Weekend Wonders in Spokane
Spokane’s Native American heritage, riverfront treats and proximity to outdoor adventures makes it an excellent destination for families. Home to about 200,000 people, it’s got everything you’d need and more. The tight downtown core makes most destinations walkable – and the regional parks are a quick drive. Visitors flying into Spokane airport (GEG) will marvel at the less than 15 minute drive from airport to downtown, along Interstate 90. Those adding Spokane as a destination during a road trip will find it an easy 228 miles east of Seattle, and less than an hour east of Coeur d’Alene.
On Day 1 in Spokane, you should start the day at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (10-5, adults $10, check website for various discounts). It’s a small museum hosting rotating exhibits and a small gallery of Native American artifacts and heirlooms.
You’re unlikely to spend more than 1-1.5 hours in the museum but I recommend it because the children’s room is a gem. It features blocks, coloring pages and a variety of additional activities.
The museum is set just west of downtown Spokane and is only two blocks from the Coeur d’Alene Park – boasting a big playground, gazebo and space for a picnic. The nearby grocery store is called Rosauers and they have an abundance of prepared salads, sandwiches and soups.
Day 1’s afternoon should feature the Riverfront Park attractions. This is a great introduction to Spokane as the park is right downtown. The Spokane River bisects Spokane and has created a few islands and several sections of waterfalls. You can see both the Upper Falls and Lower Falls on the Spokane Falls Skyride (daily 10-9). The skyride actually takes you under one of the river bridges in your out-and-back trip.
Also nestled inside Riverfront Park is a carousel inside its own gorgeous metal and glass building. One of Spokane’s most recognizable pieces of public art is the Childhood Express Red Wagon. This ‘larger than life’ Radio Flyer red wagon holds up to 300 people in its bucket and kids can slide down the slide on the front handle (free, always open). As long as you’re in the area, hop onto a part of the Centennial Trail. It runs for miles in both directions from this part of Spokane. Watch out for bicyclists and scooters! The best views of the waterfalls are from the walking bridges that cross the Spokane River. Check out the handy maps in the Riverfront Park to craft your family’s own loop. Just west of Riverfront Park, Huntington Park contains a series of informational boards describing hydroelectric power because there are two small hydroelectric power plants in downtown Spokane – one powering up to 7,500 homes. Families who love libraries can add-on the Spokane public library, which is adjacent to Huntington Park. For hungry tummies, you’ll find all major chain restaurants in the downtown corridor. If you spend a few minutes on Google, you’ll also find some local eateries worth a visit.
On Day 2, head straight to the Mobius Children’s Museum and the Mobius Science Center. Be careful! These two museums are not collocated. They’re an easy one block walk from each other but that may make a difference to some parents of small children. The Mobius Science Center is located next to the Washington Water Power building (Avista Substation), a fabulous building to admire. The science center is filled with modern exhibits for kids of all ages. If your family moved through the Riverfront Park on Day 1 fast enough, this science center could be tacked on. The Mobius Children’s Museum is located in the basement of the River Park Square mall. It’s a colorful, welcoming children’s museum with loads of trains, water play, climbing things and the like. And the best news about Mobius Children’s Museum is that just a floor up, you can find a variety of fantastic lunch or dinner spots.
Outdoor enthusiasts will love Palisades Park, High Bridge Park and Riverside State Park (parking fee applies). The trails in this region are filled with wonder. Geology-loving kids will be so pleased every time they find columnar basalt (everywhere in Spokane). Lava in this area some 15 million years ago cooled in water, forming hexagonal basalt columns. It’s so abundant in this region that it’s used as parking spurs and for walls in some areas. Further afield, you’ll find National Forest properties for you to explore, but Spokane makes a perfect home base for any family adventure in eastern Washington.