One of the things I love most about living in Seattle is the vast array of weekend destinations that are just a few hours away from the city. There are so many gems to visit in Washington, and Ellensburg is definitely one that you will want to put on your radar.
Just two hours from Seattle, Ellensburg boasts a multitude of diverse activities. If you’re outdoorsy, there are many local trails to explore. Endless canyon trails provide thrills for hikers of all skill levels and the trek almost always ends at a gorgeous view overlooking the valley. During the winter, there is skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Ellensburg is surrounded by several ski resorts, the closest one being the Summit at Snoqualmie. I love soaking in all of the stunning snowy mountain views from the city.
Ellensburg is also the home of Central Washington University. The campus is gorgeous any time of year and just minutes from the historic downtown. Downtown is where I loved spending my time most. Full of bold, bustling restaurants, quirky shops, breweries, wine tasting rooms, art galleries, and even a rodeo museum, there is so much to see and do. Ellensburg gives off traditional small town vibes, while also embracing contemporary hotels and eateries.
During your weekend adventure, stay at the modern yet cozy Hotel Windrow. Recently opened in 2020 by Steve and Ruth Townsend, Hotel Windrow is situated in the heart of charming downtown Ellensburg. The hotel pays homage to the city’s historic country roots, with a rustic sliding door in every room that resembles a barn door. Inspired by its namesake, Hotel Windrow is here to provide a “critical time of rest” during your stay. Check out their onsite restaurant Basalt, which opens again in the spring. The views from the hotel rooftop are something worth seeing as well!
After checking into your hotel, exploring the beautiful CWU campus, and visiting some of the enchanting downtown shops, grab dinner and drinks at The Pearl Bar & Grill. I kid you not when I say that everything here is delicious. You really can’t go wrong no matter what you order. If you do need suggestions, then I highly recommend the gorgonzola stuffed dates and the artichoke dip to start. For the main event, we loved both the Ellensburg Blue Steak and The Pearl Mac & Cheese topped with bacon. Get a cocktail or two as well – they are well priced and so good.
The Pearl is a product of both a bartender and a dream. Owner Blake Collins opened The Pearl looking to bring a fresh perspective to the dining experience in Ellensburg. Lacy Bender is the Executive Chef, and is determined to blow the minds of everyone who steps inside. You will see the zeal that keeps this dynamic team trying new concepts and pushing the limits. We got to chat with Blake while having dinner there, and I can attest to the passion that he has for his restaurant.
Enjoy a cozy night at the hotel and then head to The Early Bird in the morning for some more tasty grub. Just one block down from Hotel Windrow, this breakfast spot has a more casual vibe, but has the same amazing quality as a gourmet brunch. We started off with some Bloody Marys and they were some of the best I’ve had. To eat, we had the Breakfast Burrito with Korean-marinated steak, and the Smoked Salmon Toast with hollandaise cream cheese, and both were delectable. I’ve also heard great things about the Nutella & Berries Waffle.
If you have time after brunch, go for a hike or scenic drive through the river canyon. The snowy views in the winter are unreal! If you’re a wine lover like me, then make sure to stop for a tasting at Ellensburg Canyon Winery. The views from the winery are gorgeous, and the owner Jason Reigel is incredibly friendly and full of wine knowledge.
I can’t wait for you guys to experience Ellensburg for yourselves. It’s a wonderful destination year round, but I really enjoyed visiting in the winter. I can’t wait to go back in the summer!