Tag: adventure travel

Winery Yakima Valley

Tourism can be a transformative experience, both for destinations and the travelers who visit. While famous bucket list destinations are always fun to visit, under-the-radar destinations offer travelers the unique opportunity to see the authentic heart and soul of a place that can’t be found anywhere else (and hey, it doesn’t hurt to avoid the crowds either). 

Yakima Valley: The Palm Springs of Washington State 

When most people hear Washington State, the first thing they might think of is Seattle. Expansive rainforests made green from plentiful rainfall, bustling food markets like Pikes Place filled with mouth-watering aromas, and colorful street art are classic characteristics of Washington State.

palm springs of washington

But on the other side of the towering Cascade mountains is a lesser known side of Washington, a hidden gem, with 300 days of sunshine a year where life moves a little slower. Located in Eastern Washington, the Yakima Valley is famous for many things– world-class breweries & vineyards that rival famous destinations like Napa Valley, California or Portland, Oregon, hundreds of outdoor adventures and mouth-watering farm-to-table cuisine. Dubbed the “Palm Springs of Washington” by locals, here’s why Yakima Valley, Washington should be at the top of your bucket list this summer.

Washington Wine (and Beer) Country:

With five American Viticultural Areas (AVAs), over 120 wineries, and dozens of breweries, Yakima prides themselves on having something for everyone when it comes to quality beers and wines. Yakima Valley has remained more of a hidden gem when compared to more famous destinations, which means visitors to the valley can enjoy top-notch drinks and a fun atmosphere without all the crowds.

1. Wine Country

Seeing as the Yakima Valley produces over half of Washington’s wine grapes, Visit Yakima Valley DMO has winery tourism down to a science. Potential visitors to Yakima Valley can visit the dedicated Yakima Valley Wine Country website to learn about everything the valley has to offer from wine festivals to lodging near the best wineries.

While the wineries of Yakima Valley do not have the storied history or prestige of more famous wine-growing areas, there is still so much beauty to explore in the valley. Yakima Valley wineries pride themselves on offering their guests an intimate and laid back tasting experience where wines are produced for quality over quantity. The Yakima Visitor’s Center understands the unique culture the valley has and has created the Yakima Wine Pass where tourists can benefit from discounts for the best wineries in town while at the same time keeping the vibrant local economy alive. 

Picture this: A beautiful sunny day, relaxing in a ridgetop winery, holding a glass of the best Bordeaux-style red wine you’ve ever tasted. There are no crowds, you’ve made friends with the family that owns the winery, life is good. This is summer- Yakima style. 

Yakima Valley winery

2. Exploring Beer

If there’s one thing Yakima is known for, it’s hops. Summer is perhaps the most beautiful time to visit as hills and fields across the valley are blanketed with dark green vines heavy with the cone-shaped hop flowers. Under the warm summer sun, the hops bake, filling the valley with the scent of hops – lemon, floral, pine.

The Yakima Valley grows 77% of hops in the United States and ⅓ of hops worldwide, even out producing Germany, and these hops are shipped all over the world, meaning craft beer truly couldn’t exist without Yakima.

Hop growing is truly a family affair in the Yakima Valley, as most hop farms are third or fourth generation family owned farms. No one understands hops better than these farmers, who are practically hop royalty, so there was no one better to kickstart the brewery scene in Yakima than these families. Meghann Smith, the founder of Bale Breaker Brewing Company in Yakima puts it this way: “Who can you trust more to brew your beer than those who live and breathe hops in their everyday lives?””

In the past decade, breweries and cideries have popped up all over the Yakima Valley, pioneered by these hop-growing experts who really understand how to make beer an experience, not just a drink. Seeing a growing scene for beer in the valley, Visit Yakima created a dedicated beer section where tourists can discover the best breweries, tours and festivals to truly experience the Hop Capital of the World. 

Yakima Valley is known for its beer

Yakima’s Outdoor Adventures

With 3 major rivers, 109 sparkling blue lakes, 165 campgrounds tucked in the Cascade Mountain Range, and over 300 miles of mountain trails, the Yakima Valley is heaven on earth for adventure lovers. Locals claim that the hardest part about living here is deciding what adventure to go on first.

After you’ve had your fill sipping in wineries (is that even a thing?) it’s time to enjoy all the outdoor beauty that the Yakima Valley has to offer. There are activities for every type of person, from your mom who loves to sunbathe to your adrenaline-junkie brother who loves dirt biking.

Paddleboarding lake

Paddle boarding at Rimrock Lake in Yakima

The nearby Rimrock Lake is the favorite summer getaway of Washingtonians in the Yakima Valley. This beautiful blue glacier fed lake surrounded by the Wenatchee National Forest has no shortage of fun activities. A personal favorite for many locals is renting a paddleboard for a sunrise paddle across the still-as-glass lake and relaxing on the shore feasting on juicy, freshly harvested Yakima cherries. At certain times in the summer, the lake gets low enough that you can dry off from a swim in the lake by dirt biking across the lake bed. Once you’ve had your fill of the lake, visitors can head over to the Tieton River for some adrenaline-pumping whitewater rafting and world class fly fishing. 

Can’t make it to the Yakima Valley this summer? That’s okay! The Yakima Valley has also been blessed with an abundance of thrilling winter activities. Locals love to retreat to the mountains for a day of skiing in the Cascade Mountains, a cozy stay in a nearby log cabin and a snowmobile adventure in the Ahtanum State Forest. There is truly never a dull time to visit the Valley. 

Food in the Yakima Valley

Hops and wine grapes are not the only agricultural product that the valley is famous for– in fact far from it. Yakima Valley has long been crowned the leading producer of apples in Washington State. Seriously, Yakima practically invented the concept of farm-to-table and you do not need to leave the valley to find the very best food, wine and produce!

The City of Yakima draws visitors from all over the country with its many festivals celebrating the abundance of the Yakima Valley and the hard-working people that live there. The Taco Fest each May is one of the most popular festivals. Yakima Valley has a vibrant Hispanic community and some of the best tacos in the world that are perfect served with freshly brewed Yakima craft beer. Other festivals include Bottles, Burgers and Barbecue and the Fresh Hop Ale Festival.

Yakima Travel

The Yakima Valley makes some of the best tacos in the world.

A favorite childhood memory of many natives to the Yakima Valley is spending summer afternoons picking fresh produce grown in the valley. Freshly grown strawberries are generally the first pick of the summer, followed by juicy cherries in all varieties, blueberries, blackberries, peaches and apples. Not only is fruit picking a delicious and fun summer activity, it’s also a great way to support the community and farmers of the valley. 

Here at Solimar International, we truly believe in the power sustainable tourism has in making the world a better place. Yakima Valley is just one spot along the 6000+ mile trail that connects amazing towns across the United States. Learn more about other destinations along the trail and create your next dream road trip!

livingstone aerial shot with river

What exactly is Sustainable Tourism, and why should I care?

According to the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, sustainable tourism is the practice of acknowledging the impacts of tourism, both good and bad, to minimize environmental and economic damage while spurring job creation along with cultural and wildlife preservation. Here at Solimar International, we help destinations create a culture of sustainable economic growth, social inclusiveness, and the preservation of environmental, cultural and natural heritage. When discussing culture, it’s important to emphasize the roots of a destination, both big and small. Small towns in the United States are the backbone of American culture, and often have so much more to offer than meets the eye. Supporting the local economy of these areas allows for their cultures to be sustained and brought to light in a new way. As a traveler, you have so much power to effect positive change through the destinations you choose. One example is Livingston, Montana. In this blog, we’ll tell you why supporting towns like Livingston, Montana is the future of sustainable tourism.

The Last Best Place, and Why it Deserves the Nickname

Montana is the Future of Sustainable Tourism
Tourists skiing in Montana

Big Sky County with Big Opportunity

The state of Montana, often referred to as “The Last Best Place”, can be categorized this way for a few key reasons. One, the state is home to 10 national parks, most notably Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, and The Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Montana is known for its vast landscapes and serene atmosphere that create a sense of tranquility that is hard to emulate. Montana is the perfect year round destination with fantastic winter activities such as skiing, snowshoeing, and dogsledding, as well as summer activities such as hiking, fly-fishing, and horseback riding. Fly-fishing in Montana is world renowned for its top quality outfitters and Trout specimens along the Yellowstone River, while Big Sky is home to the biggest skiing runs in America. Out-of-state tourism generated $2.60 billion to the Montana economy in the year 2020, with the in-state revenue bringing the total to a combined $4.4 billion. Since tourism is one of the largest economic sectors in the state, it is vital to use this momentum to propel counties forward that otherwise may not see an equal share of tourists to their neighbors. 

Benefiting the Small Town

The town of Livingston has a poverty rate of 14.5%, compared to the national average of 11.4%. Many factors have led to this statistic, including seasonal occupations, lack of job creation, and marketing short comings. Small towns like this could benefit greatly from economic growth through tourism, and Montana already has the infrastructure set up. At Solimar International, we recognize the gap between what these areas can offer, and what is being projected to the general public. We work to close that gap by offering an extensive marketing plan to highlight what makes a destination unique. We work closely with the local job force to create a DMO (destination management organization), which aligns with the cultural and historical values of the area. 

Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Experience in Montana

Solimar’s involvement with the Lewis and Clark Trail

At Solimar International, we are currently working to promote the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail through the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail Experience. In partnership with the National Park Service, this website promotes sustainable tourism and cultural education through 16 different states. The website offers an interactive map highlighting different places to stay, historical sights, and activities along the trail. The site aims to educate travelers about the cultural heritage of the land, while also highlighting areas that may otherwise not get the same level of visibility. In Montana, for example, there are seven tribal territories, with the Lewis and Clark trail going through many of them. The website offers a great opportunity for visitors to learn more about Indian reservations, while also directly supporting their economy. Overall, in Montana there are 40 counties located on the Lewis and Clark Trail. All 40 counties offer unique experiences, but one in particular that stands out is Park County, home of Livingston. 

Why Livingston, Montana Should be Your Next Stop

Montana is the Future of Sustainable Tourism
View point of Yellowstone River in Montana

Outdoor Activities in the Wild, Wild West

Livingston is a small town located within scenic Park County. The town is along many visitors’ paths to Yellowstone National Park, making it a convenient destination. Tourism has been a tremendous driver recently in their economic growth, and they continue to capitalize on this momentum.  Livingston is home to world-class fly-fishing as it runs adjacent to the Yellowstone River. The river is world-famous for its fly-fishing, and is a tourism driver within itself. The Yellowstone River runs for 103 miles, all being designated blue ribbon fishing, meaning it qualifies as an extremely high-quality fishery. Fishing in Montana can often be described as “therapeutic”, as many who try it are hooked for life. Another outdoor activity common to the area is white water rafting. With many top-rated outfitters, rafting guarantees a thrilling experience for the whole family. Lastly, Montana is known for its “cowboy culture”, which certainly is in abundance in Livingston. Horseback riding adventures are offered daily, providing a unique experience to all riding levels. 

Entertainment and Museums in the Wild Wild West

classic small town settings in Montana
An image of town life in Montana from the 20th century

Livingston has so much more to offer than just outdoor activities. From museums to shopping and everything in between, there is something for everyone. The Livingston Depot Center, now a museum, was initially the first railroad launch point for Yellowstone National Park. It is now used as a cultural landmark to educate visitors about the history of the Yellowstone region and the animals that reside in it. Another museum is the Yellowstone Gateway Museum, commemorated as a part of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. This museum houses geological and historical artifacts. Famous local eateries include Mark’s In & Out, a 1950’s burger joint, and Yellowstone Valley Grill, an upscale farm to table restaurant. The most notable place to stay in town is the Murray Hotel. The hotel is the oldest in town, built in 1904 as accommodation for railway passengers. Some of the more notable visitors have included Whoopi Goldberg, The Queen of Denmark, and Will Rogers. 

We constantly want to create connections between travelers and the path to making an impact. If you want to learn more about sustainable tourism, and how it directly impacts the communities around you, visit our Institute for Sustainable Destinations website today. We’re also always happy to have a personalized conversation to discuss strategic planning. Contact us to learn more.

“We rely confidently on Solimar's deep technical experience and professionalism as tourism consultants. You always are exceeding our expectations.”
Leila Calnan, Senior Manager, Tourism Services Cardno Emerging Markets

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