While it’s well-known that Yakima is also the county seat of Yakima County and that the city itself is the state’s 11th largest city by population, there are still some fun facts about the Yakima community that might not be as well known as others but not to worry. We’ve got some of these fascinating fun facts about Yakima right here!

Award Winning Yakima

In 1994 and again in 2015, the City of Yakima received the All-American City Award, recognizing communities that leverage civic engagement, collaboration, inclusiveness, and innovation to address local issues successfully. The honor was bestowed upon the city by the National Civic League and is only awarded to ten U.S. cities per year. What an honor!

Fun Facts about Yakima
The hops grow high here in Yakima Valley, and last year in 2022 alone, the Pacific Northwest produced over 80 million pounds of hops! Photo courtesy: Yakima Valley

Yakima is Wine Country

There’s a rich history in the vines in the beautiful Yakima Valley. Fondly nicknamed “Hop Country,” the region is home to more than 90 wineries and five American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) in just 70 short miles, with Yakima Valley containing more than 17,000 acres of producing vineyards. This means that nearly one-third of the state’s vineyard acreage calls the valley home. To give you an idea of just how big these numbers are, it’s important to know that over half of Washington State’s wine grapes are proudly produced in the region and 75% of the entire nation’s hops. Not only that, but the grapes grown here also support a massive number of winemakers throughout the Pacific Northwest, resulting in nearly 40% of the state’s yearly wine production using Yakima Valley grapes.

But that’s not the only fun fact about our state’s wine country! Besides producing the most grapes in the state, the region is also the oldest grape-growing region, with farmers cultivating hops since 1872, resulting in a significant number of multigenerational growers and winemakers. They know what they’re doing, and their skillful expertise has resulted in many wines and brews worth celebrating, which is why Yakima has also become the home of one of the best craft beer festivals around – the only hop country Fresh Hop Ale Festival!

Additional fun fact about Yakima’s agriculture — Yakima Valley has the most extensive variety of fresh-grown produce in the Pacific Northwest, with more than 40 commercial crops grown here! Perhaps all this is possible since Yakima boasts 300 days of sunshine yearly!

Fun Facts about Yakima
Bert Grant, pictured, is credited with so much more than opening the first brewpub since Prohibition, He’s also credited with building the first hop pelletizing machine in the U.S. Photo courtesy: the brewstorian

The First Brewpub to Open Since Prohibition Opened in Yakima

As a primary source of hops in the United States, it’s no surprise that the first brewpub to open after prohibition opened here in Yakima. Yakima Brewing & Malting Co., better known as Grant’s Brewery Pub, took this title after being founded by Bert Grant and opening its doors by Track 29 in Yakima’s old opera house in 1982.

Though it’s no longer with us, after closing for a final time in 2005 after years of financial difficulty, the pub left a legacy in the brewing industry by re-establishing the business and craft models of what a brewpub could be. Not only that but Grant’s Imperial Stout is thought to be the first imperial stout brewed in the United States, further cementing the pub’s legacy. Grant himself is also credited with building the first hop pelletizing machine in the U.S. Furthermore, Grant’s Scottish Ale has since been nationally acclaimed to honor this legacy as the IPA was considered one of the pioneers in the re-introduction and popularization of the style in America. That’s a whole lot of fun facts for one little brewpub!

Fun Facts about Yakima
Since 1994 American soldiers, like members here of the 7th Infantry Division, train together with the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force, learning to work together and share knowledge with one another. Photo courtesy: 7th Infantry Division

The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force Trains in Yakima

With vast amounts of land being nothing but a surrounding desert on the east side of Washington, the region has plenty of room compared to some countries, such as Japan, which have little room to spare for extracurricular activities. For this reason, members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force have been coming to Yakima every year since 1994 to train at the Yakima Training Center!

The annual joint training sessions between the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force and U.S. military units, known as Operation Rising Thunder, provide Japanese forces with live-fire training that is impossible in their homeland due to space restrictions. Troops also enjoy a chance to engage in long-range life-fire training, such as helicopter-launched missiles and mortars they don’t typically work with in Japan. In addition, it also provides a chance for Japanese and American troops to learn to work together in a battlefield setting should the need ever arise.

Fun Facts about Yakima
Besides the YVT’s still being in operation 100 years later, the stone and timber car barn and warehouse that was built in 1910 on West Pine St still stands today, as does the masonry powerhouse substation that was built in 1911. Photo courtesy: Yakima Valley Trolleys

Yakima Valley Trollies Are Still Running More Than 100 Years Later

There was once a period in history when trolly systems were an active part of everyday lifestyle and transportation in some parts of the world, but with the automobile eventually taking the role as the world’s primary transportation source, those days have since come and gone. Nowadays, there are few and far places where you can still find such modes of transportation. Yakima is the only place in the United States where you can find the last authentic, all-original, turn-of-the-century interurban electric railroad in the form of trolleys!

Since 1907 Yakima Valley Trolleys have served the area, and though they may not run every day as they did once upon a time, these relics of history have been preserved for future generations, primarily being used for historical events and other fun activities throughout the year such as Haunted Trolley Rides during October.

Of course, the trolleys weren’t always a treasured part of the city’s history. While it is true that during the 1920s, a lot of money and time was devoted to expanding the streetcar system, eventually, they began to be scrapped starting around 1929 when it was evident the automobile would be the future of transportation. By 1947 the Yakima Valley Trolleys were terminated as a city service, with attempts to resurrect it not happening until the 1970s. Still, struggles to maintain the trolleys would ensue until 1995, when the city finally began receiving grants to refurbish the YVT. In 2001 the Yakima Valley Trolleys association was finally formed to care for the streetcars. Thanks to them, residents and visitors alike can still experience an early-American streetcar ride precisely as it was over 100 years ago.

Do you have any fun facts about our beloved city of Yakima or other cities in Yakima County that we might have missed? Send us your answers to submit@yakimatalk.com, and they might just appear in our next fun facts article about Yakima!  

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