Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Slice of...Walla Walla, WA!

Welcome to Walla Walla--the town so nice they named it twice!

My husband and I first visited Walla Walla, Washington in 2005 while we were on a 3-day pass during our service in the Army.  We wanted to get away from the confines of the Army and the bustling pace of life in Tacoma.  The little town of Walla Walla was as far as we could get on the Army’s 250 mile radius restriction!  We came specifically to see the town's Balloon Stampede, mainly because we've been a hot air balloon fanatics since our very special balloon flight on our honeymoon over the beautiful Lake Tahoe.  Fast forward a few years, we were blessed to get job transfers and have made Walla Walla our home since 2008.

The area was originally settled by the Native American tribes of the Cayuse and Walla Walla.  The name Walla Walla means "place of many waters" and the area sits in the valley of the beautiful Blue Mountains.  While visiting Walla Walla to address Whitman College in 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt officially announced his 1904 candidacy and even said that Walla Walla left "the pleasantest impression upon my mind of any city I visited while in the Northwest."

Getting to Walla Walla, from just about any direction really, kind of takes you a bit off the map!  The last 55 miles into town is on a two lane highway passing through the little towns of Lowden and Touchet.  Since the valley is a big agricultural area--supplying 70% of the nation's wheat and as well as our famous sweet onions--often times you can get stuck behind a large farm equipment on the highway.  It makes for a very slow ride into town but I think it prepares you nicely for the country pace of Walla Walla...

Walla Walla is known for being a very friendly town—we’re actually leading in the “Friendliest Small Town” category in Randy McNally’s 2011 Best of the Road contest!   We get all four seasons here and our summers can be long, dry and pretty hot!  We have a nice little farmers market every weekend from May to October.  You can get locally grown asparagus, cherries, peaches, and of course Washington apples and our famous sweet onions!  We even have several local artisans peddling their wares—everything from homemade jewelry and repurposed barn wood creations to my personal favorite—handmade vegan, super luxurious soaps from Moxie Organix!

I recently discovered several farms in the valley that are “u-pick”.  My personal favorites so far are the Lowden Lavender Farm and the blueberry patch at Lampson Farms!  You can pick fruit all day, and last year blueberries were only $1.30 a pound.

The first weekend in May, the Walla Walla Valley has its annual Spring Release—which is the first release of wines for the season.  The valley achieved American Viticulture Area status in 1984 and the wine has been flowing steadily since the mid 90’s.  Right now, we have over 100 wineries!  Some say that we are quickly becoming the Napa of Washington state.  Several wineries have even been featured in Sunset Magazine!  The Valley is known for bold, juicy syrah and smooth smoky cabernet sauvignon grapes.  So if you are a wine drinker-- this is the place for you.  Some of my personal favorite valley wineries are Watermill, Tertulia Cellars, and Robison Ranch Cellars.

The second weekend in May is our annual Balloon Stampede.   This year marked the 37th annual stampede.  Unfortunately the weather didn’t hold out this year, but normally on Saturday and Sunday there are early morning mass ascensions of about 40 balloons and on Saturday evening there is the night glow.  It’s pure magic, if you ask me!

In June, Walla Wallans turn out to Borleske Stadium to watch the Walla Walla Sweets play on the baseball diamond.  The Sweets are part of the West Coast League, an all wooden bat league to keep collegiate men slugging in what would normally be their off season.  Game days are exciting because the town is really supportive of the team, price of admission is only $4, you can still get a hot dog for $2, cold locally brewed beers for $4 and the score board is manually updated by a Score Boy!  Hearing the crack of the wooden bat really brings you back!  Plus our mascot—a snarly eyed sweet onion—is a real kick!

At the end of July, we celebrate the sweet onion with a festival right during their peak harvest season.  You can find all kinds of onion-infused foods from mustards and dressings to onion-filled sausages.  There’s also a host of onion-inspired events like onion-sack races, onion eating contests, onion bowling and even the Food Network’s Glutton for Punishment filmed a segment here last year—an Onion Peeling Contest with Bob Blumer.

August is a great month in the valley.  The vines are starting to fruit and the wineries are preparing for harvest.  I got to know the vintners at one winery and they invited me to help pick the fruit and bottle the wine.  It was such a great experience, kind of makes a cubicle-rat like me re-evaluate my career goals!

Year round there areopportunities to soak up the Valley, if you are willing to get out there and look!  Sometimes during an early morning coffee run, you can admire an impromptu balloon launch.

Or even biking thru the vineyards in autumn and finding a nice place to smooch.

Or driving thru the rolling hills of wheat to oogle at the big gigantic wind farms.

But most days, especially like the nice sunny one’s we’ve had recently, you can find me on the back deck, hanging in my hammock enjoying a nice glass of local syrah while country life just floats on by!

Care to hear more about the wonderful world of Walla Walla?  Stop by my blog Storm-in-My-Teacup where I ramble about enjoying a sweet life in Walla Walla, the animal antics of a rescued retired greyhound and two cute tuxedo kitties.  When I am not working at overcoming infertility, my husband's and I are travelling the country in our vintage VW bus.  CHEERS!  : ) elaine


  1. Just SAYING Walla Walla, makes me smile. Okay. Sold. Packing up and moving, now.

  2. fun! i'm a NW native, but have never been to walla walla - now I wanna go.

  3. What a pretty place. Oh, and I need that VW bus.

  4. Sounds like a dreamy place to live or visit! I really need to see more of the west.

  5. whoa! we have SO MANY friends from walla walla. even the guy who married us grew up there and still visits family there. crazy!

  6. I just went to Washington for the first time and it was lovely!

  7. I can definitely relate with the slow driving, I've lived in Eastern WA for my whole life haha, we have quite an awesome state.

  8. I really liked this post, she kept me interested the whole way through and now I'm dying to make a trip to Walla Walla!

  9. I love this post! I grew up in Walla Walla and lived there until I was 21.

  10. woah!
    i´d looooove to live next to a lavandar-farm... love that scent!

  11. I love Walla Walla! Oh and it makes an awesome Scategories answer if you get "places on a map" while on the letter W...just saying! :)

  12. Wow, Walla Walla sounds amazing, I'll have to put it on my list of places I would love to visit! :)
    The VW Bus is adorable!

  13. I'M FROM WALLA WALLA! Well, as a military kid I'm not really "from" anywhere, but we moved there quite a few years ago, I started college there, and go "home" to Walla Walla as often as I can. Having lived in/been to every single state in the continental US, I can say absolutely that Walla Walla is one of the nicest places in the country!