They don't call Yakima the Palm Springs of Washington for nothing. After a brutal winter on both sides of the state, Yakima is the place to be for warm-weather recreation. As an added bonus, there's no Seattle-style traffic gridlock, there's room at the inn (and it's cheap), and the food is so fresh it was likely just picked.
It's a great place to get outside and have some fun with your kids. Here are a few activities to get you started:
Yakima Kids' Fish-In
8 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. April 20 at Reflection Pond at Sarg Hubbard Park
A great way for your kids to learn how to fish. Organizers provide a rod, reel, bait and T-shirt for the first 1,000 kids who sign up online. The fish are cleaned and bagged with ice on site, and the pond is stocked with 6,000 trout. Cost: $13. For more information, call 509-453-8280 or go to yakimagreenway.org.
Highland Country Fair
12:30 p.m. May 31 to 3 p.m. June 2 in Tieton
Parade starts at 10 a.m. Saturday. Experience a real country fair in one of the most interesting little towns in Central Washington. Tieton has become an artists' incubator community, with a large warehouse space featuring a mosaic studio and event space, as well as a print shop and two art galleries nearby. There are giant, handcrafted glass mosaic murals, many featuring vintage apple box labels, all over town. Add in the fair and parade complete with floats, street dancing and the coolest dancing, prancing horses you've ever seen, and it can't be beat. There are food vendors, craft booths, rides, and the classic feel of a small town celebration on a big scale. See mightytieton.com for more information.
Cherry & Berry Days at Bill's Berry Farm
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the last three Saturdays in June (check website for exact days) and until 3 p.m. on the Fourth of July at Bill's Berry Farm, 3674 North Country Line Road in Grandview, south of Yakima
Put on your sun hat and sunscreen and take a hayride to the field to pick yourself four varieties of sweet cherries and one tart cherry along with certified organic blueberries and raspberries. After that, cool off in the shade with some lemonade, burgers or hot dogs, or try some of Bill's famous cherry or blueberry doughnuts fresh from the fryer. Visit the animal farm, ride the barnyard train or try the apple slingshot! For more information, visit billsberryfarm.com.
Noon-2 p.m. Wednesdays, June 19 to Aug. 14, in the Center Court at the Valley Mall in Union Gap
Crafts, games, face-painting, balloon-twisting, and/or character appearances. Free and fun activities for families. See shopatvalleymall.com for more.
Tieton Grand Prix
10 a.m. June 22 in Tieton
The world's only cyclekart race through city streets and in orchards. What little kid doesn't love a go-kart? These are go-karts on steroids, hand-built to resemble classic pre-World War II race cars like Maseratis, BMWs, even replicas of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. They roar around town all day, rarely at speeds over 35 mph, changing out drivers and stopping between heats to let spectators get an up-close look at these racers powered by Honda GX200 engines. See mightytieton.com for more info.
Cowiche Canyon Music and Monarchs Butterfly Release Party
September, exact date and location TBA
Every year, local citizen-scientists release dozens of monarch butterflies they've raised from caterpillars into the skies, which will fly south to California. Some have made it all the way to Mexico! The magical event unfolds on the sprawling lawn of a Yakima-area winery or brewery, with live music, food and fun for families. Learn about science while having fun. See cowichecanyon.org for more info.
Superhero and Princess Race for Kids
Usually held the first week of October, exact date TBA; Franklin Park, 2010 Tieton Drive, Yakima
Run a 5K or 1-mile race with your kids. Dress up as your favorite superhero or princess and fight back against childhood obesity. Music, bouncy house and food trucks. Each child gets a custom finisher medal, best family costume gets a prize. See rocksolidfitnessllc.com for more.