With 300 days of sunshine per year and a dry, desertlike climate, the Tri-Cities region looks quite different from the rest of Washington. But rest assured, this fertile region delivers everything you know and love about the Evergreen State. Spend your vacation hooking big fish, roaming vast green spaces and feasting on locally grown fare. The cities of Richland, Pasco and Kennewick have your urban needs covered, so all you need to do is bring your sense of adventure and a good appetite.
This part of southeast Washington likes to call itself the “Heart of Washington Wine Country,” a well-deserved title, considering the area has over 200 wineries within a 50-mile radius. Yakima Valley, Prosser, Red Mountain and Walla Walla have all been blessed with excellent soil and warm temperatures, allowing them to produce a wide range of vintages.
Pop in the rustic tasting rooms at Barnard Griffin Winery, Hamilton Cellars and McKinley Springs to taste award-winning vintages or book a tour with Water2Wine to combine wine sampling with a Columbia River cruise. You can enjoy the vineyard views for just a little longer by staying overnight at wine-themed hotels like The Lodge at Columbia Point. Significantly, the area is at the same latitude as the Burgundy and Bordeaux regions of France, and the vineyards are well known for Cabernets, Merlots and Petit Verdots. The Tri-Cities Washington State University also has its own wine research center, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center, which offers an observation deck for visitors who want to look in on the research. Learn all about the science that takes wines from grapevine to stem glass, and get a new appreciation for these beautiful beverages.
Play in the Land of Three Rivers
Major rivers flow through the Tri-Cities, so grab your fishing rod and make a beeline to the banks. Drop a line in the Columbia River to catch an abundance of Chinook and coho salmon, or head a bit north and nab rainbow and kokanee trout in large reservoirs such as Moses Lake and Banks Lake. The Snake River is also a hot spot for steelhead trout from October to March. If paddling is more your thing, launch your kayak into the Yakima River Delta to reach the dramatic White Bluffs or set off on the Northwest Discovery Water Trail to explore more of the Clearwater, Snake and Columbia rivers. Other popular paddling destinations include Lake Sacajawea and Potholes State Park.
Perfect Your Golf Swing
The Tri-Cities boast some of Washington’s most renowned courses with mild winters and plenty of sunshine, allowing you to play 18 holes year-round. Book a tee time at Wine Valley Golf Club, one of the most scenic courses with rolling hills and a Blue Mountains backdrop. Try to sink a hole-in-one at Canyon Lakes, home to the Pacific Northwest’s largest green at 12,000 square feet. Other popular courses include Columbia Park Golf Course— notable for its beautiful position next to the Columbia River, which divides Washington and Oregon. Those new to golfing or in search of professional guidance will appreciate the 28-acre Pasco Golfland, with a driving range, and chipping and putting greens.
Beyond the links are a world of nature preserves, treeless mountains and lush valleys. Hike to the summit of Badger Mountain for captivating vistas of the Yakima and Columbia River valleys and trek along the Candy Mountain Trail to see a landscape blanketed in wildflowers. Bird-watching is also excellent in the Chamna Natural Preserve.
From Local Fields to Delicious Meals
The fertile valleys of this region produce more than 200 kinds of fruits, vegetables and grains. Local chefs love incorporating the freshest produce into their culinary creations, so come to the Tri-Cities hungry and ready to feast. Kennewick, Pasco and Richland all have their own farmers markets, too. The one in Pasco is the largest open-air farmers market in Washington and packed to the brim with luscious berries, freshly picked corn and artisanal products. The Prosser Farmers Market is the place to go for gourmet cheeses, while Bill’s Berry Farm allows you to pick your own strawberries straight from the vine.
Pasco, on the northern shores of the Columbia River, is in many ways a mirror image of its south bank neighbor, Kennewick. Smaller in population and boasting even more of a small-town image than Kennewick or Richland, Pasco offers a similar assortment of charming riverside walks and parks, as well a healthy mix of wineries and tasting bars. History buffs can choose to whittle away a few hours combing through the eclectic, small-town history items on display in Franklin County Historical Museum.
Pasco is also the gateway to Sacajawea Historical State Park, a 284-acre chunk of idyllic parkland located directly at the confluence of the Columbia and Snake rivers. The park is home to an interpretive center that offers insight into the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Need for Water Speed
Leave some room in your schedule to check out all the fun events happening around Kennewick. Watch hydroplanes race at speeds of up to 200 miles per hour at the Tri-City Water Follies in July. Started in 1966, the Tri-City Water Follies is an annual air show and boat race, featuring flight stunts performed by some of the country’s most talented flight demonstration teams.
Cows and Court Jesters
Eager to see the area’s agrarian side? Don’t miss the livestock shows and a demolition derby at the Benton Franklin Fair & Rodeo in August. You can even go back to Elizabethan times at Ye Merrie Greenwood Renaissance Faire in September. Cheer on knights at jousting tournaments, catch historical reenactments and browse medieval weaponry in the village. When the leaves start to change color, bring the family to Middleton’s Fall Festival in Pasco in October for corn mazes, wagon rides and fresh kettle corn.
Tap Your Feet
Bluegrass music lovers from across the Northwest descend on Pasco’s Sacajawea State Park every June for the annual Sacajawea Bluegrass Festival, a three-day music festival with not only live music performances, but also workshops for kids and adults and on-site camping. The Allied Arts Association has been running Art in the Park (formerly known as the Clothesline Show) since 1950, and today this annual fundraiser — usually held on the last full weekend of July — features a huge array of craft booths offering handmade wares by local craftspeople.
The world’s first full-scale plutonium reactor not far from Richland on the Columbia River. Part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park, the B Reactor, also known as the Hanford Site, was a functioning nuclear plant before the Cold War’s end. Take a tour between April and November of this fascinating National Historic Landmark.
The basalt rock landscape surrounding the plant is the result of the Ice Age floods and you can learn all about this geological phenomenon at the REACH Museum. The Coyote Canyon Mammoth Site also shows you the effects of the cataclysmic floods with tours through a real mammoth bone dig.
Run Like the Wind
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 in winter 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.
For More Information
Tri-Cities Visitor and Convention Bureau
Washington Tourism Alliance