If you’re looking for a small town getaway that is fun and interesting, look no further than Southern Washington state. Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland are the three cities that make up the Tri-Cities region. The Tri-Cities area is the perfect spot to stay as you will soon read. It doesn’t matter if you’re into food, wine, golf, or the outdoors – there is all of that, and more!
Table of Contents
- 1 Getting to Tri-Cities Washington
- 2 Day 1 – Arriving
- 3 Day 2 – Walla Walla
- 4 Day 3 – A Nuclear Reactor and More Wine
- 5 Leaving the Tri-Cities Region
Getting to Tri-Cities Washington
There are a number of options to choose from to get to the Tri-Cities region in Washington. It’s possible to fly, take the train, or drive; however, all have different advantages and disadvantages.
Driving To Tri-Cities
Tri-Cities is made up of, obviously, three cities: Pasco, Kennewick, and Richland. They are situated in Southern Washington State. It is roughly 3 hours from Seattle and Portland. Spokane is just two hours from the area as well.
The Pasco/Tri-Cities Airport (airport code: PSC) is the main airport that you will likely fly into. There are a number of airlines that fly into Pasco, but there are only about 20 flights each day.
The airlines that fly to Pasco Airport, and where they fly from are:
- Alaska Airlines from Seattle
- Allegiant Air from Las Vegas, Phoenix-Mesa, and seasonally from Los Angeles and San Diego
- Avelo Airlines from Burbank (my flight review)
- Delta from Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and Seattle
- United from Denver and San Francisco
Seattle has the most nonstop flights with 10 each day. Denver and Salt Lake City each have three. Minneapolis has two nonstop flights each day, and the rest of the cities have one each.
Taking the Train to Pasco/Tri-Cities
Amtrak does have a stop in Pasco. The Empire Builder train goes from Chicago to Seattle. Recently I learned that it actually splits in Spokane on the westbound train, with one part going to Seattle and the other going to Portland. Conversely, the eastbound Empire Builder joins each leg in Spokane. Pasco is along the Portland leg. I haven’t actually taken the train to do this, but I imagine that they make a pretty big deal about which direction/destination each train car, or part of the train, travels in.
The train ride takes about four hours from Portland to Pasco, and roughly three hours from Spokane to. The train is probably a bit more relaxing and scenic compared to driving, but you will/should rent a car to get around the Tri-Cities area. Weigh your costs and comfortability accordingly between taking the train and driving.
Getting Around the Tri-Cities Area
Uber and other ride share services are somewhat limited, though they do exist. Expect to wait, and pay more than what you think it should be. Things aren’t super close to each other, so walking isn’t really ideal. As I just mentioned, renting a car is highly recommended. All of the usual rental car companies are located in the airport. You don’t need to take a shuttle or anything so renting a car there is quite convenient after your flight. Having a car will also give you the freedom to do whatever you want, when you want, which will always make for a less stressful vacation.
Day 1 – Arriving
Assuming you have roughly half a day after you arrive and get your rental car, head on over to the other side of the airport to Bergstrom Aircraft and take a scenic flight. From the air you’ll get a guided tour of the entire Tri-Cities area. You’ll get an idea from your scenic flight that the Tri-Cities area is full of history, agriculture, and viticulture. After the scenic flight, go to the Reach Museum. The museum will go into further detail of what you saw from the air. Personally, I found it to be fun and engaging – or “edutaining”. It only takes 2-3 hours to get through it all. Maybe less if not everything interests you, but that’s true of any museum.
I ate a lot during my week-long stay in Tri-Cities, but one place stands out to me for dinner. Porter’s Real Barbecue was amazing. There are three locations, one in each city that makes up the Tri-Cities. Get either the ribs or brisket. Neither will disappoint. The decor is basic, but it’s a barbecue restaurant – what do you expect? If you’re still hungry or have a mini fridge in your hotel room, the banana pudding makes for a very good dessert.
I didn’t have the chance to go, but the Proof Gastropub was also highly recommended to me – just in case barbecue isn’t your sauce.
Day 2 – Walla Walla
After getting breakfast at El Fat Cat (a taco stand located behind a car wash – I wish I was kidding), drive an hour east, along Route 12, to Walla Walla. Here you will experience a quaint small town that comes with excellent food and wine. No matter what you decide to eat or drink, I have no doubt it will be good!
Wine Tasting in Walla Walla
When it comes to wine, you can’t go wrong. I went to Three Rivers, Zerba Cellars, and Yellowhawk, but heard very good things about L’ecole as well. Every employee that I talked to at each winery had their own recommendations. Feel free to ask and create your own wine tasting journey.
Food in Walla Walla
For lunch, I ate at the Yellowhawk Winery. The food was delicious and paired well with the wines we drank. The property itself is beautiful so take your time to walk around a bit to take it all in.
I received two recommendations for dinner: Passatempo and Saffron. Both places looked really good and I had a difficult time choosing. It very nearly came down to tossing a coin but ultimately Passatempo won out. The homemade pasta was amazing. I’ll have to save Saffron for my next visit. Don’t stress as much as I did picking one over the other – they’re both winners!
Day 3 – A Nuclear Reactor and More Wine
The third day is quite full of things to do, but is split into two parts. If you have limited time, pick one or the other – they’re entirely different but equally a good time. The first part of the day is more historical, and the other part is more food & wine oriented.
B Reactor – A National Historical Landmark
For part one, head northwest, through the Richland, to the Hanford Visitor Center. There you can get a free tour of the B Reactor, a part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. Not only was is it the world’s first full scale working nuclear reactor, it also created the plutonium used in “Fat Man” – the bomb dropped over Nagasaki in WWII.
While I fully recognize the atrocities that occurred during the war, I also feel that it is important to learn about what happened. Taking a tour of a significant place, such as this, is doing just that. The B Reactor had a large part in changing what is now world history. Tours are mostly guided, and reservations are required. The whole visit takes about three hours.
Historic Downtown Prosser
After getting back to the Manhattan Project Hanford Visitor Center, drive west down I-82 to the town of Prosser for part two of the day. The drive is only about 30 minutes. The center of Prosser is small, and very easily walkable. Parts of it reminded me of an old west town in the movies. Eat lunch at El Buen Gusto. When you’ve had your fill of authentic Mexican food, wander around the historic downtown. You’ll find breweries, ice cream, and a good amount of street art. More importantly, the people you’ll encounter are super friendly. They are always willing to help figure out where you should go next if you ask. When I was there, it seemed like everyone knew each other.
If you have ever spent time in the Pacific Northwest (particularly in an airport), I have little doubt you’ve noticed Chukkar Cherries. Chukkar Cherries makes wonderful chocolate, nuts, and, of course, cherries. Everything is produced locally. Their flagship retail location is located in Pike Place Market, but their main manufacturing facility is in Prosser. Hop in your car and drive over – the stop after this is in the same direction from downtown, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Stop in to see what goes into producing these wonderful treats, maybe try a sample, and buy a couple varieties. Even if you’re not a big fan yourself, I’m sure you know someone that would love them.
A quick drive up Wamba Road, from Chukkar Cherries, is the Vintner’s Village. It’s a collection of wine tasting rooms that are all within walking distance from each other. Washington’s wine culture and notoriety started just outside of Prosser, so it makes sense that you would be able to go wine tasting here. Here, much like Walla Walla, you will find mostly chardonnay, riesling, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and syrah. However, other varieties are produced here in smaller numbers.
Wander around the Vintner’s Village at your own pace. Pop into whatever tasting room sounds good to you – reservations aren’t required, but it doesn’t hurt to have one. Take your time – wine is best enjoyed when you’re not rushed. I went to WIT, Martinez & Martinez, Airfield Estates, and Milbrandt. I felt that all of the wines were well produced and drinkable. Milbrandt also has a sit down restaurant with a farm to table menu that is paired with all of their wines. The food here is delicious! If you prefer something a bit more casual, WIT usually has a food truck as well.
Other Events in Prosser
It seems like there’s always something going on in Prosser. There is at least one festival or big event almost every month. Find more information on the Tour Prosser Event Calendar
Leaving the Tri-Cities Region
Frankly, I wish I had more time to explore and do more things. I’m sure I’ll go back as it is a pretty quick flight for me, from Southern California. The Avelo flight back to Burbank wasn’t well timed for me. Instead, I flew home via Seattle. If you’d rather not fly from the Pasco/Tri-Cities airport, Yakima is a good alternative. It’s less than an hour away from Prosser, so it may be quite convenient to get to, but the flight options are more limited.
I hope you consider Southern Washington state for a long weekend. Feel free to reach out to me to help plan, or if you have more suggestions to add, leave a comment!