Moving to Walla Walla, WA

Updated on June 09, 2010
J.M. asks from Walla Walla, WA
11 answers

Hi Ladies,

My husband was just offered a job in Walla Walla and we know absolutely nothing about the area. We are currently in St. Louis and I have lived all over the country except the northwest. I know it is a relatively small town and I am a little worried about how far we'll have to drive for shopping, etc. Are there different neighborhoods that are more family oriented than others? I am particularly interested in elementary schools as my oldest will begin kindergarten in the fall. Also, any information/advice on buying a house as well would be welcome. Thanks!!!

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Thank you so much for all your responses. The information has been very helpful.

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answers from Richland on

Walla Walla is a beautiful town. Lots of history and its not that far from things. Living in Eastern Washington/Eastern Oregon means having to drive to get to things. Just like the big city - I lived in the Portland are you have to spend a bit of time driving, its just now you will actually be driving instead of sitting in traffic.
There are a lot of things to do with kids there; they have a childrens museam, good parks (one has an old stream train to look at and ducks/geese to feed), county fair and rodeo, a really neat toy store downtown, Whitman mission, a short drive to moutains where there is hiking, skiing, camping and biking, and the Columbia isn't too far away for boating and fishing.
Tri-cities is only about 45 minutes away and it has a large mall, and all the chain stores you would expect. Its were we go to go to Costco, Winco, Target, etc. Milton Freewater is a few miles away and in Oregon so its tax free for shopping. College place (which runs into Walla Walla) has a Walmart for all those needs.
It will be a big change from St. Louis, but sometimes a change to the smaller isn't such a bad thing. I hope you have a smooth transition to Walla Walla and Good luck!

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answers from Portland on

Hey there. Just attended a reunion at Whitman. Walla Walla is a lot more urbane than when I went to school about 15 years ago(!), because the wine industry (then nascent) has really taken off.

Walla Walla isn't a big town, but Whitman brings in a pretty constant stream of cultural offerings (politicos, concerts, performances, inspirational speakers, authors) to meet that gap (a lot of students come from Portland, Seattle, and Boise). The local/organic food movement has got a foothold now, wine is Very Big (and probably will be forever), the Walla Walla Symphony is often touted as the oldest west of the Mississippi ... . For a quiet night away from home, there are now five ZILLION bed and breakfasts catering from "I love to live with antiques in the middle of town" to "I want a minimalist space with a yoga focus in the fields 12 miles outside of town." (That latter apparently hosts groups from Walla Walla on retreat fairly regularly.)

The colleges do a lot of theatre and there are a couple of dance troupes in town; a Renaissance re-creation group based in TriCities comes down to Whitman every year in April for Ren Faire (and last I checked the Society for Creative Anachronism had a decent chapter in Walla Walla itself).

There are mountains and rivers within easy car distance; I suppose the old bike rides through the wheat-country have transformed to bike rides through the wine-country ;). Lake Coeur d'Aliene(?sp) is a popular getaway spot as well.

More pop-entertainment-y: The nearest major indoor concert venue is I think in Tri Cities. (Outdoor venue George in the Gorge, as mentioned below.) The bar scene is still pretty ... rustic/divey (from what I heard ... I didn't even try this during the reunion ;) ). When I was in college the nearest nightclubs were in TriCities and there was the Cowboy Club and immediately next door the popular/alternative music club (name unremembered), and that was IT. One or two of the bars in Walla Walla have dancing, but they are kind of bars first and dancing second.

Walla Walla has a tiny commercial airport but decent daily connections to major NW cities for transfers, no train station (but trains roll through town, so if that is a noise problem tell your realtor), and I think may have fallen off the Greyhound Bus stop-list finally.

Mall-type clothes shopping at the Bon (equivalent: Macy's) on Main Street or out at the west end of town at Blue Mountain Mall. Major grocery about every 2 miles (Albertsons, Safeway, Super1). It's still very much a farming community, so good hardware stores ;).

The central parts of town have great early 1900s houses (if you can stand the upgrades necessary to insulate etc.); pretty much as you move out from the center you find newer and newer houses. Be aware that the closer you are to one of the colleges, the more likely you will be living next to house commonly rented to students, with all that that entails noise/behavior wise. When I went to college back in the 90s, I had a conversation with a man who lived "on the wrong side of the tracks" (near the Penitentiary) and he said people living near the Pen always left their car doors unlocked because when cons broke out of the Pen they would steal cars for the first leg of the getaway and leave them someplace, and if your car was locked they'd bust in and you'd have damage but if your car wasn't you'd get it back from the police in a day or two in OK shape ... I don't know if this was true, but I sure didn't look into renting near the pen while I was in college!!!

Politics: generally conservative, but in the don't-stick-your-nose-in-my-business kind of way (the college is generally liberal). A series of efforts in the 1990s to bring awareness to gay issues took root and I wouldn't say there is no ill feeling toward homosexuality but in general the nasty active type doesn't show up and most people I think are at least don't ask don't tell if not actually OK with it. The nicest bar in town has a very public gay night, last I heard (a few years ago, it was in a college newsletter I think).

What might throw you the most is something NWers often forget: there are nearly no people of color in Walla Walla, and nearly all the ones there are are associated with the college, still. I've never heard trouble from "the townies" about this, but I know my friends did used to get some stares, especially if a clearly bi-racial couple was out in town. Washington and Oregon have a pretty negative history in race relations.

Dust storms: MUCH MITIGATED, but they do still occur. Big education campaigns were instituted in the late 80s(?) to try to convince the farmers to keep cover crops etc and prevent their top soil blowing away. Walla Walla is a pretty dusty place, though, even without noticeable storms.

As for realtors, check the Chamber of Commerce site and click some links until you find a realtor who feels comfortable to you ... unless someone has a brilliant recommendation ;).

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

As TJ said, Walla Walla is tiny. It's also EASTERN Washington, which is a huge distinction. Western washington is trees and rain and only has 2 seasons (fall and spring... the week of winter and week of summer don't count in my book). Eastern Washington is grass & hills. It gets hot in the summer (upwards of 90-100, and snows all winter). During certain parts of the season (crop related) the dust & or smoke permeates EVERYTHING for days and days. Eastern WA is farm country, sparsely populated, and is properly more midwestern than pacific nw. It's beautiful country, but when you're googling, google eastern wa as opposed to pacifc nw. Two totally different climates.

Politically, W. WA is blue & E. WA is Red with 3 blue pockets (walla walla AT the university, Pullman AT the university, and Spokane AT the university). It creates an interesting dynamic. Also, Eastern Washingtonians are typically (and rightly) ticked at the western side of the state. Remember the low population? Their votes don't count... so Olympia keeps passing rules and regulations that make sense west of the mountians, but not east. There's constant political bickering back and forth across the mountians.

Gee I'm just a little blue bird of happiness, aren't I? Okay, okay, time to perk it up a bit!

Housing is VERY inexpensive :D About 25% or less what you'd pay to the west. ((So a 400,000 home in the west costs about 100,000 in the east). The land is gorgeous... and if you're willing to drive there are a TON of things to do. From concerts at "The Gorge" (people drive from all over the state for these summer time concerts... there's camping both right there - I avoid it- and just a few miles away are more family friendly camp ground), hiking, fishing, rafting, biking, kyaking, skiing/snowboarding, reservations, Lake Chelan (one of the last pristine lakes in the US... soooo much fun)... tons of outdoorsy type things. Walla walla is also a college town, so it's vibrant with the requisite appeal of college towns across the country.

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answers from Spokane on

Hi J.! My name is Debbie, and I'm from eastern Washington (Pullman). Walla Walla is actually south central Washington, and is absolutley BEAUTIFUL! You're going to love it! It's known for it's Walla Walla sweet onions, and the apple orchards are wonderful too! Not to mention that it's Wine country! There simply is too much to tell other then to say . . again . . You are going to LOVE it!
Below is a link I got from "googling" "Walla Walla, WA", it can pretty much tell you everything you need to know. Just copy and paste it into your "browser". Happy Hunting! And welcome to Washington!

Debbie =)

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answers from Portland on

I don't know if you have done a Google search on the area. I did a quick one and found the school district website, tourism website (info on what to do in the area) and the chamber of commerce website from which you can order a relocation packet. My girlfriend lives in the tri-cities area. The weather there is a lot drier than the west side of the state. Also has higher heat in the summer and more snow in the winter. Good luck with your move.

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answers from Portland on

I know just the person for you!!! A friend of mine is from Walla Walla and moved back about a year ago with her husband and young daughter. Guess what she does for a living? She's a real estate agent. I can tell you nothing about Walla Walla, but I be she can tell you everything you want to know. I will pass her info on to you. Her name is Stacy Lewis, luck!

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answers from Yakima on

While Walla Walla is smaller than St Louis it does have things to offer. It is the home to a private college and a community college. It is a wine producing area. They have a yearly hot air balloon festival. They may not have all the stores you are used to in St Louis but you can take day trips for shopping or go for a weekend in Seattle or Portland . The city has revitalized it downtown area recently. You might be pleasantly surprised . I have no idea about the schools as i didn't have children when i was there.

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answers from Corvallis on

Hi There,
I went to jr. high and high school in Walla Walla. It was a great place. I haven't been back in almost 20 years but I understand it has flourished! It isn't that small of a town....and it has grown a lot in the last 20 will have no trouble with shopping and Tri Cities is not to far away. Good luck with your move!



answers from Richland on

I grew up going to Sharpstein Elementary school and that is the oldest school in Washington state. They have done remodeling but have kept some of the "old" it's beautiful. There are a lot of schools and there are new developments near Prospect Point, Berney, and Edison that I can think of right off the bat. Windemere is a good company we just sold a house in Walla Walla last week, and Susan Akers helped us. You have to check out Pioneer Park on Alder street, it has a cannon, gazebo, duck pond, toys, and old trees to climb on. It was made after the park in New York, on a much smaller scale. Down town has won awards in magazines for being the most beautiful down town! Not much shopping, but Kennewick is an hour away and has a mall, and a lot of strip malls. The one thing about Walla Walla is in the winter, it doesn't have any indoor play areas at the fast food resturants. Lorenzo's is a pizza joint on 9th street (Plaza area) and it has video games and air hockey indoors. In the summer though, it is nice to walk along Mill Creek starting at Rooks park (very beautiful) and Mill Creek goes through town. Bennington Lake (old resevoir) has fishing, and is fun to see. The blue mountains is worth driving. Tolgate has sledding, snow mobiling, skiing, and hiking. Oh how I miss Walla Walla! (I live in Tri-Cities now- Pasco) There is a lot to do in Tri-Cities and when I lived in Walla Walla, we came over here approx. once a month. Winco is a great grocery store, low low prices ( you have to bag yourself, and they don't advertise ) to keep the prices down, but a regular store with everything. Congrats to your husband, and I hope you love it there!



answers from Seattle on

There isn't much in walla walla, it's mostly a college town and houses the state penitentiary...tricities isn't far (Kennewick/Richland/pasco), that's where you'll find the closest shopping probably. Kennewick is nice, so are parts of Richland. Spokane/coeur d'alene ID isn't too far but probably your closest "big city", maybe Boise too (both are probably at least a two hour drive or more) Umatilla, Oregon is close as well. If you can shop in Oregon it's tax free! Eastern Washington is great, I haven't been in a while. But it will be quite a change from st Louis! The northwest is wonderful, welcome!!

Edit: my husband says there's a shopping center just over the river in Oregon that most people in walla walla go to. Again tax free because it's in Oregon! :). And for school stats and reviews/ratings check out



answers from Washington DC on

I can't really give you specifics about Walla Walla (been through there but never lived there), but I grew up in the Willamette Valley in Oregon and I just wanted to tell you that you are going to LOVE the Pacific Northwest. It's beautiful, the people are nice and the air is always fresh. Yes it rains a lot, but don't let that get you down. Northwesterners know that the rain makes the green, so we learn to love it. Of course, I don't know where you stand politically. If you're conservative, the northwest is going to be annoying because it's filled with liberals, but if I could put up with it, anyone can! lol!

Anyways, best of luck! Know that I'm jealous. I wish I could move to Walla Walla.

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