From cideries to skiing, Wenatchee has endless sunshine and fun all year long
With close to 300 days of clear blue skies, only 20 inches of rain and about 80 inches of snow per year, Wenatchee is a popular destination for sun-starved visitors hailing from Western Washington and virtually all rainy places. But did you know that Wenatchee is also a fast-growing city with a booming foodie scene and great mountain biking? To jumpstart your planning for a weekend getaway or longer stay, why not explore these 10 fun things to do in Wenatchee.
Wenatchee has an abundance of year-round outdoor recreation opportunities, including fat tire snow biking in winter and lake swimming all summer long. Its location east of the Cascade Mountains at the confluence of the Wenatchee and Columbia rivers makes it a rare gem of the Northwest, offering a different experience for each season. This list of fun things to do in Wenatchee is just the beginning of a great vacation.
1. Mountain Biking
Mountain biking routes are everywhere in the Wenatchee area, connecting all corners of Chelan County and neighboring Douglas County as well. The extensive network of trails offers a varying level of difficulty and scenery, not to mention epic views. Here’s a sampling of noteworthy trails:
- Stairway to Heaven (Twin Peaks) winds through glades of ponderosa pines and fields of flowers. At the top of Twin Peaks, you’ll be rewarded with long 360-degree views. Choose between the road or trail—the road is the shortest route to see the view.
- Sage Hill Lower Loop is close to Wenatchee and is popular for hiking, running and mountain biking. You’ll enjoy Instagram-worthy views along this trail, which is about 7.5-miles. Cut it short and turn around at the half-way mark for a shorter and easier ride.
- Devil’s Spur Trailhead is a mountain trail near Mission Ridge. It has its fair share of technical challenges, and gorgeous views of snow-covered mountains. Because it’s mainly exposed hillsides, the best seasons to bike this trail are spring and fall.
Tip: Did you know that all AAA Washington memberships include emergency roadside assistance for cyclists? Read more about our bicycle service here.
2. Channel your inner engineer at Rocky Reach Dam Discovery Center
Searching for fun things to do in Wenatchee for all ages? The Rocky Reach Dam Discovery Center is an all-new hands-on learning experience. Think of it as museum meets interactive classroom. It’s free to visit and great for all ages. Located on the Columbia River, about 7 miles upstream from Wenatchee, the Rocky Reach Dam is part of a network of dams that generate nearly 2,000 megawatts of power at their peak, enough to run about a million Northwest homes of average electrical use. (The other dams are the Rocky Island Dam and Chelan Dam.)
Spot salmon through large windows, steer a steamship, take a virtual flight, crank a turbine and use your own power to make electricity, and take a deep dive Columbia River history while learning about all-things hydroelectric. Make a day of it and enjoy the 17-acre recreation area next to the Discovery Center that includes an arboretum, picnic shelters, a playground, a turbine exhibit and horseshoe pits.
Fun fact: One megawatt can supply about 500 average Northwest homes.
3. Go camping and biking at your pick of amazing state parks
Camping and hiking ranks high on our list of fun things to do in Wenatchee, and the Washington state parks system does not disappoint in this corner of the Evergreen state, offering close to a dozen parks in the area. Choose from popular beaches and snowshoe trails or find a secluded campsite and enjoy a little solitude—there’s something for all seasons, including winter. Here are three parks to inspire your road trip planning:
- Wenatchee Confluence State Park: Located where the Wenatchee and Columbia rivers meet, this 194-acre park is great for camping, swimming, boating and biking along the Apple Capital Loop Trail. The trail runs through Wenatchee Confluence State Park and several riverfront parks, and forms a 10-mile loop along the Columbia River. Take a 2.2-mile extension to bike or walk into downtown Wenatchee. Note that the northern section of the park is a recreation area, while the southern section is a designated natural wetland area.
- Squilchuck State Park: Set deep in the mountains outside Wenatchee, this 249-acre park features forests of firs and ponderosa pine. More than 10 miles of mountain bike trails fan out from a single group campground. Two options for rides include Mission Ridge Road and out to the Wheeler Reservoir. Winter activities include fat tire snow biking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
- Lincoln Rock State Park: This 86-acre park is located on the east side of Lake Entiat, which is 31-miles long and offers great boating, paddling, swimming and fishing. It was named Lincoln Rock by late 19th-century explorers who thought the basalt outcropping resembled the profile of President Abraham Lincoln. The park features the Rocky Reach Trail, a paved, mixed-use ADA-accessible trail that connects to the Apple Capital Loop Trail. It totals close to 20 miles of walking, jogging and bicycle trails.
- Lake Wenatchee State Park: Imagine a clear blue lake surrounded by mountains. That’s Lake Wenatchee. Lake Wenatchee State Park is about an hour drive outside Wenatchee, relatively close to the Bavarian town of Leavenworth. The 5-mile-long lake is 244 feet deep, making it a popular destination for boaters and windsurfers. Some of the things you can do include trail rides on horseback, hiking through the highland forest, biking along miles of bike trails, or hiking up Dirtyface Peak on adjacent Forest Service land. Dirtyface Peak is a 9-mile trail with 3,950 feet of elevation gain (that’s about half the height of Mount St. Helens before the 1980 eruption).
Tip: If you’re planning on camping, why not do it in style? Leave the car at home and rent a Cabana camper van. AAA Washington members receive a 20% discount on rentals.
4. Shop at Pybus Public Market and Wenatchee Valley Farmers Market
Located two blocks east of downtown Wenatchee, Pybus Public Market features handcrafted and home-made goods. It’s located adjacent to the Wenatchee Valley Farmers Market, which features more than 50 family farms, so it’s easy to do all your shopping in one place. Make a day of it and plan a picnic or hike with the tasty treats you pick up at the market. Both Wenatchee Riverfront Park and the Apple Capital Loop Trail are around the corner from the markets.
Tip: Pybus Market is open year-round while the Farmers Market is open from mid-May through late October on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
5. Perfect your golf swing—or enjoy trying
Where there’s sunshine, there’s golf. And Wenatchee has more than its fair share of fairways. Take your pick from courses that offer views of the Columbia River and the Cascade Mountains. There are more than 10 public golf courses in the greater area and it’s especially easy to get a tee time during the week. Be sure to call ahead to reserve a tee time.
Tip: AAA Washington members save up to 15% on hotels and motels across Washington and around the world. Find a great deal here.
6. Stroll through Ohme Gardens
These beautiful public gardens were initially curated as a family retreat by Herman and Ruth Ohme, and are a true labor of love. The couple, who purchased the land in 1929, hand-carried water in 5-gallon milk cans to water each and every plant, which they hand-selected. Together, they built a forest oasis overlooking Wenatchee.
Today, Chelan County owns and manages the 9-acre gardens, and continues to build on the Ohme’s legacy (while relying on an irrigation system). Ohme Gardens open seven days a week and admission is $8 for adults, $4 for youth ages 6 to 17, and free for children ages 5 and under. For gardeners and green thumbs, a visit to Ohme Gardens ranks high on the list of fun things to do in Wenatchee. Don’t forget your camera.
7. Play in the snow
Looking for fun things to do in Wenatchee in winter? Wenatchee may be known for long, glorious summers, but its winters also offer some of the best recreation in Washington state. In January 2022, the city got a record-breaking 23 inches of snow within 24 hours—and the surrounding mountains were blanketed with snow. Bring (or rent) snowshoes and explore the trails, learn to cross-country ski (there’s a huge trail system), go tubing, or try fat tire snow biking.
Tip: Check weather and road conditions, plus WSDOT’s reports on mountain pass conditions. Washington state law requires all cars to carry chains between November 1 and March 31 on mountain passes. Note that studded tires
d don’t meet this requirement.
8. Tour the Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center
Searching for fun things to do in Wenatchee for history buffs? Brush up on your local history (or learn it for the first time) at the Wenatchee Valley Museum & Cultural Center (WVMCC). This museum is a hidden gem that showcases local and regional history, and Native American history and culture. You’ll journey from the Ice Age to the present day, taking in unique local artifacts and treasures. Plus, you can learn how Wenatchee became the “apple capital of the world” and how the Great Northern Railway connected Wenatchee to the rest of the country.
Take your time exploring three floors of exhibits, plus children’s exhibits and hands-on learning opportunities. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and students, $2 for youth ages 6-12, and free for kids aged 5 and under.
9. Hit the slopes at Mission Ridge
Just 12 miles outside town you’ll find Mission Ridge—a resort with 36 designated runs with four chairs and two rope tows across 2,000 acres of trails, chutes, screamers and bowls. With a 2,250-foot vertical drop, it’s a skiing and snowboarding paradise (the summit is 6,820 feet). It’s rated 10% beginner, 60% intermediate and 30% advanced. Mission Ridge is usually open between late November and late April, but it all depends on the weather and snowfall. Check conditions at the resort, ask a few locals for tips and get ready for a bluebird day on the slopes.
10. Enjoy a cider and wine tasting
Wenatchee holds claim to being the apple capital of the world, but did you know this region also grows 99% of Washington’s wine grapes? In fact, Wenatchee has 11-million acres of land dedicated to winemaking. There are about a dozen wine tasting rooms in the Wenatchee area and close to 70 in the greater region—each with its own story, distinctive wines and accomplished winemakers.
But there’s more. Wenatchee also has its fair share of cideries—because where there are delicious apples, there are opportunities to make cider. Many cideries have tasting rooms and the option to tour the facility and see up close how your favorite beverages are made. When it comes to fun things to do in Wenatchee for adults, cidery tours are among the most popular outings.
As always, please drink responsibly and plan your transportation ahead of time: take public transportation, have a designated driver or take a bus tour and leave the driving in the hands of a professional guide.
With four seasons of sunset and outdoor recreation, there’s no shortage of fun things to do in Wenatchee. In fact, this list is just the beginning. If you’re craving adventure combined with rich history and a food and wine scene, set your destination for Wenatchee.
—Written by AAA Washington staff
—Top photo: AdobeStock
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