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12 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Yakima, WA

Written by Brad Lane

Sixty miles southeast of Mount Rainier National Park and built upon the fertile soil of the Yakima River Valley in Washington, Yakima is a fruit-producing city with a diverse offering of attractions and things to do. It's a national leader for agricultural output, and the food grown here also helps define much of the culture and community. Enticing tourists and long-term residents alike, Yakima caters to nature enthusiasts, history buffs, and anyone looking for an adventure.

Outdoor opportunities surrounding Yakima include White Pass Ski Resort and Mount Rainier National Park, a short day trip away, with more local attractions like the Yakima Greenway and Cowiche Canyon Trail perfect for spontaneous afternoon escapes. Learn more about the best places to visit in the city with our list of the top things to do in Yakima.

1. Yakima Area Arboretum

Jewett Interpretive Center at the Yakima Area Arboretum

Jewett Interpretive Center at the Yakima Area Arboretum | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Nestled between Interstate 82 and Highway 24 on the east side of the city, the Yakima Area Arboretum is more than 40 acres of manicured green space and gardens. A wide assortment of trees thrives at the arboretum, and among the thousands of plant species spread throughout the property, many have labels to identify their role in the habitat.

Distinct gardens and attractions at the arboretum include butterfly gardens, wetland trails, and a flowering ornamental fruit tree collection. Despite its proximity to prominent roadways, the moment you begin exploring this natural space the highway noise is easily lost among the trees.

Address: 1401 Arboretum Drive, Yakima, Washington

Official site: http://www.ahtrees.org/

2. Yakima Valley Museum

Yakima Valley Museum with Rotary Pavilion in the background

Yakima Valley Museum with Rotary Pavilion in the background | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Adjacent to one of the most popular public parks in Yakima, the Yakima Valley Museum provides a fascinating look into the past, present, and future of the Yakima River Valley. With exhibits detailing native communities, early settlers, and the still prevailing fruit industry, the museum also features an old-fashioned soda fountain, which is great for a fizzy drink.

Adjacent to the museum, Franklin Park is a great natural space to add to your visit, with plenty of shade trees and tables to enjoy a picnic. Franklin Park is also home to one of the few public swimming pools in the city.

Address: 2101 Tieton Drive, Yakima, Washington

3. Cowiche Canyon Editor's Pick

Cowiche Canyon Trail

Cowiche Canyon Trail | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

For a quick escape into nature, Cowiche Canyon is a brilliant shrub-steppe environment easily accessed just west of the city. The non-profit Cowiche Canyon Conservancy maintains and protects this scenic area, including its 30-plus miles of hiking trails. Following small creeks and tributaries within the canyon, the trail system climbs up and down to give stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

Easy to reach with many points of access, the Cowiche Canyon provides a great sense of solitude just outside the city. The Cowiche Canyon Conservancy provides various special events, including butterfly release parties, guided walking expeditions, and volunteer opportunities.

4. Yakima Sportsman State Park

Entrance to Yakima Sportsman State Park

Entrance to Yakima Sportsman State Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Originally created by the Yakima Sportsman's Association as a game management zone, this 266-acre state park is filled with green spaces and an abundance of trees. Hiking, bird-watching, and fishing are all popular recreational outlets within Sportsman State Park, and a campground with 60-plus tent and RV sites enables multiple days of exploring.

The park is popular throughout the year. Autumn provides a particularly scenic time to visit, when the trees turn color, as does the spring during annual wildflower blooms. Volleyball, horseshoes, and reservable picnic shelters are also features of the park.

Address: 904 University Parkway, Yakima, Washington

Official site: https://parks.state.wa.us/278/Yakima-Sportsman

5. Yakima Greenway

Sunny day on the Yakima Greenway

Sunny day on the Yakima Greenway | Robert Ashworth / photo modified

One of the best ways to make your way around town, the Yakima Greenway stretches for more than 20 miles, connecting many of the city's top natural attractions. The Yakima Area Arboretum can be accessed along the greenway, as can many bodies of water, including Myron Lake, Willow Lake, and Lake Aspen. Perfect for all-day enjoyment, much of this non-motorized pathway passes beneath shaded trees and veers away from traffic.

An off-leash dog area at Sherman Park is also accessed via the greenway, and water and restrooms line much of the path.

Official site: https://www.yakimagreenway.or

6. White Pass Ski Area

Snowboarder making fresh tracks

Snowboarder making fresh tracks

Fifty miles west of Yakima near the southeast entrance of Mount Rainier National Park, White Pass Ski Resort is the local favorite among Yakima residents. Come winter, every ability of skier and snowboarder can find something to enjoy at White Pass, including beginner-friendly ski lessons and expert-only terrain incorporating cliffs and chutes.

With more than 1,500 skiable acres and 18 kilometers of groomed trails at the White Pass Nordic Center, there's plenty of terrain to cater to the crowds that flock to the slopes each weekend. During the summer months, White Pass reveals itself to be a mecca for hiking and mountain biking.

Official site: https://skiwhitepass.com/

7. Yakima Farmers' Market

Yakima Farmers' Market

Yakima Farmers' Market | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Entering its 19th season in 2018, the Yakima Farmers' Market can be found every Sunday between May and October in a Valley Mall parking lot. Visitors to the Farmers Market can find locally grown produce, handmade confections, and artisan creations each week, with a hot breakfast served between 8:30 and 10:00 in the morning.

Local artists and live music can also be enjoyed throughout the community space. More than 20 different vendors make up the stalls at the farmers market, and seasonal produce recommended to pick up includes cherries, apples, cheese, eggs, and peppers.

Address: Nine East Valley Mall Boulevard, Union Gap, Washington

Official site: http://yakimafarmersmarket.org/

8. Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

One of the three national parks in the state of Washington, Mount Rainier is easily accessible from Yakima for a day trip or camping excursion. It's 70 miles from Yakima to the scenic Stevens Canyon Entrance of the park, and just a few miles more to one of the best campgrounds at Mount Rainier - the Ohanapecosh Campground situated in an old-growth forest.

The Sunrise Visitor Center and northeast section of the park can also be reached with a two-hour drive from Yakima. Among the many great campgrounds, hiking trails, and stunning mountain scenes, Mount Rainier is a lifetime bucket list place to visit, and Yakima is a great home base to fly into.

9. Capitol Theatre

Capitol Theatre

Capitol Theatre | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Featuring a wide variety of shows and performances, the downtown Capitol Theatre has been entertaining the Yakima community for nearly a century. Today, visitors can find hundreds of engagements occurring throughout the year, including musicals, ballets, symphonies, and stand-up comedy.

With more than 1,500 seats available and not a bad one in the house, the stunning refurbished architecture and upgraded light and sound system of the Capitol Theatre add to the entertainment value. For younger thespians, the Capitol Theatre also hosts the esteemed "Capitol Kids" youth theater arts program for all levels of grade school.

Address: 19 South Third Street, Yakima, Washington

Official site: https://capitoltheatre.org

10. Yakama Nation Museum and Cultural Center

South of the city, the Yakama Nation Museum and Cultural Center provides a great introduction to the Yakama Nation history and people. A 12,000-square-foot facility with a vast collection of artifacts, art, and photographs, the Cultural Center is also home to the Heritage Theater and Yakama Nation Library. Different displays and dioramas at the museum include life-size dwelling replicas and immersive exhibits complete with special sound effects.

The immediate surroundings of the campus are worth visiting alone, and on clear days, Mount Adams stands proudly on the horizon. For more culture, the nearby Fort Simcoe provides even more history to explore.

Address: 100 Spilyay Loop, Toppenish, Washington

Official site: http://www.yakamamuseum.com/

11. Central Washington Agricultural Museum

Central Washington Agricultural Museum

Central Washington Agricultural Museum | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

In the city of Union Gap on the south side of Yakima, the Central Washington Agricultural Museum is a 15-acre property highlighting the equipment and people of the region's agricultural past. Multiple display buildings and pieces of equipment comprise the museum's collection, including a 1908 homestead, a Northern Pacific Railroad boxcar, and a working 1930s-era sawmill.

The Farm Equipment Yard is another display hard to miss, and the hundreds of donated and antiquated tractors and farm equipment give a firsthand look at older generations of farming. Featured events at this Ag Museum include Old Town Days, Civil War reenactments, and an Annual Old Steel Car Show.

Address: 4508 Main Street, Union Gap, Washington

Official site: http://centralwaagmuseum.org/

12. Fort Simcoe Historical State Park

Historic guardhouse at Fort Simcoe Historical State Park

Historic guardhouse at Fort Simcoe Historical State Park

Located within the Yakama Indian Reservation, less than an hour drive from downtown Yakima, Fort Simcoe was originally constructed in 1856 and still stands today. Now a 200-acre heritage site and on the National Register of Historic Places, this day-use area offers visitors a chance to learn about the fort's history through the adjoining Interpretive Center.

Three preserved officers' homes are also available for a self-guided tour, complete with period authentic furnishing and decor. A very popular spot for bird- and wildlife watchers, Fort Simcoe's abundant green space is also perfect for picnics and playing outside.

Address: 5150 Fort Simcoe Road, White Swan, Washington

Where to Stay in Yakima, Washington

  • Mid-Range Hotels: Located east of the city on the banks of the Yakima River, Oxford Suites Yakima is one of the top hotels of the area. Alongside spacious suites and an indoor pool, guests at Oxford Suites are treated to a hot breakfast in the modern dining room and an evening reception with each stay. On the other side of the interstate, Hilton Garden Inn Yakima is another great option featuring underground parking, comfortable beds, and easy access to the city. Farther west near Lake Myron and the Naches River, Comfort Suites Yakima has a great reputation for outstanding service and a "home away from home" feel during each visit.
  • Budget Hotels: For more affordable places to stay in Yakima that don't skimp on service or cleanliness, places like Best Western Plus Yakima Hotel are a great overnight option. Part of Best Western's high reviews come from the clean and comfortable rooms, and the repeat visits can be attributed to the friendly and personable front desk staff. Close to the city center, Holiday Inn Yakima is another popular option for easy travel including a breakfast bar in the morning. South of the city in Union Gap, the Super 8 by Wyndham Union Gap Yakima Area provides another affordable option close to the interstate.

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Cities & Towns in Washington: Seattle is a must-do city if you are wandering around the state. If you have time to explore beyond the city, consider heading off on one of the many possible day trips, spend some time at the beaches in the Seattle area, or hit some of the nearby hiking trails. For smaller cities and towns, our 12 Best Small Towns to Visit in Washington State article can give you a few more directions to head.

Washington's Parks: Our 12 Best State and National Parks of Washington article covers the many unique landscapes of the state. Mount Rainier might be the crown jewel of all the parks, including some great hiking trails and amazing campgrounds. Olympic National Park can't be overlooked either. This park embodies a kid-in-a-candy-shop experience for adventure seekers with its outstanding hiking trails and beautiful campgrounds. A little more rugged and just as stunning, North Cascades National Park also delivers with its own set of steep hiking trails and forest-infused campgrounds.

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