Spokane: A Vacation Spot for Families
Whether you’re traveling with tykes or teens, this often-overlooked spot offers something fun for everyone. Here are three different itineraries for fun days suited to families with kids of different ages.
Got toddling tykes or playful preschoolers in tow? Head to downtown’s Riverfront Park in the morning before the crowds arrive. Parents with tiny-legged slow walkers will appreciate the cherry-red Tour Train that makes a big loop around the park. You’ll want to get off the train to feed trash to the Garbage-Eating Goat statue, slide down the World’s Largest Radio Flyer, and take a whirl on the Looff Carousel.
For lunch, hop in the car and head to Dick’s Hamburgers on the outskirts of downtown and pick up a bagful of mini cheeseburgers, some onion rings and a couple vanilla malts.
No tables at Dick’s? No problem! Head over to Manito Gardens where you can spread out a blanket and let the kids run (or crawl!) around. Within this 90-acre Eden of blooming flowerbeds and well-manicured lawns you'll find several distinct gardens: Throw pennies into the fountain at Duncan Garden, play a game of tag along the paths of grass crisscrossing through the Perennial Garden, and stop to smell the roses at Rose Hill. Don’t miss the two playgrounds where wee ones can swing from the bars like monkeys!
Next stop: Mobius Children’s Museum is a hands-on experience designed to let little hands learn about the world around them. It’s also a great place to escape the heat on a hot day or the cold on a rainy day. In the Art Studio, you’ll find lots of glue, glitter, feathers and beads, and in the Enchanted Forest tots can crawl, climb and romp their way through a tree slide and a foam pond.
Top off your day with a dinner at South Perry Pizza where there are plenty of booster seats and high chairs that you can bring to a table outside on the patio. The pizza menu offers something for everyone: Basic Margherita pies with fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce to a Prosciutto pizza with olive oil, mascarpone, arugula and cherry tomatoes. Arrive early before the kids get too tired and the crowds arrive.
Museum of Arts & Culture
Have your kids ever seen a moose? Elementary-school kids and middle-schoolers might spot one at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, where a 5-mile wildlife loop offers a safari-style experience. You’ll pass through 20,000 acres of wetlands, woods and prairie home to badgers, beavers, elk, flying squirrels, bats and over 200 species of birds. Stop for short hikes along the way.
On your way back into town, have lunch at Frank’s Diner in a beautifully restored railway car formerly used for the president of the Northern Pacific Railroad in the early 1900s. Burgers are served with fries or potato salad and milk shakes are made with hand-scooped hard ice cream. Don’t miss the fresh-baked fruit cobbler with a buttery crust.
Big kids love history: At the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture, aka the MAC, a well-curated display of fun and unusual artifacts tells the city's history. You’ll find everything from a racehorse blanket worn by a Kentucky Derby champ named Spokane, to the mouth piece used by a famed local Trapeze artist who performed all over the world, to a case of artificial eye balls from 1900. Included in admission is a 45-minute tour of the neighboring Campbell House that's been beautifully restored to the exact condition it was in when the Campbells, one of the town's wealthiest families, lived there in the early 1900s.
Next, head downtown to Riverfront Park where the Spokane River and a series of falls run through the heart of this 100-acre playland originally built for the 1974 World Expo. You can fly right over those falls on the SkyRide; enclosed gondolas drops down 200 feet into the spray before traveling back up.
Too hot or cold and rainy? You can catch a movie at Riverfront Park’s Imax Theater. A projector the size of a Volkswagen beams movies up on a five-story-high screen. You feel as if you're part of the action.
Can’t get enough of the spectacular falls? On the patio at Clinkerdagger, take in the soothing views and sounds of the rushing waters. This special occasion restaurant with white tablecloths offers big kids the opportunity to practice their manners. The menu features American classics such as roasted prime rib and braised short ribs and there’s always the burger and meatloaf for young ones.
Riverside State Park
Today’s teens spend countless hours in front of the screen – in Spokane you can get them outside to breathe some fresh air. A morning hike through the pine-scented woods at Riverside State Park is a great way to experience the wild outdoors. A network of trails winds through 14,000 acres that make up the second-largest state park in Washington. Try one of the routes in the Bowl and Pitcher area where a suspension bridge crosses the Spokane River.
Only a 10-minute drive from Riverside, you’ll find two of Spokane’s best restaurants. The Downriver Grill offers a comfort food menu: French fries topped with Gorgonzola, steak quesadillas served with fresh guacamole and corn salsa, and creamy butternut squash mac and cheese. Across the street, the cooks at the Flying Goat pull blistery thin-crust pizzas from the oven topped with everything from piles of arugula to poached eggs.
Ready to scream and squeal? Get tossed around on the Pavilion Amusement Rides at downtown’s Riverfront Park. From the Tilt-A-Whirl to the Sizzler, these carnival-type rides will have your teens flying all over the place. If visit in late October through February, you can glide across one of the best outdoor skating rinks in the country at the Ice Palace.
Flying Goat Pizza
A short walk from Riverfront Park, you’ll find some of Spokane’s best boutique shopping on Sprague Avenue. At Vintage Angel, the shelves are filled with gently used cowboy boots that have been dusted and polished. Artemis, a home and clothing store, specializes in items by local designers.
Hungry? Hands-down the coolest restaurant in Spokane is around the corner. Nudo is a Japanese noodle bar that looks as if it belongs in Manhattan. The walls of the narrow eatery are covered in tantalizing Roy Lichtenstein-style pop art and diners sit in sleek gray booths and modern white chairs. Try a steaming bowl of ramen topped with meat and veggies, or the burger with a bun made from compressed ramen – bizarre but delicious!
Plan ahead and buy tickets to a performance at the historic Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox, two blocks away. A sentinel in the neighborhood with it's towering sign reaching for the sky, this classic theater first opened in 1931 and was built with a full-height stage house, orchestra pit and dressing rooms to accommodate a range of movies and live performances. On opening night searchlights rose above the theater and the streets outside were packed with over 30,000 people. Today, the Fox is home to the Spokane Symphony and hosts big-name musicians from all over the world.
Another option: Across from the Fox, Spokane's first movie theater, the Bing Crosby, dates back to 1915 and is named after one of the city's most famous locals. Today it hosts touring groups and performances by local music and theater groups.