When I was twelve years old, after moving back and forth between Indonesia and Texas, my parents decided to settle our family in the eastern Washington city of Spokane. Coming from the sprawling metropolis of Jakarta, Indonesia, it was definitely a shock to the senses when we landed in that quiet city. Needless to say, I spent the better part of my time 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. When my husband and I got married, I chose Spokane, rather than Seattle, as the location for our wedding. And as our kids have gotten older, I have grown to appreciate our weekend visits to Spokane to see their grandparents.
This post was recently updated on November 27, 2019.
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Exploring things to do in Spokane
We recently spent a weekend in Spokane. And during that trip, I began to think of some of the things that make Spokane unique. I realized that it’s a pretty fun city to explore, 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:
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 Spokane 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 quaint little neighborhoods around the city to explore, with picturesque homes and nearby parks.
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 100 year old 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.
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.
Since 2009, I’ve noticed a trend in Spokane 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.
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 No-Li, based in Spokane. 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.
Participate in 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 Spokane’s small town vibe. Despite the city’s relatively large size, there is still a great sense of community among the people of Spokane.
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 Spokane, 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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