Fun and sun in southeast Washington
Living near the confluence of three major rivers and bathed in abundant sunshine, it’s no wonder that the residents of southeast Washington’s Tri-Cities (Richland/West Richland, Kennewick and Pasco) are big on the great outdoors. Throughout the year, fun-seeking locals and visitors alike flock to the meeting place of the Columbia River, Snake River and Yakima River for fishing and boating. There’s an on-the-water activity for every mood, moment and skill set, with boating, fishing, swimming, waterskiing, windsurfing, paddle-boarding and kayaking. On land, there’s an abundance of parks and forested hills, with more than 67 miles of hiking and biking trails.
With a nationally renowned technology research district, the Tri-Cities region was designated the 11th geekiest community in America by Forbes, and it shows in the cities’ playful spirit of invention. While the Pacific region draws praise for its signature farm-to-table dishes — the farmers’ markets here are a weekly ritual — and excellent wines, comfort food reaches its zenith during the region’s eclectic annual festivals, including Richland’s Cool Desert Nights vintage car festival and Kennewick’s Benton Franklin Fair and Rodeo.
Washington Wine Country
Sitting on the same latitude as France’s Burgundy and Bordeaux regions and basking in more than 300 days a year of sunshine, Washington state’s southeast region is an agricultural Eden that seduces oenophiles in the know. While the region may not have the numbers or international prestige of Napa or Sonoma, vineyards terraced on peaceful rocky hillsides produce some of the nation’s most lauded wines under three viticultural appellations: the Columbia, Yakima and Walla Walla valleys.
The Tri-Cities region is home to more than 300 wineries and wine bars, ranging from authentic, small family-owned vineyards to lavish international wineries worthy of a full day’s visit.
Barnard Griffin in Richland is one of the most lauded wineries in Washington state, featuring a stunning tasting room, a wine bar with live music, an excellent restaurant with an outdoor patio and a glass gallery and studio. The Tagaris has appeared on the “world’s best” lists for its mouthwatering Northwest cuisine, acclaimed estate wines, cocktails and microbrews served in a beautiful setting. The Red Mountain wineries just east of Richland are famed for their prized red varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.
When it comes to party spirit, the Tri-Cities are no wallflowers. The region’s cultural exuberance and natural beauty coalesce with a robust lineup of annual festivals, fairs, shows and events.
At the end of June, you can combine your love of hot dogs with two-wheeled fun at the Hogs and Dogs event, which kicks off the Cool Desert Nights festivities. During this event, more than 4,000 motorcyclists convene for show ’n’ shines, car cruises, street dances, slow drags and kid-friendly activities.
In September, at the Ye Merrie Greenwood Renaissance Faire in Kennewick, you can don your finest Elizabethan wear, slurp from a goblet of mead, devour a turkey leg and try your hand at jousting and sword fighting. As well as more than 100 professional acts and historical reenactments, there’s children’s entertainment available.
Each July at the Tri City Water Follies, you can marvel as hydroplanes glide over the Colombia River at over 200 miles per hour and F-22 Raptors and vintage P-51 Mustangs zoom overhead. In Kennewick, the Benton Franklin Fair and Rodeo draws more than 120,000 visitors each August for a Western-themed Grand Parade followed by all manner of summertime fun, including a demolition derby, a carnival, local art community exhibits and performances, a concert series (featuring Joan Jett in 2017) and one of the region’s wildest rodeos.
The Tri-Cities also draw hard-core athletes with numerous race fixtures, including the Tri-Cities Marathon, St. Patrick’s Day Foot Race and a Leprechaun Dash. Not for the faint of heart, the Polar Bear Plunge involves taking a bracing dip in the snow-dusted waters of the Columbia River to raise funds for the Special Olympics. You can watch it all from the “chicken coop” — a warm shelter for those who don’t have the nerve for the freezing temperatures.
If you’d like to work off some calories, try the switchback trails along Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve in Richland. For whole family, Richland’s Reach Museum offers exhibits focused geology, animals and tech.
Going by the moniker of the Evergreen State, Washington’s coniferous forests and marine climate lend themselves to ideal grass-growing conditions. Golf is immensely popular in Washington State, and the Tri-Cities are home to some of the Pacific Northwest’s top-ranked courses.
Located in Kennewick, the Canyon Lakes Golf Course is the Tri-Cities’ highest-rated and most crowd-pleasing golf course. Designed by golf course architect John Steidel in 1981, the club is famed for its sweeping views of the San Ramon Valley and Mount Diablo.
For More Information
Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau
Washington Tourism Alliance