Walla Walla, a cute little Washington State college town, offers wonderful family activities and an escape from big-city stress. This week, we talk with Walla Walla resident Ben to discover more about this Eastern Washington burg.
Why do you like Walla Walla?
Ben: We love Walla Walla because it really is a beautiful town with lush parks and a vibrant downtown. We enjoy a full four seasons here, from a hot summer to clear, crisp fall days, often snowy winters and our gorgeous spring (when the dogwood trees bloom in April it’s particularly nice!). We have a strongly diversified local economy; while many national retailers have come and gone, our locally-owned small businesses have flourished.
We have no mall (a sore point for some) so its in our historic downtown, outdoors on the sidewalks, in the parks or at the farmer’s market where people gather and things happen. Also, thanks to our three colleges and growing wine tourism, we have a great arts scene. Sometimes we wish for a culture that is more ethnically diverse, but for the size of our town and its distance from any major city, Walla Walla really has a lot to offer families.
What do you like to do with your daughter in Walla Walla?
We have a Children’s museum that has a fun range of exhibits and an outdoor play area. My daughter’s favorite thing at the Children’s Museum is probably the model of the Walla Walla Watershed in the “Our Powerful Valley” exhibit. There’s something about playing with water and sand that I think just about every kid loves. She also spends a lot of time in the kid-sized supermarket and Italian restaurant.
Fort Walla Walla Museum is excellent for school age children interested in history. The museum has a lot of interesting history to tell, particularly with the weekly living history performances where a knowledgeable expert will pose as someone significant from our local history. But those are probably more interesting to people with a longer attention span than a preschooler. My daughter did enjoy looking in the homes and school house in the pioneer village, but her favorite thing was the new playground styled like a fort. It is a pretty fun playground.
With all the agriculture in the area, some of the most fun things for kids are seasonal open farm days or harvest times around the valley. The ones we frequent are Blue Mountain Lavender Farm, Klickers for strawberries, pumpkins, and Christmas trees, Lampson blueberries, Wheatland Alpaca Farm, Walla Walla Corn Maze, Dixie Hummingbird farm, and the Sweet Onion festival.
Three local colleges and our long-running symphony add a lot to our arts and culture scene. We have great opportunities for kids interested in music, theatre, dance, and art, as well as gymnastics and team sports. For visitors, this means many weekends offer performances or games of some sort that are worth checking out. There may not be many options on any given weekend, but between the schools, the Symphony, the Little Theatre, Fort Walla Walla Amphitheater, the Sports Complex, or our new Walla Walla Sweets Baseball team there’s usually something going on.
One of my favorite times to tell people to visit town is during our Balloon Stampede in May. The balloons are always fun to watch, especially for younger kids, though you have to get up early in the morning.
Can you recommend any great kid-friendly restaurants?
Ben: My daughter will enthusiastically tell you that her favorite food is the chicken satay at Thai Ploy (311 South 9th Avenue; 509-525-0971), our favorite of three local Thai restaurants. A close runner up is the pesto pizza at Sweet Basil Pizzeria. She also loves getting soup at downtown’s perennial business-lunch favorite, Stone Soup.
Her top dessert stop is for gelato at Colville Street Patisserie, where they are constantly offering new and interesting flavors. She even loved avocado.
Tiki Teriaki Grill – Fun Hawaiian ambiance
Ice-Burg Drive-In – Great local burger joint, outdoor seating only.
Walla Walla Bread Company – good pastries, soups, and now cupcakes.
Dora’s Deli at the Worm Ranch - Delicious authentic Mexican.
Clarette’s Restaurant – A local favorite for breakfasts. We like the pumpkin pancakes.
His Garden Bakery & Café in College Place – Great vegetarian food and fresh juices.
Do you have any favorite parks in Walla Walla?
Pioneer Park – great for community events (July 4th, Easter, and others) at the bandstand, good playground, aviary, duck ponds, small sledding hill in winter
Fort Walla Walla Park – fun place to watch or do various activities: wildlife preserve, skateboard park, disc golf course, bicycle motocross track, model car track, model airplane field, and an amphitheater that hosts an annual Summer Musical and Shakespeare play.
Jefferson Park – good place to go with take-out from the Ice Burg. Modern playground, fishing pond.
Rooks Park / Bennington Lake Recreation Area – nice hiking trails, close to town.
Walla Walla Community College has a great field for flying kites on windy days and the campus of Whitman College is fun for walking & exploring.
Thanks, Ben! Readers, if you have any tips on where to go with kids in Walla Wall, let me know.