Just south of US-2, Wenatchee (pop. 31,925) 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 south 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 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., Tues.-Sat., $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.
Around the corner from the museum, McGlinn’s Public House (111 Orondo Ave., 509/663-9073), has wood-fired pizzas and other good food. 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).