Best Things to Do in Pullman

Pullman is home to Washington State University and so much more.

It’s now one of the nation’s leading research universities, but when Washington State University opened in 1892, it consisted of one humble building. Today’s hilly, parklike campus comprises 640 verdant acres north of downtown Pullman—its walking paths lined with striking public art installations. 

“Wazzu” is home to the small but excellent WSU Museum of Art, with many works by Andy Warhol and Jim Dine, as well as a fine sampling of contemporary Northwest glass sculptures. At the WSU Bear Center, scientists study a pack of 11 playful grizzlies unable to survive in the wild. From May to September, when they’re not hibernating, view them lumbering about their two-acre outdoor enclosure. Afterward, treat yourself to an ice cream cone at WSU’s beloved Ferdinand’s Ice Cream Shoppe.

Before WSU came to town, Pullman thrived as an agriculture and transportation hub—fittingly, it’s named for railroad sleeping-car tycoon George Pullman. Wheat and legume farming still thrive in the surrounding countryside, and each August the town hosts the National Lentil Festival, featuring the world’s largest bowl of lentil chili. 

In downtown Pullman, find historic storefronts abounding with first-rate eateries, including Black Cypress, with its well-curated wine and beer list and stellar Mediterranean cuisine. Upstairs, sip cocktails and dance the night away at the town’s swankiest nightspot, Etsi Bravo

South of downtown, set aside time for a leisurely ramble through Lawson Gardens, a peaceful 13-acre park with paths that meander past cherry trees, rose bushes, and dozens of perennials. Or make a side trip to Wawawai County Park, with its spectacular setting in Snake River Canyon. The bucolic 18-mile drive here passes stately red barns, ending at a 49-acre riverside meadow with fishing, boating, and picnic sites. It’s a perfect spot to savor a snack of WSU-made Cougar Gold cheddar and a bottle of Dam Hard Cider, produced right in Pullman by Whiskey Barrel Cider.

--Andrew Collins

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