayaks, outdoor firepits and a pool. It’s also pet-friendly. Click here to book

Activities at Eritage Resort in Walla Walla

Marcus Whitman Hotel: This is one of the oldest and most historic hotels in Walla Walla, dating back to 1928. Decor touches like fireplaces, dazzling chandeliers and a grand piano in the lobby add to the elegance, and there are six tasting rooms on site which makes this a great spot for wine lovers in the heart of downtown. Click here to book

Marcus Whitman Hotel

Marcus Whitman Hotel

Marcus Whitman Hotel

The FINCH: This casual, fun Walla Walla lodging option has easy access to the downtown area thanks to its location right on Main Street, and an upbeat vibe. The minimalist rooms are bright, clean and comfortable, and the staff are welcoming and helpful when it comes to area recommendations. Click here to book

The Finch in Walla Walla

The Finch

The Finch in Walla Walla

Globe Guide explored Walla Walla as a guest of Visit Walla Walla and the Eritage Resort. As always, hosts have no editorial influence on articles.

YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:

SHARE THE PINSPIRATION! CLICK THE IMAGES BELOW TO PIN:

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *