by Christine Funk Markowski
“Welcome to the Palm Springs of Washington.” How many of you have seen this sign traveling on Interstate 82? I hadn’t seen the sign before I moved here, but I had heard about it, mainly through people making a mockery of it. So when my husband was offered a new job in Yakima, we had to wonder: Was there more to this town than its great weather, goofy billboard and puzzling reputation? Here's our story about my family's new love for an old place.
My husband and I are born and raised “westies,” as those living in Eastern Washington call us. Specifically, we lived in Bellingham, Washington for the past 12 years. Our lifestyles were established. We had nearby family and friends, newly purchased a home, and full-time careers. We thought we were there to stay.
So, when the chance to move to Yakima arose, we had to ask ourselves if we really wanted to uproot everything and start over again. As part of our decision-making process, I researched everything and anything on the Internet I could find on Yakima -- from where to go, stay, live, eat, do, crime rates, school profiles, neighborhoods, everything. I even used GoogleEarth to view specific neighborhoods.
What I found wasn't all that helpful. So, my husband and I decided to venture over to experience Yakima for ourselves. We drove through the valley's small towns, neighborhoods, and orchards. We even drove around the neighborhoods others told us to “stay away” from. We experienced Yakima culture and checked-off a few “Things to Do” suggested online. At wineries and restaurants, we picked up several conversations with the locals. We learned about their perceptions of Yakima, and how they feel it is a great place for families. When I asked about the crime rates, the answers were the same: that every city has this trouble, that people still chose to live and visit those places, and you just have to use common sense (as you do anywhere).
We returned from our visit with first-hand enlightenment about Yakima. Through all of our encounters, NOT ONCE did we speak to someone who did not like Yakima. And that’s how we made our decision. We learned that what we heard from non-residents and the Internet depicted an expired view of Yakima. We found out that there is a growing spirit in Yakima; and the city is so much more than “The Palm Springs of Washington.”
I'm happy to say that after almost three months, we are becoming I Heart Yakima citizens. Here are 5 Reasons I Heart Yakima…(already!):
1) Beautiful river and wind eroded hills of Terrace Heights and “The Gap”
2) A view of TWO mountains at once, Mount Adams and Mount Rainier
3) Vegas-style neon lights in both downtown Yakima and Old Town
4) The farmland is not separated from the community; it is integrated together with businesses, buildings, and neighborhoods
5) My husband and I are sun-seekers, and as my husband would say in excited wonderment, “is it always sunny over here?!!”
So, in our short time here, we’ve made it a point to go out and explore Yakima. We have already experienced professional bull riding in the Yakima Sun Dome, learned culture and history at Yakima Valley Museum, and devoured a milkshake and burger at Majors. There’s more on our list, but I wonder where do I Heart Yakima readers go? What are you proud of in Yakima? Where do you take your guests? Comment and let me know. And thanks for reading about my new life in Yakima!
We are thrilled to welcome Christine Funk Markowski and her family to Yakima! You can expect to see her here as a guest blogger on a regular basis.