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Spokane, Washington

Spotlight: Spokane and Inland Empire

Discover Washington’s eastern half from this sparkling gem

The city of Spokane is the crown jewel of eastern Washington state. Tucked amongst the scenic foothills and low-lying mountains that drape across the border with neighboring Idaho, the city is a nature lover’s paradise—bursting with outdoor adventures and day trip escapes into lush, wild countryside. You can fish, golf, hike, kayak and mountain climb all in a single weekend—taking advantage of 260 days of annual average sunshine each year—and a collection of 76 sparkling freshwater lakes all lie within short, easy reach of downtown.

Spokane began life as a fur-trading center, gaining its name from a Native American word that means “children of the sun,” a nod to the area’s idyllic climate. As with so many far-flung western frontier outposts, Spokane survived thanks to its transition into a role as a railway hub, connecting east to west.

The rest of Spokane’s growth into a destination town for outdoor adventure enthusiasts was handled exclusively by Mother Nature. The community’s picture-perfect placement means you can go for an early morning paddle by kayak before breakfast, brave whitewater rapids by lunch, tear up fresh mountain snow on skis in the afternoon and end the day with a spot of fishing at sunset. Find lots shopping in the city’s diverse neighborhoods.

The Clocktower on Havermale Island is a major Spokane landmark.

Getty Images/Ingram Publishing

Fall for Spokane

But before you go stomping around the surrounding wilderness, start your exploring in downtown Spokane itself, where the Spokane River winds its way directly through the center of town. In the spring, the river level rises and the pace quickens to a delightful thundering roar. The stretch that pours through the heart of downtown is known as Spokane Falls. In peak season, the flow can carry as much as 31,000 cubic feet of water per second.

Riverfront Park and a portion of the Centennial Trail are the best ways to take in the beauty of Spokane Falls. Riverfront Park spans 100 acres and features a variety of scenic trails that include footbridges and lookouts over the river. Centennial Trail stretches all the way east to Coeur d’Alene in Idaho, but the paved portion that runs through Riverside Park is a favorite for cyclists looking to take in Spokane Falls. Following the trail further west will take you to Riverside State Park, which bursts with more than 100 miles of hiking trails, biking trails and horse riding trails.

During the summer, Spokane offers several venues at which to see your favorite Hollywood films under the stars. Riverfront Park screens several popular movies to audiences, and each showings is accompanied by a vendor fair, live entertainment, trivia competitions, food trucks and giveaways.

Drive-in Movies also are shown at the Spokane Country Raceway and at Pavilion Park. Prepare some popcorn and partake in an all-American tradition.

If live entertainment is your preference, enjoy music performances at Riverfront Park’s Fountain Cafe on Wednesday nights.

When you’re ready to branch out for a day trip or two, you’ll have plenty of options. About an hour’s drive away to the north lies Mt. Spokane, one of the tallest mountain peaks in the state. It’s home to Mount Spokane State Park, which spans more than 13,000 acres and is home to old-growth timber and granite rock outcroppings. In the winter months, the mountain opens up for downhill skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling and snowshoeing. During the summer, adventure seekers can navigate the mountain’s 90 miles of bike trails and 100 miles of hiking trails. If you reach the 5,883-foot summit on a clear day, you’ll be able to see into Canada.

Crossing the Border

To the east, in Idaho, Lake Coeur d’Alene sits less than 50 miles away. An on-site resort and an abundance of quaint lakeside cottages make this a great weekend spot for a mini-vacation within your vacation. More than 100 miles of freshwater shoreline provide access to the peaceful lake, which is popular for fishing, boating and canoeing. Cyclists can hop on the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes, which winds to Wallace, a historic mining town.

Bird watchers and wildlife photographers will want to head 30 miles southwest of Spokane to Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge. In addition to an abundance of wildlife and waterfowl, the refuge’s 18,217-acre expanse is full of rocky outcrops, thick pine bluffs, lush wetlands and sparkling lakes.

When it’s time for a break from hiking trails and boat launches, there’s Silverwood Theme Park, which is located just 50 miles east of downtown Spokane in Idaho. The park is home to more than 60 rides and thrill rides, including wooden roller coasters and a log flume ride. It’s also home to the Boulder Beach Water Park, which features a lazy river, tube slides and a wave pool.

History buffs and arts enthusiasts can stick closer to home for a break from the great outdoors. At the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, located in downtown Spokane near the banks of the Spokane River, guests can explore the history of the region through a range of exhibits and programs. Items and artifacts on display mostly shed light on the history of northeastern Washington’s indigenous people and the arrival of early pioneering explorers.

The city of Spokane and the surrounding area is a picture-perfect place to pull over the RV and set up camp for a thoroughly rich taste of the American northwest. Gorgeous freshwater lakes, foothill hiking trails, alpine vistas, tumbling waterfalls and fantastic nationally protected parklands make Spokane a must-visit for nature lovers.

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Spokane on Parade

Like the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, Spokane has its own flower-themed parade. Held every May, the annual Spokane Lilac Festival culminates in the Spokane Lilac Festival Armed Forces Torchlight Parade, which focuses largely on its namesake flower. Started in 1938, the Lilac Festival and its accompanying parade grew to become one of Spokane’s biggest annual events. Community organizations, marching bands, local leaders and skilled equestrians turn out to honor the military and celebrate their community.

Several local events are held to coincide with the big festival. Visitors can attend a car show, check out the float viewing or take part in the festival golf tournament.

Ironically, lilacs aren’t indigenous to the region. As local historians will tell you, the first lilac came from Minnesota and flourished in the Spokane area.

Savor vine vintages at Arbor Crest Winery, Nodland Cellars and Latah Creek. Each winery serves rich selections of red and white Washington State wines. Arbor Crest sits atop a 450-foot cliff that overlooks the entire Valley region, offering stunning panoramic views that pair nicely with the quiet romantic setting. It’s an experience that’s a real treat for wine lovers.

For More Information

Visit Spokane
Washington State Tourism