If you haven’t made a day trip to Pullman, Washington, now’s the time to add it to your list. The Palouse grasslands are well known for their sweeping wheat fields and soft yet profound rolling hills. Photographers and travelers alike come from all over the nation for a chance to experience the beauty of the Palouse. It’s a distinct area in which the farm fields dominate, and small towns are few and far between, but if you look closely, you’ll find a few hidden gems, such as Pullman.
Sitting in the heart of the Palouse region is Pullman, Washington, a thriving town that is home to Washington State University. Pullman is the largest city in Whitman County at roughly 35,000 people. It was established in 1888 and as such, has numerous historical buildings throughout. Driving down Main Street, it’s clear that Pullman supports local businesses, with many unique shops, restaurants and coffee shops to explore. Pullman is very much a college town, but that college is committed to the farmlands that surround it. It’s peaceful and serene but has enough going on to make it a compelling stop for a day-trip. Join me as I spend a day in Pullman!
But First, Coffee
I find that coffee shops are a wonderful resource when visiting a new town. Aside from properly caffeinating your next adventure, they’re great places to gain a sense of the community. You can make casual chit chat with your fellow coffee consumers, or simply sit back and observe. My husband Eric and I stopped into Roost Coffee & Market on Spring St. for a morning pick me up. Housed in a historic building with vines creeping up the side and a carved metal sign, Roost looks welcoming and intriguing. We walked through their double French doors and found the inside was every bit as charming as the outside. Numerous plants adorn the interior and polished dark wood tables give off a rustic yet modern vibe. The lovely front patio adds additional seating options and is perfect in warm weather. A well-lit pastry case shows off the day’s baked goods and makes them difficult to resist.
We were greeted by a friendly barista who explained that they always serve local roaster Landgrove Coffee on the bar. I ordered a maple scone and cappuccino and both were exceptional. Eric went with their delicious quiche and a macchiato. The espresso was a dark roast with chocolate notes and a bit of smokiness. The creaminess of the milk in the cappuccino balanced it out nicely. A great start to the day so far.
After breakfast, a trip to Lawson Gardens was in the books. Lawson Gardens is a well-manicured park with two separate gardens, a reflective pool and gazebo. If you visit in early summer, the rose garden will be coming into bloom. It showcases 600 species of roses, an impressive number considering its relatively small size. On the east side of the park lies a perennial garden. Terraced lawns and stairs define the center of the park and add a satisfying visual symmetry to the space. Though not huge, Lawson Gardens is packed with beautiful plants and open space. It’s also adjacent to Kruegal Park, a larger space with more traditional park facilities like a playground and baseball field.
Washington State University Arboretum
For a longer hike, head over to the Washington State University Arboretum. With 100 acres of space, the hiking trails take you through natural groves of Aspen and open grassland. Wildflowers adorn the grasslands in spring and early summer, and they include Lupine, Yarrow, Wild Flax and Sticky Geranium. Native bird species can be observed, as well as occasional wildlife sightings. During my hike here I saw several Black-Billed Magpie, two California Quail and a tiny brown rabbit. It can get quite hot, so be sure to wear sunscreen and drink plenty of water.
Ferdinand’s Ice Cream
After hiking at the WSU Arboretum, a trip to Ferdinand’s Ice Cream Shoppe is a must. Located on the WSU campus, Ferdinand’s opened in 1948 and has been popular ever since. They offer gourmet ice cream and award-winning Cougar Gold Cheese. As an ice cream lover, I have to say that Ferdinand’s is now my all-time favorite that I’ve had.
I ordered the Tin Lizzy Classic and Cappuccino Chip, a combination that both myself and my server highly recommend. The creamy and smooth texture combined with their sharp flavors made my two scoops out of this world. My husband ordered the Cougar Tracks and Blackberry Ripple and was equally impressed by their flavors. The interior of Ferdinand’s has an old-fashioned soda fountain look, with plenty of open seating. A portion of the proceeds from Ferdinand’s goes to supporting the education of Food Science students.
Washington State University has a gorgeous campus, and it’s well worth taking some time to tour it. The center of campus features a historic section, including the Bryan Hall Clocktower built in 1909. The building itself is highly eclectic in terms of its architecture, but the Clocktower portion was built in Italian Campanile style. You’ll come across many interesting sculpture art pieces woven throughout the campus so be sure to keep an eye out for them.
Lunch at Lumber Yard Food Hall
There are plenty of interesting options for lunch in Pullman. The historic downtown has a wide variety of restaurants ranging from modern Greek cuisine at the Black Cypress to ramen at O-Ramen. I was particularly curious about Lumber Yard Food Hall, which was opened in a former lumber yard facility. Since late 2018, they’ve offered an interesting self-service food hall that appeals to families and college students alike.
The space itself is fantastic. With warm wooden arched ceilings, modern industrial hanging lights, a large outdoor patio and a communal feel, it’s an ideal spot for groups. There’s ample seating, a coffee stand, a full bar, and food options which range from grain bowls to ice cream to fried chicken. On the ground level, a children’s playground sits in the corner as a great spot for families. Upstairs offers great views of the entire facility, comfortable couches and an outdoor balcony.
After lunch we took some time to peruse downtown Pullman. There’s such a charm to Pullman’s historic district and plenty of interesting local shops to visit like the Palouse Country Candy shop or Palouse Games. During summer on Wednesdays there is a farmer’s market downtown from 3:30 – 6:30 p.m. For an afternoon pick me up, stop into Thomas Hammer Coffee Roasters on Main St. Not only do they have amazing coffee, there is an eclectic mural on the exterior called ‘Skyhorses’ by Patrick Siler that is well worth checking out. From there, you can access the Downtown Riverwalk, a half mile trail that takes you along the South fork of the Palouse River. In addition to being a great way to navigate downtown, you’ll happen across several interesting bridges and the old Pullman Northern Pacific Railroad Depot.
Paradise Creek Brewery
To finish off the day in Pullman I wanted to visit a local brewery. Paradise Creek Brewery in downtown is a gem of a local spot, located in a unique historic building. In addition to producing impressive beer, the brewery is housed in the Old Post Office, which was built in 1930. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and much of the original detail and styling has been retained. The interior is spacious with warm wood paneling lining the walls and detailed crown molding. In their lobby, the original marble floors and historic service windows are on display along with plenty of beer barrels.
Paradise Creek Brewery offers everything from Stouts, Porters and IPAs to Blondes and Sours. I found that they do very well with each style representation with my favorite being their After Dark – Dark Lager. It was full of caramel, chocolate and malt but well balanced and rather refreshing. Paradise Creek Brewery treats their beer with a special enzyme which reduces the amount of gluten in it. While not technically gluten-free, this process makes their beer much more friendly to those who suffer from gluten intolerance. On the food front they also offer a range of appetizers, salads, burgers and entrees.