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Monday, Jun. 07, 2010

10 Great Northwest Wine Country activities

When you've had enough wine, it's time to check out what else you can do in wine country. Here are 10 diversions from tasting rooms.

Wildlife Safari

You'll see lions and tigers and bears on the 4.5-mile drive through the Wildlife Safari park where more than 500 animals have plenty of room to roam. Plan ahead and you can arrange a special animal encounter such as feeding carrots to the giraffes or having an elephant paint you a picture or wash your car. There's also a petting zoo, a train to ride, a cafe and a gift shop to check out.

1790 Safari Road, Winston, OR 97496, 541-679-6761, wildlifesafari.net.

Okanagan Lake cruise

At 84 miles long and as deep as 700 feet in some spots, the waters of British Columbia's Okanagan Lake are a major influence upon grape growing from Vernon to Penticton and home to the mythical Ogopogo. The paddlewheeler Casabella Princess calls Penticton its home port. She offers wine dinner cruises on the lake during the Okanagan Wine Festivals and partners with Naramata Bench wineries in the summer.

Marina Way, Penticton, BC, V2A 1H5, 250-492-4090, casabellaprincess.com.

Hurricane Ridge

About 95 percent of Olympic National Park is designated as wilderness and is best explored by foot. But if you're looking for panoramic vistas of craggy mountaintops, wildflower- and subalpine-covered hillsides and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, you can't do better than driving to Hurricane Ridge. The park road from the visitors center in Port Angeles takes 45 minutes (and a $15 parks fee).

3002 Mount Angeles Road, Port Angeles, 98362 WA, 360-565-3130, http://tinyurl.com/NPSHurricaneRidge.

Vista Balloon Adventures

If you want an Oregon wine country experience like no other, see it from a hot-air balloon. Vista Balloon Adventures near Newberg has been providing balloon rides for more than a decade. A three-hour ride includes a brunch after the flight, and prices go down if you have a larger group.

23324 S.W. Sherk Place, Sherwood, OR 97140, 503-625-7385, vistaballoon.com.

Darigold cheese tour

Darigold is a huge producer of dairy products in the Northwest, and the Dairy Fair just off Interstate 82 in the Yakima Valley town of Sunnyside is a great side trip, especially if you have children. About 150 million pounds of cheese are produced here annually, and you can take a self-guided tour to see how.

400 Alexander Road, Sunnyside, WA 98944, 509-837-4321, darigold.com.

Wine Valley Golf Club

Wine, Walla Walla and golf are akin to a holy trinity for some Northwest oenophiles. The quality of this public course is outstanding, selected as home to the 2010 Northwest Open in just its second year of operation.

On Highway 12, turn north at Cougar Crest Estate Winery. 176 Wine Valley Road, Walla Walla, WA 99362, 509-525-4653, winevalleygolfclub.com.


One of the best ways to experience Lake Chelan is aboard the Innamorata, a 56-foot yacht once owned by Dean Martin. It's now owned by Shelly Ward and Danny Lockhart, who operate dinner cruises featuring Chelan wines and private charters.

509-682-9500, innamoratacruise.com.

Ummelina Spa

After 22 years in Seattle, founder Nina Ummel decided to expand with the Yakima Valley Spa Retreat in downtown Yakima. Massage, skin and nail care are yours to enjoy before or after wine touring. If in need of a body care remedy, try their Wine Collection.

399 E. Yakima Ave., Suite 183, Yakima, WA 98901, 509-225-4772, ummelina.com.

Oregon Caves

If your wine tour takes you to Southern Oregon's Rogue and Illinois valleys, then plan some time to visit the Oregon Caves National Monument near Cave Junction. It has been a national monument for more than 100 years, and this amazing site is home to one of the few marble caves in the world.

19000 Caves Highway, Cave Junction, OR 97523, 541-592-2100, nps.gov/orca.

Chelan Seaplanes

A 20-minute aerial tour of Lake Chelan's vineyards ranks among the Northwest's most breathtaking wine-related activities. Each seat in the DeHavilland Beaver float plane comes with a headset and a remarkable view. Contact your favorite winery in the area and you might be able to arrange for the winemaker to point out each vineyard.

1328 W. Woodin Ave., Chelan, WA 98816, 509-682-5555, chelanseaplanes.com.