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Walla Walla, Washington

There is more than just wine

One of the many interesting life-size exhibits at the Fort Walla Walla Museum. Photo credit: Marguerite Cleveland

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Walla Walla is a beautiful town in Eastern Washington. It's internationally renown for its more than 140 wineries. The downtown area is charming and there is such a family feel about the area. 

"It feels like what it was like when I was a child, riding your bike to school and exploring with your friends," said Zachary Fraser, President and COO of Walla Walla Sweets Baseball. "If you were to build a town based on Norman Rockwell paintings, this would be it." 

So yes, you can have a family vacation in Walla Walla and slip, or should I say sip, in a little wine as well.

Heading into town, your first stop will be the Waterbrook Winery, for lunch and a tasting. This family friendly tasting room offers milk tastings for children. They can try chocolate, vanilla and strawberry milk while learning the nuances of each. 

The lovely grounds have large ponds and views of the Blue Mountains with plenty of space to run around. There is a full-service kitchen with farm-to-table food prepared by Chef Daniel Juarez from local, seasonal ingredients. Pair with a glass of Waterbrook's excellent wine. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sunday-Wednesday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday-Saturday, 10518 West Highway 12, Walla Walla, 509.522.1262, waterbrook.com    

The Hampton Inn & Suites Walla Walla makes a perfect base for your time in the Walla Walla valley. With a large outdoor pool, and breakfast included each morning, it is a win for families. The rooms are large, super clean and comfortable. 

It's a good central location to all the area has to offer. Plan an afternoon swim to cool off, and if the Walla Walla Sweets are in town, check out a baseball game - a very affordable evening activity. 1531 Kelly Pl., Walla Walla, 509.525.1398, hamptoninn3.hilton.com

Plan to spend the morning at the Fort Walla Walla Museum. This museum does a great job of presenting what it was like to live in the 19th century. 

From the 17-building historic pioneer settlement and beautiful gardens, to the five exhibit halls, there really is something for everyone. The most dramatic exhibit takes up a whole hall, and is a life-size 40-mule team pulling a columbine. You have to see it to understand how massive it is. Well worth the visit. Insider Tip: This is a Blue Star Museum, so it is free to military and their families during the summer. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily, 755 NE Myra Rd., Walla Walla, 509.525.7703, FortWallaWallaMuseum.org  

Head downtown for lunch and explore the many shops and restaurants. Make sure to stop at Heritage Park to see the wonderful "Windows on the Past" mural. It consists of historic and contemporary photos reproduced in porcelain enameled steel panels, which were placed in the windows of the 1902 Odd Fellows Temple and sandstone façade, which was moved to the park when the temple was torn down. 

Another must-see is Bright's Candies. They have been a local favorite since 1934. They use traditional methods to make their candy, and a viewing gallery allows visitors to see their old-fashioned candy-making techniques. 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday, 11 E. Main St., Walla Walla, 509.525.5533, brightscandies.com  

Take a drive out to the airport district. What was once a World War II base is now a vibrant business district with wineries, distilleries, art galleries, breweries and even a bakery. It is interesting to drive through and see what the old barracks and other military buildings have been turned into. If you are lucky, the Walla Walla Drag Strip will have an event that is sure to be exciting.  

For more information on planning your Walla Walla getaway, visit the official travel site at WallaWalla.org.

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