What Do Yakima and Palm Springs Have in Common?

They’ve both got sun, but how does the "Palm Springs of Washington" compare to the real deal?

By Leslie Kelly


May 1, 2018

This article originally appeared in the May 2018 issue of Seattle Magazine.

This article appears in print in the May 2018 issue, as part of the “Sunny Getaways” cover story. Click here to subscribe.

Driving east on Interstate 82, you can’t miss the sign welcoming visitors to Yakima: “The Palm Springs of Washington” (erected many years ago by an enthusiastic resident). It probably prompts many a giggle because, come on…these two high-desert cities are worlds apart. Or are they? We found some surprising similarities.

Retro Cool 
The past is alive and well in both sun-drenched cities, from the vintage neon masterpieces in downtown Yakima—the twirling hunter at The Sports Center Restaurant and Bar—to the mid-century modern homes and buildings that define the popular Southern California vacation destination. 

In Palm Springs, immerse yourself in the town’s architecture with a tour (try the Martini and MidCentury Architecture Tour offered by Palm Springs Mod Squad) or by hitting the bar at the newly refurbished Melvyn’s, a classic watering hole where Frank Sinatra used to hang. There’s also a blast from the past at Copley’s on Palm Canyon, a former hotel that was part of the late film legend Cary Grant’s estate. 

In Yakima, visit the charming Johnson Orchards farm stand, which has been helping locals and visitors stock up on just-picked fruits and veggies since the early 1900s. And spend the night at The Hotel Maison, housed in a 1911 building that started its life as a lodge for the Freemasons.

Breakfast on the patio at Melvyn’s (Photographs by Steve Kepple/Ingleside Inn); Spectacular views from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (Photo by alm Springs Aerial Tramway)

In Palm Springs, poolside drinks at El Jefe. Photograph by The Saguaro Palm Springs. 

The Sun drenched rooftop pool at The Rowan. Photograph by Laure Joliet. 

The Tropicale, the perfect spot for happy hour drinks. Photograph by Tropicale.

Natural Beauty
Get an overview of the stunning desert scenery on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. The Coachella Valley, now forever associated with an over-the-top music festival, is also home to some brilliant trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. Take the mile loop at Andreas Canyon, located on the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Reservation for a fragrant tour of more than 100 desert plant species. 

In the Yakima Valley, vineyards—often growing along the Yakima River—are a green oasis among the sagebrush. Tour the vineyards on your own, or stay at Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast and Barn in nearby Zillah, which offers wine tours that have you saddle up and go sipping. 

Both cities are an easy drive from two of the country’s most popular national parks. In Palm Springs, go bouldering or meander toward Hidden Valley in stunning Joshua Tree National Park. In Yakima, see Mount Rainier’s “backside” by taking Highway 12 over White Pass. 

Vineyards near the Gilbert Cellars winery which has a tasting room in town. Photograph by Grit City Photography. 

Guests at Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast and Barn saddle up for a vineyard ride. Photograph by Cherry Wood. 

Awesome Mexican Fare
The humble taco has been elevated to superstar status at the hipster hangout El Jefe, in Palm Springs’ most retina-challengingly colorful (some say garish) hotel, the Saguaro. Don’t miss the fiery chipotle-remoulade-drizzled Baja fish tacos, followed by a swig of the exceptional watermelon margarita. 

And just down the road from Yakima, loyal customers have been digging into the legendary signature dish at Los Hernández Tamales, a recipient of the 2018 James Beard Foundation’s America’s Classics award, for decades. Start the day in front of a steaming plate of the best chilaquiles at Antojitos Mexicanos, where every meal is served with a rainbow of outstanding house-made salsas.

Happy-hour Heaven
These aren’t your granny’s early-bird specials. Stiff drinks and serious pours are a big deal at every single restaurant in Palm Springs, with The Tropicale leading the list of essential spots to hit up for discounted drinks. Sit outside among the palms for the daily happy hour, from 4 to 7 p.m. The Rowan, a gorgeous new high-rise hotel, serves complimentary beer and wine for its guests every afternoon. 

Wine rules in downtown Yakima, which is home to half a dozen tasting rooms, including those of Gilbert Cellars and Kana Winery, where the prices drop for glass pours in the early evening hours. 

Photographs by Grass Roots (sports center); Rachel Elizabeth-Suhm (tamales). his retro neon sign outside The Sports Center in Yakima wouldn’t be out of place in Palm Springs; The award winning tamales at Los Hernandez Tamales

Let’s raise a glass and toast these two sort of similar cities, both of which are fun to visit when you’re starved for a little sunshine. 

Photograph by Hotel Maison. Hotel Maison was once a lodge for the Freemasons

Getting there: Palm Springs: Palm Springs is a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Seattle; Alaska Airlines and Delta offer direct flights.
Getting there: Yakima: Yakima is about 150 miles and a two-and-a-half-hour drive east of Seattle

Sun meter: On average, Palm Springs gets 271 sunny days a year.
Sun meter: On average, Yakima gets 199 sunny days a year.


Palm Springs
Copley’s on Palm Canyon, 621 N Palm Canyon Drive; 760.327.9555
El Jefe, 1800 E Palm Canyon Drive; 760.323.1711
Melvyn’s Restaurant & Lounge, 200 W Ramon Road; 760.325.2323
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, 1 Tram Way; 888.515.8726
Palm Springs Mod Squad
The Rowan, 100 W Tahquitz Canyon Way; 760.904.5015. From about $200. 
The Tropicale, 330 E Amado Road; 760.866.1952

Yakima and nearby
Antojitos Mexicanos, 3512 Summitview Ave.; 509.248.2626
Cherry Wood Bed, Breakfast and Barn, Zillah, 3271 Roza Drive; 509.829.3500
Gilbert Cellars, 5 N Front St.; 509.249.9049
The Hotel Maison, 321 E Yakima Ave.; 509.571.1900. From $150.
Johnson Orchards, 4906 Summitview Ave.; 509.966.7479 
Kana Winery, 10 S Second St.; 509.453.6611
Los Hernández Tamales, Union Gap, 3706 Main St.; 509.457.6003
The Sports Center Restaurant and Bar, 214 E Yakima Ave.; 509.453.4647

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