Issaquah’s first name was “Squak” which was a Native American name that referred to the squawks of the many birds that could be found around the bogs, swamps, and creeks of the valley. Later, the town’s name was changed to Gilman, after Daniel Gilman, who was the man responsible for the construction of the railroad in that area. In 1899, 7 years after its incorporation, the city’s name was once again changed, this time to Issaquah.
The City of Issaquah has been named “The Best Burb”, one of the “Best Towns”, and one of the “Best Towns for Families” by its citizens. The population is just over 37,000 and is only 16 miles from Seattle. The Issaquah School District has top-rated schools, with 5 high schools, 5 middle schools, and 15 elementary schools. The city has the nickname Trailhead City, as it is centered between the 3 Issaquah Alps of Cougar Mountain, Squak Mountain, and Tiger Mountain. It is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts such as hikers and paragliders.
Cougar Mountain Zoo
Located on the northern end of Cougar Mountain, this 8-acre zoo offers a glimpse at many endangered species from across the globe, including rare birds and lemurs from Madagascar. The zoo specializes in 9 different habitats for animals: cougars, lemurs, cranes, reindeer, macaws, wallabies, ratites, camelids, and tigers. The two tigers, named Taj and Almos, are the only Bengal tigers in the entire state of Washington. Every December, the zoo hosts a special Reindeer Festival during which people come to feed Santa's Reindeer and visit Santa Claus in person.
Lake Sammamish State Park
This vast state park stretches over 500 acres of land and has nearly 7,000 feet of waterfront. The park is well known for its visitors using the nearby lake for boating and other watersport activities, such as waterskiing and tubing. Lake Sammamish State Park provides the public with various facilities and amenities such as 2 softball fields, 11 soccer fields, picnic shelters, and restrooms. There is also a boat launch area, numerous walking trails, and a Youth Camp.
Triple XXX Rootbeer Drive-in
The Triple XXX Rootbeer Drive-in in Issaquah is one of only two left still operating in the world; the other is in West Lafayette, Indiana. The restaurant serves 50's style hamburgers and malts in large servings and hosts many gatherings of vintage automobiles and motorcycles. The interior of the restaurant is decorated with '50s and '60s memorabilia such as old radios, ancient Coca-Cola bottles, license plates, and posters of movie stars and rock ‘n’ roll legends.
Every October, over 150,000 people visit Issaquah for the annual Salmon Days. This award-winning festival consists of 2 days of parades, arts and crafts conventions, sporting events, races, bike rides, and a gold tournament. After the initial parade, the participants celebrate the return of the salmon to their birth waters by visiting the newly restored Salmon Hatchery for viewing. Issaquah's history, culture, and ethnic diversity are also celebrated during this event.
Many Northwest artists are attracted to the festival, and talented artisans that specialize in wood, glass, jewelry, paintings, pottery and metalworks attend Salmon Days to sell their work in booths spread across the downtown area. There are 4 stages for designated for live music and multiple sporting events such as a 3 km, 5 km, and 10 km run.
Issaquah Valley Trolley
The Issaquah Valley Trolley is part of the Issaquah Historical Society and offers trolley rides over the entirety of the track from the historic Issaquah Depot Museum to the center of the city. The round-trip ride is over 1 mile and takes about 20 minutes. The Trolley seats up to 24 passengers at a time and is operated by conductors that are fully trained to operate the vehicle, just like the trolley car operators in the early 20th Century. Passengers riding the Issaquah Valley Trolley may experience exactly what it was like to travel on Issaquah’s Depot when passenger rail service was the main mode of transportation over one hundred years ago!