Don’t let Spokane’s smaller size fool you, it’s a fantastic destination with a great community of locals who are eager to show off their town.
Seattle might dominate Washington’s west coast, but on the other end of the state, almost to the Idaho border, is Spokane. Known for the rushing waterfalls that cut straight through its downtown and its world-class universities like Gonzaga, Spokane is a smaller city (with a population of just 229,000) that is full of wonderful things to do.
Even more special is the fact that Spokane is a city of makers, pioneers, and entrepreneurs. When visiting, you’ll notice an astonishing number of locally-owned shops, restaurants, cafes, and venues. Whereas other cities have fallen victim to chains, big boxes, and franchises, Spokane has carved out its own path, remaining unique, special, and incredibly cool. Here’s our escape plan to help you discover all the best places to see, eat, sleep, and more in Washington’s “Lilac City”.
For Spokane’s size, you’ll likely be surprised to hear that it’s very much a neighborhood-based city, loaded with walkable and lively areas that give Spokane a metropolitan feel. One of the coolest neighborhoods is Kendall Yards. The district gets its name because it once housed Spokane’s main railyard.
Dining highlights include Vieux Carre, a New Orleans-themed restaurant named after the famous cocktail that originated in the Crescent City. Inside, a tin ceiling, exposed-brick walls, and an upright piano instantly transport diners to the Big Easy. The restaurant’s must-order dishes include their fried catfish and po’ sandwiches, both of which receive praise from both locals and visitors. And don’t leave without trying their signature dessert, the espresso coffee affogato, which sees a beignet get soaked with freshly-brewed espresso and then served with a side of vanilla ice cream.
Also in Kendall Yards is the immensely popular sushi joint, Umi Kitchen. While Umi does serve all the typical choices like Alaska rolls and rainbow rolls, they also have tons of their own creations including their bestseller, the Spokane roll, which comes with spicy tuna and avocado, topped with more tuna, jalapeno, spicy mayo, tobiko, sesame dressing, and eel sauce. For those who love to combine sweet, spicy, and savory, this is the roll for you! For anyone looking to have a bit of a boozy dinner, why not try their signature sake oyster shooters?
Spokane’s newest watering hole is the No-Li Bier Hall. On top of being a beer hall, it’s also an award-winning brewery and No-Li serves tons of its own beers, including their citrusy Cascade Fog and their deep and malty Wrecking Ball imperial stout. No-Li is also a massive space, complete with corn hole, shuffleboard, and a giant outdoor patio that’s perfect for Spokane’s cool summer nights.
For fans of mocktails, head downtown to Revival Tea Company. Hidden away in a basement, the only way of knowing it exists is from a somewhat nondescript door on Maine Ave. Walk through the door, head downstairs, and you’ll be shocked to find a teahouse (which looks and feels more like a speakeasy). Revival processes their own tea and sells it nationally, and visitors can order it by the cup or pot, hot or iced, or take home a bag of loose-leaf tea. But what really sets them apart is their alcohol-free tea cocktails. Must-try’s include their Earl Grey Old Fashioned, which combines iced Earl Grey tea with bourbon extract, bitters, and orange peel; and their hit take on an Irish coffee, the Irish Revival. Hot, fragrant Chai tea is mixed with rum extract and then blended with heavy cream and cinnamon. It’s sweet and full-bodied, perfect for anyone who needs a good kick to get going in the morning, or who needs a pick-me-up during their after-lunch slump.
Being Washington, the outdoors is obviously a huge part of Spokane life. Mystic Falls in Indian Canyon, and the Manito Park and Botanical Gardens are both easy ways for visitors to get outdoors. But just a short drive outside of town will take you to Bowl and Pitcher at Riverside State Park. The 9,000 preserved acres hold a rushing river, giant rock canyons, boulders, 55 miles of hiking trails, and a wooden swinging bridge. It’s an awesome way to feel like you’ve stepped into a National Park, despite being only 10 minutes outside of the city.
But in Spokane, the outdoor adventure comes right into town…even downtown. Comprised of both upper and lowers falls, Spokane Falls is a mix of waterfalls and rapids that runs directly through downtown. Spokane even hosted the 1974 World’s Fair, named Expo ’74. For the fair, the city constructed a beautiful park system along its waterfront, giving locals and visitors easy access to green spaces and trails right along the waterfalls and rapids. This space was continually improved throughout the years, becoming the gorgeous Riverfront Park it is today.
There’s even a gondola system, the SkyRide, which takes passengers directly over the falls. To see the falls at their peak, plan your visit for May or early June when the snowmelt from the nearby mountains turns the waterfalls into a rushing, whitewater extravaganza.
Another oddity of Spokane is that, for a city of its size, it also has a sizable number of lodging options. And we’re not just talking about Holiday Inns and Best Westerns. In fact, Spokane has its own local hoteliers, the Davenports, who have a whole portfolio of properties. The Davenport Grand is a modernist hotel that combines splashes of deep reds against glossy blacks, shimmering whites, and hints of metallic shine. It gives off the vibe of a Vegas resort, despite being in downtown Spokane.
For fans of historic properties, the Historic Davenport recently completed massive renovations, bringing this 100-year-old building back to its original glory.
Ornate engravings, mural ceilings, and candelabras will have you feeling like you’ve just stepped back into the Roaring 20s and you’ll be certain that Gatsby himself must be just around the corner. Both properties are located downtown, making them perfect for visitors who want to be centrally located.
After a busy morning of hiking the nearby parks and gliding over waterfalls in a gondola, you’ll likely want to spend your afternoon relaxing. Luckily, Spokane has just the neighborhood to do so. Browne’s Addition, located on the west side of town, is a quiet, peaceful, mostly residential neighborhood that’s anchored by the beautifully manicured Coeur d’Alene Park at its center. As you stroll down the streets, you’ll see gorgeous and historic homes with flower boxes in the windows and small, locally-owned shops.
One corner in particular (Cannon Street and Pacific Avenue) has some great dining and drinking options. Browne’s Bistro is an elevated corner diner that’s built inside a Victorian mansion, Elk Public House features unique takes on pub food and lunch counter classics, and Italia Trattoria not only makes their own pasta for their elegant Italian dinners, but they’re also known for their fantastic weekend brunch menu which features mouthwatering dishes like brioche French toast with strawberries and house-made lemon mascarpone.
For a real treat, take a quick drive outside of town to the spa at the Northern Quest Resort. This hotel, casino, and entertainment complex houses five restaurants, seven bars, a concert venue, and a movie theater. However, despite all the action, their spa, La Rive, remains a tranquil escape. Their most popular treatments include their salt stone massages, deep tissue treatment, and an absolutely fantastic aromatherapy body scrub. Best of all, everyone who gets a treatment at the spa is also granted access to the larger spa area which is complete with an indoor pool, hot tub, cedar sauna, and Himalayan salt room which helps remove impurities and improve breathing.