Just south of US-2, Wenatchee (pop. 32,562) is the commercial center of the Wenatchee Valley, one of the world’s most productive apple- and pear-growing regions—it’s responsible for about half the nation’s annual crop. The Washington Apple Commission Visitor Center, a block north of US-2 below the Ohme Gardens, is the place to go to find out all about the state’s apple industry, and to enjoy free apples and apple juice (not to mention potent air-conditioning).
Wenatchee stretches south from US-2, with three miles of shopping malls, car dealerships, and anonymous highway sprawl before you reach the downtown business district. Many large fruit warehouses and a nice park line the railroad tracks along the riverfront. One place worth stopping is the excellent Wenatchee Valley Museum and Cultural Center (127 S. Mission St., closed Sun. and Mon., $5), which contains extensive displays tracing the region’s prehistoric and pioneer past, from native rock art to a working, HO gauge model of the Great Northern Railway route over the Cascades. An adjacent building houses a large exhibit on Washington’s apple industry, including an antique but fully functioning apple sorting and packing line.
Along with every fast-food franchise known to humankind, Wenatchee also has some great local haunts, including Dusty’s In-N-Out (1427 N. Wenatchee Ave., 509/662-7805), famous for burgers and shakes (and words of wisdom on its sign) since 1949. There are also lots of motels, ranging from the national chains to the business-oriented Coast Wenatchee Center Hotel (201 N. Wenatchee Ave., 509/662-1234, $109 and up).