Most people think of the city of Walla Walla, Washington, as an agricultural area primarily known for Walla Walla Sweet Onions and, of late, its budding wine industry. There is a cultural and historical side to this small countrified town that should be explored. Walla Walla is also home to some of Washington States’ best Golf courses.
For the last two years, Walla Walla was voted America’s Best Wine Region in the USA Today 10 Best Readers’ Choice Awards. While garnering these awards, Walla Walla has a blossoming farm-to-table culinary scene and strives to enhance the beautiful qualities of this central Washington town, making it more appealing every day.
Today with wine being Walla Walla’s primary industry, one can discover 120 wineries and 2800 acres of grapes.
Walla Walla in Native American means place of many waters. Walla Walla’s original settlement was at the junctions of the Snake and Columbia Rivers, so the name seems apropos.
1. The Journey to Walla Walla
The beauty of Walla Walla begins as you travel down the Columbia Gorge. You move from the lush green treelined horizon filled with waterfalls and the presence of Mount Hood in the background to the barren desert of Eastern Washington.
Think of yourself traveling down the Colorado River in Arizona with the red rock formations all around you, carving their way along the river, then changing color palette to browns, ocher, and mustard color. You have an image of the depth and beauty of the Columbia Gorge.
Soon you begin to see vineyards lining the banks of the Columbia River. The changing landscape takes you on a journey that moves through agricultural lands and into the small-town charm of Walla Walla.
2. Immerse in Walla Walla History
The best place to learn the history of Walla Walla is Fort Walla Walla. Give yourself an interactive glimpse of the history of the area. From the pioneer village to the various exhibits in the main building, you will discover the name Fort Walla Walla was used for several posts in southeastern Washington at different times throughout history. Fur traders of the Hudson’s Bay Company established three structures using Fort Walla Walla as its name between 1821 and 1855. The military used the name for three separate forts. Although Walla Walla’s history started before the Lewis and Clark expedition, this military expedition put Walla Walla on the map.
The museum lies on 15 acres within Fort Walla Walla Park and is part of a 640-acre military reservation.
3. Wander the Whitman College Campus’ Sculpture Walk
Stroll the Whitman College Campus, and you will discover 21 sculptures hidden around the campus. It is like a treasure hunt finding these eclectic works of art utilizing different mediums and creating a statement of diversity for the arts.
4. Stroll Down Main Street
To get the flavor of Walla Walla, take a stroll down Main Street. Beginning at its iconic clock located on Main Street near 2nd Street. Pop into one of the dozens of restaurants, antique shops, art galleries, wine tasting rooms, and bars.
One eclectic shop that offers antiques, knick-knacks, and art is Tra Vigne. Housed in an old hardware store, this store even offers wine stave rocking chairs.
One must stop at Heritage Square to view “Windows of the Past,” a colorful mural composed of historical and contemporary photos from ethnic and cultural groups living in the Walla Walla Valley from 1850-1950. These images are reproduced in porcelain enamel on steel panels and inlaid on the historic façade of Henry Osterman’s 1902 Odd Fellows’ Temple. This façade came from the first significant public building in Walla Walla. In 1993, the temple was torn down, but the hand-carved sandstone façade was dismantled relocated to Heritage Square.
This is an excerpt of an article I wrote for Rovology.