Out-of-staters (or internationals) may be forgiven for overlooking Seattle’s smaller east-side sibling; the second most populous city in Washington, and the largest city between Seattle and Minneapolis, Spokane (pronounced Spo-CAN) has managed to stay off the vacation radar. But in recent years, tourists have begun to figure out what the locals know: Spokane’s deserves its “Near Perfect” tag.
With more than 200,000 residents in the city limits and nearly half a million residents in the county, Spokane is a regional hub for business, shopping and entertainment, befitting its history as a rail hub when trains first connected the two sides of the continent. And it’s still a city on the move, a home to Bloomsday, the world’s largest organized foot race, and Hoopfest, the world’s largest three-on-three basketball tournament.
Site of the 1974 World’s Fair, Riverfront Park is the literal and culture centerpiece of downtown Spokane and home to many of the city’s icons: the hand-carved horses of the 1909 Looff Carousel, the kids’-favorite Red Wagon, and the historic Great Northern clocktower, a remnant of the park’s bustling train-depot days. And through it all tumble the Spokane Falls, rated one of the two best urban waterfalls in the country.
In recent years the city has begun to embrace its collection of turn-of-the-twentieth-century brick and masonry buildings. Urban green spaces, designed by the Olmsted Brothers—architects of New York’s Central Park—anchor diverse neighborhoods, all with their own distinctive identities and amenities.
At the confluence of the arid Columbia Basin, the windswept wheat fields of the Palouse and the westernmost ramparts of the Rockies, Spokane offers world-class outdoor recreation. Riverside State Park, the state’s second-largest (only its subalpine neighbor Mount Spokane, just north of town, is larger), offers hiking, biking, bird-watching and whitewater rafting just minutes from downtown, while skiers will find five ski areas with two hours of town.
But it’s not all about the outdoors. The boyhood home of legendary crooner Bing Crosby, Spokane hosts major touring acts in addition to a lively local scene. In the epicurean arena, Spokane’s food and brews have begun to receive recognition, too, with James Beard Award recipients starting storefront restaurants in Spokane’s revitalized neighborhoods. So the secret’s out, but there’s still plenty of elbow room in the Inland Empire.
Washington’s second-largest state park, on the edge of Washington’s second-largest city, with a riverfront recently ranked as the second best in the nation? Spokane has long played second fiddle to its west-side sibling, but it turns out number two is not a bad place to be.
Spokane Weekends from Smokestacks to Flying Goats … Big-city amenities without the crowds or traffic in Spokane
Sitting at the confluence of the arid Columbia River basin and the Northern Rockies, Spokane boasts a temperate climate with four distinct seasons. Spring peaks in May with colorful floral displays from the city’s signature lilacs. A mild, wet June usually kicks off summer…pleasantly warm July… about three weeks of high, dry heat in August…but even then, nights stay XYZ…
Pacific Time Zone (UTC -800)
Spokane is also easy to get out of, and that’s no backhanded compliment. Canadian border two hours away, Idaho border and Lake Coeur d’Alene less than forty minutes away…
Spokane International Airport…serviced by major airlines… 10-minute taxi ride to downtown… most hotels offer free shuttle service…
Befitting Spokane’s rail-hub history… Amtrak station on edge of downtown (Greyhound station in same building)… Amtrak’s cross-country Empire Builder line has one daily stop in Spokane each way… be aware that both arrival times are in the middle of the night; plan a shuttle pick-up accordingly.
Spokane has the shortest commute time of metropolitan areas in the U.S., so traffic is rarely an issue… foot-friendly downtown…