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Spokane and the Inland Empire

Witness the convergence of nature and art in eastern Washington

Sitting on the Spokane River in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the Eastern Washington city of Spokane is a great base for exploring the outdoors.  It’s the second-largest city in the state in terms of population, and its location toward the Idaho border means that the weather is a bit more extreme than in other Pacific Northwest cities. Summer temperatures hover in the low 80s, and winter temperatures average just below freezing.

The city is named for the Spokane Tribe of the region, known as the “people of the sun.” The city was later part of the general region of the Oregon Territory and became an important rail and shipping hub right in between farming and mining areas. The discovery of silver and gold accentuated an already-rich diversity of natural resources, including logging.


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Park Life

One of Spokane’s most popular green spaces, Manito Park, in the South Hill neighborhood, welcomes over 150,000 visitors a year. This 90-acre green space features five gardens, a greenhouse conservatory, bike paths and a duck pond that’s particularly popular with families. Other features include a couple of playgrounds, a stone bridge and a casual restaurant: the Park Bench Cafe. Don’t miss Duncan Garden, a classical European Renaissance-style garden, within the park.

Downtown Spokane’s Riverfront Park was created for the Expo ’74, an environmentally-themed Worlds Fair event held in Spokane in 1974. It sits along the Spokane River and features lots of green space along with a 145-foot-high pavilion, a carousel, an IMAX theater, and—in the wintertime—an ice-skating rink. The park contains part of the 37-mile-long Spokane River Centennial Trail, a multi-use paved recreational trail that runs clear to the Idaho border, where it continues under the name, North Idaho Centennial Trail. Looming over the park is the Great Northern Depot Clock Tower, a 155-foot reminder of the city’s role as a stop on the Great Northern Railroad. Although the rest of the depot has been demolished, the brick tower, builtin 1902, still chimes at the top of every hour.

Tree-lovers will appreciate the John A. Finch Arboretum on Garden Springs Creek, which has a couple thousands trees and shrubs with both deciduous and coniferous trees. It’s especially well known for its large rhododendron grove and numerous fragrant lilac trees.

A 20-minute drive from downtown, the enormous Riverside State Park spans some 14,000 acres on the Spokane and Little Spokane rivers. Along with campgrounds and picnic facilities, the park features 55 miles of hiking and bike trails, 25 miles of equestrian trails, an amphitheater and opportunities for outdoor recreation activities, from rock climbing to whitewater kayaking. It’s also a great place for freshwater fishing, with 120 feet of dock and three boat ramps.

A one-hour drive out of town, Mt. Spokane State Park in the Selkirk Mountains is spread out across nearly 14,000 acres of forestland, with 90 miles of cycling trails plus another 100 miles of hiking trails. It receives around 200 inches of snow in the winter months, which makes it a popular spot for skiing.

Arts, Culture, and Museums

Spokane takes the arts quite seriously, and in 1981, the city enacted an ordinance requiring that one percent of capital costs on new construction be used for public art. In the past three-plus decades since, sculptures, decorative fountains, murals and other design pieces have sprung up across the city.

The city also has numerous museums, including the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture, with five galleries that focus on the history of the region, local art and indigenous culture. As an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, the museum regularly hosts touring exhibitions with a special focus on art, history and culture. It shares its grounds with the Campbell House, a beautifully preserved historic house dating back to 1910, complete with old furniture and memorabilia from the era.

Those interested in area history and culture—and anyone with family ties to the region—might want to stop by the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum. Families won’t want to miss the Mobius Science Center and the Mobius Children’s Museum, both of which focus specifically on making science more interesting and accessible for younger generations. Located on the Gonzaga University campus, the Jundt Art Museum is another must-see for art-lovers, with a regular rotation of traveling exhibits and a large, permanent collection, including bronze sculptures of Auguste Rodin and gorgeous, colorful glass art by Washington’s contemporary glass sculptor, the internationally renowned Dale Chihuly.

With seating for 2,700, downtown’s INB Performing Arts Center hosts the Spokane Symphony and Ballet, along with numerous touring productions throughout the year. Other Spokane performing arts institutions include the Bing Crosby Theater and the Spokane Civic Theatre.


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Summertime Fun

During the summer, a number of venues in Spokane show Hollywood feature films under the stars. Riverfront Park screens several popular movies to audiences for only $5; kids under five years old watch for free. Each showing is accompanied by a vendor fair, live entertainment, trivia competitions, food trucks and giveaways.

When the Spokane Country Raceway and at Pavilion Park isn’t hosting high-speed action, it’s showing drive-in movies. Break out the popcorn for some cinematic fun.

Bird watchers and wildlife photographers, meanwhile, will find birding Nirvana 30 miles southwest of Spokane at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

Spokane Treasures

Back in town, a number of venues offer entertainment and enlightenment for visitors seeking something different.

Improv comedy takes center stage at the Blue Door Theatre, in which a troupe of hilarious performers make up stories and act out scenes on the spot. At the Knitting Factory Concert House, musical artists from across the world perform in a fantastic venue.

For more live entertainment, enjoy music performances at Riverfront Park’s Fountain Cafe on Wednesday nights.

Throughout town, scores of pottery studios and galleries showcase works by local artists. Places like the Clay Connection and Polka House Pottery let customers get into the action by creating their own masterpieces.

Eating on the River

When the sun sets, a number of fine dining experiences beckon hungry travelers. The Ripples on the River Lounge serves up delicious meals with fantastic views of the Spokane River. Enjoy fresh seafood, beef and poultry dishes. Ripples is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and evening cocktails and libations are available.

For More Information

Visit Spokane




Washington State Tourism