Tired of dealing with body scans and airport security lines? Opt for some easy (vacation) access with these quick getaways.
Ask any wine connoisseur to spout off their list of top varietals, and it probably sounds like this: Bordeaux, Rhone and Napa. Rarely will you hear the words “Walla Walla” tossed into the mix. But this city previously best known for glorious onions and housing hardened felons is now churning out world-class wines — and it’s quickly becoming a budding hot spot for American wine tourists.
First, book a room at the historic Marcus Whitman Hotel in downtown, an ideal spot to use as a central hub before setting out on tasting tours. The hotel features luxurious suites that combine classic furnishings with updated styling, and fabulous dining at the in-house restaurant, The Marc, which features renowned wine pairings.
The city has a handful of great wine bars (including the Vineyard Lounge in the Marcus Whitman) and all celebrate the rich culture.
But it’s no match to visiting the wineries themselves. The Walla Walla region boasts more than 100 wineries. Some are closed to the public (such as the legendary Leonetti Cellar) but the majority welcome tourists with open arms. Heavy hitters, and also most accessible, are L’Ecole Nº 41,Woodward Canyon Winery and Three Rivers Winery, which are open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day (excluding holidays). And part of the charm in experiencing tastings on site is the presentation — L’Ecole’s tasting room sits in a 1915 school house; Woodward Canyon’s is a rustic 1870s farmhouse.
Fall and winter weather can be brutally cold, and summer can be the exact opposite. So hit the sweet spot, weather-wise, in mid September, and take a break from wine tastings with a different sort of cultural douse, the Pendleton Roundup. The Roundup, located in Pendleton, Ore., is one of the ten biggest rodeos in the world. It’s an hour drive south of the state border but, trust us, the unique experience of the rodeo makes it worth the trip.
It’s only appropriate that the hometown of Bing Crosby, America’s favorite classic crooner, boasts one of America’s most revered hotels. And any trip to Spokane starts and ends with this one place: The Davenport Hotel. This exceptional and award-winning beauty has been the shining star of Downtown Spokane for nearly a century. In 2000, a decades-long roller coaster ride of possible closure and demolition ended, as the entire hotel and tower went through a $38 million facelift to restore the luxurious lodgings to its original stately appearance.
The lobby (as well as most rooms) is classically spectacular; its doorways acting as a portal to a hotel at the turn of the century — last century. But don’t worry, while it’s elegant and old-school on the surface, the entire property has been updated to modern standards and amenities. Eat the famous prime rib at the Palm Court Grill, and cap off the night in the vibrant Peacock Room Lounge, featuring some of the city’s best drinks.
Spokane’s other hometown hero, Basketball Hall of Famer John Stockton, has also helped establish the city as hub for hardcore hoops. Aside from tiny Gonzaga — Stockton is an alum — Spokane also is home to Hoopfest, the largest three-on-three street basketball tournament in the world. The last weekend in June, downtown streets and Riverfront Park turn into a basketball mecca for players of all ages and skill, and competitive divisions featuring even professional athletes. Take a break from the action with a trip across the border north of Coeur D’Alene for wild rides at Silverwood Theme Park, just an hour’s drive from Spokane.
In winter, another cross-the-border adventure is a day or two at Schweitzer Mountain, whose view of picturesque Lake Pend Orielle is one of the most breathtaking in the northwest. The drive is about an hour and a half, or roughly equal to Seattle-to-Stevens Pass, making for a breezy day trip. Stay in sleepy Sand Point, Idaho for a night if you want to pack in even more skiing time.