Walla Walla is both the county seat of Walla Walla County, Washington, and the county's largest city. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 29,686. Walla Walla is in the southeastern region of Washington, approximately four hours by car from Seattle, Washington and thirteen miles from the Oregon border.
Whitman College, and the Washington State Penitentiary are located in Walla Walla. Walla Walla College is located in the adjacent town of College Place, Washington.
Walla Walla is famous for its sweet onions and is considered to have many of the best wineries in the country located in the area and is a popular vacation spot for wine enthusiasts.
Though wheat is still a big crop, vineyards and wineries have become economically important over the last two decades. In summer 2006, there were over 100 wineries in the greater Walla Walla area. Following the wine boom, the town has developed many top-tier restaurants and hotels. The Marcus Whitman hotel, one of Washington's finest early 1900s hotels, was recently renovated with its original fixtures and furnitures. It is the tallest building in the city, reaching thirteen stories.
Walla Walla Farmers Market
The world-famous Walla Walla Sweet Onion is another crop with a rich tradition. Over a century ago on the Island of Corsica, off the west coast of Italy, a French soldier named Peter Pieri found an Italian sweet onion seed and brought it to the Walla Walla Valley. Impressed by the new onion's winter hardiness, Pieri, and the Italian immigrant farmers who comprised much of Walla Walla's gardening industry, harvested the seed. The sweet onion developed over several generations through the process of carefully hand selecting onions from each year's crop, ensuring exceptional sweetness, jumbo size and round shape.
Walla Walla Sweet Onions get their sweetness from low sulfur content, which is half that of an ordinary yellow onion. Walla Walla Sweets are 90 percent water. That, combined with Walla Walla's mild climate and rich soil, gives the onion its sweetness. The Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival is held annually in July.
From asparagus and corn to cherries and strawberries, Walla Walla growers produce produce that's available to the visitors of the farmer's market throughout the late spring and through the late fall. There is also a selection of bakery treats, flowers and plants, creative arts, and craft items on sale.
Another historic creation that occurred in Walla Walla, specifically at Whitman College, was the birth of the trading card game known as Magic: The Gathering. Dr. Richard Garfield, the creator of the card game, came over to teach at Whitman College in 1993. He worked in his spare time with local volunteer playtesters to help refine the game during the 1993 school year. After releasing the game publicly, he worked with Wizards of the Coast.
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In 1972, Walla Walla established sister city relationships with Sasayama, Japan.
Walla Walla has experienced an explosion in its wine industry over the last two decades. Producing some of the finest American wines, Walla Walla is quickly becoming a destination for wine connoisseurs the world over. Many of the wineries have received top scores from respected wine publications such as Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate and Wine and Spirits magazines. L'Ecole 41, Woodward Canyon and Leonetti Cellars were the pioneers starting in the 1970s and 1980s. They have been joined by many noteworthy producers like Walla Walla Vintners, Cayuse Vineyards, Spring Valley Vineyards, Waterbrook Winery, Forgeron Cellars, Tamarack Cellars, Seven Hills Winery, and Pepper Bridge Winery as well as dozens more smaller wineries. Although most of the early recognition went to the wines made from Merlot and Cabernet, Syrah is fast becoming a star varietal in this appellation.
Washington State's Walla Walla wine region is on the verge of an explosion; not a cataclysmic event, rather an explosion of growth in the wine industry. Along with this development comes an increase in Bed and Breakfast locations, fine restaurants, and other supporting businesses. If you have not visited the city in the past three years, the changes are dramatic. In another three years, changes will be even more striking.