The undisputed economic and cultural capital of the Inland Pacific, Spokane lies in the far east of Washington and is impressively the largest city in between Seattle and Minneapolis. Although often overlooked as a tourist destination, there are plenty of things to do in Spokane as the city has a thriving art, culture, and craft brewery scene, and a rich history.
Set alongside both the Spokane River and the fantastic falls of the same name, much of the city’s identity is tied to the rushing waters that course their way through town. Once the site of a Spokane tribe settlement, it later industrialized before its riverfront was thankfully revitalized and re-imagined in time for the 1974 World’s Fair.
Nowadays its waterfront is a picturesque place to explore with scenic nature spots, interesting historic tourist attractions, and entertainment venues. Its diverse downtown offers attractive architecture, enticing establishments and majestic mountains, while rivers and forests lie nearby.
In this post, we'll cover:
12. Fox Theater
One of the most important cultural establishments in the city, the Fox Theater has been astounding and entertaining guests for close to a century now. While it originally put on movie showings, it now instead hosts ballet, opera, and orchestra performances.
First opened in 1931, the theater occupies a beautiful Art Deco building with superb murals coating the walls of its auditorium and mezzanine. Very nearly demolished in the early 2000s, the building was thankfully bought by the Spokane Symphony who renovated and restored it to its former glory.
Now known as the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox, its packed schedule of productions keeps locals and visitors alike coming back for more. Katharine Hepburn and Bing Crosby, as well as Frank Sinatra and Michelle Obama have performed on its hallowed stage.
11. Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture
Just a five minute drive west of both the Fox Theater and Downtown Spokane is another of the city’s standout cultural sights: the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture. Besides boasting one of the best collections of Native American artifacts in the region, it also displays countless artworks and has interesting exhibits.
Established in 1916, the MA (as it is more commonly known), now occupies a striking state-of-the-art building. In its galleries you can find informative exhibitions on the history, culture and nature of the Inland Northwest, with its collection now impressively including over a million artifacts and artworks.
Aside from perusing the museum’s pioneer quilts or indigenous beadworks, you can also take a tour around the historic Campbell House or attend a lecture or cultural event at either its auditorium or outdoor amphitheater.
10. Mt. Spokane Ski Resort
If you’re after skiing and snowboarding, then Mt. Spokane Ski Resort is the place to go. Nestled an hour’s drive to the northeast of the city, it has fantastic winter sports with stupendous scenery and views.
Set within a scenic state park of the same name, Mount Spokane reaches almost 6,000 feet in height and now has over forty runs dotted about its snowy slopes. While these cater to beginners and experts alike, there is also a tubing hill and terrain park, and fun night skiing to be had.
In addition, you can also stop off for a warm drink at the historic Vista House at its summit or stay in the resort’s rustic lodges. Hiking and mountain biking can be enjoyed in the summertime.
9. Gonzaga University
Just a short stroll to the northeast of the center you can find the gorgeous green campus of Gonzaga University. Although it is mostly known for its successful basketball team, the college has a lively, youthful feel and contains attractive architecture and unique artworks.
Set alongside the sparkling Spokane River, the private Roman Catholic university was founded in 1887 by the Jesuit order. Nowadays, over a hundred buildings are dotted about the campus with two large libraries, the excellent Jundt Art Center and Museum, and soaring spires of St. Aloysius Church.
On tours of the campus you can see its first-class facilities and playing fields, as well as impressive statues and sculptures, which are mainly of important religious figures and prominent Catholics.
8. Barrister Winery
Located just a short walk to the southwest of the center is the brilliant Barrister Winery, one of the best places to enjoy a drink in town. Popular with locals and tourists alike, it has a staggering number of wines for you to taste with an art gallery and regular live music nights.
Since being established in 2000, the winery has won numerous awards for its Malbecs and Merlots, Sangioveses and Cabernet Sauvignons. In its atmospheric tasting room you can sample some of their wonderful wines and also learn all about how they are produced using the finest local grapes.
Aside from tasting the wines and taking in the ambience of its a hundred-year-old warehouse, you can also peruse its artworks and exhibitions or listen to some live music.
7. Green Bluff
The small farming community of Green Bluff can be found just half an hour’s drive northeast of Spokane. Set in a scenic spot surrounded by fertile farms and fields, it makes for a great day trip and has delicious local produce for you to try.
Named after a prominent cliff that lies nearby, Green Bluff first acted as a lookout spot and hunting ground for Native Americans before pioneers moved in around the 1860s. While strawberries were the earliest crop of choice, its fields are now full of everything from apples and apricots to rhubarb, raspberries, and even Christmas trees.
On tours around its farms, fields, and orchards you can taste flavorful fruit and vegetables, as well as baked goods, local cheeses and more with a winery and several breweries also found in town. In addition, you can also attend one of its frequent community events and local festivals.
6. Centennial Trail
A treat to hike, bike or run along, Centennial Trail takes you past lovely scenery and nature with countless historic sites, cities, and attractions dotted along the route. Popular with both locals and tourists alike, it mostly follows the course of the Spokane River and meanders through eastern Washington right up to the border with Idaho.
Now stretching forty miles in length, the first part of the paved path was built between 1989 and 1991 to commemorate and celebrate the centennial of Washington State. Starting at the official state line, it passes through cities such as Spokane, Spokane Valley, and Liberty Lake before ending at the idyllic Nine Mile Falls.
While walking or cycling along it, you’ll come across pretty parks and nature spots with Spokane Falls, Riverfront Park, and Riverside State Park counted among its standout sights.
5. Riverside State Park
Boasting both beautiful nature and outstanding outdoor activities, the wonderful Riverside State Park can be found at the western end of the Centennial Trail. Set just twenty minutes drive to the northwest of Spokane, its scenic confines offer everything from hiking and kayaking to fishing, swimming and even cross-country skiing.
One of the largest state parks in Washington, it was established in 1933 and now sprawls across a huge area alongside the Spokane and Little Spokane rivers. Besides vast swathes of pristine forest, it also encompasses the Bowl and Pitcher; a dramatic gorge that is home to striking rock formations and a swinging suspension bridge.
As well as rock climbing, horseback riding and camping, you can also stop by the excellent Spokane House Interpretive Center which offers up an interesting insight into the history, nature and culture of the area.
4. Downtown Spokane
The main place to shop, dine and go out in Spokane, Downtown covers a huge part of the city center. Set alongside both the Spokane River and Riverfront Park, it has delightfully different districts for you to explore with something for everyone to enjoy.
While its riverfront area has gorgeous nature and great outdoor activities, the downtown core of the city has countless shops and restaurants, as well as one of the largest skywalk systems in the States. Here you can find landmarks and attractive architecture, with galleries, theaters, and bars in the Arts and Entertainment District.
The Cork District has brilliant breweries and wineries with Downtown Spokane also hosting innumerable cultural events, festivals, and celebrations during the year.
3. Manito Park
Situated just five minutes drive to the south of Downtown Spokane are the picture-perfect grounds and gardens of Manito Park. Formerly a zoo, its hilly confines now contain scenic sections, an exquisite conservatory and one of the finest botanical gardens in the country.
Popular with locals and tourists alike, the park was founded in 1903 and now sprawls across part of the South Hill neighborhood. Winding their way here and there are pretty paths with playgrounds, picnic areas, and playing fields located alongside its leafy arboretum and reflective Mirror Pond.
The main reason for visiting, however, is undoubtedly its gorgeous Japanese, Rose, and Lilac gardens with the flower-filled Gaiser Conservatory and its tropical and desert ecosystems also being a treat to explore.
2. Spokane Falls
Right in the heart of the city you can find one of the most stunning natural sights in the region: the sparkling Spokane Falls. Lying just a short stroll from both Downtown Spokane and the Riverfront Park, its roaring waters and dams make for some fabulous views and photos.
Made up of the Upper and Lower Falls, the set of majestic waterfalls have been attracting people for centuries if not millennia. A large Spokane people village once lay next to the rushing rapids. Since 1890, the falls have been dammed with both sections providing electricity to the city.
Aside from strolling along the banks of the river or across its bridges, the best place to see the falls and snap photos of them is on the Numerica SkyRide. This offers panoramic views of the waterfall from the air.
1. Riverfront Park
Widely considered to be one of the most beautiful urban parks in the States, Spokane’s Riverfront Park has a host of incredible attractions, activities, and nature spots for visitors to enjoy. Located right in the heart of the city, its lush green spaces, historic sites and entertainment venues lie along the Spokane River, with Upper Falls also encompassed within its confines.
Formerly a railyard, the sizable riverside site was transformed when Spokane hosted the environmentally-themed Expo ’74 World’s Fair. As such, numerous important historic landmarks, like the 1902 Clock Tower and exquisitely hand-crafted Looff Carousel, can now be found next to picturesque paths, playgrounds, and art installations.
On top of all its lovely green spaces and riverside views, the park also contains everything from an iconic Red Wagon play sculpture and magical Rotary Fountain to an IMAX theater, ice skating rink, and even an island. In addition, the enormous US Pavilion hosts all kinds of fun events and festivals during the year.