See More, Pay Less: 5 Free Activities in Ellensburg, WA

See so much more during your visit to Ellensburg with these top free attractions! You don’t have to look too hard for free or inexpensive activities that are just as exciting. Several museums around town offer free admission and there are plenty of ways to keep busy by adventuring outdoors! Keep reading for five examples of free activities in Ellensburg, WA and then book your stay for memories that will last a lifetime without breaking the bank!

1. Learn About Wind and Solar Power at Wild Horse Renewable Energy Center

The Wild Horse Wind and Solar Facility is a must-see during your visit to Ellensburg. The center provides visitors with an up-close look at the facilities 149 wind turbines, as well as 360 degree views of Mount Rainier, Mount Adams, Mount Hood and the Columbia River Basin. Visiting the wind farm is free, including the twice-daily guided tours, and offers a fun and educational experience to kiddos and adults alike. The visitor center has informative displays that cover the basics of wind power, environmental impacts and the location itself, and outdoor trails lead to a solar array, blade, turbine generator and additional displays. Even more, a tour will take you inside the base of an active wind turbine!
The center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 1 through October 31 with tours running daily (weather permitting) at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

2. Go Bird Watching

Ellensburg is a popular area for bird watching with many wildlife viewing areas and a variety of local species. The diverse geography of the area, especially the immense basalt cliffs, supports a wide range of species including Cliff Swallow, Golden Eagles, American Kestrels and Great-horned Owls, to name a few. Top locations for bird watching include the Quilomene Wildlife Area and the Sun and Sage Loop, which is a route along the Great Washington State Birding Trail! Grab your binoculars and see how many bird species you can spot during your stay in Ellensburg!

For more on bird watching in Ellensburg, see A Birder’s Guide to Kittitas County, a guide for birders of all ages and experience.

3. Take a Scenic Drive on Barn Quilt Trail

Ellensburg is known for its beautiful rolling fields and agricultural history, and tourists love the breathtaking scenes that can be found touring the area in search of Kittitas County’s famous barn quilts. Over the years, more than one hundred quilt blocks have been installed throughout the county, making for a picturesque country drive as admirers go in search of them all. These quilts create the Kittitas County Barn Quilt Trail, Washington State’s first barn quilt trail which can be explored via a self-guided driving tour. View the map to locate and reference the known history of the barn and the significance of the quilt block. The first barn quilt on the trial was on the Dominion Barn, which is currently being utilized as a garden shop at Dusty’s Nursery in Ellensburg. Visit as many as you can on your scenic drive through the Ellensburg area!

4. Search for Public Art

The historic downtown Ellensburg is very walkable and features wonderful public art on just about every street corner. There are many great murals and sculptures to be found so spend some time hunting them down! The famous Ellensburg Bull by Rich Beyer offers a great photo op, for starters. It is located in Rotary Pavillion and pays homage to the area’s cattle industry. Many visitors and locals have been seen posing for photos with “The Bull,” whether they’re snuggled up by his side or sitting on his lap. Another town favorite is Dick and Jane’s Spot, a colorful local home and yard decorated with thousands of reflectors and other devices as well as 263 pieces by 65 different artists. Explore the city to see how many other fantastic works of art you can find!

5. Watch the Sunset at Lion Rock

Although we would pay for such beautiful scenes, the many viewpoints that overlook Ellensburg are also free to access. Spend an evening at Lion Rock enjoying the magnificent sunset to complete your wonderful day in Ellensburg. The lookout offers scenic views of the Central Cascades and the Kittitas Valley at an elevation of 6,360 feet. Even as you drive up the mountain, you are treated to picturesque wildflower meadows that make for a truly breathtaking experience throughout your entire visit. Lion Rock is also an excellent place for camping if you’d prefer to take in the view a little longer. Set up camp, admire the gorgeous sunset, and gaze into the night sky to see the bright stars overhead.
Photo courtesy of Trails Offroad