Pullman, Washington and Moscow, Idaho

The twin college towns of Moscow and Pullman offer something for everyone.

Nestled in the beautiful Palouse farmland is a cultural oasis with a thriving food scene (much of it sourced from local farms and ranches), indie shops, music and theater — to say nothing of the sporting events. Whether you’re headed this way to visit Washington State University or the University of Idaho, seeking seasonal fun or looking for a flavorful and scenic gateway between Washington state and northern Idaho, Moscow/Pullman is a Northwest gem.

Combines harvesting wheat in the Palouse
Fertile fields surround Moscow and Pullman, providing a local bounty for the restaurant scene. These combines are harvesting wheat in the Palouse. (Photo by PhilAugustavo / iStock.com)

Dining

Pullman and Moscow’s restaurant game is unbelievably strong for two small towns.

For brunch, head over to Bloom Cafe in Moscow (the smoked salmon Benedict is heavenly), but be prepared for a line on the weekends. Just up the street, Maialina Pizzeria Napoletana is the place to get fresh pasta or a wood-fired pizza, and the patio is the perfect place to relax when it’s nice outside. Sangria Grille and Lodgepole are two other local favorites.

Be sure to make dinner reservations at Nectar Restaurant & Wine Bar for upscale Northwest food like the bacon-wrapped meatloaf and fresh, beautifully prepared seafood, plus a wonderful wine selection — and don’t skip the chocolate soufflé if it’s on the menu. Across the street is the Monarch Motel, recently renovated by Nectar owners Nikki and Brett Woodland into a modern boutique hotel. Most of the 33 rooms are dog-friendly, and if you’re planning a special occasion, consider the penthouse suite, which has a full kitchen and a large deck overlooking Sixth Street.

Over in Pullman, you can’t beat the food, atmosphere or top-notch dinner service of The Black Cypress, whose chef and owner, Nick Pitsilionis, comes to Pullman by way of Alaska, Greece and The French Laundry in Napa Valley. Start the day at Roost for coffee and freshly brewed pastries (their in-house lavender syrup is just the right amount of sweet and floral). Porchlight Pizza is the spot for a quick lunch, with dough is made from special wheat developed at WSU. Check out Lumberyard Food Hall, for a range of options from chicken to ice cream.

For local beer, Tapped has about two dozen regional brews and 10 wines on tap, or stop by Hunga Dunga Brewing Co. in Moscow and Paradise Creek Brewing in Pullman (but as always, remember to plan a safe way home).

Memorial Gymnasium and the University of Idaho water tower are landmarks of the Moscow, Idaho college campus.
Memorial Gymnasium and the University of Idaho water tower are campus landmarks in Moscow, Idaho. (Photo by Knowlesgallery / iStock.com)

Recreation

Don’t miss the University of Idaho Arboretum & Botanical Garden, which is organized into regions of the world and is filled with benches and water features built for contemplation. The sweet scent of lilac fills the air in May when the arboretum’s more than 100 varieties begin to bloom. The approximately 750 hosta plants in the display garden – recognized by the American Hosta Society – are best from May through September, setting the stage for fall foliage. And did you know you can call a few days ahead to inquire about a personal tour?

Idler’s Rest Conservatory is the perfect place for a hike with the kids in an idyllic woods setting. Head up Moscow Mountain for the best views and trails for a variety of experience levels. Still not tired? Hit the Palouse Recreation Trails, more than 38 miles of pavement to skate, walk, run, stroll or bike to your heart’s content in a beautiful setting.

Want to move it inside? Take the stairs to Etsi Bravo above The Black Cypress for craft cocktails and a hopping dance floor. Or catch a show at the U of I, WSU, Pullman Civic Theatre or Regional Theatre of the Palouse. Stop in to the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre for live theater, films, concerts, lectures and even Saturday morning cartoons from June through September. Wander through the 1886 McConnell Mansion (home to the historic society) and step into the past with help from exhibits and docents, but be sure to check the tour schedule in advance.

Farmers market vendors line Main Street in Moscow, Idaho
Farmers market vendors line Main Street in Moscow, Idaho, during the summer. (Photo courtesy of the Moscow Chamber of Commerce)

Rambling

A walk down Moscow’s Main Street could keep you busy for hours. Pop into Ampersand Oil & Vinegar Tap House for a wide array of kitchen and home gifts. Browse some pages at BookPeople of Moscow (perhaps time your visit for one of the many author events) and Palouse Books. You never know what treasures you might find in The Storm Cellar, which offers a wide range of men’s and women’s consignment clothing and new and vintage housewares.

Pullman and Moscow both have thriving farmers markets filled with the bounty of the region, including huckleberries during picking season. If you’re not there on market day, don’t miss the Moscow Food Co-Op for a snack and some local produce.

On your way in and out of Moscow, take in stunning landscapes along the Palouse Scenic Byway in all months. Depending on the route and time of year, you might see colorful crops, old barns, snowy scenes and dramatic weather — Idaho photographer Alison Meyer offers a great guide for seasonal shots — but stick to paved highways instead of dirt roads when conditions are wet and wintery, and be prepared for poor cell phone coverage between towns.

Plan a detour to Steptoe Butte State Park Heritage Site, drive the spiraling road up to the 3,612-foot summit overlooking the Palouse and explore the 168-acre day-use park, home to some of the oldest rock in the Pacific Northwest.

–Written by Cara Strickland

Interested in planning your next road trip with AAA Washington? Call your travel agent directly or your nearest AAA store to get pro tips, TripTik maps, and more. Find more Pacific Northwest scenic drives and road trips.

Location
  • From Seattle: About 285 miles
  • From Spokane​: About 75 miles
Best For
  • Delicious dining
  • Craft breweries
  • Indie shops
  • College sports
  • Outdoor adventures
Travel-Planning Resources

Call or visit your nearest AAA store for maps, guides and other travel-planning resources, including assistance from one of our expert Member Travel Counselors.

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