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

Written by Brad Lane
Updated Sep 24, 2021
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Built upon the fertile soil of the Yakima River Valley 60 miles southeast of Mount Rainier National Park, 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.

Yakima attractions cater to nature enthusiasts, history buffs, and anyone looking for an adventure, enticing tourists and long-term residents alike. Local expeditions include bike rides on the Yakima Greenway and hikes on the Cowiche Canyon Trail. The Yakima River Canyon also entices visitors with nearby adventures north of town. With a little more of a drive, places like White Pass Ski Resort and Mount Rainier National Park offer memorable day trips.

Yakima also offers several cultural attractions. From museums to orchards and historic theaters, it's not all outdoor fun. 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

Yakima Area Arboretum | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Yakima Area Arboretum is nestled between Interstate 82 and Highway 24 on the east side of the city. It maintains more than 40 acres of manicured green space and gardens. A wide assortment of trees thrives at the arboretum alongside the thousands of plant species spread throughout the property, all of which 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. Dive into History at the 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

Yakima Valley Museum is adjacent to Franklin Park at the center of the city. It provides a fascinating look into the past, present, and future of the Yakima River Valley. Exhibits throughout detail 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.

Next to the museum, Franklin Park is one of the most popular public spaces in the city. It's a great natural space to add to a 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

Official site: https://www.yvmuseum.org/

3. Stroll along the Yakima Greenway

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

The Yakima Greenway is one of the best ways to get around town. It 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.

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. Expect other trail users, including bicyclists and strollers, throughout the week and especially on the weekends.

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

4. Find a Fresh Bite at Johnson Orchards

Johnson's Orchards | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

For a taste of Yakima's agricultural bounty, head to Johnson Orchards on the west side of town. This family-owned orchard has been been in operation since 1904. And still today, it's a local favorite.

The best time to visit this orchard oasis in the city is from mid-June through August. The signature crop to purchase by the pound is the array of cherries available between mid-June and early July. Other stone fruits on sale throughout the rest of the season include apricots, peaches, and nectarines.

For those with a sweet tooth, the Little Bake Shop within the orchard's purchasing area offers fresh confections Wednesday through Saturday. Call ahead, or check the website for the latest availability before visiting.

Address: 4906 Summitview Avenue, Yakima, Washington

Official site: https://www.johnsonorchardsfruit.com/

5. Experience the Yakima River Canyon

Yakima River Canyon | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Yakima River gently curves its way between Yakima and Ellensburg through a canyon of basalt cliffs and rolling desert terrain. This scenic stretch parallels and offers a scenic alternative to Interstate 82, and while the speed limits are a bit slower, the Yakima River Canyon Scenic Byway offers much better views than the interstate.

Summertime fun also lines the Yakima River Canyon. It's a hot spot for activities like boating, tubing, fishing, and swimming. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oversees much of the canyon, including four designated recreation sites. The four sites are Umtanum, Lmuma Creek, Big Pines, and Roza.

All four BLM sites have access to the river. All four sites also have campsites available, with Big Pine offering the most overnight spots. Tents and trailers are both welcomed, but no electrical hookups are available. All campers have access to vault toilets but need to bring their own drinking water.

6. Hike the Cowiche Canyon Trail

Cowiche Canyon Trail
Cowiche Canyon Trail | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Cowiche Canyon is a brilliant shrub-steppe environment easily accessed just west of the city. It's perfect for a quick or day-long escape into nature. 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. Several trailheads are accessible from near the city, including several pull-offs from Summitview Avenue. Despite its close location the 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. Check out their official website for more information and trail maps.

Official site: https://www.cowichecanyon.org/

7. Yakima Sportsman State Park

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

This 266-acre state park was originally created by the Yakima Sportsman's Association as a game management zone, and today 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

8. White Pass Ski Area

Snowboarder making fresh tracks
Snowboarder making fresh tracks

White Pass Ski Resort is the local favorite among Yakima residents. It's 50 miles west of the city near the southeast entrance of Mount Rainier National Park. Come winter, every ability of skier and snowboarder finds something to enjoy at White Pass, including beginner-friendly ski lessons and expert-only terrain incorporating cliffs and chutes.

The resort encompasses 1,500 skiable acres accessible by six chairlifts, which ensures plenty of terrain to cater to the crowds that flock to the slopes each weekend. The resort also features 18 kilometers of groomed trails at the White Pass Nordic Center. there's. During the summer months, White Pass reveals itself to be a mecca for hiking and mountain biking.

Official site: https://skiwhitepass.com/

Read More: Best Ski Resorts in Washington

9. Catch a Show at the Capitol Theatre

Capitol Theatre
Capitol Theatre | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The downtown Capitol Theatre features a wide variety of shows and performances and 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. Enjoy the Yakima Farmers' Market

Yakima Farmers' Market
Yakima Farmers' Market | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

Celebrating over 20 years of providing fresh produce, the Yakima Farmers' Market takes place every Sunday between May and October in the 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 10am.

More than 20 different vendors make up the stalls at the Yakima Farmers' Market. A few fresh items to keep an eye out for include cherries, apples, cheese, eggs, and peppers. Local artists and live music are also enjoyed throughout the community space.

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

Official site: http://yakimafarmersmarket.org/

11. Take a Trip to Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainier National Park
Mount Rainier National Park | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The mighty Mount Rainier, the tallest peak in Washington State, is easily accessible from Yakima for a day trip or camping excursion. The scenic Stevens Canyon Entrance of the park is 70 miles from Yakima. It's similar distance 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.

12. 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's history and people. It's a 12,000-square-foot facility with a vast collection of artifacts, art, and photographs. It's 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. And 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/

13. Central Washington Agricultural Museum

Central Washington Agricultural Museum
Central Washington Agricultural Museum | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Central Washington Agricultural Museum is a 15-acre property highlighting the equipment and people of the region's agricultural past. It's in the city of Union Gap on the south side of Yakima. 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 at the museum 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/

14. Step Back in Time at 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's drive from downtown Yakima, Fort Simcoe was originally constructed in 1856 and still stands today. It's 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 an adjoining Interpretive Center.

Three preserved officers' homes are also available for a self-guided tour, complete with period-authentic furnishing and decor. It's a very popular spot for bird- and wildlife watchers, and 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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