Yakima Valley’s Curious Attractions

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Photo© Ann-Randall

Granger’s dinosaurs are everywhere. A reclining Maiasaurus guards the Parkside Missionary Church. A Plesiosaurus floats in the lake at Hisey Park. And a metal Pteranodon defends the entrance to town.

More than eighty novelty roadside attractions dot the Washington landscape. Many, including Granger’s dinosaurs, can be found in a half day circuit of the Lower Yakima Valley, a region known better for its wines than its curiosities.

In the early 1990s, Granger was a farming community whose town leaders realized they needed a tourist draw. Nearby Zillah had a giant teapot, and Toppenish publicized their murals. The Granger community considered a variety of themes, ultimately deciding on dinosaurs, and the town leaders asked the City Public Works Department to build them.

Building dinosaurs isn’t usually the bailiwick of city employees responsible for trash collection and park maintenance.  However, Granger’s Public Works team had built three years of award-winning community floats. Clearly, they had a bit of Disney magic in them. They went to work constructing their first creation out of any materials they could find, using illustrations as a template, and ultimately produced their first creation—a Brontosaurus. It was a giant hit.

Each year, with the help of volunteers, they built another one. Eventually, the town adopted the theme, “Where the Dinosaurs Roam,” sponsored an annual town event to build that year’s creation called “Dino N a Day” (celebrated on the first Saturday in June) and mapped a driving route to see the dinosaur herd (now numbering 33) called Dinosaur Drive.

North of Granger, in the wine-producing community of Zillah, stands the area’s only National Historic Monument—a former gas station shaped like a teapot. Built in 1922 by local businessman, Jack Ainsworth, the 15-foot structure was Ainsworth’s commentary on the 1920s Teapot Dome Scandal. The scandal was the career demise of several members of President Warren Harding’s administration who were sent to prison for accepting bribes to sell the naval oil reserves at Teapot Dome, Wyoming.

Across Highway 82 from Zillah lies Toppenish, home to 70 historical outdoor murals, the largest American flag in the state and the nation’s only museum dedicated to the vine used in brewing beer—The American Hop Museum. Toppenish’s annual “Mural in a Day,” also celebrated on the first Saturday in June, is a 24-hour painting marathon of the year’s newest addition to the town’s gallery of murals.

Plan a visit to the Lower Yakima Valley’s curiosities in Granger, Toppenish and Zillah by visiting visityakima.com.