Uncover the History & Culture of Washington Wine Country

While Washington wine country is best known for its wineries and vineyards, the region also teems with historical and cultural attractions, perfect places to spend time in between wine tastings. Here are a few suggestions.

Fort Simcoe
In 1856 the U.S. Army established Fort Simcoe on a trail between the Yakima Valley and the Yakama Tribe’s traditional fishing areas on the Columbia River. But in 1859, after soldiers marched to Walla Walla and Colville, the fort was turned over to the Yakama Indian Agency. Today it’s a state park—and on the National Register of Historic Places. Stop by during Military Days in June for Civil War reenactments.

A bomb may never have been built at Hanford, but hundreds of thousands of tons of uranium were processed at the 586-square-mile nuclear reservation near the Tri-Cities—enough for a five-foot-square cake of plutonium if combined. Sign up for a public five-hour tour—April through September—at www5.hanford.gov/publictours.

LIGO Hanford Observatory
Off a two-lane road at the edge of the Hanford site, a bunch of scientists are attempting to prove Einstein’s theory of relativity and detect the next collision of black holes by measuring gravitational disturbances with two-mile-long lasers and mirrors. Swing into the LIGO Hanford Observatory for a tour at 1:30pm the second Saturday and 3pm the fourth Friday of every month, or take in a meteor shower during a star party

Confluence Project Sites
At seven sites—from Cape Disappointment to an island in the Snake River—along the Columbia River Basin, where rivers converge and indigenous people once gathered, architectural designer and artist Maya Lin, Pacific Northwest tribes and Northwest civic groups present the Confluence Project. Here, art installations interpret the area’s ecology and history alongside passages from Lewis and Clark journals. See one with a visit to the Seven Story Circles at Sacajawea State Park.

Rodeo Events
East of the Cascades, cowboy culture lives on. A powwow with traditional American Indian food, stick games and arts is just part of the Toppenish Powwow and Rodeo each July. In August, the Yakima Valley Fair hosts bullfighters at the Pro-West Rodeo, while Walla Walla has barrel racing.

Hot-Air Balloons
Chalk art covers the pavement while balloons float overhead during the Great Prosser Ballon Rally every September.

Bird-Watching Destinations
Catch a glimpse of migratory birds that return to Walla Walla from South America every year at the McNary Wildlife Refuge or Walla Walla River Delta.

Learn more about Washington wine country.

—Julie H. Case