Why go to Walla Walla? On the state map, the Eastern Washington
city looks like a dead-end destination, but in fact, its combined
small-town atmosphere and big-city amenities have placed it
prominently on the savvy traveler’s must-visit list.
“In the past five years, Walla Walla has improved its tourist
appeal significantly,” said Chris Coates, sales and marketing
director for the Marcus Whitman Hotel in Walla Walla. “The downtown
reconstruction, including our own hotel renovation, has increased
the city’s visibility with clients from the Seattle and Portland
corridor, as well as from Spokane, Wash., and Boise, Idaho. We’re a
little town with big things going on.”
In response to its growing popularity, Walla Walla is cultivating
its visitor plant. The latest news calls for a 350-acre
master-planned community on the east side of town with a 60-room
hotel, restaurant, lounge, spa, wine cave and golf course,
masterminded by Pennbrook Homes of Bend, Ore.
What brings people to Walla Walla, 273 miles from Seattle and 248
miles from Portland? For starters, tell your clients to try the
wine. Walla Walla has earned a reputation for its reds and whites,
with over 70 vintners producing high-quality varietals. Downtown,
one dozen tasting rooms help wineries tap tourists who can’t drive
to outlying vineyards.
Downtown Walla Walla has been designated as a Great American Main
Street by the National Main Street Center. Restored buildings from
the mid- to late-1800s house a mix of restaurants, galleries and
For culture-minded clients, the town’s Whitman College and Walla
Walla College post a regular schedule of live performances and
programs, as do energetic community theater troupes. Celebrating
its 100th season, the Walla Walla Symphony is the oldest continuous
American orchestra west of the Mississippi River. For youngsters,
there’s plenty of hands-on action at the Children’s Museum of Walla
Under frequently sunny skies, Walla Walla draws active clients as
well. The relatively flat landscape is a hit with cyclists who can
bike through picturesque wheat fields. In winter, skiers head 52
miles southeast of the city to the slopes of Ski Bluewood, in the
Blue Mountains, or to Spout Springs at Tollgate Mountain in
Northeastern Oregon. Walla Walla County is an equally big deal with
bird-watchers, boasting the highest number of documented species
east of the Cascades. Golfers, meanwhile, find action on five
public courses in the valley.
Steeped in history, Walla Walla shares its past with clients
through such venues as Fort Walla Walla Museum, where visitors
learn about the 19th-century settlers of the area, and the Whitman
Mission, reflecting on pioneer and Cayuse Indian life in the 1840s.
Clients can take a self-guided walking tour of historic buildings
in the area, courtesy of a free map and descriptive brochure.
Walla Walla admirers like to time visits with annual events.
During the Hot Air Balloon Stampede each May, upward of 50 colorful
orbs float above town as clients enjoy ground-level arts and
crafts, rides, commercial booths, food and entertainment. There’s a
classic car show in June, the Sweet Onion Festival in July, Taste
of Walla Walla in August and Fall Harvest Festival in September. In
early December, clients get a sneak preview of future releases
during the Holiday Barrel Tasting, showcasing all the wineries of
the area. Each week from May through October, folks buy produce and
souvenirs, taste homebaked goods and hear live music at the
Saturday morning farmers market, and again at the Thursday evening
So the next time your clients ask you why Walla Walla, try this
for an answer: Why not?
Hotels: A model of historic restoration, the 1928 Marcus Whitman
Hotel & Conference Center provides modern services like
high-speed Internet, 10,000 square feet of meeting space and free
hot breakfast. Rates range $99-$264 (6 W. Rose St., 866-826-9422,
Restaurants: Locals frequent Cookie Tree Bakery for homemade
salads, sandwiches and soups at affordable prices (23 Spokane St.,
For a chic meal paired with area wines, clients can try 26brix
(207 West Main St., 509-526-4075, www.twentysixbrix.com).
For More Information:
Tourism Walla Walla