🇺🇸 Walla Walla is the largest city and county seat of Walla Walla County, Washington, United States. The population of the wider area includes the city and its two suburbs, the town of College Place and unincorporated Walla Walla East. Walla Walla is in the south-eastern region of Washington, approximately four hours away from Portland, Oregon, and four and half hours from Seattle. It is located only 6 mi (10 km) north of the Oregon border.
Agriculture Wheat is an important crop, and vineyards and wineries have become economically important over the last three decades. In summer 2020, there were over 120 wineries in the greater Walla Walla area. Following the wine boom, the town has developed several fine dining establishments and luxury hotels. The Marcus Whitman Hotel, originally opened in 1928, was renovated with original fixtures and furniture. It is the tallest building in the city, at 13 stories. The 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 selecting onions from each year's crop, targeting sweetness, size and round shape. The Walla Walla Sweet Onion is designated under federal law as a protected agricultural crop. In 2007 the Walla Walla Sweet Onion became Washington's official state vegetable. There is also a Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival, held annually in July. Walla Walla Sweet Onions have low sulfur content (about half that of an ordinary yellow onion) and are 90 percent water. Walla Walla currently has two farmers markets, both held from May until October. The first is located on the corner of 4th and Main, and is coordinated by the Downtown Walla Walla Foundation. The other is at the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds on S. Ninth Ave, run by the WW Valley Farmer's Market.
Wine industry Walla Walla has experienced an expansion in its wine industry in recent decades, culminating in the area being named "Best Wine Region (2020)" in USA Today's Reader Choice Awards. Several local wineries have received top scores from wine publications such as Wine Spectator, The Wine Advocate and Wine and Spirits. Leonetti Cellar, Woodward Canyon, L'Ecole 41, Waterbrook Winery and Seven Hills Winery were the pioneers starting in the 1970s and 1980s. 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. Overall, there are more than 120 wineries in the Walla Walla area, which collectively generate over $100 million for the valley annually.
Walla Walla Community College offers an associate degree (AAAS) in winemaking and grape growing through its Center for Enology and Viticulture, which operates its own commercial winery, College Cellars. One challenge to growing grapes in Walla Walla Valley is the risk of a killing freeze during the winter. On average these happen once every six or seven years; the penultimate occurrence (in 2004) destroyed about 75% of the wine grape crop in the valley. In November 2010 the valley was again hit with a killing frost, leading to a 28% decline in Cabernet Sauvignon production, a 20% decline in red grape production, and an overall decline in production of 11% (red and white varietals).
Corrections industry The second-largest prison in Washington, after nearby Coyote Ridge Corrections Center in Connell, is the Washington State Penitentiary (WSP) located in Walla Walla, at 1313 North 13th. Originally opened in 1886, it now houses about 2,000 offenders. In addition, there are about 1000 staff members. In 2005, the financial benefit to the local economy was estimated to be about $55 million through salaries, medical services, utilities, and local purchases. The penitentiary is undergoing an extensive expansion project that will increase the prison capacity to 2,500 violent offenders and double the staff size.
Healthcare Walla Walla is served by two health care institutions: St. Mary Medical Center (part of the Catholic Providence Health System) and the Jonathan M. Wainwright Veteran's Affairs Medical Center on the grounds of the old Fort Walla Walla and WWII training facility.
Transportation Transportation to Walla Walla includes service by air through Walla Walla Regional Airport, several railroads, and highway access primarily from U.S. Route 12. The Washington State Department of Transportation is engaged in a long-term process of widening this road into a four-lane divided highway between Pasco and Walla Walla, with major portions scheduled to be complete in 2022. The highway also acts as the main gateway to Interstates 82 and 84, which run to the west and south, respectively. State Route 125 runs through the city, north to State Route 124 in Prescott and south to Milton-Freewater, Oregon, becoming Oregon Highway 11 at the state line.
There are four major bus services in the area connecting the region's cities. Walla Walla and nearby College Place are served by Valley Transit, a typical multi-route city bus service. The city of Milton-Freewater, OR has a single-line bus service with several stops in town with two stops in College Place and five in Walla Walla. Travel Washington's Grape Line is a 104-mile (167 km) intercity service between Walla Walla and Pasco that runs three times a day. Finally, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation operates a Kayak bus to Pendleton, with four trips each weekday and two trips each Saturday via its Walla Walla Whistler route.