The Official Grad Bucket List
Don't let anyone tell you Ellensburg is a boring town with nothing to do. Get out of that residence hall or apartment and you'll see how much fun you can have. You’ll find all sorts of exciting and entertaining activities, fantastic foods to eat and places to explore both on and off campus. Here are 10 things you have to do before you graduate.
Looking for a good burger and great atmosphere? For those 21 and up, the Tav is the perfect place to “hit with a group of friends,” according to CWU alumna Sam Freeze. This local watering hole has a real history. The Tav opened in 1968, and after rebuilding from a fire in 1975, customers began the tradition of carving initials and other small messages into the bricks inside. Terri Reddout, senior communications lecturer and CWU alumna class of 1977, encourages everyone to go see “the names scratched into the brick. Real history there!”
We have a lake here in our little town of Ellensburg and soon, it’s gonna be May. Just grab a snack and a swimsuit and head out to People’s Pond. But please, don’t forget that swimsuit. As Reddout had to explain to her mother in the ‘70s, the idea that “people get naked out there and swim” was “a rumor.” With that suit in your bag, you’re ready for “some summer fun,” says Jasmine Curran, a professional & creative writing major. People’s Pond is “a great social environment” that isn’t a bar, she adds. Bring something for the grill, because, as Curran says, it’s also a great place for summer barbeques.
Connecting with the community is a vital part of living in a small town. Go on into downtown on Saturdays May through October from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to see some of the best homemade and homegrown products of Ellensburg. In just the last year, the Kittitas County Farmers Market has grown from just one city block to two and added a middle aisle of vendors too! As our community expands and grows, Saturdays become more festive as people gather to buy and sell goods. People of all walks of life are welcome to peruse the market and strike up conversations with the vendors and fellow neighbors.
Are you the adventurous type? Ellensburg isn’t all about the downtown hub. There are plenty of hiking trails for all your discovery cravings. Those hills that surround us in the valley are exciting places to explore. Michael Hanscom, CWU alumnus class of 2011 and 2015, says there are “lots of places to go for a wander in the countryside” and recommends getting out there especially “if you’re from a city or westside environments.” The memories to be had on the old railroad trail, Manastash and up in the hills are just waiting for your adventurous soul to get out there and experience them.
Talent is everywhere here at CWU, especially in our theatre department. McConnell Hall hosts some of the best shows CWU’s musical theatre department has put on. Even though “it’s a pretty old theater,” Hanscom says, “the shows CWU puts on there are consistently worth going to.” Hanscom’s favorite shows from McConnell are "Les Misérables" and "Jesus Christ Superstar". There’s a show for everyone here. Hanscom’s wife "wasn’t terribly fond of ["Les Misérables"], but even she enjoyed CWU’s production” of it!
The Palace Cafe
Another piece of history with some great grub is The Palace Cafe. Opened in 1892 and serving Ellensburg ever since, this restaurant has a homey feel and welcoming staff. Reddout used to waitress at The Palace when she was attending CWU. She recommends the ravioli and says a trip to The Palace is “definitely worth it!” The Palace is a place to go yourself, with friends or with your family when they come into town.
Our downtown is always bustling on the first Friday of each month. The art galleries and some of the other businesses in town open up for an art walk to celebrate and honor local artists. “There’s a lot going on that students don’t realize,” says Senior Art Studio Major Trisha Hall, adding, “You can attend gallery openings for free.” The art walks start at 5 p.m. and allow you to explore the town and find new places. Hall suggests starting at Gallery One and making your way through to other participating locations.
Ellensburg's infamous rodeo is just a 10-minute walk from the SURC. The Ellensburg Rodeo, holding its place on the list of America’s Top 10 professional rodeos, runs Aug. 31 through Sept. 3 at the rodeo grounds. Hanscom says to visit the rodeo “at least once, just to figure out if it’s your thing or not.” Cowboys, bulls, horses, roping sports and the 4H animals are just a handful of some of the things to experience at the Ellensburg Rodeo. Don’t forget the fair that comes along with it!
Food trucks! These lil’ glorious moving boxes of joy often have some of the best food, and the Red Pickle is no exception. In fact, Curran says it has “literally the best burgers in Ellensburg.” With how many burger joints there are in town, you’ll have to go and see for yourself. The Red Pickle’s claim to fame is their Super Gaucho: a burger with two chimichurri patties, lettuce, cheese, siracha mayo and an egg. Curran suggest getting the Super Gaucho with “their rosemary fries.” So, who has the best burger in town? Let your taste buds tell you themselves.
You don’t have to be weighed down by gen eds and required classes. Have some fun while you’re in school. A balanced schedule makes for a balanced mind. “Learn what you want even if it isn’t for your major,” Hall says, “Supplement your schedule with classes you want to take.” Hall helped level out her stressful quarters with her “One credit dance classes that met once a week.” Does that photography class catch your eye when you sign up for classes? Is dance, anthropology or philosophy something that lights you up? Take it!
Look around, listen and stay awhile. Ellensburg isn’t the “do-nothing” town that some people think it is. There are so many adventures to be had and memories to be made if only you get out and chase them. Often, they’re right at your doorstep in a small town like this! So go out, get some good grub, have an exciting night with your friends and experience the best Ellensburg has to offer.