Enticing Reasons to Stop and Stay in Central Washington’s Sunny Hub
As I proceed on the drive east over Snoqualmie Pass, the rain gives way to sunshine, as it usually does, and I am loving it. For a soggy, rain-soaked westsider like me, making the scenic drive from Seattle to Ellensburg is a no brainer. “Eburg” as some locals call it, enjoys 200 days of sunshine, motive enough for a day trip or weekend getaway. But a closer look at the town’s gems reveals many other great reasons to visit.
Downtown Shops and Art
Heading east or west on I-90, Ellensburg’s central location (about 170 miles west of Spokane, just over 100 from Seattle) makes it an ideal spot to rest, stretch, grab a bite, see the sights and even stay overnight. D&M Coffee, on the corner of North Pearl Street and 3rd Avenue (there are multiple locations), is almost always my first stop. Sipping a double cappuccino made from a batch of freshly roasted organic beans, I look up to admire the stately charm of the Davidson Building (top), undoubtedly Ellensburg’s most famous architectural landmark. This Italianate beauty, with its corner turret and ornately arched windows, was under construction during the fire that destroyed much of downtown in 1889. The 3-foot phoenix atop the south facade symbolizes the township’s rising from the ashes of the devastating inferno, as does the phoenix mural on the building’s side.
Strolling around downtown’s 5-block historic district reveals idyllic streetscapes of hanging flower baskets, sculpted bicycle racks, and quaint shops, restaurants and galleries. Bibliophiles can find treasures inside Pearl Street Books & Gifts and Brick Road Books; the floral aromas of handcrafted soaps inside Purity Soapworks are as soothing as a summer breeze.
For cool and unusual, check out Dick and Jane’s Spot (above), a private home (on the corner of Pearl Street and First Avenue) that doubles as an art installation, festooned with sculptures, more than 10,000 bottle caps and thousands of reflectors. Throughout the year, downtown’s First Friday Art Walk is a great way to see works by local artists in a variety of settings, from traditional galleries to cafes, restaurants and boutiques.
Dining and Nightlife
Foodies also have much to enjoy downtown. The art deco ambiance of the Wild Huckleberry Restaurant (open for breakfast, lunch and, occasionally, dinner) just makes its home-style food taste better. The cozy warmth of The Yellow Church Cafe, with vaulted ceilings, choir loft tables and homemade breads, features locally sourced comfort foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Serving locals since 1892, the Palace Cafe’s Thursday night flatiron steak special features a perfectly seared and seasoned portion of its namesake cut. Over at Grapes and Crêpes, the offerings include sweet and savory crêpes, along with local and international wines (it’s also a wine shop).
Blue Ribbon Fishing on the Yakima River
Anglers know Ellensburg as the gateway to the Yakima River, a Blue Ribbon trout fishery, and Red’s Fly’s Shop is among the outfitters offering expert guide services and gear for memorable outings. The city’s location also provides access to a variety of hiking trails through alpine and shrub-steppe terrain, including a few different options for soaking in the splendors of the Yakima River Canyon.
The hallmark of any small town in America is community events and Eburg is no exception. Jazz in the Valley (each July) and Buskers in the Burg (late September) are major draws. The granddaddy is the famous Ellensburg Rodeo, which has ridden into town every Labor Day Weekend since 1923. More than 600 top ropers, riders and wrestlers vie for over $400,000 in prize money. Grab a Stetson, pull on your Luccheses, and cowboy up for an old-fashioned hootenanny. The rodeo takes place on the same dates as the Kittitas County Fair.
–Written by Michael Hamilton