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12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Spokane, WA

Written by Brad Lane
Mar 10, 2020

Just 20 miles from the Idaho border and more than 280 miles east of Seattle, Spokane is the cultural hub of Eastern Washington. It is also 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 is 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. Spokane's Riverfront Park is the crown jewel of the city. Among facilities like the United States Pavilion and an IMAX Movie Theater, Riverfront Park is also home to the tumbling Spokane Falls. Other landscaped settings, like Manito Park, and cultural establishments, like the Fox Theater, add even more reasons to make Spokane the destination for your next Washington vacation.

Read about the best places to visit with our list of the top things to do in Spokane.

1. Riverfront Park

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 much of the Great Northern Railroad Depot on 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 Riverfront 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. The cascading and eye-catching Spokane Falls is a highlight for many visits to Riverfront Park.

As an impressive display of natural power and movement, 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 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 and the nearby sculpture walk. The 1902 Clock Tower is also on display and is the last remaining structure from the Great Northern Railroad Depot. Several annual events also occur in this park throughout the year.

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 the 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. Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture

Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture | Nick Bramhall / photo modified

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 can keep your coffee refilled throughout your visit. The adjacent Campbell House provides tours that have you stepping back into a 19th-century Washington lifestyle. Plan 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 during your visit.

Address: 2316 W. 1st Avenue, Spokane, Washington

Official site: www.northwestmuseum.org

3. Manito Park

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.

Address: 1702 S. Grand Blvd, Spokane, Washington

Official site: www.manitopark.org

4. Mount Spokane State Park

View from Mount Spokane

Outside of the winter months when Mount Spokane Ski and Snowboard Resort becomes the main attraction, the encompassing Mount Spokane State Park offers 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. This proximity to the city caters to weekend camping trips and day activities like mountain biking and wildlife viewing.

Mount Spokane, as part of the larger Selkirk Mountain Range, is one of the tallest peaks in the Inland Northwest. 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 and wake up to the best views found anywhere else in the park.

Address: 26107 N. Mt Spokane Park Drive, Mead, Washington

Official site: http://parks.state.wa.us/549/Mount-Spokane

5. Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox

Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox | Walter Smith / photo modified

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

6. Riverside State Park

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 yearlong. 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. 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.

Address: 9711 W. Charles Road, Nine Mile Falls, Washington

Official site: http://parks.state.wa.us/573/Riverside

7. Centennial Trail

Centennial Trail | Robert Ashworth / photo modified

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

8. The Historic Davenport Hotel

The Historic Davenport Hotel | Adam Jones / photo modified

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Historic Davenport Hotel stands proudly as a testament to the rich history of the area. On Post Street in downtown Spokane, the Davenport Hotel set a high bar for first-class accommodations between 1914 and 1985.

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.

Centrally located in downtown Spokane, near Riverfront Park, the Davenport Hotel is a great home base for exploring the rest of the city.

Address: 10 S. Post Street, Spokane, Washington

Accommodation: The Historic Davenport Hotel

9. John A. Finch Arboretum

John A. Finch Arboretum | James Hawley / photo modified

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.

Address: 3404 W. Woodland Blvd, Spokane, Washington

10. Mount Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park

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 offer the chance to dry some mittens and sip on some hot chocolate. Night skiing also takes place throughout the week.

Address: 29500 N. Mt Spokane Park Drive, Mead, Washington

Official site: www.mtspokane.com

11. St. John's Cathedral

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. 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

12. Avista Stadium

Avista Stadium | Kylan Robinson / photo modified

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 faint hum of the lights during summer night games. 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.

  • Luxury Hotels: The most luxurious hotel in Spokane is The Historic Davenport. This four-star hotel is centrally located in downtown and has been offering first-class service for over 100 years.

    The hotel's sister property, The Davenport Grand, is the only other four-star hotel in the city.
  • Mid-Range Hotels: 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.

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