12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Spokane
Just 20 miles from the Idaho border and more than 280 miles east of Seattle, Spokane is the cultural hub of Eastern Washington, and the second biggest city in the state. While the sunny weather and high desert landscapes in Spokane differ from Washington's western cities, much of what people associate with Washington's West Coast can be found inland on the beautiful streets of Spokane. Whether it is outdoor adventure or art museums, Spokane offers attractions for every member of the family and is well worth the consideration for your next Washington vacation.
1 Riverfront Park
A defining attraction of Spokane, Riverfront park is 100 acres of centrally located land that provides residents and tourists alike the opportunity for outdoor fun and cultural experiences. Riverfront Park was first founded in 1974, when Spokane became the smallest city to ever host the World's Fair. In preparation for the major event, Spokane tore down the Great Northern Railroad Depot on downtown Havermale Island and constructed inviting spaces and attractions in its place. The largest structure built for the World's Fair was the enormous United States Pavilion, which was big enough to house trees and represent the country in a crowd of more than 1.5 million people.
Today, the U.S. Pavilion is still a landmark in the Riverfront Urban Park, though as planned, the canopy was removed and the skeleton structure of the Pavilion is all that remains. Visitors can still catch a movie on the Imax Movie Theater that was installed with the pavilion in 1974, as well as glide on the Ice Palace Skating Rink that opens under the pavilion every winter. Outside of this last remaining World's Fair monument, Riverfront Park offers many more amusements and sights to see, including the cascading and eye-catching Spokane Falls that is a highlight for many visits to Spokane.
As an impressive display of natural power and movement, Spokane Falls draws visitors throughout the year, though the best time to see these heavy-flowing falls is spring, when the snowmelt swells the banks of the Spokane River. Besides admiring the falls from the many stationary viewpoints along the walking paths, the best way to see them is to hop aboard the Spokane Falls Skyride that gives an unparalleled view of the rushing water. Once you've taken a ride across the falls, it's also worth checking out the historic Looff Carousel; the interactive sculpture walk; and the 1902 clock tower, which is the last remaining structure from the once-residing Great Northern Railroad Depot.
It's not just the things to see in Riverfront Park that make it a top attraction, it's all the things to do as well. The paved 37-mile Centennial Trail leads east and west from the park, and a whole host of community events and festivals can be found on the grounds throughout the year. Throw in the surrounding River Park Square downtown shopping district and unique lodging options like The Historic Davenport Hotel nearby, and it's easy to see why all Spokanites would agree that Riverfront Park is one of the best attractions in the entire state of Washington.
Address: 507 N. Howard Street, Spokane, Washington
2 Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture
The Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, or the MAC as locals refer to it, is the largest cultural institute of its kind in the Inland Northwest. Featuring five underground galleries and rotating exhibits, the MAC focuses on either regional history, visual arts, or American Indian culture, and with more than one million artifacts in their collection, the MAC can support a lifetime of learning. Outside of the exhibits, the Café Mac can keep your coffee refilled throughout your visit, and the adjacent Campbell House tours provided by the MAC will have you stepping back into a 19th-century Washington lifestyle. Plan ahead for your visit to the MAC, and be sure to check out their calendar of events for all the different classes, workshops, and speakers offered by this amazing cultural organization.
Address: 2316 W. 1st Avenue, Spokane, Washington
3 Manito Park
In the scenic South Hill Neighborhood, Manito Park has spent the last century cultivating itself as one of finest botanical gardens in the nation. Comprised of five major garden areas, including the notable Nishinomiya Tsutakawa Japanese Garden, and more than 20 acres of blooming flowers on display, it's easy to see in person why Manito Park receives over 150,000 visitors a year. Outside of the specified botanical gardens, Manito Park also offers 70-plus acres of maintained native landscape, including attractions such as Mirror Pond for wildlife viewing, the Stone Bridge on Loop Drive for the best views of the rose garden, and the Gaiser Conservatory for year-round reasons to visit Manito Park.
Address: 1702 S. Grand Blvd, Spokane, Washington
4 Centennial Trail
The first segments of the Centennial Trail, also known as the Spokane River Centennial National Recreational Trail, were constructed in 1989, the same year as the state of Washington's Centennial Celebration. It has since grown to be nationally recognized and a central point for recreation in Spokane. Stretching for 37 miles from either direction out of the downtown Riverfront Park, the paved trail is open for anything but motorized transportation, and whether you choose running shoes, bicycles, or roller skis, you're sure to get a good dose of what Eastern Washington has to offer.
Built upon former railway routes and old timber company land, the Centennial Trail provides a fairly flat grade to explore the natural sights found inside and outside of Spokane. Stretching for 15 miles west from Riverfront Park, the trail takes on a rugged landscape, including scenic vistas and the celebrated Riverside State Park at trail's end. East out of downtown Spokane, the trail meanders through the collegial atmosphere of Gonzaga University before traveling 17 miles to the Washington and Idaho border, where the trail continues another 24 miles as the North Idaho Centennial Trail. Though it is an option, users typically don't travel the entire Centennial Trail in one outing. Instead, they choose to take advantage of the wide access to other recreational activities alongside the Spokane River, which parallels the entire trail.
Address: 9711 W. Charles Road, Nine Mile Falls, Washington
5 Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox
The Fox Theater was the first building to have air conditioning in Spokane and premiered its debut movie in 1931 to a star-studded audience and packed house. Over the next 70 years, the Fox Theater hosted vaudeville performances, silent films, and eventually talking films. For this reason, the Fox was outfitted with plenty of stage space and a full orchestra pit, plus balconied seats, to cater towards both live and screened performances. In 2000, the Fox Theater showed its last movie and was slated to be razed and replaced by a parking garage.
With a generous contribution by the daughter of the Northwest railman and innovator, Martin Woldson, Miss Myrtle Woldson effectively saved the Fox Theater from demolition and helped renovate the space, keeping it a defining cultural establishment in Spokane. The newly named Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox reopened in 2007, and since then has been the home for the Spokane Symphony and numerous live productions that keep Spokane a top place in Washington to catch operas, ballets, and other fine-art performances.
Address: 1001 W. Sprague Avenue, Spokane, Washington
6 Mount Spokane State Park
Outside of the winter months when Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Resort becomes the main attraction, the encompassing Mount Spokane State Park opens up for some of the best recreation you can find in the adventure-endowed state of Washington. It's a popular spot for Spokane residents and tourists alike. The State Park entrance is an hour north of the city itself, catering towards weekend camping trips or day activities varying from mountain bike rides to wildlife viewing.
Mount Spokane, as part of the larger Selkirk Mountain Range, is one of the tallest peaks in the Inland Northwest and is not surprisingly the focal point of Mount Spokane State Park. With more than 100 miles of hiking trails, including Upper Trail 140 to the summit, and nearly 90 miles of mountain bike trails, there is plenty to explore at Mount Spokane State Park. For the ultimate overnight experience, visitors can reserve the Quartz Mountain Lookout Tower to wake up to the best views found anywhere else in the park.
Address: 26107 N. Mt Spokane Park Drive, Mead, Washington
7 St. John's Cathedral
Regardless of your religion, St. John's Cathedral on 12th avenue in Spokane is quite the sight to see. Construction first began on St. John's Cathedral in 1925, and it remains one of the few examples of classic Gothic architecture in the United States. While it's possible to admire the pointed arches and ribbed vaults from outside the cathedral, to fully enjoy this architectural attraction, guided tours are available for all patrons Friday, Saturday, and after service on Sunday.
Address: 127 East 12th Avenue, Spokane, Washington
8 Riverside State Park
About nine miles northwest from Spokane in the small town of Nine Mile Falls, Riverside State Park is the largest state park in Washington and a popular place for Spokanites to explore all year long. Situated along the Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers, activities like fishing, white-water kayaking, and swimming are popular in the warmer months, while snowshoers and cross-country skiers can be found gliding through the landscape in the winter. The Nine Mile Recreation Area within Riverside State Park offers a boat dock and rentals, while some of the best camping and hiking can be found in the Bowl & Pitcher Area, including an iconic short hike that starts at a nearby Suspension Bridge created by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934.
Address: 9711 W. Charles Road, Nine Mile Falls, Washington
9 The Historic Davenport Hotel
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Historic Davenport Hotel, on Post Street in downtown Spokane, stands proudly as a testament to the rich history of the area. Between 1914 and 1985, the Davenport Hotel set a high bar for first-class accommodations, including eloquent public spaces and amenity-rich rooms, until it closed its doors to the public for what many thought was forever. About 15 years later, new owners took up the task of restoring not only the historic interior of this ritzy overnight establishment, but also re-establishing the hotel's first-class reputation in the area.
When The Historic Davenport Hotel opened its doors again in 2000, the restoration jobs on the ornate woodwork, the always-lit central fireplace, and the stunning Grand Lobby only added to the beauty of the 20th-century decor. Besides the aesthetically pleasing interior of the building, the Davenport Hotel also continued its legacy of superior customer service, which it prides itself on today. With a centrally located position in downtown Spokane, in proximity to Riverfront Park, the Davenport Hotel remains a great home base and high bar for exploring all the things Spokane has to offer.
Address: 10 S. Post Street, Spokane, Washington
Accommodation: The Historic Davenport Hotel
10 John A. Finch Arboretum
Located on 65 acres of woodland hills in southwest Spokane, the John A. Finch Arboretum is a welcome attraction for those looking to get back in touch with Washington's natural side. Featuring more than 2,000 labeled tree and shrub species, as well as seasonal wildflowers, this botanical showcase is situated alongside the scenic Garden Springs Creek, making the perfect backdrop on a fun day out. Self-guided tours are available, seasonal activities take place all year-round, and admission is always free, making the John A. Finch Arboretum a great place to spend an afternoon in Spokane.
Address: 3404 W. Woodland Blvd, Spokane, Washington
11 Mount Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park
Entirely located within the boundaries of Mount Spokane State Park, this fully automated ski resort offers world-class skiing and snowboarding within an hour of downtown Spokane, making it a hot winter destination. With 45 runs of varying difficulty and more than 1,400 skiable acres to explore, you can find new terrain all season long at the Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park. Add in three different lodges, including the historic Vista House on the summit, all offering you a chance to dry your mittens and sip on some hot chocolate, plus night skiing throughout the week, and Mount Spokane really proves itself to be a top winter attraction for people traveling from Spokane and beyond.
Address: 29500 N. Mt Spokane Park Drive, Mead, Washington
12 Avista Stadium
If you happen to be in the Spokane area between June and September, Avista Stadium should be on the top of your list of fun things to do. As the home ballpark for the minor-league Spokane Indians baseball team, which is the farm team for the MLB Texas Rangers, Avista Stadium provides access to America's favorite pastime at an affordable price. Built from scratch in under four months in 1958, Avista Stadium has grown and experienced renovations over the years, but if anything has remained the same, it can be found somewhere in the traditions, like the seventh-inning stretch or the faint hum of the lights over the field and throughout the crowd during any one of the weekly night games that take place over the summer.
Address: 602 N. Havana Street, Spokane, Washington