50 miles E of Richland/Pasco/Kennewick, 155 miles S of Spokane, 39 miles NE of Pendleton
Although Walla Walla was for a long time best known as the home of the Walla Walla sweet onion, in recent years the buzz around town has been generated more by red wines than by white onions. New wineries have been popping up as fast as champagne corks on New Year's Eve, making this town the single best destination in the state for a few days of wine touring. The explosion of wineries has also brought on a downtown renaissance, with a restored historic hotel, excellent restaurants, and a few wine bars.
Before there was wine, it was onions that made Walla Walla famous (well, maybe not exactly famous). The Walla Walla onion is a big sweet variety, similar to the Vidalia onion of Georgia, and owes its sweetness not to sugar, but to a high-water and low-sulfur content. These onions, which can weigh as much as 2 pounds, are legendary around the Northwest as the best onions for burgers at summer barbecues. Between June and August, produce stands in the area sell big bags of these sweet onions.
This is also a college town with three schools of higher learning: Walla Walla College, Whitman College, and Walla Walla Community College. Due in large part to these colleges, the town wears a rather cultured air. The town's residential streets, lined with stately old homes and large shade trees, add yet another layer to Walla Walla's character. A stroll or drive through the town's old neighborhoods conjures up times past, when the pace of life was slower.
Walla Walla is one of the oldest communities in the Northwest and was the site of both an early mission and one of the region's first forts. Before white settlers arrived, the area was home to several Indian tribes from which the town's name, which means "many waters" or "small, rapid streams," is derived.