Yakima, Washington


After a few days of rain at Mount Rainier, and spending the night in a town with no stoplight, the blue skies and freeways of Yakima, Washington provided a nice change of pace.  Located in the Yakima Valley alongside the Yakima River, Yakima’s metro area is home to about a quarter-million people.  That’s big enough to have everything you need, to restock your travel supplies.  And since it’s only about 73 miles from Packwood, it wasn’t a difficult drive.

It’s easy to get around Yakima.  Everything lines up along First Street, and Interstate 82 parallels the main road, a few blocks to the west.  I turned down First Street and headed directly to the city center, along Yakima Avenue.

The A.E. Larson Building is just a block away from the center of town.  At 12 stories, it’s not the city’s tallest skyscraper (the 14-story “The Tower” holds the title, 2 blocks away), but its art-deco design makes it the most attractive.  It was completed in 1931.

Near the Larson Building, the Millennium Arts Plaza showcases local works of art.

The Capitol Theatre opened in 1920 as a venue for Vaudeville acts.  It later became a movie house, then was nearly destroyed by fire in 1975.  It was restored, with Bob Hope headlining the grand re-opening in 1978.  The Capitol Theatre is still in use, hosting Broadway shows.

If you enjoy photographing “ghost signs” and advertisements painted on brick walls, Yakima won’t disappoint.  I found this one on 3rd Street, just north of Yakima Avenue.  Take Yakima Avenue west…

… to the other side of 1st Street, and you’ll find an area of downtown Yakima that’s obviously trying to revitalize itself.  Inside the ghost-sign-clad buildings along Front Street…

… you’ll find several restaurants, facing the railroad tracks.

The old Yakima Depot is also here.  It was built in 1910, and was in service through 1971, when passenger service ended.

Find your way across the tracks…

… to check out these false-front buildings, lined up on a boardwalk.  As of 2011, most of these storefronts were empty, though a few businesses appeared to be hanging on.  If you go around the back…

… you’ll discover that those facades hide the guts of the buildings, which are made out of old rail cars.

After exploring downtown Yakima on foot, I got back in my car and drove south on 1st Street.  It’s mostly an endless line of fast food restaurants and car dealerships…

… but I was impressed by the big sign that towers over Westfair Shopping Center…

… and the nice neon sign at Hill’s Cafe in Union Gap (which unfortunately, appears to be closed).

The city of Union Gap was originally the city of Yakima. In 1884, the original townsite was bypassed by the Northern Pacific Railroad, so the city moved north — literally. More than 100 buildings were put on rollers and relocated to the tracks in “North Yakima”. Eventually, the new city was renamed “Yakima”, and the original townsite was renamed Union Gap.

Miner’s Drive-in Restaurant

One of the highlights of my visit to Yakima was getting a good meal.  Since I’m a thrifty traveler, I had subsided on cereal and soup for the previous few days, back in Packwood.  But in Yakima, I decided to splurge, so I stopped at the well-reviewed Miner’s Drive-In Restaurant.

This place is clearly a local institution.  The menu is huge — with dozens of kinds of burgers and other sandwiches.  The sign out front proclaims that it’s been the “Home of the Big Miner Burger Since 1948”.

I was tempted by the Teriyaki Burger, which includes hamburger, ham, and pineapple, along with lettuce and teriyaki sauce.  Just like many of the items on the menu, it’s expensive — more than $7 for the burger alone, and with fries the bill topped $10 — but it was a delicious meal.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s the time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive around Yakima, starting at Naches, then driving into and through town, down to Union Gap, and back into Yakima:

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