11 Reasons to love life on the Palouse

In the two-part series “Why We Love Where We Live” we’re breaking down the best things about living in each half of the Quad Cities of Lewiston-Clarkston and Moscow-Pullman, along with some of the not-so-good.

In this week’s edition we explore 11 reasons to love the Palouse. Contrary to what some may say, it’s not all Subarus, lentils and stereotyped tree-huggers.

Because you must behold the rolling hills …

No really. Look at them. The one-of-a-kind undulating hills are the giant-size version of what you find at the beach as water flows over the sand. Formed by the glacial flood waters of Lake Missoula, the nutrient-rich hills that once formed a vast grassland now grow wheat, lentils, garbanzos and other commodities that are sold on the international market.

The hills also are a magnet for photographers and other artists who seek to capture the beauty they offer, or any number of the dilapidated barns and other agricultural structures nestled in their valleys. — MS

Because there are not one but two big universities …

With two universities just 7 miles apart, Moscow and Pullman boast a quality of sports, art and entertainment not generally available in rural areas. The student population has attracted popular entertainers like Macklemore, Elton John and Snoop Dogg, and academic programs bring in world-class musicians and artists that would otherwise require cross-state travel.

The universities also provide a number of standing attractions. The University of Idaho features two arboretums, the visual landmark of the Kibbie Dome, the largest library in the state, steam-pipe heated sidewalks and a golf course.

Washington State University offers numerous ongoing scientific museums and exhibits, including some that feature veterinary anatomy, geology, vertebrate biology, anthropology and physics. Of course, don’t forget a visit to Ferdinand’s for ice cream and the renowned Cougar Gold and other cheeses, all made at the campus dairy.

In the sports arena, fall weekends on the Palouse bring a steady stream of cars as travelers arrive for game days. Cougar and Vandal pride spills over into surrounding communities, and loyalties can be seen across each state. — MS

Because the Palouse hearts the arts …

Rising from the earth, a giant seed stands at Moscow’s south entrance, a monument to the city’s support for the arts, no matter how abstract. Calling itself “the heart of the arts,” you’ll find all forms of it in and around the rural town. And it’s not just a nice saying — the city sets aside money for art in its budget and employs arts personnel to oversee exhibits, events, education and programming for the community. The town even selects a poet laureate.

Alongside the city of Moscow’s support, the universities on the Palouse offer plenty in the way of art exhibits and programming at the UI’s Prichard Gallery in downtown Moscow and the newly built Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art WSU in Pullman. The WSU art collection contains pieces by Andy Warhol and Jim Dine, and dozens of large outdoor sculptures dot the campus. Not far away, Artisans at the Dahmen Barn in Uniontown supports local artists with exhibits, workshops and studio spaces, along with an artisan gift shop.

In addition to visual art, the area is home to multiple theater groups, and the live music scene has plenty to offer, from local and traveling musicians at pubs and coffee shops to multiday music festivals like Moscow’s Rendezvous in the Park. The historic Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre in downtown Moscow is a hub for family entertainment, whether it’s streaming MET opera, Saturday morning cartoons during the farmers market or live theater. — MS

Because there’s a festival for you …

Do you like poetry? Jazz? Cannabis? Lentils? Men in kilts? Whatever your eclectic taste, Moscow and Pullman have a festival for you. Pullman’s late summer Lentil Festival extols the virtues of a commodity no one else deemed worthy of celebration. The event features live music, food and drink, cooking demos, activities and, of course, Tase T. Lentil, likely the only legume mascot you’ll ever meet.

Across the state line in Moscow, fair maidens and menfolk can be found each spring at the Renaissance Fair, where food and drink are served on compostable disposables — and don’t forget the maypole dance.

If neither of those does it for you, you can celebrate cannabis at Hempfest (Moscow), the poetry of Robert Burns at Burns Night (Moscow) or modern jazz at the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival (Moscow), among many other festivals, large and small. — MS

Because kids are to be seen and heard …

Lucky is the kid who grows up on the Palouse. Moscow was voted the best place to raise a family in the nation by livability.com in 2018. The ranking stems from plentiful year-round events and activities, outdoor recreation and small schools with consistently high performance rates.

Educational opportunities for kids rival those in more urban areas, thanks to the universities and the outdoors. Families can enjoy parks, bike paths and the Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute Nature Center (Moscow).

When the outside makes it more pleasant to be inside — which it often does during the long winter — there are plenty of indoor play opportunities. For indoor science fun, families can head to the Palouse Discovery Science Center (Pullman) or Eureka! Palouse (Moscow). Other recreational adventures include the UI climbing wall, an ice rink and a trampoline park. — MS

Because Moscow’s farmers market ranks among the best …

The Moscow Farmers Market was rated not only the best in Idaho but among the top 25 in the nation by the American Farmland Trust in 2017.

The Saturday morning tradition started in 1976 and features local producers, artists, craftspeople and musicians. In addition to veggies and plants, you’ll find baked goods and other tasty treats. Several Moscow restaurants and businesses got their start by building a loyal customer base at the market, which has expanded over the years from the parking lot behind Friendship Square onto Main Street, which is closed to traffic Saturday mornings from May to October. — JKB

Because it’s pedestrian and bike friendly …

Whether you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint or just hate traffic, Moscow and Pullman are great places to ditch your ride and hoof it. Between Moscow’s free bus system and Pullman’s extensive transit lines (which are free for WSU students, faculty and staff), you’ve got plenty of public transportation options. Plus, both cities are just plain nice to walk around in. Sidewalks are more or less everywhere, and since motorists are so accustomed to pedestrian life, coexistence is mostly peaceful.

Both cities take bike-riding seriously as well. Most major roads boast bike lanes, and biking/hiking trails abound. There’s the Bill Chipman Palouse Trail, a 7.5-mile paved pathway between the University of Idaho and Washington State University campuses, as well as the Latah Trail, which connects Moscow to Troy. Moscow and Pullman each have bike trails within the city limits, and riders can stop and read informational plaques along the way — because the people of the Palouse love informational plaques almost as much as they love biking and hiking. — JF

Because there’s eats for days …

In the mood for some Peruvian-inspired curry? Texas-style barbecue? Authentic carbonara? A sandwich the size of your face? Food truck grub? If so, Moscow and Pullman have you covered. Food is one major reason to love this area. The cities may be little, but their food is fierce, diverse and, often, vegan-friendly and gluten-free. Many restaurant owners make every effort to source their ingredients locally, and some dishes have become the stuff of local legend, like the meatloaf sandwiches at Nectar in Moscow and the spaghetti pomodoro at Black Cypress in Pullman. If you haven’t had the kale slaw from the Moscow Food Co-Op, are you even living? — JF

Because if you’d like a drink, prepare to get served …

Let’s be real: All that hiking, biking and festival-going is thirsty work, and you’re eventually going to need to find a watering hole. Luckily, there are plenty, and several will even let you bring your doggo. Whether you’re in the market for coffee, beer, wine, kombucha, a smoothie or a cocktail, Moscow and Pullman have your back.

Coffee shops offer a comforting continuity: In addition to serving spectacular (sometimes house-roasted) coffee, many of these shops also serve as community centers, where you can take in a poetry reading or a concert, join a reading group or buy some local art. Just try not to trip over college students cramming for tests.

Moscow and Pullman really shine when it comes to local breweries. And no wonder — between them, Washington, Oregon and Idaho produce more than three-quarters of the country’s hops, so if you’re in the mood for a beer, you have come to the right place.

And if you’re after a boutique cocktail, many restaurants and bars here can do things with booze you’ve never even imagined. — JF

Because of its history of activism and inclusion …

Got a cause? If not, take your pick. For a long time, people of the Palouse have prided themselves on a tradition of activism, which can take many forms — from protests staged in Moscow’s Friendship Square to an emphasis on environmental sustainability at many festivals. If you’re down with composting and recycling, this is the community for you.

The university campuses play a big part in this tradition of awareness, as do many other area institutions. Take the independent radio stations, for example. Both universities have campus radio stations where students sound off and play their favorite indie tunes. Moscow’s KRFP, in the same vein, broadcasts not only local news and eclectic music chosen by local DJs, but also syndicated talk shows like “Democracy Now!” Northwest Public Broadcasting has a home at WSU.

You’ll also find people dedicated to embracing diversity. That can mean drag storytime at Moscow’s public library or the daily work done by folks at ‘’’11NW. Or it can mean celebrating ethnic diversity at UI campus events like Cruise the World, in which international students get together to make signature dishes from their home countries and perform traditional dances. — JF

Because Moscow’s co-op is legendary …

If there’s a must-stop for many visitors to the Palouse, it’s the Moscow Food Co-op, and it’s not just for jelly-filled thumbprint cookies. Since a few people planted the seed for the cooperative in 1973, it has grown from fresh produce and some bulk bins into a full-scale grocery store with a bakery, deli, meat counter and personal items.For residents of the Palouse, the co-op is more than the items it carries; it’s a community hub governed democratically by 7,800 members who put natural products first. Its selection and personality rivals any comparable store in Seattle or Portland. 

After decades of advocating for what’s best for local producers, those who work there and families who shop there, the co-op is a shining example of what’s possible when people unite and dream big. — JKB