Under Rated Spokane -16 Top Things for a Great Visit

a body of water with trees and buildings in the background

Spokane: the city where half the people mispronounce it, and the other half can’t find it on a map. It’s located in eastern Washington and has a rich history in railroads and mining, along with a vibrant arts scene and stunning natural landscapes. With the Spokane River winding through the city, it combines historic architecture with contemporary development, creating a unique and intriguing place to explore.

Home to 233,000, the city flies under the radar as a tourist destination. Yet, I have immensely enjoyed my visits there. It is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts, offering numerous parks, hiking trails, and skiing spots nearby. Spokane is also home to several cultural events and festivals, making it a lively and engaging place to visit or live.

12 Reasons to Visit Spokane

1. I wrote on Sunday about how much I love joining in on the Bloomsday fun run, a 12km run when the city comes alive with tens of thousands of runners and spectators. The Bloomsday has been the event that has drawn me back to the city again and again.

2. My second favourite thing in Spokane (after Bloomsday) is the Centennial Trail. This 53km (37-mile) paved pathway stretches from the Idaho state line to Nine Mile Falls in Washington. Whether you walk, ride, jog, skate, or skateboard along this beautiful trail, you will be exposed to multiple views of the Spokane River, fascinating old bridges and buildings. The path also passes through the Gonzaga University campus which is also an interesting place to visit.

3. Every visitor makes their way to Riverfront Park, the central landmark in Spokane, which has over 100 acres of green space, pedestrian trails, and various attractions. Riverfront Park was the site of the Expo ’74 and is home to the iconic U.S. Pavilion and the Great Northern Railroad Depot’s clock tower (above), built in 1902. The rest of the station was demolished to make room for the Expo .

The park also features the historic Looff Carrousel, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Spokane Falls is a must-see natural attraction within Riverfront Park. It consists of lower and upper falls and presents a fast-paced and very audible attraction. While both offer dramatic views throughout the year, the best time to see these heavy-flowing falls is spring when snowmelt swells the Spokane River.

4. I love walking (and running) through the charming streets of Browne’s Addition, Spokane’s oldest neighbourhood, which is lined with historic mansions, many dating back to the late 1800s. Some of these grand residences have informational plaques out front, providing a glimpse into the neighbourhood’s rich past. You can wander at your own pace or use a self-guided walking tour for a more structured visit. Plenty of places for coffee and meals as you explore, like Rocket café below.

5 The Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (MAC)

a building with glass windows

Pencil in a half day for MAC. Previously known as the Cheney Cowles Museum, is in Browne’s Addition neighbourhood.

MAC is the largest cultural organisation in the Inland Northwest, with five underground galleries, a café, a store, an education centre, a community room, and the Center for Plateau Cultural Studies.

6. Campbell House, part of the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture tells the history tells the history of the the wealthy Campbell family. Campbell House transports visitors back to 1910, offering insights into the lifestyle of the family, their servants, and the community events they sponsored. Mr. Campbell was anti-union and opposed the ten hour working day.!

7. The arts scene in Spokane is amazing for a town this size, with great shows and theatre: Bing Crosby Theater (live music and film screenings), First Interstate Center for the Arts (offering Broadway plays and ballet), Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox (home to the Spokane Symphony), Spokane Arena (sports and concerts), and Spokane Civic Theatre (a non-profit community theatre).

8. Another half a day can be spent at the stunning Manito Park, in the South Hill neighbourhood, is an absolute must-do with 90 acres of gardens and natural landscapes, including five major garden areas: Duncan Garden (symmetrical beds and a central fountain), Rose Hill (a variety of rose species and hybrids), Joel E. Ferris Perennial Garden (diverse perennials and vibrant blooms), Lilac Garden (dedicated to lilacs, Spokane’s symbol), Nishinomiya Tsutakawa Japanese Garden (traditional Japanese design).

9. On the way to or from Manito Park, drop in on the South Perry District, a neighbourhood that has undergone a significant reveal to come into its own. Its a small but vibrant community of charming Craftsman-style bungalows. with fantastic eateries and bars. Love it!

10. Bing Crosby grew up in Spokane, and his childhood home (Bing Crosby House) on Sharp Avenue has a small free museum with volunteers providing fascinating tidbits of information.

a sign with a cartoon character on it

11. Auntie’s Books is a must-visit for me every time.

A literary landmark, Auntie’s has been a full-service independent bookshop in Spokane since 1978.

It has a great feel, a delightful staff, an amazing range of new and used books, greeting cards, t-shirts, Spokane speciality items, and other gifts and lots of book events such as author’s readings, books clubs and music events

12. Spokane is home to two cathedrals: St. John’s Cathedral on 12th Avenue and the Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes downtown. St. John’s is a rare example of classic Gothic architecture in the United States, known for its grand organ, featuring over 400 pipes, and a carillon—a massive set of bells that are played before the Sunday service. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes is more modern and is known for its stained-glass windows and distinctive spires. They always have a choir singing on the Bloomsday route, which I find inspiring!

13. If you’re into wine, the “Cork District” in the heart of Spokane is where you want to be. This urban area features a partnership of more than 20 regional wineries, offering visitors a unique opportunity to swirl and sip their way through the city, experiencing the best of local wines.

14 Spokane is also home to over 20 local breweries, making craft beer one of the top things to enjoy in the city. Many brewery taprooms are located within walking distance from downtown, allowing you to create your own Spokane Brewery Tour

15. The John A. Finch Arboretum (free entry) covers 65 acres of Woodland Hills in southwest Spokane, offering a peaceful escape into nature and features over 2,000 labelled trees and shrubs, as well as seasonal wildflowers. Seasonal events include the “Fall Leaf Festival” and “Spring Blooms”,

16 Riverside State Park

a body of water with trees and a hill

Not to be confused with Riverfront Park, Riverside State Park is a marvellous camping, hiking, and fishing area located on the Spokane and Little Spokane rivers, 15 km (9 miles) northwest of downtown Spokane. The Centennial Trail, mentioned earlier, starts here and runs all the way to Coeur d’Alene.

Getting There

Spokane is in eastern Washington, about 280 miles east of Seattle, 35 miles west of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, 430 miles north of Boise, Idaho, and 540 miles west of Billings, Montana. Freeways:

  • Interstate 90 (I-90): runs through Spokane, from Seattle in the west and to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and beyond in the east.
  • U.S. Route 2 (US-2): northeast from Spokane, connecting the city to Newport and other areas of northern Washington.
  • U.S. Route 195 (US-195): south from Spokane, providing a route to Pullman, Washington, and eventually to Lewiston, Idaho.
a blue airplane with a blue vehicle on the ground

Spokane International Airport is located approximately 7 miles (11 km) west of Downtown Spokane and serves the entire Inland region.

The airport has an unusual destination code, GEG, which is derived from its former name, Geiger Field, named after Major Harold Geiger (1884–1927). GEG is served by six airlines with non-stop service to the following:

  • Allegiant Air: Las Vegas, Phoenix/Mesa
  • American Airlines: Dallas/Fort Worth, Phoenix–Sky Harbor; Charlotte*
  • Delta Air Lines: Atlanta, Los Angeles, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Salt Lake City, Seattle/Tacoma
  • Southwest Airlines: Denver, Las Vegas, Oakland, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, Sacramento, San Jose (CA); Dallas–Love*
  • Sun Country Airlines: Minneapolis/St. Paul*
  • United Airlines: Denver; Chicago–O’Hare*, San Francisco

(Indicates seasonal services)

a train on a bridge

Amtrak’s Empire Builder train, connects Chicago with Seattle and Portland. Launched 1929, by Great Northern Railway, from Chicago, it stops Milwaukee, St. Paul/Minneapolis, Fargo and Whitefish. I’ve long wanted to ride the train from Fargo to Spokane but its timings at Spokane are grim!

Getting Around

Spokane’s primary public transit system is operated by Spokane Transit, which has seen significant improvements over the time I have been visiting the city. A new BRT-style bus line runs frequently between downtown and the universities. A half-hourly bus service operates from the airport to downtown. To ride, you can simply tap and go with your Visa or Mastercard, whether it’s a physical card or a smartphone with contactless payment.

Spokane does not have regional rail service, which seems like a logical option for connecting the airport, downtown, and Coeur d’Alene. But this is the USA, where what might be common in Germany doesn’t often happen in the land of the car!

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  1. Nice to see this article on Boarding Area. I am a local (North Idaho) resident. A few corrections:
    1) The Centennial Trail runs ~37 miles in WA state. It actually crosses into Idaho and runs an additional ~23 miles here.
    2) Spokane Airport actually hosts 7 major airlines. You missed Alaska, which is a big player here, accounting for the largest percentage of passenger traffic (Alaska/Horizon combined).

    Glad you enjoyed Bloomsday!

  2. Was gonna mention the Alaska/Horizon miss. Also, golf at Spokane’s city courses is phenomenal for the price. Casino is fun if you’re into that kind of thing.

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