Ellensburg's most unusual attraction is at the university's Chimpanzee and Human Communication Institute, Dean Nicholson Boulevard and D Street (tel. 509/963-2244; www.cwu.edu/~cwuchci), a research facility that stages what it calls "Chimposiums." At these programs, visitors learn about the primate communication project and get to observe several chimpanzees that have learned to use American Sign Language (ASL). The programs, held March through November on Saturday and Sunday, cost $10 for adults and $7.50 for students; reservations are required.
The Western art of Ellensburg native John Clymer is displayed at the Clymer Museum of Art, 416 N. Pearl St. (tel. 509/962-6416; www.clymermuseum.com). A member of the prestigious Cowboy Artists of America, Clymer is best known for producing more than 80 Saturday Evening Post covers. The museum is open Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm; Saturday from 10am to 4pm; and, May through December, Sunday from noon to 4pm; admission by donation. In this same block, you'll find Ellensburg's oldest art gallery. Gallery One, 408 N. Pearl St. (tel. 509/925-2670; www.gallery-one.org), has works by regional, national, and international artists. For some unique local art, cruise by Dick & Jane's Spot, 101 N. Pearl St. (tel. 509/925-3224; www.reflectorart.com). The house and yard are decorated with hundreds of colorful objects, including thousands of little reflective disks. However, the town's most famous artwork is the Ellensburg Bull, a cement statue that sits on a bench in a plaza in the downtown historic district.
Downtown, the Kittitas County Museum, 114 E. Third Ave. (tel. 509/925-3778; www.kchm.org), has an interesting collection of Native American artifacts, and a large rock and mineral collection focusing on petrified wood. It's open Monday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm (until 7pm on the first Friday of each month). Admission is by donation.
If you want to shop for some of the region's rare Ellensburg blue agate, stop by the Ellensburg Agate & Bead Shop, 201 S. Main St. (tel. 509/925-4998). But be forewarned -- this pale-blue semiprecious stone can be quite pricey.
Some 4 miles southeast of town, you'll find Olmstead Place State Park (tel. 509/925-1943), a heritage site that preserves a pioneer homestead of the 1870s. Northwest of Ellensburg at exit 101 off I-90, in the town of Thorp, is the Thorp Mill (tel. 509/964-9640; www.thorp.org), an 1880s gristmill open for tours from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Thursday to Sunday, from 1 to 4pm.
Anyone wanting to cool off on a hot summer day should head for the waters of the nearby Yakima River, which allows for easy floating. Rill Adventures (tel. 888/281-1561 or 509/964-2520; www.rillsonline.com) rents rafts, with prices ranging from $75 to $115 per day. The section of this river south of town, through Yakima Canyon, is popular with tubers and canoeists, and is a favorite of fly anglers as well.
The Gorge at George -- Although it is roughly 150 miles from Seattle to the community of George, Washington, the town each summer attracts tens of thousands of music fans who drive from Seattle and all over the Northwest to attend concerts (primarily rock) at a natural amphitheater overlooking the Columbia River. The Gorge Amphitheatre, 754 Silica Rd. NW, George (tel. 206/628-0888; www.hob.com/venues/concerts/gorge), is in a spectacular setting that's surrounded by basalt cliffs. Tickets are sold through Ticketmaster (tel. 296/628-0888 in Seattle, 509/735-0500 in eastern Washington, or 509/453-7139 in Yakima; www.ticketmaster.com/venue/122913).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.