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Going to the Gorge? My Top 10 Tips for Gorge Goers!

The Gorge! Technically, “the gorge” is an entire area surrounding the Columbia River. To Dave Matthews Band fans, it’s three nights of magic over Labor Day Weekend.


A picture of the Columbia River gorge.
The real “gorge” is an entire area and not just an amphitheater in George, WA.


I’ve been lucky enough to go to “Labor Dave Weekend” three times now. Each time has been a little different, but each time has been an amazing trip. Not only are you surrounded by beautiful views, but you get to hear three nights of fantastic music with 27,000 of your DMB friends.

Getting to the Gorge is not easy. Most of us have to travel from all different parts of the country and the world. It takes money. There is also a lot of planning involved. But, once you’re there, it is one of those priceless experiences that you will never forget.


The Gorge Exit 143 sign.
When you make your trip to the Gorge, be sure to get your picture taken with the Exit 143 sign.


In this post, I’m not going to cover the details of getting to the Gorge. There are plenty of resources out there to help you with that, including a couple of great Facebook pages like Pilgrimage to the Gorge and DMB @ The Gorge. If you have specific questions, I’m certainly happy to answer them, so shoot me an e-mail (my contact info is at the bottom) or comment on this post.

Instead, I’m going to share with you my Top 10 Tips for your Gorge trip. So, if you’re ready to plan your trip for Labor Day Weekend 2019, keep reading!

This content uses referral links. Read our Affiliate Disclosure statement for more info. Making purchases after having followed one of these links will benefit me but costs you nothing extra. Thanks for clicking!



If you enter the main gates at the Gorge, you will start walking down a path. There are food vendors and various tents along the way. Shortly after entering, you will come to a fork in the road. If you have pit tickets or reserved seats, the path to the right takes you to where you need to go. If you have lawn tickets, the path to the left takes you to the top of the lawn.


When you get to the top of the hill, you will be at the back of the lawn. As you walk over the crest, the entire amphitheater appears with the Columbia River and gorge behind it.


The Gorge
Thousands of “Gorge virgins” do the walk over the hill on the first night. A picture isn’t enough to explain it.


I am not a very emotional person but walking over that crest the first time is enough to take anyone’s breath away. In the years that we’ve been going, I’ve seen people cry. I’ve seen people fall to their knees. There are always multiple marriage proposals that take place. And of course, tons and tons of pictures. It’s a moment not to be missed!


The Gorge
Even on our third visit, we had to get our “hill” picture on N1.



I’m not sure if the official name is “the lookout”, but that’s what we always call it. Next to the stage (if you are looking at the stage, it will be on the left), there is a bar area. You have to be 21 to enter, but you don’t have to buy a drink once you are in.

Once you are in the area, make your way towards the back. There is a little deck that looks out over the Columbia River and into the gorge. It’s another great photo op. Make sure to look to your right at the stage while you’re there as well. You’ll be amazed at how it’s built into the landscape. Hint: Let’s hope Carter never decides to roll backwards from his drum kit!



The first time we went to the Gorge, we were leaving the venue after N1 and decided we were hungry. We had to drive back to Moses Lake, and we knew there wouldn’t be any food options open once we got back. So, we saw a stand selling teriyaki noodles and stopped to grab some. OMG!!!!!

Getting teriyaki noodles became our “after show” tradition every night. Every time we get ready for another trip to the Gorge, we talk about getting the teriyaki noodles. I personally recommend getting them spicy and with chicken.  We like to linger after the show and let the traffic clear out anyway, so getting a bowl of the teriyaki noodles is a great way to spend the time rather than fighting the crowd.

You will find the noodles at a couple of stands among the food vendors. Just a word of warning though. This past year, they ran out of noodles on N1 and were closed by the time we made our way there on N3. Don’t take your chances and get them before the show!  If they have them after the show, that’s a bonus and you can have them a second time.



The Gorge is in the desert. It will be hot and dry during the day. Drink water. Lots and lots of water. We take our water bottles with us into the venue (you can take them in if they are empty). Alternatively, you can find someone from Reverb and donate to get a water bottle at the venue.

There are plenty of hydration stations located throughout the venue. Fill up and drink lots of water. I can’t emphasize it enough. I’ve seen too many people who don’t make it through a show because their idea of hydrating is drinking beer or wine instead of water.



Cave B Winery is located right next to the venue. There is also a Cave B Resort & Spa, but that is off limits over the weekend as the band rents the entire place out. But, the winery is open for business and tons of DMB fans hang out there all weekend.


Cave B Resort
The band and their families stay at the Cave B Resort, so you can’t access it. But, you can get some good views from the winery.


The views are breathtaking, and the wine is pretty good too. You can do a tasting (this year it was $10 to taste 6 wines) or just buy a bottle to enjoy. Since we were last there in 2016, they added a stage as well. They held an open mic and lots of fans got the chance to show off their musical talents.


Cave B
They’ve added a stage at Cave B for some musical entertainment.


You can access the winery by car off the main road, or you can walk from the parking lot (near Gold camping). Just look for the sign along the path that says “Wine Tasting”.


Cave B
The views at the Cave B Winery are worth a stop!


I don’t camp. One of my biggest pet peeves is that a lot of people say you aren’t experiencing the Gorge unless you camp all weekend. This just isn’t true, and I hate the fact that people try to guilt others that don’t want to camp into thinking they have to.

There are plenty of other options to camping. You can stay in hotels in Moses Lake or other nearby towns. There are also houses and condos you can rent in Crescent Bar/Crescent Bay or Quincy. Yes, you will have to get in your car and drive back to your hotel or house, rather than getting on a shuttle or walking to your campsite. But, you will also go back to a nice bed and a hot shower.


Crescent Bay house
I loved the house we rented in Crescent Bay! It was worth the drive.


Crescent Bay house
Waking up to this view from the back deck off of our bedroom was spectacular!


I have stayed in a hotel in Moses Lake twice, and a house in Crescent Bay once. I never felt that I didn’t get a full Gorge experience. That’s what works for me, and it might work for you too. My advice? You do you and don’t let anyone shame you into thinking your experience is not as good as their experience.



I have true respect for the people that camp. When you camp you have to figure out how to get your gear there, rent supplies (or even an RV), set up camp, cook your own food, etc. It’s a lot of planning and work.

There is no doubt that the campgrounds is a fun place to be. It’s you and thousands of your DMB friends hanging out in one big party. So, if you are someone who can tough the cold, brave the honey buckets and showers, and figure out how to fit all your camping gear into one checked bag, you should do it!



Most people going to the Gorge fly in and out of Seattle. While there are other options, it’s the biggest airport in the area so it tends to be easier to get in and out of. I’ll save some of my specific tips on Seattle for another article, but my general advice is to spend a little extra time there if you can.

At a minimum, if you are flying into Seattle, I highly recommend flying in the night before you intend to leave for the Gorge. I also highly recommend spending a night back in Seattle before you head back home (we always drive back to Seattle on Monday and fly out Tuesday). The drive from Seattle to the Gorge is a couple hours on a good day. Over Labor Day Weekend, traffic can be brutal.

So, give yourself some extra time and enjoy everything the city has to offer!



This tip sort of goes with the one above. Give yourself some extra time on your way out to the Gorge or back and make some stops. You can take a scenic drive through the Mt. Rainier area and do some hiking or just get some great pictures.

For the first time this year, we made a stop in Leavenworth, WA. It’s about an hour outside of the Gorge and is this cute German-themed town. There are lots of wineries, breweries, restaurants and shops. We could have spent a day there instead of the couple of hours we were able to spend.  Next time we will plan on staying there longer!


Leavenworth was a really cute town and worth a short detour on the way back to Seattle.



If you haven’t been to the Pacific Northwest, it’s a beautiful part of the country. If you can take the extra time and have the extra money, turn your Gorge trip into a vacation. We’ve done this all three trips and have always had a fantastic time.

Our first trip, we focused on the state of Washington and drove what felt like the whole state. We visited wine country in Walla Walla and Yakima and spent a few days in Seattle.

For our second trip, we focused more on Oregon. We spent some time in the Willamette Valley doing wine tastings and discovered the cute town of Hood River, OR.


Ponzi is one of the many great wineries in the Willamette Valley.


This trip we spent more time in Portland, made a stop in Bend to see DMB, and went back to Hood River. I’ll be sharing more details on what we did this trip in an upcoming article.


If you like beer, Portland is some place you want to visit!


Bottom line is there is a bunch to see. In our three trips, we haven’t even scratched the surface. So, make your trip a true Davecation!


Before I wrap it up, I have one more unofficial tip – Enjoy It! Some people are lucky enough to make their pilgrimage to the Gorge every year. Personally, we try to make it an every other year event. But I know that many of you will only have the chance to do it once.

Like any vacation, you plan for months and months. As it gets closer, you get more and more anxious about it happening. Suddenly the weekend has arrived and before you know it, it’s all over. So take it all in. Do the trip the way you want to do the trip. That might mean camping, or it might mean staying in a hotel. It might mean standing in line all day to get on the rail, or it might mean chilling out on the lawn every night. There is no “right” way to do the Gorge. My personal mantra is “just buy the tickets”.  In this instance, buy the tickets and make your pilgrimage to the Gorge.  You won’t regret it!

Have you been to the Gorge? Any tips you would add? Are you dreaming of going? Let us know what you think by commenting below or e-mailing me at

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10 thoughts on “Going to the Gorge? My Top 10 Tips for Gorge Goers!”

  1. Great list!! I personally cannot imagine not camping BUT I respect the opposition to camping…. going 6 days living in an RV made me VERY anxious to take a real shower and sleep on a real bed.

    Cannot wait for next year!!

    1. Thanks! I know the camping vs. non-camping thing is always a debate. I would have to have a LOT of comforts to be convinced to camp! Either way, it’s a magical trip every time.

      1. Thanks for the tips..we’ll have to try the noodles! Last year, we discovered that the bbq pulled pork thats at the bottom of the hill, close to the stage, was ahhmazing! This will be our fourth year here, starting with a tent, then sleeping in the car and now we’ve got a vintage airstream that we took last year! Gold camping with an RV is our new spoiled way to experience showers, cold AC and flushies! For you out-of-staters… (I’ll whisper this secret).. check out exit 47 on your way over Snoqualmie pass for a magical crystal hunting experience at Hansen Creek! 🙂

        1. Thanks for the tip on Exit 47. We aren’t going to make it to Gorge this year (we typically go every other year), but we’ll have to keep it in mind for 2020!

  2. On our way back to Seattle we troures Mt. Rainier and while I would never have done this wothout Chrissy’s husbands request as he’s not a DMB fan so just went for the experience of the hiking trails and such it was an amazing experience for me and just breathtaking. I highly recommend this for a detour.

    1. We have taken the “scenic route” and driven through Mt. Rainier before, but never stopped to hike. We will need to try that the next trip!

    1. You definitely don’t have to camp. There are pros and cons of both options. Everyone should choose what is right for them.

  3. As a Gorge local (Wenatchee), if you have the time and really want to explore the dichotomy of the state. I would recommend heading north from the Gorge to Wenatchee, crossing the river at highway 2, then picking up Hwy. 97A to Chelan (big recreation area & 50 mile long lake). go through Chelan and down the hill to the river, then north to North Cascades Hwy (spectacular views and wilderness area). Take No. Cascades Hwy. to Mt. Vernon. Stay on Hwy. 2 to Whidbey Island across the bridge at Deception Pass ( more phenomenal views). Head south through Oak Harbor to Ft. Casey and the Port Townsend ferry. Take that across the sound and head west to Port Angeles. From Port Angeles head out to Forks ( most Northwestern point in the continental US.). Go south past Olympic National Park & Rain Forest to Ocean Shores, then to Aberdeen and Olympia, then pick up I-5 and wind up in Seattle. Probably a 2-3 day trip, but definitely bucket list worthy!

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