Favorite thing: Walla Walla hit its apex around the turn of the century (20th) and still has many beautiful buildings from that era. The oldest still standing school in Walla Walla is Sharpstein School, near Pioneer Park, built in 1898. It is in amazingly good condition. I now live in a state where public schools are by and large neglected due to lack of adequate funding, so it always impresses me when I see a public school elsewhere that is beautiful and in good condition. The schools we saw in Walla Walla were all in very good condition -- which is saying something about the pride Walla Walla has in the public education system.
Favorite thing: We didn't see a single California wine on any wine list anywhere in Walla Walla. They were mostly from Walla Walla or other places in Washington, and Oregon. Some wine lists added some variety with token French, Italian, Argentinian or Spanish wines. But no California wines. I was impressed by how the local businesses were so supportive of the local industry. As a staunch supporter myself of locally grown produce and locally produced products, I loved the fact that California wines were noticeably absent.
The red wine production of the Walla Walla area has grown by leaps and bounds in the last decade. The number keeps changing, but there are now about 80 local wineries. They are all small boutique wineries by California standards. This is a case where bigger does not mean better. Almost every Walla Walla wine we tried was excellent and would stand up to the best of California red wines.
Fondest memory: The Walla Walla area produces red wines almost exclusively. Some vineyards are experimenting with whites, with most of those bringing the grapes in from cooler climates. Many of the red Walla Walla wines are receiving ratings in the 90s by the various wine publications and reviewers. Many are also winning major awards.
The Walla Walla wine industry is still in its infancy. I predict that the industry will continue to grow in Washington. Walla Walla is not a heavy tourist area yet, but that will change over the next 10 years, as will the countryside, as more wheat and alfalfa fields are transformed into vineyards.
Downtown Walla Walla, which is tiny, has undergone a revitalization over the past decade, and efforts are still underway. Walla Walla retained its antique sidewalk clock on main street. Even today, the clock continues to be manually rewound every Friday. It is located near the corner of 2nd and Main, directly in front of the Grapefield's wine bar.
Fondest memory: When President Theodore Roosevelt visited Walla Walla, he remarked that Walla Walla was one of the most favorably impressive cities in the northwest. In 2002, Sunset Magazine named Walla Walla as one of the best places to live, largely due to the urban renewal efforts. In between those two points in time, Walla Walla slid into a recession and the downtown was neglected. Today Walla Walla is very much on the upswing, and its downtown has a variety of upscale boutique shops, wine bars, wine tasting rooms, cafes, and one major hotel.