I’m a Yakima, Washington local with insights into the absolute best things to do in Yakima!
This article highlights the city’s agricultural abundance, with attractions like orchards, wineries, and hop-centric breweries.
I’ll share Yakima cultural attractions, outdoor recreation, historical sites, and even day trips. Make the most of your stay in Yakima with this comprehensive guide!
Table of Contents
- 21 Things to Do in Yakima
- The Capitol Theater
- Orion Cinema
- Yakima Valley Museum
- Yakima Area Arboretum
- The Yakima Greenway
- Wine Tasting
- Cowiche Canyon Trail
- Johnson Orchards
- Yakima Breweries
- Tieton Cider Works
- Mount Rainier National Park
- Mount Adams
- Yakima Sportsman State Park
- The Yakima River Canyon
- Yakima Valley Visitors Center
- Fresh Hop Ale Festival
- White Pass
- Yakama Nation Cultural Center
- Fort Simcoe State Park
- Central Washington Agricultural Museum
- McAllister Museum of Aviation
- FAQs About What to Do in Yakima
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21 Things to Do in Yakima
The Capitol Theater
Take in Yakima’s vibrant arts scene in the heart of Yakima’s downtown area.
Yakima has a great art scene for a smaller city and downtown Capitol Theater is one of the best places to take it in. Shows range from Broadway musicals to classical performances to rock concerts. The Yakima Town Hall Speaker Series at the theater brings professional speakers in to share their expertise in a wide variety of fields.
The theater is also close to many of the best restaurants in Yakima. Many of them are farm-to-table and source their ingredients from local farmers in the Yakima Valley. Cowiche Canyon is a local favorite, located across the parking lot from the theater.
Drop by the best place in town for dinner and a movie.
Yakima has three movie theaters in total, but only Orion Cinema offers a full menu complete with drinks. The menu features pub fare from Mickey’s Pub, including beer, wine, and spirits from local sources. There are often creative food and drink suggestions for the films, too.
The theater has only three screens, but it’s a worthy trade-off for burgers, brews, and more instead of just popcorn and sodas. Note that this is an adults-only establishment given the attached bar.
Yakima Valley Museum
Explore one of the most eclectic museums in Washington!
Many local museums focus on just one thing. Not so with the Yakima Valley Museum. Here, you can find thousands of artifacts ranging from medieval English weapons to vintage political campaign buttons from 20th century America. There’s also the scientific side, featuring fossilized wood, over 2000 rock specimens, and a veritable zoo of taxidermied animals!
The museum also houses a vintage soda fountain with creamy milkshakes and more. It stands on the side of Franklin Park, which is itself a worthwhile destination. The park features a swimming pool, tennis and pickleball courts, and a broad lawn perfect for picnics or throwing a frisbee around.
Yakima Area Arboretum
Take a leisurely stroll through Yakima’s most beautiful city park.
The vibrant green of the Yakima Arboretum lies like an emerald hidden amidst the dusty hills of central Washington. Over 1000 different species of trees, flowers, and other plants grow within the 46 acres of the Arboretum, with many plants from locations across the globe. The elegant Japanese Garden at the center is one of the most peaceful parts of the property.
The Yakima Area Arboretum is dog-friendly, provided dogs are kept on a leash. The Arboretum is one of the best places for a relaxing walk whether you go on two or four feet, and (insider tip) you can pick the fruit and berries growing here! Just be courteous and don’t take too much.
The Yakima Greenway
Walk this 20-mile trail to discover peaceful parks, historical monuments, and more.
The Yakima Greenway runs for 20 miles along the edge of town, from Naches in the north to Union Gap in the south. It connects several parks along the way, with Sarg Hubbard Park being one of the most popular access points. Sarg Hubbard Park is where the Greenway Park HQ is located and has a few points of interest for history buffs.
The Merci Car, a relic of World War I, was a train car used in France to transport soldiers to the front. The government of France gave each state in America a car as a thank you (merci in French) for the USA’s help after the war. Washington State’s car was placed here in Yakima. There are also monuments to Yakima-born soldiers who served in the wars of the 20th century.
Uncork some of the best wines in Central Washington.
The Yakima Valley is not as well known as other areas in America for wine but has some fantastic offerings of its own. Gilbert Cellars, Treveri Cellar, and Kana Winery are some of the most popular local wineries. Wine tastings are available and one can even find fine wines for the discerning palette.
There are over 90 wineries and tasting rooms throughout the Yakima Valley, so wine tasting is one of the most readily available things to do in Yakima. A visit to any of these establishments is the perfect way to wind down the day (horrible pun intended).
Cowiche Canyon Trail
Wander along some of the best hiking trails in the Yakima area.
This fascinating fissure in the earth’s surface is one of the best hikes in Yakima and a favorite of mine. Some of the basalt cliffs here bear a striking similarity to the geometric formations found at Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. Trails here trace their way along the floor of the canyon as well as the ridges and are great for a stroll or mountain biking.
The summer months see flowers blossom and the trees and bushes become covered in green leaves. The leaves turn gold and red in the autumn and the pristine stillness of the area in winter is unmatched. The Wilridge Vineyard and tasting room sit atop the ridge near the eastern trailhead, making for a perfect end to a good hike.
Satisfy your sweet tooth with some of the best fruit in the valley.
Stopping by this family-owned orchard is one of the best things to do in Yakima if you want a taste of Yakima Valley fruits. Visit in summer from mid-June to August to buy cherries by the pound, as well as other succulent stone fruit. It goes without saying that there are plenty of apples here, too.
The Little Bake Shop here makes incredible pies and other fruit-based confections. You can also purchase Purple Star Wines here, crafted by one of the Johnson family.
Hop between breweries in the home of American hops production.
Sipping a pint or two is one of the most popular things to do in Yakima. No wonder, when the Yakima Valley is the heartland of American hop production. Chances are good, too, that even if you haven’t heard of Yakima’s breweries, you’ve had a beer with the same Yakima Valley hops they used.
Some of the larger breweries, such as Bale Breaker Brewing Company, even distribute outside city limits to elsewhere in Washington, including breweries in Seattle. Single Hill is another one of the main meet-up spots in town.
Both breweries, and all the others in town, have great beer. You’ll find a variety of IPAs, the go-to beer of the Pacific Northwest, as well as other varieties. Bale Breaker’s Dormancy Stout is delicious!
Tieton Cider Works
Sit and sip for a spell at Yakima’s best cidery.
How could a town with so many apple orchards not have a craft cidery? Tieton (pronounced tie-a-ton) Cider Works uses local fruits in its brews. Ciders range from the original apple to more creative infusions using huckleberries, hops, lavender, and more. This is a great destination for anyone on a gluten-free diet looking for a refreshing drink.
The hours are somewhat limited, but it’s worth visiting if you’re in town on a Friday or Saturday.
Mount Rainier National Park
Explore the majestic mountain heights and enchanting forests of Mt. Rainier National Park.
Yakima sits 70.8 miles east of Mount Rainier National Park, about 1.5 hours away from the Stevens Canyon entrance. The rolling arid plains give way to the rugged mountainscapes of Washington’s most famous landmark. Yakima is a great base of operations for exploring the park or crashing at the end of a day full of exploring.
Yakima is also closer to the enchanting Grove of the Patriarchs on the east side of the park territory. Follow the trail here and let the towering fir, hemlock, and cedar trees transport you to a Tolkienesque forest of deep silence and beauty. I recommend taking a Mt. Rainier tour in the fall when the leaves turn to their fiery autumn hues.
Continue your alpine adventures on the slopes of the mighty Mt. Adams.
Mount Adams is also a short drive from town. The wilderness here is an amazing place to go hiking, camping, and to enjoy other outdoor activities. Many of the hiking trails are accessible to horseback riders and some outside the official wilderness area are also open to motorcycles.
The truly adventurous can hike to the lofty peak towering at 12,281 feet! The mountain is worth a visit even if scaling the summit is a bit too much.
Yakima Sportsman State Park
Set up camp in this peaceful park right outside town.
This 266-acre park is just across the Yakima River from the city. It’s a great place for bird watching, with over 140 species calling it home or migrating through. It’s a popular place for humans on the move to rest for a while, too, with tons of camping spots tucked amid the trees.
Yakima Sportsman State Park is also a popular destination for freshwater fishing. Visitors over the age of 15 will need to get a fishing license first, but this can be easily done either online or at one of several locations across town.
The Yakima River Canyon
Rent tubes and enjoy a lazy river float, set within a scenic canyon.
The Yakima River Canyon is located a little further upstream. The lazily flowing river is perfect for inner-tubing and river rafting (unless you’re after some whitewater thrills) on one of Yakima’s many hot, sunny days. It’s one of the most popular things to do in Yakima, so you’re sure to meet locals out enjoying the water.
There are several starting points, depending on how long you want to spend drifting through the Yakima River Canyon. Roza Recreation Site is the last point to get out at. Note that there may be a fee for using the boat launch ramp if you start at Big Creek Campground.
Yakima Valley Visitors Center
Shop for some of the best souvenirs and local goods at this visitor center.
This visitor center on Fair Ave is a great place to get souvenirs. The center sells wines from local wineries, a wide assortment of local handicrafts, and homemade goods such as jams. There are also standard t-shirts and other apparel for sale.
The Visitor Center is also a great place to pick up brochures and learn about local community events and activities (as is this guide, but it’s always nice to have a hard copy or two).
Fresh Hop Ale Festival
Celebrate the hop harvest at one of Yakima’s favorite festivals.
Yakima is famous for its hops and this festival in October celebrates the hop harvest. The SOZO Sports Complex swings in party mode as local brewers showcase their best fresh-hop ales. There’s a homebrew competition, amazing food and music, and a golf tournament as well.
Be sure to add this to your itinerary, because attending this festival is one of the best things to do in Yakima if visiting in the fall!
Speed down the slopes at this ski area west of Yakima.
Yakima’s a great place to live if you like skiing. Stellar ski towns such as Leavenworth lie a short drive away! The White Pass Ski Area is 53 miles west of town. It’s a great place to catch some powder without the crowds found at Washington’s better-known ski resorts.
Lessons and rentals are available from the lodge. White Pass is a family-friendly place, featuring slopes fit for all levels.
Yakama Nation Cultural Center
Learn about the long history of the Yakama Nation at this museum south of town.
This cultural center and museum on the Yakama Indian Reservation gives a glimpse into the culture of the Yakama people for whom the area is named. The museum features dioramas and displays of artifacts of the Yakama tribe who lived in the Yakima Valley for centuries. There’s also a gift shop with authentic handmade items.
👉 Pro Tip: Toppenish has some of the state’s best gas prices! Stop by local stations to fuel up instead of getting gas in town. Just be prepared to wait because this is no secret to locals!
Fort Simcoe State Park
Step back in time to Yakima’s frontier days at this historical state park.
A visit to this historical state park is one of the best things to do in Yakima for history buffs. The site began as a fortress of the United States Army in 1856, making this one of the few pre-Civil War forts still intact today.
The fort closed in 1859, being turned over to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. For 60 years, it was used as an office for the Yakima Indian Agency, as well as a boarding school. It now operates as a historical monument, giving a glimpse of what life was like in earlier times.
Fort Simcoe is a day-use park, closing at dusk. Popular activities here, besides viewing the buildings, include picnicking, playing sports on the lawn, and bird watching.
🐻 Be Prepared: Black bears, cougars, and coyotes live near Fort Simcoe and other places farther out from town. Follow the proper precautions, especially if you have food with you.
Central Washington Agricultural Museum
Gather a full harvest of information on Yakima’s rich agricultural heritage at this museum in Union Gap.
The Yakima Valley has long been an agricultural powerhouse, producing apples, hops, and many other crops. The Central Washington Agricultural Museum in Union Gap is a great place to learn more about the history of farming in the valley.
The museum has an extensive collection of old farming equipment, from plows to vintage tractors. It’s one of the best kid-friendly destinations in town and hosts several special events throughout the year.
McAllister Museum of Aviation
Let your curiosity take flight at this aviation museum near the Yakima airport.
This museum seems small on the outside but has a ton of information on the history of local and world aviation. The museum has items and displays from around the world and, from time to time, also features demonstration flights of vintage aircraft. It’s a fun stop for any aviation enthusiast and another kid-friendly attraction in Union Gap.
FAQs About What to Do in Yakima
What is Yakima best known for?
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my guide on the best things to do in Yakima! Check out our guide on the top cities in Washington for more travel-worthy destinations.
(Featured Image Credit: Heidi Ihnen Photography / Shutterstock)
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