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Spokane WA

Spokane, WA

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A mid-sized city ringed by snowcapped mountains and glistening lakes, Spokane boasts 4,000 acres of parkland and a roiling, 60-foot waterfall in the heart of downtown. The waterfall is a part of the Spokane River, which first attracted the Spokan Indians to the area due to its abundant salmon. In 1807, a trading post was established near the river for fur traders, and the region's economy boomed in the late 1800s after the arrival of the railroad and the opening of several silver mines. The agriculture and timber industries also helped transform Spokane into eastern Washington's premier commercial hub. Today, Spokane is home to more video game designers than lumberjacks, but the city retains its historical ties to the great outdoors.

Unlike rainy Seattle 280 miles to the west, Spokane receives an average of 260 days of sunshine per year. With mild summertime highs in the 80s, the city is a magnet for outdoors enthusiasts, from hikers and bikers to anglers and golfers. To get a sampling of the area's natural beauty and rich history, take a stroll through downtown's 100-acre Riverfront Park, a top attraction in Spokane. Built on the site of an old rail yard for the World's Fair in 1974, the park occupies small islands and a peninsula that juts into the Spokane River. A winding trail leads visitors through verdant green spaces and a sculpture garden, past a historic clock tower and Spokane Falls. For another view, from a gondola, take the Spokane Falls SkyRide over the river. Youngsters and history buffs will love the park's restored 1909 Looff Carrousel, which features hand-carved horses, dragons and a giraffe.

Less than a mile south of Riverfront Park, the two brick smokestacks of the Steam Plant tower over downtown Spokane. Originally built in 1919, the plant provided electricity for several downtown buildings until 1986. While retaining much of the structure's historic architecture, developers transformed the plant into 80,000 square feet of space for restaurants, bars, offices and retail shops. The project earned a National Preservation Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2001. For those who don't like confined spaces, Stacks restaurant at the Steam Plant features 80-foot ceilings. Other highly rated eateries, such as Wild Sage American Bistro and Churchill's Steakhouse, are located within walking distance of the Steam Plant.

During ski season, Spokane is often used as a rest stop for skiers going to and returning from resorts in the area. Many skiers fly into Spokane International Airport and drive to their destination. The closest ski area is Mount Spokane, which is about 30 miles northeast of the city. The popular Schweitzer Mountain Resort lies 80 miles northeast of Spokane, near Sandpoint, Idaho.

As winter temperatures dip below freezing, outdoor attractions in Spokane are still plentiful, ranging from ice skating and dog sledding to fishing and bird watching. During Eagle Watch Week in late December, visitors to Lake Coeur d'Alene, 30 minutes east of Spokane, can witness the spectacle of hundreds of bald eagles feeding on salmon. Amateur and professional photographers alike flock to the event for the chance at once-in-a-lifetime shots of the majestic birds.

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