Today, I’m going to talk about a wine region that’s been on my radar for years now. A wine region with the ideal climate for grape growing, where many varietals thrive, and a close-knit winemaking community. Oh, and that also grows some of the best sweet onions on the planet as well.
Where is this idyllic place that I’m speaking of? It’s none other than Walla Walla, Washington. And yes, my D.C. friends, I mean the state of Washington, not the District of Columbia. Exploring the Pacific Northwest has been something I’ve wanted to do ever since I moved to the West Coast, and Walla Walla was at the very top of my list. Spoiler alert: it exceeded my very high expectations, and honestly, I’m already planning my next visit.
Walla Walla is easily one of the most charming towns I’ve ever visited. Everyone here was so kind and passionate about what they do, and for it being a small town, it has an impressive culinary scene and some of the best boutique shopping I’ve found in a while (seriously — this town is full of pleasant surprises!)
If you’re a wine enthusiast like I am or passionate about agro-tourism (and want to sample all of the sweet onions and strawberries that this region offers!), here’s the only travel guide you’ll ever need if you’re traveling to Walla Walla.
Walla Walla Travel Guide
How To Get To Walla Walla
Walla Walla is in Southeast Washington, near the Oregon border. If you’re within driving distance, it’s about a 4.5-hour drive from Seattle, a 4-hour ride away from Portland, 4 hours from Boise, ID, and 2.5 hours from Spokane, WA.
If you prefer flying, you can fly into their regional airport, which Alaska Airlines serves. You will need to fly to Seattle and hop on a quick 40-minute flight to Walla Walla. Downtown Walla Walla is only three miles from the regional airport, and it was easy to get in and out of.
Just a heads up, though — if you like to show up early to the airport, there are no restaurants or bars at the Walla Walla Regional Airport, but there are several wineries within less than a mile of the airport if you want to get a quick tasting in before your flight. Also, wine flies free on Alaska Airlines, so you can easily bring a case of wine back home with you! Make sure to check your bags 60-90 minutes before your flight; you’re welcome to exit the airport after checking your bags to visit the wineries.
Another airport option is the Tri-Cities Airport (PSC), which is a 45-minute drive from Walla Walla. There are more flight options here, including nonstop routes to and from Burbank, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Phoenix-Mesa, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle. Some of these nonstop flights are seasonal, so plan accordingly!
How to Get Around Walla Walla
One thing I love about Walla Walla is how easy it is to get around here. We stayed in Downtown Walla Walla, which was super walkable. When we used a car, we didn’t spend more than 15 minutes going from winery to winery, so you can rent a car and have a designated driver if you’re headed out wine tasting.
Want to hire a driver to bring you to wineries? That’s also an option too! Walla Walla has a variety of different tours and transportation options, even including a Tesla winery tour. You can learn more about the different wine tour transportation options here.
Uber and Lyft are also available, but we didn’t use them during our visit. If I had to, I would have felt comfortable using those services in Downtown Walla Walla. Still, my phone signal was a bit weak outside of the Downtown area, so I recommend hiring a driver or having your own transportation if you’re venturing out to the wineries or farms.
Top Things To Do In Walla Walla
Hot Air Balloon Ride Over the Vineyards
When we visited in October, we saw a glimpse of the annual Walla Walla Balloon Stampede, a huge, family-friendly hot air balloon festival where you can view dozens of hot air balloons launch. Hot air balloons + the Blue Mountains, + Rolling Vineyards is a stunning sight to behold, and I think it’s worth it to plan a trip around this event!
However, if you’re not in town for the Balloon Stampede — don’t worry. You can either book a private hot air balloon or a shared ride at sunrise or sunset during your visit.
Visit Cordiner Glen (Narnia)
Located at Whitman College, you can enjoy a little oasis in the middle of Walla Walla by visiting Cordiner Glen (or, as the locals call it — Narnia). This is a small park, but one that is incredibly beautiful and tranquil. This would be a great place to write or meditate during the day.
Go Shopping in Downtown Walla Walla
I was surprised at how many incredible, locally-owned boutiques there were to shop at in Walla Walla, so definitely carve out some time to go shopping and support a fantastic local business. Some shops that I loved included:
- Walla Walla Clothing Company
- Book and Game
- 35th and Butter
- The Showroom On Colville
- Studio Opal
- Shift Boutique
Stop By Local Farms & Farm Shops
Walla Walla is known for their sweet onions, strawberries, and asparagus, and it was a pleasure to stop by local farms, pick up some snacks, and even enjoy small petting zoos. If agrotourism is your thing, definitely make a stop at Frog Hollow Farm and Klicker Strawberry Acres during your visit.
Catch Live Music or a Show at a Theatre
We didn’t get a chance to catch any shows during our visit. Still, Walla Walla is home to several theatres and also the longest-running symphony orchestra west of the Mississippi River. The Gesa Power House Theatre was modeled after the Blackfriars Theatre used by William Shakespeare in London, England, and hosts many comedy acts and live music concerts. It’s on the top of my list for my next visit.
Go Hiking at a Nearby Trail
Walla Walla is nestled in the Blue Mountains, and plenty of nearby trails are available for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced hiker, there’s a scenic trail for everyone here.
Learn at Walla Walla Museums
For our next visit, we want to visit some of the museums in the area. Growing up on the East Coast, I’m still somewhat unfamiliar with the history of certain places on the West Coast, and it’s always fascinating to learn more. For museum ideas, click here.
Best Restaurants in Walla Walla
Bacon & Eggs
Bacon & Eggs is a great, laid-back, classic breakfast spot featuring locavore cuisine and breakfast cocktails. There were so many great options here, and I think this would be a great pick, even for the pickiest eaters in your group!
Maple Counter Cafe
I needed a crane to lift me out of the Maple Counter Cafe. Their breakfast menu was extensive, and I had to try a little bit of everything! This restaurant is known for their gourmet breakfasts made from scratch with local ingredients.
Colville Street Patisserie
Colville Street Patisserie is your go-to if you’re looking for coffee or a sweet treat to grab before exploring the area. This restaurant was lively and busy, so plan on ordering your meal to-go or come early to grab a table to dine in.
Lunch & Dinner:
Looking for a quick lunch? Graze is your spot, and it’s a local favorite sandwich and salad shop. They have four locations and a drive-thru option, just in case you’re in a hurry.
In the mood for Latin American cuisine? AK’S Mercado is an eatery focused on smoked meats, tacos, and an eclectic mix
of global street food items.
Oh, we loved everything about TMACS. This restaurant has a sophisticated ambiance, and their dishes have an Italian influence and are prepared with the freshest local ingredients. This is a must!
If you’re a fan of handmade pasta (I mean, who isn’t?), then Passatempo Taverna is right up your alley. They have a fabulous patio for warmer days and incredible Italian dishes that everyone in your party will adore.
This was one of the most upscale meals we had in Walla Walla, and it was divine. The Kinglet is one of the newer restaurants in Walla Walla, and their menu is built to reflect the season and moment using local ingredients. I would opt for the tasting menu with the wine pairing to experience what this restaurant offers!
Hattaway’s On Alder
When I told the locals that I was headed to Hattaway’s for dinner on the last night of our trip, every single person nodded with approval. I’m from the South, so I am a bit of a harsh critic when it comes to Southern cuisine, but Hattaway’s knocked it out of the park. This restaurant offers traditional Southern meals with local Northwest ingredients, and the result is delightful. Everything on the menu is incredible, but get the pimento cheese and the duck fried rice.
Best Walla Walla Wineries To Visit
How Many Wineries Are In Walla Walla?
Did you know that Walla Walla is home to over 120 wineries? This is one of the many reasons I want to come back — there are so many more wineries to try.
One thing I love about Walla Walla is that so many different varietals are grown here, so no matter who you’re traveling with, you’re bound to find a wine you’ll love. However, the top five varietals grown in the area are Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. Not into red wine? Don’t fret — we sampled dozens of incredible white wines at almost every winery we visited.
Southside & Oregon Wineries
This winery was such a treat. For starters, the winemaker at Valdemar Estates, Devyani Isabel Gupta, is a talented woman of color, which you don’t find in the wine world every day. I had a chance to speak with her, and it was fantastic to hear how passionate she was about the industry and how approachable she is when she talks about wine.
The owner of this winery is from Spain, and his family’s winery was the first in Spain to accommodate all kinds of disabilities, which I thought was incredible. In Walla Walla, they’re working on developing more programs for folks with disabilities, which I admire.
The wines are exceptional here, and the food is incredible. They have a full-service restaurant offering tapas to snack on during wine tasting.
For starters: this was one of the most beautifully-designed wineries I’ve ever visited, so the ambiance is incredible. If you’re into softer wines, Grosgrain Vineyards is ideal for you.
One thing that I liked about this winery is that they’re not afraid to experiment with different varietals. They’re known for their sparkling wines, and if you can snag one of their Pet-Nats, do it — I’m currently trying to track down a bottle in LA since they were sold out at the winery. I also really enjoyed their Cabernet Sauvignon here as well, which is early ripening.
Rôtie Cellars is hyper-focused on Rhône varietals, and they’re exceptional at what they do. Their rosé was acidic and delightful, and their GSM and Syrah were also some favorites of mine.
This is easily one of the most stunning, unique vineyards I’ve ever visited. The views were immaculate, and I loved the modern design and the incredible playlists (because great music and wine are always a great pairing!) If you can do a tasting close to sunset, I’d highly recommend it.
P.S. this winery is technically across state lines in Oregon, but don’t worry — it’s not too far away from Valdemar & Grosgrain!
Westside & Downtown Wineries
The Walls Vineyards
Not far from Downtown, The Walls is dedicated to producing wines that tell the story of their roots. We loved the ample outdoor space here, considering it’s closer to Downtown: the patio here was gorgeous, and they even have a pizza oven in the back just in case you need a snack! Plus, this winery is open seven days a week, so you’re in luck if you’re in town for a mid-week wine tasting.
The Walls releases Rhône varietals in the fall and Bordeaux varietals in the spring (which I really want to try!)
Did you know that in Walla Walla, you can go wine tasting and give back to the community at the same time? Pretty cool, huh? Vital Wines is a nonprofit winery whose mission is to support better healthcare for vineyard and winery workers in the Valley.
How do they pull this off? Local wineries will donate either wines or grapes for Vital Wines to sell, and all of the proceeds from their wines go to the essential vineyard and winery workers. The bottle prices were super reasonable here, and I would highly recommend stopping by their downtown tasting room to support their mission!
Seven Hills Winery
Seven Hills Winery is an absolute must-visit if you’re in Walla Walla. It is the original working winery of Downtown and is one of the founding wineries in the region. Their focus is to craft Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines that authentically reflect their places of origin.
The wines here were exquisite, and I loved the price ranges they had here. We brought back several bottles to enjoy at home, and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for new releases. Plus, if you’re a dog lover, sometimes the winemaker brings his sweet pups to the winery.
If you’re looking for a downtown boutique winery, stop by Lagana Cellars for a tasting. Here, you can find timeless and unique wines from some of the best fruit available in the region. They strive to craft wines that are terroir-driven and expressive, and their wines are award-winning.
Abeja Winery & Inn
To say that Abeja Winery is breathtaking would be the understatement of the century. If you’re looking for a big winery with impressive views, this is the place. Oh, and also, the wines here are just as beautiful as the backdrop!
I don’t like to pick favorites, but the best Merlot I had in Walla Walla was from Abeja. They offer estate tastings from April-October, but you can set up a private tasting if you’re hoping to do an estate tasting in the off-season. This was an exquisite experience, and I would love to stay at their inn for my next visit.
P.S. — yes, they do host weddings here as well!
Want to enjoy the best Blue Mountain views with a great glass of wine? Tranche Estate is a stunning property offering one of the most unique wine-tasting experiences I’ve ever had: the ATV Vineyard Tour. With this experience, you can ride around the property in a luxury ATV, learn more about their growing techniques, and soak up some of the most incredible Blue Mountain views.
Where To Stay In Walla Walla
For our visit, we stayed at the newly opened Finch Hotel, located right in the heart of Downtown. It’s a cute boutique hotel. However, there weren’t a ton of amenities here — but our days were so packed that we didn’t spend much time at the hotel. We loved that the property was also within walking distance of dozens of restaurants, tasting rooms, and shopping in Downtown Walla Walla.
As mentioned before, I’d love to try staying at the Abeja Inn for our next visit. It is located about 10 minutes from Downtown on the Abeja Winery property, but it looks like a picturesque place to stay.
Why You Should Visit Walla Walla
Walla Walla was so charming, and I loved that it was such a laid-back yet elevated destination to go wine tasting and learn more about wine. I was blown away at how beautiful the area was, how many great dining options there were, and how many things there were to do in this seemingly small town.
I will definitely be back, and let me know if I’ve inspired you to start planning your trip to one of the best wine regions in the U.S.
Thank you to Visit Walla Walla and Walla Walla Valley Wine for hosting me on a media trip! All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Photos by Tom McGovern