What to Do in Pasco, Richland and Kennewick
Just 7 miles south of the Country Mercantile, you’ll arrive at the outskirts of the Tri-Cities.
Taken together, the Tri-Cities of Pasco, Richland and Kennewick would comprise the third-largest city in the state (behind Seattle and Spokane) with a population of nearly 230,000 as of 2022 living along and around the shores of the Columbia River. The broader metropolitan area, which includes West Richland and surrounding communities, numbers around 300,000 people.
Pasco was first on the map, incorporated in 1891 with the arrival of the railroad at the banks of the Columbia. Today, most of the Tri-Cities’ connections to statewide commerce are found in Pasco; the Tri-Cities Airport (PSC) serves passenger flights of a handful of airlines, and a regional convention center hosts a variety of conferences and trade shows.
Our first stop in the Tri-Cities follows in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, the Pacific Northwest’s most famous explorers.
Heading south on U.S. 395, follow signs for U.S. 12 eastbound toward Walla Walla; after about 4 miles on U.S. 12, turn right to head south on Sacajawea Park Road. Two miles on, we arrive at the area’s first landing spot of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805, later dubbed Sacajawea Historical State Park (Discover pass required).
This day-use recreational area features swimming and fishing docks, picnicking, a boat launch and hiking trails. It also houses an excellent interpretive center (open Wednesday-Sunday April-October, donation suggested) that describes the role of Sacagawea (who interpreted for Lewis and Clark), as well as the events leading up to the two-night encampment of the Corps of Discovery on Oct. 16-17, 1805. Audio and video clips and interactive exhibits trace the expedition’s legacy through the eyes of local Native American tribes and others. The center’s largest annual event is Sacajawea Heritage Days in September.
From the park, retrace your route back along Sacajawea Park Road; just after leaving the park, turn left to head west on Ainsworth Avenue for 2.8 miles. Turn left onto South 10th Avenue to head south, and toward the Columbia River, where you’ll reach the de facto symbol of the Tri-Cities: the Ed Hendler Bridge, informally known around here as the Cable Bridge. Connecting Pasco and Kennewick, this structure was completed in 1978 and is illuminated with white lights every night.
As you cross the bridge, you arrive in Kennewick, with 5 miles of river frontage that boasts large parks and trails designed for livability. As a result, Kennewick is home to more residents and tourist hotspots than either of the other two Tri-Cities.
Just beyond the Cable Bridge, take your first right to head west onto Columbia Drive. After 1.5 miles, follow signs through a pair of wide roundabouts to state Route 240 westbound. In another half-mile, take the exit for the crown jewel of Tri-Cities public spaces, Columbia Park. Flanking over 4 miles of shoreline and covering 400 acres, the park has something for everyone: a disc golf course, picnic tables, play areas, walking and biking paths, and more.
The road descends toward the river, site of the Columbia Cup hydroplane races that draw up to 70,000 race fans on the last weekend of July each year. Visitors are greeted by the Miss Tri-Cities unlimited hydroplane from 1955. Straight ahead, adjacent to the water, is the Regional Veterans Memorial, a circle of obelisks honoring the area’s war dead.
At the roundabout just south of the Regional Veterans Memorial, turn right to head east onto Columbia Park Trail (confusingly, Columbia Park Trail is actually a road). The road heads past several acres of shaded and sunny grass fields. In less than a half mile, you’ll arrive at the Columbia Park Pond, open only to anglers 14 and younger (and to holders of state-offered disability licenses), and the spacious Playground of Dreams. Meanwhile, the river’s edge is ringed by the Sacagawea Heritage Trail, a 23-mile bicycling and jogging loop connecting the marina upriver with the state park in Pasco. The trail is lined with benches and is fabulous for evening strolls.
Continue following Columbia Park Trail east for a mile as it ducks under the Cable Bridge and arrives at Columbia Drive. Turn right to head west – does this stretch of road look familiar? Follow the signs for U.S. 395 southbound at the double roundabouts.
Continue as the highway curves south, turns into Ely Street and climbs uphill past restaurants and motels. After two miles, hang a right onto 10th Avenue. After a mile, turn left onto South Union Street; in about another half-mile, turn right into the parking area for one of Kennewick’s top sights: the Demonstration Garden at Highlands Grange Park. The botanical reserve hosts more than 24 themed gardens, 800 roses, 100 shrubs and an ornate children’s garden.
Return to 10th Avenue, continue heading west for two miles and then turn right at Columbia Center Boulevard. Here you head north, toward the Columbia River and through some of the busiest areas of Kennewick; lodgings and eateries line the road along this stretch.
Follow Columbia Center Boulevard north to the Highway 240 onramp, and head west; nearly 4 miles later, the freeway becomes George Washington Way, the entrance to Richland.
Richland rose to prominence in the middle of the 20th century as the home of the Hanford Nuclear Site, which produced fuel for nuclear weapons. Today, many Richland workers remain involved with Hanford’s on-site environmental cleanup efforts or run a variety of continuing experiments at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Follow “G-Way”, the local name for the main drag honoring America’s first president, as it passes over Interstate 182 and heads into the downtown core.
The first road on your right, just beyond Interstate 182, is Columbia Point Drive and leads to Columbia Point Marina Park, a public boat launch with short hiking trails and a playground. As G-Way continues north, hang a right onto Lee Boulevard to arrive at Howard Amon Park. The park affords excellent Columbia River views, playground equipment, and opportunities for picnicking on sunny days.
– Written by John King, last updated in October 2022.
– Top image of Cable Bridge and Clover Island with the Columbia River. Photo by Aloha Dave Getty Images.