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Spokane, WA

A Fun Family Getaway Spot



Have you ever considered Spokane, Washington, as a family getaway spot? Our family did! 

Our family was ready to welcome summer with a mini vacation. Our two oldest kids had put away their backpacks and finished up school. My husband had wrapped up a major project at work.

As a mom with a new baby, I'd changed a lot of diapers and spent many days at home. I was rearing to get out and about. We decided on Father's Day Weekend and wanted to pick a vacation spot that was fun for the kids and would be easily accessible for grandpa who'd be coming from Seattle. We'd been to Portland, Oregon, many times and the Northwest Coast. My eye was drawn to eastern Washington, an area I'd never explored...Spokane!


Riverfront Park

I'd heard wonderful things about its riverfront park filled with fun attractions for kids. Plus, my husband is a river scientist and he loves seeing how city's incorporate rivers into their downtown areas. My father was game. "Did you know they had a World's Fair in Spokane? 1974. The year you were born."

I always love having my dad along as he's a great source for historical information. I booked a three-night stay at the Best Western PLUS Peppertree Airport Inn because the airport location would be convenient. My husband and father would be flying in and out at separate times and I didn't want to spend half my vacation driving to and from the airport. The hotel has a free airport shuttle. What's more, the hotel has a swimming pool, and let's face it, on vacation all my kids really want to do is swim, especially with their dad and grandpa. Cannon balls!


Spokane Falls Skyride

Spokane's Riverfront Park: A Playground For Families

Spokane hosted the World's Fair in 1974 to revive its blighted downtown. Many doubted that this small city of well under 200,000 could pull off an international event.

But like the "Little Engine that Could," the community rallied and created a 100-acre park hugging the Spokane River. Big-name companies and countries from around the world built exhibits and attractions luring in over 5 million people. The world's smallest Expo was declared a big success.

Today, Riverfront Park continues to attract locals and visitors from all over. The river still cascades through its heart and when you walk along the many bridges and pathways that get you close to the roaring, rushing water, you can feel its refreshing sprays. A few highlights from World Expo '74 still remain, such as a collection of carnival rides, and there are new things to check out. In a nutshell: This park offers nonstop fun for families and here's a list of things you must do on a visit.  


The Sizzler

1) Get a close up view of the falls on the SkyRide. 

Like giant toys, window-filled gondolas hang over the country's second-largest urban falls. Catch a ride in one and you'll get a close up view of Spokane Falls as you drop down 200 feet and then travel back up. The ride lasts about 15 minutes.

2) Take a whirl on the carousel. 

Fifty-four beautifully hand-carved horses, one giraffe and one tiger populate this well-preserved masterpiece dating back to 1909. Which one should you hop on? Doesn't matter as long as you get on the outside so you can pull plastic rings from the dispenser and toss them at the clown's mouth.


Giant Wagon

3) Feed the goat garbage. 

Is it a real goat? No, it's just a cool statue and if you press a button the goat sucks up garbage from you hand. 

4) Glide across the ice at the Ice Palace. 

If you're lucky to visit the park late October through February, you can glide across one of the best outdoor skating rinks in the country.

5) Get tossed around on the Pavilion Amusement Rides.

From the Tilt-A-Whirl to the Sizzler, these carnival-type rides will have you flying all over the place. Prefer something tamer? Try the Ferris wheel. 

6) Catch a movie on a humongous screen. 



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.

7) Tour the park on a train.

This red train on wheels rolls through the park as the conductor highlights points of interest and historical facts. Thirty-minute ride.

8) Slide down a giant wagon. 

You can't miss the giant Radio Flyer wagon. The cool thing about this gigantic sculpture by artist Ken Spiering is you can slide down the front of it. Spiering meant for the piece of artwork to be a symbol of childhood.



Dick's: Best Burgers in Spokane

Where can a family of four eat for $15? Dick's Hamburgers in Spokane.

We arrived in Spokane, at 9 p.m. We'd traveled over six hours all the way from Kelowna, B.C., driving around Lake Okanagan where vineyards blanketed the surrounding hillsides and then passing through pristine timberland before entering a vast sagebrush dessert where we were treated to a spectacular lightning storm.

As we crossed Grand Coulee Dam, the rain poured so hard that police officers were parked at either side of the bridge to make sure drivers crossed safely. We wanted to reach Spokane before dark so we didn't stop for dinner. When we finally arrived in town, we were famished and went directly to Dick's Hamburgers on the outskirts of downtown.



A friend of mine grew up in Spokane and when I asked him, "What's the one thing we should do?" he said, "Eat at Dick's."

You can't miss this place as it's marked by a brightly lit sign with a panda bear holding a burger. At this old-fashioned burger stand, you order at the window and take your burgers to eat in the car or at home.

The burgers are small and cheap (about one dollar each) and diners order bagsful. You can also try the "Whammy" with two patties. My kids asked for lettuce and tomatoes but they don't serve their burgers with vegetables. Just cheese, onions, pickles and sauce.

We each ordered a cheese burger, a vanilla malt and one order of onion rings – all of this cost about $15 – and took our food back to the Best Western PLUS Peppertree Airport Inn where we enjoyed a picnic in the lobby. 


Brown's Addition

Five Fun Neighborhoods for Families to Explore

On a visit to Spokane, you can easily spend all your time downtown as Riverfront Park offers an endless array of fun activities for families.

But you should also check out the outlying neighborhoods where you'll find leafy streets lined with historic homes, bright blooming gardens and clusters of charming cafes, unique boutiques, and hip restaurants where local chefs are using the freshest ingredients from the Spokane Valley to create inventive dishes. Put on your walking shoes and explore these enclaves!

1) Brown's Addition: Spokane's Oldest Neighborhood

This was Spokane's first residential neighborhood and for years the city's wealthiest elite lived in its opulent mansions dating back to the 1800s.


Museum of Arts & Culture

Today many of those storied homes remain and through the Spokane Historical Society Web site you can take a self-guided tour of the neighborhood's historical buildings.

Many of the big, airy homes have been divided and turned into apartment buildings, but a few have been restored to their original glory and are still inhabited by a single family. As you stroll the streets, notice the bronze plaques in front of homes offering up historical facts. 

After a neighborhood stroll, we stopped in the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture, aka the MAC, where a well-curated display of artifacts tell the city's history.

My kids had a lot of fun looking at the random assortment of items, including a racehorse blanket worn by a Kentucky Derby champ named Spokane, the mouth piece used by a famed local Trapeze artist who performed all over the world, and 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.


Brown's Street Art

You'll find a handful of cafés and restaurants in the neighborhood and our favorite was Trattoria Italia, a great Italian spot for lunch or dinner. Sophisticated yet casual, this restaurant could hold its own in any metropolitan city with its menu featuring fresh, flavorful, and light dishes.

For lunch we especially liked the panzanella salad — grilled crusty bread tossed with tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, prosciutto and chicken. At lunch, everyone gets a free chocolate sundae; a scoop of creamy vanilla gelato drizzled with dark chocolate sauce and topped with fresh cream comes in a cherry red dish. 

2) South Perry: Spokane's Hippest Hood

This might be Spokane's hippest neighborhood. On a warm, balmy Friday evening we visited, the main drag, South Perry, was buzzing with young families pushing strollers and professionals getting off work early.

A bright-blue-eyed musicians strummed his guitar outside the Wollnick's General Store where you can buy everything from a toy mustache for your dog to green cleaning supplies to baby blankets made from bamboo. It's basically modern take on the general store specializing in green, high-design items.



Next door, at the newly opened Perry Street Brewery, every table was taken at the outdoor patio. This pub makes its own beers and you can order food from the trucks that pull up on the curb outside. The menu will tell you which trucks come on which days.

Looking to hang somewhere cool in Spokane? This is your spot.

My recommendation for visiting the neighborhood: Start with a stroll along South Perry where you'll find a few shops from Wollnick's to the running store Title Nine. Grab an outdoor table at the brewery and order a sample flight of beer so you can get a taste of this pub's wide array of

Then head over to South Perry Pizza where the cooks pull fro the oven piping hot blistery pies topped with fresh vegetables such as arugula and cherry tomatoes and salty meats like sopressetta salami.


The Shop

Before leaving the main drag, stop in The Shop for a latte or a scoop of ice cream. Try the dirt, Oreo Cookie in chocolate pudding ice cream. 

4) Manito: Spokane's Garden Enclave

Spokane's tony South Hill neighborhood includes many smaller enclaves including Manito, which is the area around the Manito Gardens. Within this 90-acre Eden you'll find blooming flower beds, well-manicured lawns, a duck pond, biking paths, and playgrounds. The park is beautifully cared for and immaculate. 

The park is divided into five gardens: Rose, Japanese, Duncan, Dahlia, Lilac, and Perennial. In the Joel E. Ferris Perennial Garden all of the plants are labeled and we had fun reading the names: Lamb's Ears, Woolly Thyme, Dwarf Clustered Bellflower, Elfwort.


Manito Gardens

At the Rose Garden, we played a family game of tag, running along the broad grassy boulevards dividing the rows of rose bushes. 

5) Davenport: Downtown's History Spot Goes Cool

This urban hood is centered around the historic Davenport Hotel, an opulent property dating back to 1914 and filled with hand-painted frescoes, ornate woodwork and European marble.

Across the street you'll find one of the city's coolest restaurants that looks as if it belongs in downtown Manhattan. Noodu was opened by Josh Hissong, who owns the cutting-edge architecture firm HDG Architecture & Design.

His firm has designed the spaces for many restaurants in Seattle and the eatery right next door to Nodu, Fire Artisan Pizza (also worth a try). Hissong wanted a restaurant of his own and opened the ramen house Nodu in 2014. The walls of the narrow restaurant are covered in tantalizing Roy Lichtenstein-style pop art and diners sit in sleek gray booths and modern white chairs.



My kids slurped up bowls of steamy ramen noodles topped with meat and veggies and my father was adventuresome and ordered the burger with a bun made from compressed ramen. My father declared it bizarre but delicious.

Next door to Nudo, we stopped in Bruttles, an old-timey candy store with chocolates and caramels made with the same recipes that were used when the shop was originally opened 60 years ago.

The businesses started as a turn-down service for the Davenport Hotel across the street and now sells its treats to the public. The store's signature candy is a soft peanut butter brittle introduced by the original owner Aunt Sophia. My kids opted for some ice cream.

A few blocks away the Fox Theater is 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. The world premiere of Merely Mary Ann was shown and the film's stars, Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor, attended.



In the 1970s, the audiences waned as movie-goers turned to suburban theaters and the Fox was divided into several small theaters and then slowly declined into disrepair.

In 2000, the plan was to demo the theater to make way for a parking lot but local philantrhopist Miss Martin Woldson decided the theater must be saved and put $3 million toward restoring it. The community rallied and more money was raised and in 2007 the Fox, beautifully restored to its original glory, opened. It's now home to the Spokane Symphony and hosts big-name musicians from all over the world.

If you're visiting, it's worth checking to see if you can get tickets to a performance.



Fox Theatre

Across from the Fox, you'll find Spokane's first movie theater, The Bing Crosby, originally opened in 1915. The theater was originally called the Clemmer but later named after Bing Crosby, one of the city's most famous locals. Today it hosts touring groups and performances by local music and theater groups. 

The block of Sprague Avenue just past the Fox and Bing Crosby Theaters has become a popular for unique boutiques. We stopped in Artemis – a home and clothing store specializing in items by local designers.

Next door, the shelves at Vintage Angel are filled with gently used cowboy boots that have been dusted and polished. You'll find all styles and colors but I especially loved the row of white boots. The salesperson told me the owner had been collecting the white boots for years.

6) Audubon: Gateway to Riverside Park

If you follow the Spokane River northwest of downtown, you'll enter this residential neighborhood of tree-lined streets, wide sidewalks and well-kept bungalows.


Flying Goat Pizza

The neighborhood is often called the "Gateway to Riverside Park" as it borders this popular hiking spot. Also, you'll find a couple excellent restaurants, including Flying Goat Pizza and the Downriver Grill, as well as Audubon Park, where locals spread out their blankets and unpack picnic baskets to listen to live music under the pines during the summer.

We drove to this neighborhood on our last day in Spokane and grabbed lunch at Flying Goat Pizza, where we enjoyed what was hands-down our best meal in Spokane. The menu is simple with fresh salads and thin-crust pizzas but the preparations are inventive. The Kiernan pizza is topped with a hay stack of arugula with a poached egg at its center. 

A modern take on an old-school English pub, "The Goat," as locals call it, aims to embrace the surrounding hood. Pizzas are named after local streets, salvaged wood from an old grain elevator is used throughout the restaurant and an arresting image from nearby Riverside Park hangs on the wall. But what was opened as a watering hole and pizza joint for Audubon residents has turned into one of Spokane's most loved eateries. Arrive early to avoid lines!


Riverside State Park

After lunch, we drove less than 10 minutes to Riverside State Park. A network of trails winds through 14,000 acres that make up the second largest state park in Washington. It's a great spot for a brisk 30-minute walk or a full-day hike.

We visited the most popular Bowl and Pitcher area where a suspension bridge crosses the Spokane River. As my family hiked into a forest of towering pines, I thought about the past few days in the Washington city.

We glided over a waterfall in a gondola built in a park that was originally built for a World's Fair, walked the halls of a beautifully restored 1900s mansion and dined at restaurants as good as any you'll find in Manhattan. And now here we were in pristine wilderness just minutes from all the action.

Family Reunion at Best Western PLUS Airport Peppertree Inn


Best Western PLUS Peppertree Airport Inn

Every great hotel has a great lobby, a comfortable, inviting space where you can relax in an overstuffed chair and take in the bustling energy of the travelers coming and going. The staff behind the check-in counter wear warm smiles and quickly learn the names of guests. They remember that you're in town for a wedding or a graduation and ask you how the ceremony went.

My 11-year-old daughter will be the first to tell you this. We recently stayed in a grand, luxurious hotel with a lobby fit for a queen. Oriental rugs the size of small swimming pools were spread across the gleaming hardwood floors and chandeliers dripping with hundreds of sparkling crystals hung from the ceiling. The only problem: Nobody was there and the woman who checked us in looked tired and worn. Her smile was weak. My daughter declared the place depressing.



The lobby at the Best Western PLUS Peppertree Airport Inn immediately won my daughter's approval. When we walked through the door late in the evening, the assistant manager Megan Morgan greeted us with the sort of smile you expect from a long-lost friend.

We carried our luggage and bagsful of mini cheeseburgers from a well-loved burger stand called Dick's. Megan invited us to sit at one of the tables in the lobby as if she were welcoming us into our own home. At 10 p.m., my kids slurped up vanilla malts in front of a giant TV showing the Disney Channel. Meanwhile Megan filled me in on all there was to do in Spokane. Even late at night, a few guests trickled in and Megan made sure to say hello to them all. Life was good at the Peppertree.

The next morning the lobby buzzed with activity. Aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends from afar were in town for college graduations and many carried overflowing bouquets of fragrant flowers.

In a dining room off the lobby, my kids and I enjoyed the hot buffet breakfast as we waited for the "dads" (my husband and father) to arrive. The Peppertree breakfast is generous with a full spread of typical breakfast items such as bacon and eggs, a yogurt parfait bar and fresh waffles that you make yourself.


Cannon balls!

Soon the Dads arrived via the hotel's free airport shuttle. I'd specifically picked the Peppertree because my husband and father would be flying in and out at separate times. I didn't want to spend half my vacation driving to and from the airport.

We visited Spokane in the middle of World Cup season and the kids wanted to watch a soccer game. My family plopped down on one of the lobby couches to watch England play Italy while I took the baby up to the room for a nap.

The rooms at the Peppertree are clean and tidy and the decor is fresh. My kids got a kick out of the decorative pillows on the beds that looked as if they were covered in green grass. Wi-fi is included with the room; a perk at all Best Western properties.   

After a nap and a World Cup game, the kids were ready for a swim.  The hotel's indoor pool is heated and there's also a hot tub. Let's face it, on vacation all my kids really want to do is swim, especially with their dad and grandpa. Cannon balls!


Best Western Hotels Along the Way:


Best Western Plus Liberty Lake Inn

1816 N Pepper Ln, Liberty Lake WA 99019-9511
Phone: +1 509-755-1111  |  Fax: +1 509-755-1111  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »


Best Western Plus Peppertree Airport Inn

3711 S Geiger Boulevard, Spokane WA 99224-5416
Phone: +1 509-624-4655  |  Fax: (509) 755-4263  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »


Best Western Plus City Center

33 W Spokane Falls Boulevard, Spokane WA 99201-0120
Phone: +1 509-623-9727  |  Fax: (509) 808-2073  |  Hotel Details & Reservations »

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