Washington's second-largest city touts the slogan, "near nature, near perfect," speaking to its burgeoning downtown and thriving natural setting. With more than 70 lakes within 50 miles, it's the city to visit if you want to spend a day on the water, and an evening enjoying a five-star meal and touring Broadway show. Spokane's the ideal destination for couples and families looking for outdoor recreation, the conveniences and culture of a city, and that casual, friendly vibe that the Pacific Northwest is known for.
Must see in Spokane
Riverfront Park is Spokane's own Central Park, a downtown escape where locals and visitors alike can enjoy river views, attractions, public art and sprawling lawns. Or for those who'd rather be indoors, River Park Square is the city's best option for shopping, with major national retailers as well as locally-owned boutiques and restaurants under one roof. And just west of downtown, the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture can be found in Browne's Addition, a historic neighborhood that's also home to an eclectic handful of restaurants and bars that will give you a local experience.
Where to stay in Spokane
Spokane's downtown hotels, which are made-up of both boutique and luxury options, will appeal to younger travelers looking for easy access to restaurants, shopping and theaters. Families will especially enjoy locations along the river, with plenty of access to Riverfront Park and to the Centennial Trail, which stretches all the way to the Idaho border and has plenty of room for those on foot, in strollers, and on bicycles. Those looking for more budget-friendly options may want to check some of the area's independent hotels as well as those a few minutes down I-90 in Spokane Valley. Also outside of the city are options for a resort experience, with properties in nearby Airway Heights and Couer d'Alene, Idaho.
Best and worst time to go to Spokane
September is a great time in Spokane; there's a hint of fall in the air though the weather is still plenty nice to eat at one of the many outdoor patios along the Spokane River. The worst time is January through February, which have the shortest days and coldest weather (unless you are into skiing or other winter sports, then you'll feel right at home with a number of mountains in driving distance). Be sure to plan ahead if you're coming in spring or summer, since Spokane is home to many major events including Hoopfest and Bloomsday, as well as three universities with commencement ceremonies. Accommodations can often get booked well in advance during those busy months.
Where to get lost in Spokane
Those who want to enjoy the outdoors without venturing too far from the city will love Manito Park on Spokane's South Hill, which offers a number of seasonal gardens and sites to explore, as well as the Park Bench Café, a perfect spot to enjoy sandwiches and espresso under the trees in the summer. Or, if staying inside is your preference, you can explore much of the city by using the extensive skybridge system.
The best deal in Spokane
If your schedule allows it, try to be in town on the First Friday of the month. Numerous downtown venues and artists partners are involved, and you'll see displays, performances, and specials on food and drinks. It's a great excuse to stroll through the city — just don't forget to stop and enjoy snacks and drinks, as you'll have many options.
Transportation in Spokane
Downtown Spokane is walkable, though those wanting to explore beyond the city core will need wheels. You'll want to consider a rental car, or a bicycle to take down the Centennial Trail.
Getting In from Spokane
Spokane International Airport is roughly six miles from downtown, and easily accessible by car. Lots of hotels do offer shuttle service so be sure to double-check if yours is one of them.
Local tip for visitors to Spokane
Many of Spokane's smaller neighborhoods may not yet be on the radar of travelers, but that's where you'll find hidden gem restaurants, cafes, shops and events like farmers' markets. Check out the Garland District, South Perry, or Kendall Yards if you want to feel like an in-the-know local.
Author's bio: Dena Ogden is a freelance writer who can be found online at denaogden.com and @DenaOgden.