Blake Walsh

17 Best Things to Do in Ellensburg, WA

  • Published 2021/11/23

The city of Ellensburg in Washington is a popular tourist destination known for its small-town charm and rich history.

It is the seat of Kittitas County and home to Central Washington University (CWU).

Its ancient buildings and ornate facades may catch your eye, but once inside, you’ll find bright artistic traditions, celebrations of unique events, and vibrant eateries.

Our community has a unique flavor because of the mix of old and new that exists here.

The Labor Day weekend rodeo in Ellensburg is a well-known feature of the town.

But there’s so much more to it!

Ellensburg, WA, has a lot more to offer than initially meets the eye, even if you’ve never been there before.

Visitors visiting Ellensburg will find an abundance of things to keep them occupied and entertained.

You can find a flavor of neighborhood warmth at the area’s small shops and restaurants.

With the area’s diversified art scene, outdoor experiences, and rich local history, you’ll find yourself planning a trip to Ellensburg in no time.

Without further ado, here are the 17 best things to do in Ellensburg, WA:

Take Photos With the Wild Horse Renewable Energy Center’s Windmills

View of Wild Horse Renewable Energy Center

CL Shebley /

The use of local solar and wind energy is essential to the state’s renewable energy industry’s development.

From April to November, guided tours of the Wild Horse Renewable Energy Center’s almost 150 wind turbines are available.

The complex is perched on a hill and offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

View of Wild Horse Renewable Energy Center

CL Shebley /

Visit the 52-kW solar array, the wind turbine blades, the turbine engine, and even the interior of an operational wind turbine base on the Renewable Energy Center tour, which includes exhibitions and a 45- to 60-minute walking tour.

Also visible from here are the Columbia River Basin, the peaks of Hood, Rainier, and Adams, and the Columbia River itself.

Catch the Ellensburg Rodeo

What began as a local ranchers’ competition has developed into a professional yearly event with over 600 entrants competing for more than $450,000 in prize money over the past 87 years.

With a top-notch arena, the greatest cowboys and cowgirls from throughout the country compete.

On Friday afternoon, the show begins and ends beneath the stars. Under a bright blue sky, the tensions will continue to rise on weekend afternoons, culminating on Labor Day Monday in the Championship Finals.

The Ellensburg Rodeo is one of the top professional rodeos in the United States at the moment.

Check Out Local Artworks at Gallery One Visual Art Center

This gallery and visual arts hub, completed in the fall of 1967, has been serving the people of Ellensburg and tourists to the area for more than four decades with a magnificent place to produce, display and appreciate Central Washington’s visual arts.

It has a full calendar of changing exhibitions, including ten new ones for 2016.

Additionally, the center provides a range of quarterly seminars, a gift shop showcasing area craftsmen, a complete ceramics studio for hire, and economical studio space for artists.

Admission to the general public is free of charge at all times.

See Unique Works of Art at Dick and Jane’s Spot

Art at Dick and Jane's Spot

Michelle Baumbach /

Even though it began as an ordinary backyard, it has evolved into one of Ellensburg’s most popular public galleries.

Dick and Jane’s Spot, a quirky art gallery run by husband-and-wife team Dick Elliot and Jane Orleman, is a perfect example of this.

Dick and Jane, both avid artists, began collecting folk art sculptures, bottle trees, and multicolored light reflectors in 1978.

Art at Dick and Jane's Spot

Michelle Baumbach /

Their collection has grown since then.

Jane’s sculptures and paintings, as well as Dick’s brightly colored geometric compositions, now grace the gallery’s walls, alongside pieces by Northwest folk artists.

Join Red’s Fly Shop’s Fly Fishing Classes

Is there a better site to learn to fly-fish than the convergence of five rivers and several streams in Central Washington?

Red’s Fly Shop teaches fly-fishing in a primary, straightforward manner, and it’s a great place to learn.

Fly Fishing 101, Fly Fishing 201, and Fly Fishing 301 make up the Introduction Series.

Students don’t need to bring their respective fly fishing gear, but they should pack a lunch.

After completing the introductory classes, guests may participate in either a destination outing or attend a Specialty Class to further their knowledge.

There is a 100% money-back guarantee for all of its classes.

Pose With the Ellensburg Bull

When it comes to local art, the Ellensburg Bull is the town’s best-known sculpture.

At the Rotary Pavilion, just a few blocks from Phoenix Rising, artist Richard Beyer carved it in 1986 on a bench.

It has become a staple of lists of eccentric landmarks, both printed and online, both in print and online.

The seated bull, which was made possible by the kind contributions of over 200 local citizens, is neither attractive nor humanoid.

Photographers love it because of how well-built it is anatomically controversial.

Make sure to get a picture with this bull while you’re in Ellensburg!

Stroll Along Downtown Ellensburg

Walking around the historic downtown area of Ellensburg is extremely easy.

Cadwell Building, erected with a million bricks, Farmer’s Bank, the Elmira Block, and New York Cafe are other famous structures.

View of Downtown Ellensburg

Ian Dewar Photography /

Valley Cafe, Ellensburg Pasta Company, and Palace Cafe are just a few of the restaurants and breweries you may visit if you feel hungry or thirsty while strolling downtown.

Here, you may also pass by Gard Vintners, Brix Elevage Wine Co., Starlight Lounge, and Iron Horse Brewery.

Marvel at Street Art

In Ellensburg, one of the most exciting aspects is the abundance of murals and street art, most of which came from vintage ads.

Taking a tour around the city centered on art is one of the best things to do in Ellensburg.

It should be the first thing on your Ellensburg itinerary.

The Davidson Building, which is the city’s most well-known attraction, features a mural by Lynne McCowin.

Originally painted in 1889, the mural shows the town’s regeneration following the Great Ellensburg Fire.

Take Your Kids to the Museum of Culture and Environment

The Museum of Culture and Environment, housed at Central Washington University, devotes itself to establishing a dynamic and inclusive venue to exchange ideas, viewpoints, and recent research.

This strategy results in various exhibitions open to the public for free on Wednesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

On Saturdays, it is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and parking is complimentary.

Exhibitions will cover a wide range of themes such as Mexican folk art and the planet Pluto; Tapestries of Hope: Human Rights and the Arpillera Movement in Chile; and a Mammoth fossil unearthed in the area.

Experience Zen at CWU Japanese Garden

View of CWU Japanese Garden

alexis whiteis /

The Japanese Garden at Central Washington University offers visitors another experience on campus.

Washington’s natural beauty and Japanese aesthetics meet in this year-round, free-to-enter garden that welcomes visitors from throughout the world.

In this garden, the Japanese Consulate General has provided cherry trees. Japanese architecture, lanterns, statues, and a rock garden are all part of the experience for visitors visiting the park.

The garden reflects the friendship and understanding between Japanese and Central Washingtonians.

Go Winetasting at Thrall & Dodge Winery

Although wineries and vineyards have scattered throughout the Northwest, Thrall & Dodge Winery has been a long-standing homegrown brand.

A few miles north of Ellensburg in the Kittitas Valley is Thrall & Dodge Winery, the region’s first commercial winery.

One of Kittitas Valley’s most popular tourist destinations, Manastash Ridge, is at the confluence of the Boylston and Saddle Mountains.

The winery has stunning views of the surroundings and the Stuart Mountain Range and produces award-winning wines.

An exclusive tasting room, picnic area, and bocce ball court are available for guests.

Two suites are available to visitors for an extended stay.

Try Different Outdoor Activities at Irene Rinehart Riverfront Park

Located just outside of Ellensburg, Irene Rinehart Riverfront Park is a great place to spend some time.

During your visit to Ellensburg, WA, Irene Rinehart Riverfront Park is a great place to take a break from the city and reconnect with nature.

The Yakima River has a large bend in which the 117-acre park lies.

It has a boat launch and a volleyball court and picnic shelters, and pathways where you may go and swim in the river.

No admission fee is required to enjoy the park from May 16 through September 14.

The park’s remote control boat races from time to time are an excellent opportunity for families to spend time together.

There are also a lot of positive reviews about the park’s bird-watching and dog-friendly features.

Learn About the City’s Past at Kittitas County Historical Museum

Front View of Kittitas County Historical Museum

© Steven Pavlov /

There is no better place to learn about local history than the Kittitas County Historical Museum, situated in the Caldwell Building, completed in 1889.

This structure is one of the earliest structures in the neighborhood. The museum includes six themed rooms for visitors to discover.

Businesses, military, and automobiles all have chambers dedicated to their local relevance.

Meanwhile, you can find a home life exhibit in the parlor area.

The entrance and the primary rooms feature treasure troves of interesting objects, including headwear, gold mining tools, heritage items of Native Americans, and a collection of rock and mineral specimens.

Between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Mondays through Thursdays, the museum is open for visitors.

Explore the Legacy of John Clymer at Clymer Museum of Art

The museum features everything about John Clymer, a native of Ellensburg, well-known for his delicate depictions of a gentler time.

People praised Clymer’s Saturday Evening Post illustrations for their attention to detail and vivid depictions of the natural splendor of the northwestern United States.

He received several honors and accolades bestowed upon him across the world, including a Cowboy Hall of Fame inductee and the Prix de West.

The museum aims to collect, conserve, explore, and explain the legacy of John Clymer.

Posters, magazine covers, and a few paintings adorn this little museum with intriguing artifacts and anecdotes from his life.

The museum’s gift store has unique Clymer products only found in Ellensburg, as well as comfy seating and a tranquil ambiance.

Monday through Friday, the museum is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

On weekends, the museum is only until 4 p.m.

Picnic at Olmstead Place State Park

View of Olmstead Place State Park

Jon Roanhaus, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Samuel Bedient Olmstead and his family climbed Snoqualmie Pass in 1875 and arrived at the large, sparsely populated valley in Ellensburg, WA.

In the years that followed, the Olmstead’s built a thriving farm passed down through three generations.

It is now a 217-acre day-use park thanks to a 1968 gift by Samuel’s granddaughters to the Washington State Parks Department.

Picnic areas and strolling pathways wind through the historic gardens, interspersed with pioneer antiques and educational activities.

The park hosts a variety of retro-themed events throughout the year.

Hike Along the Umtanum Creek Canyon Trail

Visit the Umtanum Creek Canyon Trail in the Ellensburg region for a beautiful trek that won’t test your hiking skills too much.

There is a suspension bridge over the Yakima River, and then you may walk a route under some train tracks.

At the end of the trail, you’ll find yourself hiking next to Umtanum Creek, a tranquil running stream.

Different seasons bring forth a variety of gorgeous hues, which you are free to continue to observe as you see fit.

Flowers bloom in early spring, while aspens become a brilliant golden during autumn.

Elk and bighorn sheep are familiar year-round residents in this trail.

Go Fishing and Explore the City’s Water With Ellensburg Angler

To take advantage of the abundance of rivers and creeks in the Kittitas Valley by reaching out to Ellensburg Angler.

They cater to all anglers, and they have six expert guides and tours on five rivers and countless stream options.

There is no additional charge for waders or boots required for wading or fishing on a full-day tour.

Non-alcoholic drinks, snacks, and a gourmet riverfront BBQ lunch are all included in the package.

Lunch and refreshments are not part of half-day excursions.

They will require an additional $15 per person if you want to have a riverbank lunch included in a half-day tour.

Final Thoughts

Ellensburg is a bustling town due to Central Washington University’s youthful and cheerful feel while keeping its historical origins and hospitality.

Our list of the best things to do in Ellensburg is here to help you plan your trip.

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