When I was twelve years old, my parents decided to settle our family in the eastern Washington city of Spokane. Being a pre-teen at the time, I was not too thrilled about the move. Needless to say, I spent the better part of my teenage years in Spokane with a chip on my shoulder. I never expected much from the city, and always complained about how there were never things to do in Spokane.
It has been fifteen years since I left Spokane, and as the years have passed, I have started giving the city the chance that my teenage self foolishly cast aside. As our kids have gotten older, we’ve gone back to the city to visit with my parents. And I have grown to appreciate our visits to my hometown.
This post was recently updated on August 23, 2021.
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Exploring things to do in Spokane
With each trip to Spokane as an adult, I think about some of the things that make this city unique. I realize that there are plenty of fun things to do in Spokane, especially if you have kids. And even if you only have a few days, there are still some things to do in Spokane that will make your stay worthwhile.
The city’s local newspaper, The Spokesman Review, has a fun book full of ideas for Spokane experiences to try. But if you’re wanting some ideas to start, here are my picks for things to do in Spokane for your next trip.
Take some more time to explore the beautiful city of Spokane. Read more posts here.
1. Check out the small town vibe
As of 2013, the city of Spokane has a population of approximately 210,000 people. This makes Spokane the second most populous city in the state of Washington. Yet somehow, the city has not lost its small town vibe.
People in this city are friendly and will still willingly say hello to a stranger. There are families who have spent generations in the city. And more often than not, I will still run into someone I know when I spend a day out and about.
When I was young, that small town vibe made me feel trapped and constrained. But now as an adult, it makes me feel safe and secure. I feel comfortable letting my kids play in my parents’ backyard. And there are plenty of opportunities to have a local experience around the city, with so many parks to explore.
Have fun exploring these neighborhoods:
- Browne’s Addition
- Cannon’s Addition
- Kendall Yards
- Garland District
2. Hang out at Riverfront Park
Speaking of parks, one of the biggest park in the city is Riverfront Park. It’s a hundred acre park set along the banks of the Spokane River. Riverfront Park is famous for its pavilion, built for the 1974 World’s Fair. It’s also well-known for its clock tower.
The park is the setting for many citywide events. It hosts a number of fun activities to do all year round, including an ice rink, arcades, and a train ride. There’s also a historic carousel.
One of the things we like to do as a family when we’re in town is to take a ride on the gondola across the Spokane River. It offers a great view of the city, and our kids enjoy the thrill of being suspended above the ground.
3. Sample food at local restaurants
Besides the park, downtown Spokane is home to plenty of eateries and bars. The number of hip eateries and bars in the city has grown exponentially since when I was a kid. Our favorite neighborhoods for restaurants are Kendall Yards and the downtown area.
Be sure to visit these local restaurants:
- Zona Blanco (Baja tacos)
- The Flying Goat (pizza)
- Queen of Sheba (Ethiopian)
- Cascadia Public House (gastropub)
Since 2009, I’ve noticed a trend towards local food. The city’s farmer’s market has grown exponentially since its humble beginnings in 1998. And u-pick activities, from strawberries to peaches to apples, are growing in popularity.
The Food Access Coalition of Spokane has a great list of places to buy local food as well as local producers in the area.
4. Get a drink at the micro-breweries
In addition to the local food movement gaining momentum, micro-breweries have been popping up more and more lately in Spokane. My husband was recently introduced to coffee-infused beer, and one of the breweries doing this technique in Washington state is local brewery, No-Li.
There are now about eight micro-breweries operating out of Spokane, so at the very least, a visit to the city can provide you with a tasty, hand-crafted glass of beer. Most of them are located downtown.
5. Explore things to do in Spokane for locals at citywide events
One of my other favorite things to do in Spokane is participate in the citywide events. I love how much the city comes together for these things!
Spokane holds at least three major events throughout the year that attracts thousands of tourists: Bloomsday, Hoopfest, and Pig Out at the Park. Bloomsday, a 12k race that winds through the western part of the city, attracts over 60,000 participants each year, and Hoopfest is the largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament in the country.
In the late summer, the city hosts Pig Out at the Park, a food and music festival at Riverfront Park that showcases over 100 bands and musical acts.
Besides these three events, there are also plenty of other citywide events that the city organizes. I think it goes back to what I was saying about the city’s small town vibe. Despite the city’s relatively large size, there is still a great sense of community among the people of Spokane.
6. Explore outdoor activities
The city has dozens of outdoor activities that families can take part in. Besides hiking in parks throughout the city, there are rivers and lakes that families can visit as well. Riverside State Park, for example, is over 9,000 acres of outdoor space for families to explore. Additionally, the Spokane Parks and Recreation department has outdoor programs during the summer months that families can take part in.
There are also several camping locations for families who want to camp around the city. You can also use Hipcamp to find nearby camping locations on independently owned properties. In the winter months, visitors can enjoy skiing or snowboarding at nearby Mount Spokane.
If you’re more into adrenaline-filled fun, you can head over to nearby Liberty Lake and book this zipline tour from Mica Moon Zip Tours: Zipline Tour on Mica Peak in Spokane
7. Take part in water-based activities
For being an inland city, Spokane is surrounded by water. The Spokane River runs through the city’s downtown, and is in fact the namesake of the city (it used to be called Spokane Falls, after the falls that sit in the heart of the downtown area).
The river joins up with Lake Coeur d’Alene to the east. And in the west, the Spokane River connects with Lake Roosevelt, and on to the much larger Columbia River. Popular water activities along the Spokane River include kayaking and paddle boarding.
Nearby lakes (within 1-2 hours drive from the city) include:
- Lake Coeur d’Alene
- Lake Pend Oreille
- Liberty Lake
- Loon Lake
- Lake Roosevelt
- Medical Lake
- Spirit Lake
- Long Lake
8. Engage your brain at the museum
If you’re in the mood for some museum experiences, you’re in luck. The city has several museums that you can visit to learn about Spokane’s history and culture.
We particularly like the Mobius Children’s Museum, because it allows our kids to explore with their interactive exhibits. This museum is perfect for worldschoolers like us, who are always looking for ways to incorporate learning into our travel experiences.
We also like visiting the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, as well as the historic Campbell House. The Spokane House, located in the northern part of Riverside State Park, is also worth visiting.
Interested in learning more about what Washington state? Read my Washington state posts here.
Enjoying all the things to do in Spokane with my kids
After years of ambivalence towards Spokane, it took me awhile to really see how great the city is. Now that I’ve come to terms with my relationship with this city, I am realizing that it’s worthy of a second chance, and has succeeded in surprising me on many occasions.
As I have grown older, I am starting to appreciate the city where I grew up. Seattle is, and will always remain, my home base. But Spokane is now what I would consider my hometown.
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