15 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Spokane, WA
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Spokane is the second-largest city in Washington, located on the eastern side of the state, less than 20 miles from the Idaho border. The Spokane River runs right through the center of this town of approximately 217,000 residents. This scenic waterway runs adjacent to several world-class city and state parks that add significant appeal to the city.
No other spot exemplifies the beauty afforded to the city by the Spokane River other than Riverfront Park. This crown-jewel public space is a must-visit, regardless of the reason for travel. And it's not just the river that adds scenic value to the city. Several other things to do in Spokane also take advantage of Eastern Washington's beautiful natural surroundings. From pointed mountains to moose-infused arboretums, exploring the outdoors is a major Spokane tourist attraction.
And this sizable university town also entices with cultural experiences. Historic hotels, art museums, and Japanese Gardens are just a few of the urban attractions throughout the city – that, and a bustling downtown district with sidewalk cafés and unique retail opportunities. Read about the best places to visit with our list of the top things to do in Spokane.
1. Riverfront Park
Riverfront Park is a defining place to visit at the center of the city. It encompasses over 100 acres of green space, pedestrian trails, and dozens of community attractions. Several events and activities also take place at Riverfront Park throughout the year.
The park was 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 much of the Great Northern Railroad Depot on Havermale Island and completely redesigned the area. The enormous United States Pavilion was the largest structure built for the World's Fair, 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 Riverfront Park, though as planned, the canopy was removed, and the skeleton structure of the Pavilion is all that remains. The Pavilion at Riverfront is fun to walk around and tour, and it features festive light shows year-round on the weekends. It also hosts special light performances on most major holidays.
The Pavilion is just the tip of exciting things to check out in Riverfront Park. Nearby, the 1902 Clock Tower is also on display and is the last remaining structure from the Great Northern Railroad Depot. Other family attractions include the Looff Carousel, the Numerica Skating Ribbon, and the Providence Playscape. And views of both the upper and lower portions of Spokane Falls are accessible from the park.
The paved 37-mile Centennial Trail leads east and west from the park. Nearby shopping, dining, and unique places to stay like The Historic Davenport Hotel are in River Park Square lining the south side of the park.
Address: 507 N. Howard Street, Spokane, Washington
Official site: https://my.spokanecity.org/riverfrontpark/
2. Stroll through 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, 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. Another notable place to visit in the park includes Mirror Pond, where there is a good chance of wildlife viewing. The Gaiser Conservatory at the park is a greenhouse that invites year-round visits.
Much of the time spent at Manito is at leisure. It's a fun place to bring a blanket and some snacks to enjoy the nice weather of Eastern Washington. The late spring and summer are arguably the best time to visit, when the park is in full bloom. The Traditional Rose Garden is particularly appealing throughout the summer, as is the nearby Lilac Garden.
Address: 1702 S. Grand Blvd, Spokane, Washington
Official site: www.manitopark.org
3. Feel the Spray at Spokane Falls
Spokane Falls is a must-see natural attraction when visiting Riverfront Park. It consists of two drops, the lower and upper falls, and both present a fast-paced and very audible attraction to appreciate. While both offer dramatic views throughout the year, arguably the best time to see these heavy-flowing falls is spring, when the snowmelt swells the banks of the Spokane River.
The upper falls are accessible with just a short walk from the Pavilion at Riverfront. A pedestrian bridge crosses the river below the falls, offering fantastic views of the rushing water. Expect to encounter photographers and other interested explorers spending time trying to capture the beauty.
The larger lower falls are on the west side of Riverfront Park with a few different viewpoints available. One of the most popular areas to appreciate the gravity is the landscaped area known as Huntington Park, below the Washington Water Power building. This park features several steps and a pathway lined with interpretive information.
Another area to get a view of the lower falls is the pedestrian sidewalk atop the adjacent Monroe Street Bridge. The newly installed A Place of Truths plaza, next to the Monroe Street Bridge, also has great viewpoints. And for perhaps the best view, the Numerica SkyRide in Riverfront Park offers gondola-style rides that span the river.
4. Explore Riverside State Park
About nine miles northwest of Spokane, Riverside is one of the largest state parks in Washington. It's a popular place for regional travelers and local Spokanites to explore all year long. Situated along the Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers, the park is separated into different park units located a short drive from one another. 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.
Some of the best camping near Spokane is within the Bowl & Pitcher Area of the park. This scenic area of the park is also home to an iconic short hike that starts at a nearby Suspension Bridge created by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934.
Some of the wildest hiking, however, is found on the trails or dry riverbed in Deep Creek Canyon unit of the park, and the Nine Mile Recreation Area within Riverside State Park offers a boat dock and rentals. The Lake Spokane unit features additional camping and trails close to the water.
Address: 9711 W. Charles Road, Nine Mile Falls, Washington
Official site: http://parks.state.wa.us/573/Riverside
5. Bike the 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. Whether you choose running shoes, bicycles, or roller skis, you're sure to get a good dose of Eastern Washington landscapes.
Built upon former railway routes and old timber company land, the Centennial Trail provides a fairly flat grade to explore the natural sights. Stretching for 15 miles west from Riverfront Park, the trail takes on more of a rugged landscape. Scenic views can be enjoyed all throughout the western portion of the trail until reaching Riverside State Park at the 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. The trail continues another 24 miles as the North Idaho Centennial Trail west of the border. Though it is an option, users typically don't travel the entire Centennial Trail in one outing.
Address: 9711 W. Charles Road, Nine Mile Falls, Washington
6. Drive to the Summit at Mount Spokane State Park
Mount Spokane State Park encompasses a staggering 13,919 acres and over 100 miles of multi-use trails. And the state park entrance is only an hour north of the city. This proximity caters to weekend camping trips and day activities like mountain biking and wildlife viewing.
As part of the larger Selkirk Mountain Range, Mount Spokane is one of the tallest peaks in the Inland Northwest. Two other major mountain summits, Kit Carson and Day Mountain, are also within the state park boundaries. All three summits have hiking trails that lead to the top for spectacular views.
For those not interested in the sore legs required to hike to the top, the Mount Spokane Summit Road is generally open between mid-June and mid-October. The park's limited campsites are also located on Summit Road. At the top, the historic Vista House lives up to its name with an east-facing terrace.
For the ultimate overnight experience, visitors can reserve the Quartz Mountain Lookout Tower in the park and wake up to the best views found anywhere else in the park. During the winter months, the state park shines with a heavy coat of snow. The state park is home to Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Resort, which attracts thousands of downhill enthusiasts each season. And like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, other types of recreation also attract visitors in the winter.
Address: 26107 N. Mt Spokane Park Drive, Mead, Washington
Official site: http://parks.state.wa.us/549/Mount-Spokane
7. Hike at Rocks of Sharon, Dishman Hills Conservation Area
Several natural spaces surround Spokane. And thanks to efforts by local landowners and non-profit groups, a network of Conservation Areas surrounds the city. Hiking trails line these natural spaces and offer excellent outlets for getting outside. One of the most fun places to explore is the area known as Rocks of Sharon. It's also one of the best hiking trails near Spokane.
The Rocks of Sharon are a collection of large granite outcroppings in an elevated landscape on the south side of the city. The views from these rocks include miles-long overlooks of the gold and green fields of the Palouse. And the views of these gigantic rocks themselves are awe-inspiring due to their stature.
Two main trailheads lend the most accessibility to Rocks of Sharon: The Stevens Creek Trailhead is the shorter route, while the Iller Creek Trailhead offers a longer trek. Both feature ample parking with portable toilets near the parking area. For the adventurous and those with the appropriate gear, these granite slabs also invite rock climbing adventures alongside a rewarding hike.
8. Engage at the 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 regional history, visual arts, and American Indian culture. With more than one million artifacts in their collection, the MAC supports a lifetime of learning.
Outside of the exhibits, the Café Mac keeps coffee refilled throughout a visit. The adjacent Campbell House provides tours that have visitors stepping back into a 19th-century Washington lifestyle. Be sure to check out their calendar of events for all the different classes, workshops, and speakers offered throughout the week.
Address: 2316 W. 1st Avenue, Spokane, Washington
Official site: www.northwestmuseum.org
9. Encounter Wildlife at 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.
Admission is always free at the arboretum, and self-guided tours are available. Seasonal activities like a Fall Leaf Festival also take place throughout the warmer seasons of the year. The spring is also a popular time to visit, when the aboretum's magnolias, dogwoods, and daffodils bloom to life.
When visiting, keep an eye out for the resident wildlife that likes to call the arboretum home. Several marmots scurry about the natural space, as well as wild turkeys. Moose have also been known to wander through the area, as well as sizable non-venomous bull snakes. Always keep an appropriate distance when encountering any wildlife.
Address: 3404 W. Woodland Blvd, Spokane, Washington
10. Experience the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox
The Fox Theater was the first building to have air conditioning in Spokane. The theater 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. The theater also has balcony 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. Today, it remains 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. Other fine art performances at the theater include operas and ballets.
Address: 1001 W. Sprague Avenue, Spokane, Washington
Official site: www.foxtheaterspokane.com
11. Step Back in Time at the Historic Davenport Hotel
Centrally located in downtown Spokane, near Riverfront Park, the Davenport Hotel is a great home base for exploring the rest of the city. And it stands proudly as a testament to the rich history of the area. Today, the hotel is on Post Street in downtown and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And between 1914 and 1985, the Davenport Hotel set a high bar for luxury accommodations.
Fifteen years after the elegant public spaces and amenity-rich rooms of the Davenport Hotel closed for business, new owners took up the task of restoring the hotel to its former grandeur. Renovations not only went into the ritzy interior and feel of the overnight establishment, but efforts were put in place to reestablish the hotel's first-class reputation.
When the hotel opened its doors again in 2000, restoration of the ornate woodwork and the always-lit central fireplace in the stunning Grand Lobby secured the Davenport Hotel's place in Spokane's community. And the hotel continues its legacy of superior customer service. Check it out for a decadent blast from the past and a luxurious place to spend the night.
Address: 10 S. Post Street, Spokane, Washington
Accommodation: The Historic Davenport Hotel
12. Shred the Slopes at Mount Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park
Mount Spokane Ski & Snowboard park is located entirely 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. 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.
The mountain features three different lodges, including the historic Vista House on the summit. Each of the lodges offers the chance to dry some mittens and sip on some hot chocolate. Night skiing also takes place throughout the week. The park also offers a long tubing hill that's popular with younger winter athletes.
Address: 29500 N. Mt Spokane Park Drive, Mead, Washington
Official site: www.mtspokane.com
13. Tour the Gonzaga University Campus
On the north side of the Spokane River, a short walk upriver from Riverfront Park, Gonzaga University sits on a beautiful 150-acre campus. This private liberal arts university was established in 1887 and has grown to be an integral part of the Spokane community. Alongside educating thousands of students, it also provides several community outlets – including a fun place to stroll.
The campus is striking, with a mix of historic brick buildings and sharply designed newer facilities. The Centennial Trail crosses the Spokane River and connects to campus. The Jundt Art Museum is one campus resource often used by community members, featuring works from across the globe. The McCarthey Athletic Center is also a popular place for students and fans, home to the renowned Gonzaga Bulldogs basketball team.
And Gonzaga isn't the only campus in town. The private Christian Whitworth University also calls Spokane home, as well as the for-profit Carrington College. Eastern Washington University, out of Cheney, also has a campus in Spokane, on the other side of the river from Gonzaga.
14. Marvel at St. John's Cathedral
Regardless of religious practices, 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. The church is also well known for its beautiful organ, consisting of over 400 pipes.
While it's possible to admire the pointed arches and ribbed vaults from outside the cathedral, guided tours are available for all patrons Friday, Saturday, and after service on Sunday, so visitors can fully enjoy this architectural attraction. Concerts from the imposing carillon of the cathedral are heard on Sundays before the regularly scheduled 10:30am service.
Address: 127 East 12th Avenue, Spokane, Washington
15. Catch a Baseball Game at 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, 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. If anything has remained the same, it can be found somewhere in the general excitement and summer feel of watching a baseball game. Special game nights at Avista Stadium include a festive opening night and several fireworks celebrations.
Address: 602 N. Havana Street, Spokane, Washington
Official site: http://www.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t486
Where to Stay in Spokane for Sightseeing
Spokane has several hotels to choose from. A cluster of great hotels are downtown and within walking distance of the city's best attractions. Many of these downtown hotels come at a premium but provide great value. More affordable hotel options in Spokane lie to the north and east of the downtown district.
- For a more affordable hotel in the city's center, the downtown Oxford Suites is centrally located with budget-friendly rates.
- Another great mid-range hotel is the Hilton Garden Inn Spokane Airport.
- To the north, the Quality Inn Oakwood provides another budget friendly place to stay that doesn't skimp on cleanliness and service.
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Other Cities in Washington: On the west side of the state, the city of Seattle stands proudly as the cultural capital of the Pacific Northwest. More towards the center of the state, the fertile valley surrounding Yakima also provides cultural appeal. For some collegiate interest and outstanding views of the San Juan Islands, the city of Bellingham is on the Washington coast and home to Western Washington University.
More to Explore in Washington: Some of the best places to visit in Washington include Olympic National Park, the San Juan Islands, and Riverfront Park in Spokane. To explore Washington's wilder side, our guide to Washington State and National Parks will have you exploring somewhere beautiful. For some extra charm, the top small towns in Washington State offer cozy vacation opportunities.