Toppenish is a small, blink-and-you-might-miss-it town in the Yakima Valley in Washington. But don’t miss it. There are a bunch of things to do in Toppenish, WA.
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When I was visiting the Yakima Valley earlier this year, I came out to explore the area. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I knew I wanted to see as much as I could.
And that’s how I ended up in Toppenish.
It’s a quaint small town that’s a quick drive from other small (but slightly bigger) towns in the area. So, if you’re visiting somewhere like Union Gap or Yakima, Toppenish is somewhere to take a road trip to and spend the day.
I wouldn’t advise you fly cross country specifically for Toppenish, but it’s definitely somewhere worth checking out if you’ll be in the area.
10 Reasons To Visit Toppenish, Washington
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Go gambling in Legends Casino
Toppenish, and the surrounding area, is owned and operated by the Yakama Nation. Actually, so much of the Pacific Northwest is Native, like way more than I realized before going out there. So that means there are a bunch of Native casinos. One of which is Legends Casino (580 Fort Road).
When I stopped in, the staff was incredibly friendly. Like, way kinder than any casino staff I’ve ever encountered.
There are your typical casino games (slots and table games), plus a really nice buffet in case you won so much money that you’re in the mood for food. The casino has an all-you-can-eat buffet, including a seafood buffet and crab boil at the buffet on certain days. There’s also a food court with pizza, burgers, and more.
The casino also hosts events, like the Yakima Valley Bigfoot Con and concerts like the upcoming Gin Blossoms show in March, so be sure to check the Legends Casino calendar of events before you go to plan your trip.
Learn at the Yakama Nation Museum & Cultural Center
When I was growing up, we would always going camping for a week in the summer. Most of the time was spent doing fun activities like swimming at the beach or playing mini golf, but at least one day was an educational day. We would go to a museum and learn about the history of the town or the state. I think that’s so important. You should learn about where you are.
So, when you’re in Toppenish, definitely visit the Yakama Nation Museum & Cultural Center (100 Spiel-yi Loop).
The museum is huge, offering a ton of opportunities to educate yourself about the Yakama tribe. There’s an exhibition hall that showcases animals in the area, dwellings, tools, pottery, the treaty that joined 14 bands and tribes, and more. You can take a guided or self-guided tour. What you can’t take are photos.
The Heritage Theater, which is temporarily closed, and the Yakama Nation Library also make up the center. There was a restaurant and RV park, but those both may be currently closed.
Check out the Toppenish Rodeo
If you’ve never been a rodeo, they’re very entertaining. And if you plan it right, you can attend the Toppenish Rodeo (600 S. Division St.). It happens annually on the first Friday and Saturday in July (which, in this case, is actually the last Friday of June and first Saturday in July).
There’s music immediately following the 2 1/2 hour rodeo both nights, a beer garden, and more.
The first weekend in August is the Toppenish Jr Rodeo and the Rascal Rodeo.
If you miss it but still want to see a rodeo, the famous Ellensburg Rodeo happens every Labor Day Weekend in nearby Ellensburg. You can easily drive from Toppenish to Ellensburg and back in a day, so if you’re in the area then, add it to your calendar.
Explore the murals
There are so many murals in Toppenish. Like, more than I think I’ve seen in any other town I’ve been in. Toppenish is dubbed the “City of Museums and Murals” for a reason.
What’s very cool is a lot of the murals depict the town’s history. There are people who have made contributions to the town, ones for local stores, and more. There are over 75 murals in the town, and a new one is added each year on the first Saturday in June when a new mural is painted in a single day.
There’s a bunch of criteria for the murals, like they must be historically accurate from 1840’s to 1940’s and must be historically accurate to the area.
There’s a Toppenish Mural Guide that you can print and carry with you to assure you see them all. If you can’t make it to all of them, you can check out the Toppenish Murals online. You can also order The Toppenish Murals: Where the West Still Lives in paperback, if you want to keep a copy of the murals for yourself.
Toppenish has a really cute downtown area, which reminds me so much of the Wild West downtown areas you see in movies. Which makes sense. Toppenish claims to be “Where The West Still Lives.”
There are a ton of shops downtown, but, what I appreciate is they’re all small, local shops. There are chain fast food restaurants and stores outside of downtown Toppenish, but the main area is filled with small stores and restaurants like Kraff’s Clothing (111 S Toppenish Ave), which has been in the area since the 1940’s, and Taqueria Mexicana (105 1/2 S Alder St).
Quick note about Kraff’s. It’s offers a place where Yakama and other tribe members purchase blankets and other items important to traditional religious ceremonies and gift giving. It also cooperates with Pacific Northwest-based Pendleton Woolen Mills to turn Pendleton wool blankets into custom made garments. Plus, there’s a mural of the store in town (although, ironically, the mural above the store itself is not of the store itself).
Visit the Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge
If you’re into the outdoors, the Yakima Valley is a great place to visit. There are a ton of state parks and hiking trails in the area. There’s also a lot of wildlife you can check out too. Recently, moose were seen in Mount Rainier National Park for the first time ever and we saw Bighorn Sheep when we were driving through the Yakima Valley Canyon on my visit.
You probably won’t see any of those when you visit the Toppenish National Wildlife Refuge (21 Pumphouse Road), but there is a good chance you’ll see some birds. The park was actually (made for the birds).
Learn at the American Hop Museum
If you drink beer, you’ve heard of hops. They’re used to preserve and flavor beer. What you may not have heard, though, is that the Yakima Valley produces approximately 75% of the hops used in the United States.
That’s a crazy claim to fame.
Hops are actually used in more than just beer, though. They can be an ingredient in medicines, herbal remedies, skin care, and more.
If this is all very interesting to you then head on over the the American Hop Museum (22 South B Street).
The museum was started in the 1990’s and some of the material hasn’t been updated since then, so the process of how hops are harvested now may be slightly different, but the history of the hop industry and how it expanded from the New England colonies into the Pacific Northwest is still accurate.
Visit the Northern Pacific Railway Museum
The railroad was so important to the country. It gave people and products the opportunity to get from one place to another. So it makes sense that so many towns have a train museum. And not just in the Northwest. Our current hometown of Wilmington, North Carolina operates the Wilmington Railroad Museum, which focuses on the railway on the East coast.
What’s cool about the Northern Pacific Railway Museum is that it is actually the old Toppenish Depot. Much of that depot, like the telegraph room and bathrooms, have been restored to how they were when the depot was operational.
There are passenger cars, freight cars, and a steam train in the yard. There’s also a fully restored wooden caboose that can be viewed as well.
If you happen to be in town from Thanksgiving until Christmas, you have a chance to check out the Toy Train Christmas. Over forty model trains are set up and there’s a full-sized train that takes kids to see Santa. Hot chocolate and cookies are provided.
Play Ball at the Yakama Nation Sports Complex
There are a bunch of ball games at the Yakama Nation Sports Complex (61 Linden St.). Most seem to be youth or charity events.
The site also hosts tournaments like the Yakama Nation Treaty Days men’s and women’s softball tournaments.
There’s no schedule of events online, and no notification of if the fields are open to the public during the day. So you’ll have to just drive by and see if anything’s going on when you’re in town.
Go golfing at Mt. Adams Country Club
If you’re into golf, you’re in luck. Mt. Adams Country Club (1250 Rocky Ford Road) is an 18-hole golf course that’s open to the public.
If it’s too cold to golf outdoors, Mt. Adams also offers a golf simulator that you can rent by the hour.
There’s also a full service restaurant at the course, so you can enjoy a meal after you play a round.
Visit the Hands of Harvest statue
If you’re a fan of beer, you need to be a fan of the Yakima Valley (where Toppenish is located). As we mentioned above, the valley produces approximately 75% of the hops used in the United States.
In downtown Toppenish, there’s a Hands of Harvest statue (504 S Elm St) in Old Timer’s Plaza that’s dedicated to the pioneers of the hops industry in the area.
Indian tribes gathered the hops by hand, originally, and this statue (of a woman and a bucket with (presumably) hops in it) depicts that.
Find the Totem Pole House
So, this one isn’t really a reason to go to Toppenish, but more of something to drive by when you’re there. The Totem Pole House (115 S. Elm Street) is definitely a sight to see. Hand carved totem poles, carved by the home’s owner, adorn the lawn of the home. There are more than a dozen totem poles in the front of the home.
Keep in mind that this is someone’s residence, so you should drive by and admire it, but don’t stop and gawk and don’t take photos without the owner’s permission.
Christmas Things To Do In Toppenish, Washington
If you’re in town during the winter, you need to check out the Toppenish Lighted Christmas Parade in downtown Toppenish.
It’s the first Saturday after Thanksgiving. The parade, which features cars and trucks lit up for Christmas, starts on West 1st Ave and ends at the Northern Pacific Railroad Museum. Prior to the parade is the town’s Christmas tree lighting at the post office.
And, if you are there then, drive the handful of miles to check out the Christmas things to do in Union Gap, WA. There are a bunch of holiday events in Union Gap including its own lighted Christmas parade.
Road Trips From Toppenish, Washington
If Toppenish is just one stop on your Pacific Northwest road trip, and you’re looking for some other suggestions to fill your itinerary, we have a few options that are drivable from Toppenish.
There’s the aforementioned Union Gap (16 miles from Toppenish) and Ellensburg (56 miles), plus Tacoma (176 miles), Seattle (162 miles), and Issaquah (146 miles).
Which of these Reasons To Visit Toppenish, Washington are you most interested in? Let us know in the comments.
Shannon at FitLifeTravel
Monday 9th of January 2023
Washington sure does have its share of interesting named towns! Fantastic article!