Walla Walla, Washington: Galleries, Grapes and Great Food

From undistinguished beginnings as an agricultural town, Walla Walla, Washington has become a regional destination for food and culture.
By Joe Hart
October/November 2009
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Walla Walla, Washington is known for its sweet onions. You’ll find plenty at the farmers market.

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Before the late 1970s, Walla Walla, Washington was known for its wheat and sweet onions — an agricultural town in an agricultural region. All that changed when an enterprising local planted an acre of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Thirty years later, the region is home to almost 90 wineries and 1,600 acres of vineyards. Combined with three local colleges and a thriving arts scene, the vineyards of Walla Walla help to create a vibrant scene in this town of about 30,000 people.

Between the colleges and the community, the town offers a startlingly rich variety of arts programming. Walla Walla has its own symphony orchestra — one of the oldest in the West — and nearly two dozen galleries and museums. Another important institution is the Walla Walla Foundry, a large-scale design, casting, and fabrication workshop that serves some of the world’s most prestigious sculptors.

Because wine begs food, Walla Walla has upward of 75 restaurants, including several that specialize in local and organic ingredients. The Daily Market Co-op, a natural foods store in the city, also offers extensive local food offerings, and features special events at wineries to highlight local producers.

Walla Walla Stats

Population: 30,945
Median Household Income: $31,855
Weather: Four-season climate, with mild summers and crisp winters. Average snowfall is 17 inches.
What Makes It Great: Viticulture provides a unique agricultural focus. The co-op features local flavor.

Check out the other towns featured in the 2009 installment of Great Places You’ve (Maybe) Never Heard Of.

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