Burrowed in the golden foothills of the Cascade Range, the oasis of Wenatchee is more than a place to soak up 300 days of sunshine a year. Once a railway stop between Seattle and St. Paul, Minnesota, the thriving river city has become the backbone for Washington’s fruit industry—and a magnet for culinary crusaders who flock to the region’s 150 farms and orchards, 45 wineries, farmers markets, and restaurants. Now, as the summer heat gives way to autumnal warmth, is the perfect time for your pilgrimage
past thyme farm
Head just five miles south of Wenatchee into the Squilchuck Valley, where Past Thyme’s rustic four-bedroom farmhouse can fit the whole family. Help owner Tony with the farm chores, visit the adorable miniature Mediterranean donkeys and Soay sheep, and finish each day with a soak in the outdoor hot tub. 5224 Squilchuck Rd; pastthymefarm.com
Coast Wenatchee Center Hotel
This eight-story hotel at the northern end of Wenatchee’s downtown may not offer quaint country charm, but it puts nearly all of the city’s restaurants and shops (and three downtown tasting rooms) within walking distance. 201 N Wenatchee Ave; coasthotels.com
Taste the Harvest
Now in its 12th year, the Taste of the Harvest Festival on September 21 will bring more than 15,000 people to Wenatchee to celebrate the regional bounty with live music, dancing, food, wine-tasting, and a riverfront half-marathon. wendowntown.org
Kayak the Columbia
This far north, the Columbia River is far from the broad shipping channel that we know. Here, it is narrower, faster, wilder, and more fun to navigate. Rent a kayak from Osprey Rafting Company Paddle Shack and paddle northward against the current to the stunningly untouched estuary where the Columbia meets the Wenatchee River. Walla Walla Point Park; 509-264-1088
Sip the apples
Sample local fruit in fermented form at Snowdrift Cider, a family-run outfit that’s been growing its own apples since the 1940s. Be sure to savor the perfectly sweet-dry balanced Cliffsbreak Blend, made with more than 10 varietes of apples. 277 S Ward Ave; snowdriftcider.com
Pybus Public Market
Opened in May inside a refurbished steel warehouse just steps from the Columbia River, this indoor, year-round marketplace quickly established itself as Wenatchee’s default town square—as well as the vivacious hub of the surrounding valley’s food scene. Inside the cavernous 28,000-foot structure, 19 permanent shops, markets, and restaurants frame a central corridor for strolling and eating. Live music fills the air most days of the week. It’s a locavore’s take on the food court—self-contained and air-conditioned, but where everything from the wood-fired pizzas and roasted nuts to locally raised meats and olive oil are prepared fresh and by hand. On Wednesdays and Fridays, step outside to the farmers market for fruit, preserves, and crafts from 50 regional vendors. 3 N Worthen St; pybuspublicmarket.org
1. Pybus Bistro: Husband-and-wife team Frank St. Dennis and Michelle Lak, two Wenatchee natives who cut their teeth in Portland kitchens, founded this French-inspired eatery. Opt for seats at the wooden counter next to the open kitchen, and be sure to consult the four giant chalkboards for the rotating wine list.
DON’T MISS: Slow-cooked pepper piperade with poached egg
2. Rail House Pub: The latest addition to the market offers the perfect place to sample a rotating selection of local beers and ciders. don’t miss: The piping-hot döner kebab, a Turkish shawarma that’ll pair nicely with your brew.
3. South: With a balcony overlooking the market’s bustling ground floor, this two-story South and Central American–inspired oasis makes the perfect place to people-watch from above while sipping spicy tequila cocktails.
DON’T MISS: Basil margarita; Argentine steak & fries
4. Auvil’s Select Fruit: Begin your picnic-gathering at Auvil’s. With more than 1,500 acres of orchards, the 85-year-old fruit farm has finally landed in its first local retail store.
DON’T MISS: Auvil’s famous apples are flawless specimens of the classic fruit.
5. Mike’s Meats & Seafood: This family-owned butchery not only serves organic, grass-fed beef and chicken, it boasts its own on-site smokehouse, churning out homemade sausages and jerky.
DON’T MISS: House-smoked pepperoni sticks
6. Arlberg Riverfront Rentals: Rent a bike for the afternoon and cruise right out the door onto the Apple Capital Recreation Loop Trails for a paved, 10-mile path that snakes north and south along the shores of the Columbia.
PRO TIP: For extra calorie burning (you’ll need it), opt for the elliptical bike.
7. Rivet Coffee: Built in a remodeled 1973 Airstream trailer, this drive-thru (or walk-up) parking-lot coffee shop serves Seattle’s Caffe Vita brews and handmade pastries and other baked goodies from its local sister store, Anjou Bakery.
DON’T MISS: The unglazed almond roll and a cold brew coffee
Sommelier Smitt Rojanasthien points out four great Wenatchee wines to bring home.
←2012 Malaga Springs Chenin Blanc $15
Wonderfully dry with hints of tropical fruit, the great acidity makes this a great bottle for light summertime fare—especially shellfish.
2011 Vin du Lac Les Amis Riesling $22 →
This refreshing blend of Riesling, Muscat, and gewürztraminer shows bright flavors of green apple and honeysuckle with just a hint of spice.
←2009 Martin-Scott Winery Raven Ridge Red $24
This rich blend of cabernet sauvignon and syrah has lovely herbal aromas and a spicy palate of dried cherries and cocoa.
2009 Fielding Hills Syrah $38 →
Beautifully full-bodied and tannic, this syrah opens with aromas of blackberries and pepper that envelop flavors of currant and plum.
Hit the road
Pack: Don’t forget a picnic basket—you’ll need it to tote your market finds.
Hot Tip: Get thee to Ruby Marz Bakery in Pybus Public Market by 10 a.m. for a cinnamon roll before they sell out.
Soundtrack: Cue up some bucolic bliss with Portlander Caleb Klauder’s Western Country as you carve your way north through dramatic mountain passes.