Spokane and the Inland Empire
Discover Washington’s exciting eastern side
Resting along the banks of the Spokane River in eastern Washington is the capital of the Inland Empire, Spokane. Derived from the Salish term meaning “children of the sun,” Spokane served as hunting and fishing grounds for the Spokane people for thousands of years. In the early 1800s, settlers and fur traders created the first trading post near the Spokane Falls to barter with the local tribe. Today, it’s Washington’s second-largest city, famous for its world-class museums and gorgeous parks teeming with flowers and trees.
Situated just 20 miles from Idaho, Spokane looks a bit different from the rest of Washington’s western cities, with its abundance of sunshine and desert landscapes. Despite this change in scenery, you’ll still get to enjoy what the Evergreen State is best known for: exciting cultural attractions and endless outdoor fun.
So Much in Store at Riverfront Park
Taking advantage of the area’s sunny climate, the city planners in Spokane put a great emphasis on open spaces. This approach is exemplified by Riverfront Park, which spans 100 acres on both riverbanks and is considered the crown jewel of the city. The attraction played a starring role Expo ’74, an environmentally-themed Worlds Fair event held in Spokane in 1974. The park continues to host some of the region’s most famous attractions and biggest events. After a recent redevelopment, the park is poised to offer even more flexible recreation spaces for Spokane’s residents and visitors.
Adding to the park’s appeal are the Spokane Falls, which can be viewed from the footbridges that cross the river over the cascades. Take selfies with both the upper falls and lower falls from various angles, or take a ride up the Spokane Falls Skyride, which transports visitors over the spectacles via gondolas suspended by a cable. When you step off the Skyride, meander along the interactive sculpture walk. Don’t miss the hand-carved Looff Carousel, built in 1909 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places as one of America’s best-presered hand-carved courrousels. The ride features 54 horses, one giraffe, one tiger and two chinese dragons. There’s even a brass ring; the rider who grabs it can redeem the ring for a free ride.
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.
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.
If you’re looking for outdoor fun, know you’ll find it here, too. The iconic Centennial Trail State Park is a 37-mile, 12-foot-wide path for pedestrians and nonmotorized vehicles that passes through the city. Walk, bike or jog along this paved path to discover rugged backdrops, jaw-dropping vistas and the Spokane River. Head east, and the trail takes you all the way to the Washington-Idaho border. If you continue west on the trail long enough, you’ll end up at the expansive Riverside State Park.
Encompassing 14,000 acres, Riverside is Washington’s largest state park, with more than a hundred miles of trails including 25 miles of equestrian trails. Nestled along the Spokane and Little Spokane rivers, the park is also the perfect destination for swimming and whitewater kayaking. It’s also a great place for freshwater fishing, with 120 feet of dock and three boat ramps. In the winter months, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular pursuits.
Calling All Nature Lovers
When you’re back in town, a visit to Manito Park is a must. Considered one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the country, Manito Park features five garden areas, a conservatory teeming with tropical plants and more than 20 acres of blooming flowers. Step outside the gardens to view wildlife at the Mirror Pond and make your way to the Stone Bridge on Loop Drive to enjoy exquisite views of the rose garden. In the Japanese Gardens, a gracefully arched bridge crosses a koi pond amid exquisite landscaping.
Just 3 miles to the west is the John A. Finch Arboretum. Boasting 65 acres of woodland hills, this showcase of plant life lures visitors to its stunning array of shrubs and trees. Join a walking tour to learn more about this stimulating landscape and surround yourself with more than 2,000 types of trees and shrubs.
Packed with theaters, museums and galleries, Spokane will not disappoint in the arts and culture realm. Delve into the city’s rich history at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, or MAC, as the locals call it. Home to rotating exhibits, underground galleries and an impressive collection of artifacts, the MAC gives you an in-depth look into Washington’s past and Native American culture.
After, watch an opera, ballet or the Spokane Symphony at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox. Traveling with the kids? Let their imaginations soar at the Mobius Science Center, or let them see lions, tigers and other big cats at the Cat Tales Zoological Park.
Outdoor Thrills in the Selkirks
Epic outdoor adventures are just 35 miles northeast from downtown in Mount Spokane State Park. In the winter, the Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park offers 45 runs that take you to over 1,400 acres of fresh powder. After a long day on the hills, head to the historic Vista House at the summit for a mug of hot chocolate. When the snow melts, cycle along more than 90 miles of bike and equestrian paths or trek through 100 miles of hiking trails. Savor jaw-dropping views of the Spokane Valley, Selkirk Mountains and the north Idaho panhandle.
For More Information
Washington Tourism Alliance