Zillah, WA: A family gateway to both wine country and kid friendly fun
Central Washington’s Yakima Valley wine country calls to visitors from all over the world, and it’s no wonder. This area of the Pacific Northwest averages over sunny 300 days a year. In addition to nearly 2 million acres of rich farmland, the Yakima Valley is home to six wine AVA’s, with over 20 wineries in the Zillah area alone. When planning an overnight getaway, we soon learned that a Zillah, WA summer family trip also included relaxation, delicious local food, and kid friendly activities just beyond our lakeside door.
We want to thank the Zillah Chamber of Commerce for sponsoring our visit. Our opinions, however, are our own.
Why visit the Zillah, WA area with your family?
Along with our 7-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son, we made our way into Zillah on a sunny day in August. The town is just off I-82, and the state’s third longest river, the Yakima, flows a few miles away. Just a few of the things piquing our interest in this small town? Stand-up paddleboards, fishing, wood-fired pizza, and a massive farm stand.
When our homeschooling family looks for places to visit, we seek out destinations where we can really feel at home. We want the kids to feel safe. We parents also want some peace of mind knowing they can play and we can all adventure. Communities that provide easy access to nature and fresh food, and that have vibrant local businesses, stand out to us. With a population of around 3,100, the Zillah area was exactly the sort of down-to-earth small town that combined the right mix of culture, the outdoors, good food—and above all, a chance to relax for a night after a busy week.
Pick perfect fresh produce at Jones Farm Stand
Transforming 320 acres of sagebrush into fertile fields and orchards, the Jones Family began farming this area in 1946. Today, their on-the-farm produce stand was our first stop as we made our way into Zillah.
Winding past fields high with corn, we drove a couple of miles east of Zillah, noting every apple orchard. Along each road and line of trees, bins waited to be filled with the summer’s bounty. At the farm stand, Aster and Connor beelined to the nectarines, plums, and apples. Though staying in Zillah for one night, let’s just say it’d be a while before we needed more fresh fruit.
Paddle and fish a private lake at Zillah Lakes Inn
As the scent of fresh nectarines filled the car, a ten-minute drive to the northwestern edge of Zillah brought us to our home for the night.
Passing a small grassy lawn (where corn hole boards waited for Anthony and the kids to talk a little loving smack to one another), we stepped past the long, single-story Zillah Lakes Inn. We stood near a patio and fire pit for relaxing. Down a rockscaped slope, a small private lake shimmered. Trees and grasses lined the far banks. Co-owner Doug Lakman took a break from watering the flowers to show us to our room.
He led us past doors to other rooms. Most were on the rear of the building. Small patio areas made it easy for guests to sit near the water. At the far corner of the inn, the 800-sq.-ft. Yakima Valley Suite gave us just the peace and quiet our family was looking for.
Calm lakeside haven provides free boats, a SUP, and even fishing gear
Pam Lakman, Doug’s wife and fellow co-owner of the Zillah Lakes Inn, joined us to walk us through the suite’s amenities. The main room’s comfortable sleeper sofa was easy enough to use that the kids could prepare it and stow it. After stashing our fresh fruit in the full kitchen’s fridge, we parents stepped into our king bedroom. Views of the calm lake gave us the relaxing vantage we needed for our recharging Zillah, WA summer family trip.
Throughout the evening and the following morning, our family’s second home was the inn’s dock, and the Lakmans know how much their guests value being on the water.
The kids worked on prepping fishing poles. (Aster even hooked an 8-inch bass, but after a good leap it got away.) Connor tried out a SUP for the first time. He calmly paddled around the perimeter of the lake, yet always stayed in easy sight of mom and dad. Brother and sister took a paddleboat out onto the water for a little fishing. From shore we parents watched their fishing poles bob in the water while the siblings chatted.
Anthony paddled Aster around the lake on the SUP, and together we looked for fish and birds. Back at the dock, Aster had a go on the SUP too, though she stayed close, just in case. Jodie relaxed on the patio with a little time to herself.
It’s no wonder we soon found ourselves with quite an appetite.
Feast on wood-fired pies in a 1904 farmhouse at HopTown Pizza
Beside the road, rows of hop vines up to thirty feet tall wound up toward the sky on support wires. The branches of pear trees bowed from their golden weights. And just a little outside of Zillah, in nearby Wapato, something was not where it used to be.
The 1904 farmhouse where HopTown serves up pizzas cooked in its wood-fired oven originally was a quarter mile down the road. In 2018, after a few years perfecting their dough and topping combinations via catering, founders Carrie Wright and Lori Roy opened the remodeled location, combining a calming blue with the house’s original woodwork. Outside, the packed open patio and full parking lot said that HopTown was indeed a hopping local favorite.
Part of our draw? Sure, the large tea-and-lemonade combo of an Arnold Palmer cooled us right down after the hot day. And yes, the kids could share their own prosciutto-and-pineapple pie. We also loved HopTown’s tasty cauliflower crust, which cooked up thin and crispy, with a little char. Accompanied by a large Greek-style salad, we parents feasted on the Porky Pine, an herbaceous, savory combo including pine nuts, prosciutto, basil, and chunks of pecorino. But what really made this pizza’s star shine? A sweet, tangy balsamic reduction drizzled over every slice.
Other family friendly restaurants in Zillah
Of course, HopTown Pizza isn’t the only delicious game in town. Here are a few other Zillah-area restaurants we’re looking forward to trying on our next visit:
- The Chophouse sounds ideal for when we want a steak-and-burgers feast
- Taqueria La Plazita, word is they have an amazing taco box
- The Family Company has local renown for their excellent coffee and sandwiches, for when we want a light lunch or perhaps a wee family treat
You also never know what you’ll find just driving around. When a minor car issue sent us to the auto parts store, we happened to pass a little coffee place. Now, given Jodie’s love of violin and her background teaching music, there was no way we were going to pass up snagging a brew (and a berry smoothie for the kids) from a place called Fiddle’s Coffee House.
Relax and feel restored with a Zillah WA summer family trip
In the morning, we rose from the soft bed linens, and took advantage of a hot shower and the plush towels. As we packed up and headed out from Zillah, we were positive more produce bins had appeared in the orchards overnight. Apple trees seemed ready to start the harvest themselves. When we next came to Zillah, we made a note to visit the Teapot Dome Historical Site, and learn more about this whimsical icon’s serious place in American history.
As we wound our way out of the Yakima Valley, we realized that we were leaving Zillah, but Zillah was leaving us restored. It’s no wonder. A small town that lets you slow down yet appreciate the best in life? That’s an adventure we know will always be waiting for us in Zillah.