There is always something happening in the City of Flowers and Trees. Throughout the year, both residents and visitors take pleasure in a schedule of exciting events and a multitude of outstanding attractions. And when the appetite calls for a delicious dish, Washington restaurateurs are ready to serve up an eclectic range of menus.
Washington offers events year-round that celebrate history and culture and enhance community cohesion. A seemingly endless list of celebrations, festivals and beautiful displays are presented for all to enjoy. One such display is the Centennial Fountain, located in Central Park. It was constructed and dedicated in 1939 for Washington’s centennial celebration. The only fountain of its kind in the continental United States, it produces a multi-colored light show and various water patterns that are especially gorgeous when viewed at night. The renovated multipurpose bandstand located in Central Park host many events throughout the year.
Throughout the summer Central Park is alive with activity on Thursday evenings. The local Farmers’ Market is the widely popular social, economic and cultural event every week during the growing season. Offering fresh produce, baked goods, and handmade crafts, be sure to come early to grab your favorites. As the Farmers’ Market winds down, Thursday Night Live begins and features live, local entertainers. An old-fashioned band concert caps off the evening, headlined by the Washington Municipal Band—one of the oldest in Iowa, with 2012 being their 80th season.
Springtime brings the Gallery Walk to downtown Washington. This is an event in which area artists and art students showcase their talent by displaying artwork in windows of supporting businesses. It also brings car enthusiasts to Washington’s Cruise Nights where they display a variety of classic and new show cars.
Washington is home to the state’s oldest Ridiculous Day, held the first Saturday in June. Retailers line the downtown square with unbeatable bargains while crazy, fun activities take place in Central Park. A parade showcases the wacky side of our retailers and this event promotes local shopping in a family friendly atmosphere.
Sponsored by Washington County Hospital, “Kidz Fest” is an event that places children of all ages at the center of attention. “Kidz Fest” presents a variety of specialized games, such as an obstacle course and a wheel of fortune focusing on health and summer safety. Other activities include face painting and entertainment by local dancers.
The Washington County Fair is a popular happening in July drawing over 10,000 visitors to the weeklong event. There are carnival rides, a Bill Riley talent show, Kidz Day, a cutie contest and more. The tractor pull, demolition derby, moto cross, fair queen pageant and other free grandstand entertainment thrill the crowds. 4-H and FFA members exhibit nearly 1,200 animal projects and over 1,100 non-livestock projects each year.
The cooler autumn weather doesn’t slow down festivities within the Washington community. Trick-or-Treat Around the Square, a tradition for many years in Washington, gives children the opportunity to dress up in their favorite costumes and trick-or-treat at participating businesses. After the handing out of the treats, the children are treated to tasty hot dogs, chips and drinks provided by local establishments. Also held during the fall is a craft show, drawing crafters from near and far to display their wares.
Agricultural tours are presented by Washington County and provide an excellent opportunity to explore the county with a guide or by a self-guided tour with maps located in the Washington Chamber of Commerce. With seven destinations on its agenda, one can enjoy a variety of experiences. Barn Quilts of Washington County has over 115 Barn Quilts to showcase on four driving loops. Sass Family Farm, an authentic 1950s Iowa Farm, specializes in fresh produce and family fun. Visitors can visit a real working farm with a trip to Cuddeback farm, allowing visitors to compare farming in the 1880s and 1930s to modern farming practices. Touring options also include tours of a working greenhouse, a beekeeping operation, a corn processing facility and Bandana’s Backyard, which is home to many exotic animals in an informal petting zoo.
The winter holiday is kicked off with S.N.O.W. (Showcasing Nights of Washington) hosted by Main Street. Featuring a holiday stroll, kid’s art display, window display contest and the Lighted Holiday Parade it’s an event worthy of stepping out in the cool air. Cars and wagons are decorated with multi-colored lights and many themes are presented. At the end of the parade is the much-anticipated arrival of Santa Claus.
The Chamber of Commerce’s Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes raises funds for the holiday lighting that lines the downtown businesses in white, festive lighting. Explore beautifully decorated homes dating from the early 1900s to the present.
The Barn Quilts of Washington County is a project designed to celebrate the agricultural heritage of the area by highlighting local farm buildings with beautiful, quilt-related folk art. Barn quilts are painted quilt blocks that adorn barns, corn cribs, sheds and other significant buildings. These barn quilt paintings enhance community pride and attract both local visitors and tourists, highlighting the importance of agriculture. There are over 115 Barn Quilts on four driving loops, which makes Washington County the Barn Quilt Capital of Iowa. A Web site, www.barnquiltsiowa.net, provides further information and beautiful representations of the art.
For those who long to ‘Live It Up’; Riverside Casino & Golf Resort is the place to be. Just 15 minutes north of Wahington and 15 minutes south of I-80 from Iowa City, the casino and resort is Iowa’s premier destination. Inside you’ll find a Las Vegas-inspired casino, water cascade above a dramatic light bar and lounge in the center of the casino and a show lounge with live weekend entertainment. Guests will revel in more than 1,100 slot machines and numerous table games featuring Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, Pai Gow, Ultimate Texas Hold ‘Em and a 14-table Poker room. Hotel rooms showcase stylish interiors with outstanding personal service and modern amenities to ensure total luxury and comfort. Five restaurants are on-site for any culinary desire, as are bountiful shopping opportunities, an indoor/outdoor pool and hot tub, an exclusive spa and an 18-hole championship golf course designed by the legendary Rees Jones.
Included among countless appealing attractions is an abundance of nature and wildlife, offering fun and education for all ages. Nature trails, fishing spots, hunting areas, a conservation center and a variety of flora and fauna interest visitors and residents alike. Following are only some of the many nature-related attractions that assure an amazing experience:
Located seven miles east of Washington at Marr Park is the Washington County Conservation Education Center. Promoting conservation and providing environmental education and outdoor recreation opportunities, the center offers materials and resources to the public as well as facilities for school field trips, park visitors and programs.
Another way to enjoy the great outdoors is by visiting the Kewash Nature Trail. Its 13-mile path provides ample opportunities for hiking, biking, nature-watching and cross-country skiing. A mixture of mature trees and prairies with beautiful wildflowers is accompanied by a wealth of wildlife. Animals often seen include deer, squirrels and migratory warblers.
Known for its excellent fishing, Skunk River Water Trail’s natural splendor is best enjoyed by traversing the river in a motorboat, canoe or kayak. Fallen trees line the shoreline throughout the river, forming excellent habitat for channel catfish, flathead catfish and freshwater drum and carp.
Hunters will find several places in southeast Iowa to pursue game. Pheasant, trophy whitetail deer, waterfowl, quail and wild turkey abound in areas varying from grasslands to wetlands and timberlands—giving the hunter a wide range of field opportunities. Acres of rustic hunting and destination retreats surround Washington featuring riverside forest terrain with dense pine, oak and hickory forests. The picturesque landscape of southeast Iowa provides a variety of active outdoor options.
WINING AND DINING
Washington offers a diverse range of dining options to satiate any appetite. Everything from Iowa beef and pork to a wide variety of ethnic foods are readily available. Some of the many options to consider when hunger strikes are favorites such as pizza, spaghetti, hamburgers and fries, chicken, meatloaf, salads, ice cream, coffee and scones, turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy.
Although the town features a wide variety of down-home favorites, delectable global cuisine is readily available through one of the many authentic Italian, Mexican, Greek and Chinese establishments within the community. Café Dodici is an award-winning restaurant offering Italian specialties and fine wine in the historic downtown setting.
Washington can now toast the addition of having a local winery. Located in eastern Washington County, Wooden Wheel Vineyards opened in the spring of 2010 and offers an excellent selection of Native Iowa Wines. You will also find the historic Vincent Family Event Center, a renovated 1860’s barn that provides a charming and relaxing venue for any gathering large or small personal or professional.