As spring quarter winds down, CWU students and the Ellensburg community find themselves looking forward to the warm and sunny days of summer. Even though many students choose to leave town after finals week, some stick around amongst the thousands of people who live in Ellensburg permanently. What is often asked as the classrooms empty is what there is to do in town between June and September. Students may be surprised to know that many unique and fun activities spring up during the quieter summer months.
Despite the decreased population, there are numerous “hot spots” in Ellensburg that have become places of popularity when the weather is just right. Even before finals are over, one particular park on the outskirts of town fills to the brim with college students, families and other recreationalists alike. That park is Irene Rinehart Riverfront Park. Others call it People’s Pond, and some refer to it as Carey Lake. Regardless of the name, this large gathering place off of Umptanum Road welcomes individuals of all backgrounds to sample its many different activities.
The 117-acre park with two large sized ponds alongside the Yakima River frequently brings out hundreds of people on a balmy day. Even before the end of the spring quarter, you will often see CWU students come in droves to work on their tans, play volleyball, toss the frisbee around or simply enjoy a picnic. Families also enjoy similar activities, like playing the 18-hole disc golf course on site and fishing in the river or just walking through the lush green trees surrounding the park.
“After spending four summers in Ellensburg my favorite spot has to be Carey Lake. Whether it’s just laying in the sunshine or sitting in the lake, it’s always a good time,” CWU alum Maddie Crisman said. “I love the addition in the last year or so of the off leash dog park too. On top of the frisbee golf you can tell that [the city is] noticing how much [the] community utilizes the space.”
Traveling east outside of town lies a hidden gem that some CWU students may not even know about if they haven’t ventured toward the smaller town of Kittitas. Just off of Vantage Highway lies Olmstead Place Historical State Park. This 217-acre park is historic in the fact that the large cabin located on park property is over 100 years old, once owned by the Olmstead family. The property also preserves a working pioneer farmhouse, also once owned by the family. Its historical value has not gone unnoticed even on the national level, as it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. Amongst the spacious large green fields and sky high trees, visitors come to picnic, walk along the scenic hiking trails, tour the museum and even fish in the winding Coleman Creek.
Local resident Linda Garcia described Olmstead as having “beautiful gardens [and] picnic areas,” as well as enjoyable tours of the historic buildings. Another resident Heather Hern echoed those sentiments as her family enjoyed visiting the park for a picnic.
Some like to finish off a day of enjoying the scenic parks with a nice trip back into town for food and beverage. Cooling off from the heat with an alcoholic beverage is just another way to relax and unwind. One of the places you can do that is at the Whipsaw Brewery, just off of University Way before you head into the heart of town. Whipsaw features indoor and outdoor seating, numerous beers to taste and the Saucey Food Truck to munch from. Community resident Scott Sanders appreciates the brewery as a whole but enjoys visiting the most when the sun is out.
“I like them because they are family friendly and you can bring your pets there… Also the drinks and food are amazing. And I like it during the summer because they have an outdoor patio. Just a great place [to be],” Sanders said.
These are three places to enjoy a summer’s day at, but many community residents have several other unique spots to visit in town. The Ellensburg Library, Gallery One Visual Arts Center, the Ellensburg Historical Museum, the farmer’s market and even a float down the Yakima River are just some of the many different options to choose from if you are looking to escape the confines of the indoors these next few months. This is amongst the many events in town this summer, like the Ellensburg Germanfest and Dachshund Parade in June, Jazz in the Valley and the Kittitas Independence Day celebration in July, and the Ellensburg Rodeo and Kittitas County Fair in August. Although the university quiets down, Ellensburg makes a whole lot of a noise in the summer.