Updated: Jul 25
Join me weekly as I work my way through The Spokesman-Review book '100 Things To Do In Spokane For You Die,' & explore all that makes the greater Spokane area uniquely wonderful.
From incredible arts venues & vibrant foodie offerings, to the Spokane Gun Club & numerous outdoor experiences, I will take you an array of must try activities whether you're a lifelong resident or just considering moving to the area.
FEAST AT KENDALL YARDS
July 20, 2023
This newer neighborhood runs along the north bank of the Spokane River and offers magnificent views of the downtown skyline. So do most of the eaters, and you’ll find lots of tasty options. Consider thin-crust, wood-fired pizza on the patio at Vera, or beer or wine next door at Nectar. Central Foods offers entrees such a pan-seared Idaho trout, local lentils, and, at lunch, a killer Korean pork sandwich. Don’t forget to pick up a load of house-made, naturally leavened bread to go. Umi Kitchen and Sushi specializes in seafood, Japanese cuisine, and Asian-inspired craft cocktails. Park Lodge, open for dinner, specializes in Pacific Northwest fare with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences. Its shares a building with the mini-doughnut-and-coffee shop Hello Sugar and Indaba.
Keep in mind that since this book has been published, some of the neighborhood eateries have sadly closed in the midst of the pandemic. But my all time favorite Spokane sushi spot survives. Umi offers not only uniquely mouth watering dishes but equally delicious cocktails, all set with amazing views of the Spokane River. If you aren’t in the mood to dine-in, come down to Kendall Yards during their Night Market every Wednesday from 5-8pm. Its a great way to explore all the Kendall Yards has to offer!
PLAY CATCH ON THE FIELD AT AN INDIAN’S GAME
July 6, 2023
Avista Stadium, home to the Spokane Indians baseball team, typically ranks as one of the best minor league parks. It’s not the newest or the shiniest or even in a great location. But its definitely filled with charm. And one of the most charming things you can do at the stadium happens after Sunday afternoon games. That’s when fans are allowed on the outfield after the game to play catch. Though the field looks great from the stands, its even more amazing when you’re standing on it. With your glove. Playing catch with family and friends. The field is softer than you imagined and greener than you realized. Playing catch is fun, but playing a game of catch on an immaculately manicured professional baseball field is something you’ll never forget.
Even if a game of catch isn’t your thing, an Indians game at Avista Field is worth the experience. I was pleasantly surprised at not only how well appointed the stadium is, but in a world where any entertainment costs a fortune, tickets and concessions were well priced and all of the staff was incredibly friendly. Although sports aren’t exactly my thing, this was an experience I will definitely be back for!
HIT THE STREET FOR HOOPFEST
June 24, 2023
What do you need to play in the largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament on earth? A couple of your tallest friends would be a good start, along with a clever team name (Cookies and Kareem?) and a few pairs of fresh socks. Featuring (45,000) players and 3,000 volunteers spread over (422) courts filling the streets of downtown Spokane, Hoopfest takes place the last weekend of June. It includes divisions for all skill and age levels; wheelchair, youth, family, co-ed, and elite. The street game tends to get a little heated, so stay hydrated and stay cool. Remember: Unless you’re in the elite division, you can only win a T-shirt.
Admittedly, I am not a huge sports ball fan! However, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see what all the buzz was about that I had been hearing of all my life. Without a doubt, Hoopfest did not disappoint! Even if you aren’t the biggest sports fan, the electric energy & sense of community that takes over downtown Spokane is not to be missed! Not only is it exciting to see the hundreds of games happening at once, but the people watching & vendors everywhere are equally festive.
GRAZE THE FARMER’S MARKET
June 8, 2023
Spokane’s farmers markets overflow with apples, cherries, tomatoes, leafy greens, and other locally grown bounty. Each has a distinct vibe. The bustling Kendall Yards Night Market offers shoppers live music in the Nest, a shipping container turned into a stage overlooking the Spokane River and downtown skyline. The hip Thursday Market in the South Perry District offers a friendly neighborhood feel and cheap beers at the Shop. Morning shoppers might prefer the Spokane Farmers market in a grassy field near downtown. Look for local specialties including honey, mead, grass-fed meats, foraged morels and chanterelles, blueberries, strawberries, baked good, hand-blended tea, chai and gourmet ice pops. Farmers market seas runs May through October.
Having lived in both Boise and Portland, my expectations for farmers markets are high, and Spokane’s do not disappoint; my personal favorite being the Thursday Market in the South Perry District. This eclectic neighborhood is vibrant on any other day, but on market days it comes to life with the energy of a carnival. Not only is the market itself stocked with local vendors of all kinds, but the districts numerous businesses stay open as well to greet neighborhood guests.
SEE WHERE THEY MADE THE MOVIE
May 30, 2023
Several popular films have been shot in and around Spokane, and you can visit many of the locations. Head to the Garland District to see the iconic Milk Bottle, which was featured in an exterior shot in the Johnny Depp film Benny & Joon. Ferguson’s Cafe next door was heavily damaged by fire in 2011 (and the Milk Bottle also was damaged) after serving as a location in Benny & Joon, Vision Quest, and Why Would I Lie? Vision Quest star Matthew Moline appeared at a special screening of this coming-of-age drama in 2012 to raise funds for the cafe’s reconstruction. Speaking of Vision Quest, the 1985 film marked the screen debut of Madonna, whose scenes were set at the Bigfoot Tavern on Spokane’s North side.
If you want a heavy dose of nostalgia along with some iconic movie locales, then the Milk Bottle & Ferguson’s on Garland are not to be missed. Classic diner fair & shakes really set the tone for this eclectic neighborhood.
In fact, this year marks the 30th Anniversary of the film Benny & Joon, and the historic Garland Theater will be showing an celebratory screening of the cult classic on July 15th at 715pm.
REVEL IN LILAC CITY
May 20, 2023
Every May, Spokane celebrates its status as the Lilac City. There are several ways to join the celebration, including a visit to the quiet of the Lilac Garden in Manito Park, where lilac bushes were first planted in 1912. (Spokane has its own hybrid, a double-blooming fragrant beauty called Syringa that changes from mauve to pink, then silver, and finally apple-blossom white.) You’ll also want to join the pomp and wonder of the Lilac Festival Armed Forces Torchlight Parade. The streets of downtown are transformed into a marching band bonanza, as more than three dozen high schools send student musicians to the parade. People line the curbs to enjoy the floats, horses, marching bands, classic cars, and, of course, the military members and veterans passing by.
If you truly want to experience the vibrancy and legacy of Spokane, the Torchlight Parade is not to be missed. Truthfully, I stumbled upon the festivities this year as I was out to dinner with friends, and what started as a mellow evening turned into an adventure filled with bright lights, exuberant music and a walking tour of downtown I didn’t expect! There is no better way to feel the essence of a community than joining in a city wide parade that snakes on for hours. The joy & energy was palpable in the warm evening air, making for the perfect kick off to summer!
WALK THE CENTENNIAL TRAIL
May 13, 2023
If you visit Spokane, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself on the Centennial Trail. More than 2 million people do it each year, and its an enjoyable place for a quiet bike ride or walk. For sixty miles the paved trail follows the contours of the Spokane River. It meanders beneath the basalt cliffs northwest of the city, the thundering waterfalls of downtown, the lazy welcoming water of Spokane Valley, and the forests and lakes of Post Falls and Coeur d’Alene. A water bottle and comfortable shoes are all you need for a perfect day.
On the Riverfront Park section of the trail, you’ll find numerous viewpoints of the Spokane Falls, the largest urban waterfall in the United States. Catch a ride on the Numerica SkyRide at Riverfront Park. The fifteen-minute enclosed cable cabin offers a convenient waterfront excursion where you’ll experience breathtaking views of Spokane Falls. Just off the trail, take a walk through Riverfront Park, home to the newly renovated Pavilion from the 1974 World’s Fair.
As an avid biker, the Centennial Trail became my escape during the height of the pandemic. When all gyms were closed, I purchased a bike & started riding with the hope of making it a few miles each day. The first month was a struggle, but by my second month of consistent adventures, I was blazing a 20 mile path each day, all following the beautiful Centennial trail through the heart of Spokane. The ever changing landscape, city views & people watching are unmatched.
GET LOST AT AUNTIE’S
May 5, 2023
Auntie’s is the center of Spokane’s literary world, the city’s oldest independent bookstore, the home of countless readings by local and visiting authors, and an easy best place to lose an hour browsing in the stacks. Auntie’s opened in 1978, and the bookstore has been in its current location in the Liberty Building downtown since 1994. Auntie’s carries a large selection of new and used books, cards, T-shirts, and gifts. It also has a section dedicated to the latest books by local authors.
If you’re a bibliophile like me, then Auntie’s is a must stop as you explore Spokane and its surrounding areas. In a world of Kindle’s & digital literature, I believe there is nothing quite like holding an actual book, smelling the pages (iykyk), writing in the margins, etc. Auntie’s not only offers a vast selection of fantastic reads, but its friendly staff will go above and beyond to find what they may not have in stock. They even offer bookstore credit for your gently used books.
What am I reading right now?
The Go-Giver by Bob Burg & John David Mann
The Night and Its Moon by Piper C.J.
TAKE A NOSTALGIC BURGER TOUR
April, 29, 2023
Go big on your burger choice or don’t go at all. The choice here? The Thrifty Scotsman’s Super Bacon. The Thrifty Scotsman is among the classic burger joints in and around the city that offer a taste of Spokane from a half-century ago. You can enjoy burgers that sound more like carnival rides — the Big R, the Whammy, the Big Dude, and the Big Zipper, just to name a few — in settings that attract some of the areas coolest classic cars. As much as I’d love to do a full burger tour in one day, my stomach just wouldn’t allow for it. So I decided to enjoy a childhood favorite of mine, Dick’s Hamburgers.
Dick’s Drive-in is an iconic Spokane business. The drive up parking, the open air counter and the buildings silhouette call back to the architecture of a 1960’s California Drive-In. On the sign a panda holds a hamburger that is being pecked at by a neon rooster. The sign reads: Dick’s Hamburgers. Burgers by the Bag Full.
Though it shares a name with a similarly themed drive-in in Seattle, there is no relation. At it’s founding in 1954, the drive-in did not even bear the name Dick’s. Founder Elmer “Abe” Miller originally named the drive-in Kirk’s, a name that the company would continue to operate under, even after the name of the restaurant changed. In the 1960s the restaurant’s name changed for the first time to Panda Self Service Drive-In-Restaurant. The Panda had the same “Burgers by the Bag Full” slogan as Dick’s still has today. In 1967 the name was changed one last time to Dick’s. The iconic panda, however, remains on the neon sign today, calling back to the restaurant’s early life.
Though the drive-in has always been a hotspot for local high schoolers, both in front of and behind the counter, all types flock to the restaurant to get a cheap burger and Coke. On Friday evenings in the summer, the California style open aired dining counter is packed. Miller’s business philosophy was that it was “better to make 2 cents each on a thousand hamburgers than a dollar each on only a few burgers”.
Miller made one attempt in 1985 to expand the business with two other locations in Arizona, which was where he grew up. The locations did manage to open, but did not succeed in the long run, and Dick’s remains a stand alone business.
CATCH A CLASSIC AT THE GARLAND
April 8, 2023
Except for a few brief closures, the Garland Theater has been a Spokane mainstay since opening in 1945. Now a discount theater seating 500, the Garland is a throwback to a bygone era before reclining seats and $15 tickets. It’s the perfect place to see a classic film. With a varied menu of snacks and the option to order beer and wine, it pleases adults and children alike. During summer the Garland shows family-friendly movies one night a week. For the adventurous, catch a midnight show of cult classics like The Rocky Horror Picture Show and The Room. Whatever you decide to see, at $5 a movie (or $2.50 on Wednesdays!), your wallet will thank you. Whether your craving nostalgia, tired of sky high movie prices or just needing an easy escape, the Garland Theater does not disappoint. Particularly at night, the vibrant neons through the theatre’s interior and exterior foreshadow the wonderful experience you will have. The Garland Theater offers a wide range of movies for anyone’s taste (both classics & current releases), plenty of in-house movie treats (as well as an attached cocktail lounge called BonBon), and easily the nicest movie house staff in town. Now with the advent of at-home streaming, the Garland needs the communities help more than ever. Chris Bovey, owner and founder of Vintage Print and Neon, launched a fundraiser last Monday with a $300,000 goal. If that money is raised, it would be used to reimagine the single-screen discount theater – and hopefully save it. Instead of focusing on the second-run movie market that has been destroyed by streaming services, Bovey envisions the Garland as the region’s marquee venue for classic movies that modern viewers have never seen on the big screen.
Check out www.savethegarland.com to see how you can help!
FOLLOW THE ALE TRAIL
April 2, 2023
The Northwest is known as a craft beer hotbed, and the Spokane area boasts thirty-odd breweries stretching in every direction. To the west, a budding downtown brewery district is anchored by Iron Goat (try the Blackberry Apricot Sour) and up-and-comer Whistle Punk. To the east, a burgeoning Valley scene ranges from pioneering Twelve String (think hoppy IPAs and barrel-aged beers) to classy newcomer Millwood Brewing. Up north, it’s the likes of Bellwether (specializing in Old World style with honey and herbs) and Green Bluff’s farm-based Big Barn. South of the freeway you’ll find Perry Street Brewing (rock-solid classic styles) and the Grain Shed brewery/bakery co-op, using regionally grown ancient grains. And local leader No-Li’s beers show up all over town in bottles, cans and draft.
If you’re a fan of No-Li’s on-the-go options or never tried them before, be sure to check out their brick and mortar, No-Li Brewhouse/Bier Hall. This unassuming riverside location packs an immediate punch when you walk in the door, with vibrant decor and the sound of laughter. The space and uber friendly staff draw you in, as you’re offered multiple areas to enjoy. From the Bier Hall itself which offers a multitude of unique libations & mouth watering food (don’t miss the Epic Pretzel, the dipping sauces are life changing and it paired perfectly with their Wrecking Ball Stout) to the game room and patio that demands relaxation. Also be sure to check out the free photo booth as you’re walking out, you are going to want to remember No-Li and share it with others.
GET A GREAT CUPPA JOE AT AN INDIE COFFEEHOUSE
March 28, 2023
Washington state may be the home of Starbucks, but indie coffeehouses rule this western town. In 2018 National Geographic Traveler magazine named Spokane one of America’s top ten small coffee cities for “the best caffeine fix.” You can find good java on nearly every block. Start with the 2023 Good Food Award-winning Roast House, which specializes in organic, shade-grown coffees, and its First Avenue Coffee bar, which highlights high-quality, small batch, and exclusive roasts. Then branch out and visit as many of the city’s 150-plus coffee shops and drive-thru as you can.
Roast House is unassuming from the outside, but immediately welcoming when you walk in. Although this actual roast house offers a wonderful array of craft coffee beverages, its not quite the ‘hangout all day’ type joint. With no seating offered, this stop is best suited to the hardcore coffee connoisseur, but doesn’t lack an impressive offering of custom coffee and tea beverages. The staff is incredibly friendly and knowledgable, and was even willing to show me the actual roasting facilities. If you’re needing a place to sit and relax, their First Avenue Coffee bar may be a better fit, but definitely make it a point to see where all the caffeinated magic happens.
SLIDE DOWN THE RED WAGON
March 23, 2023 No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you. That is a giant Radio Flyer wagon in Spokane’s Riverfront Park. Called the Childhood Express, it was created for the Centennial Celebration of Children by local artist Ken Spiering in 1989 and weights 26 tons. And though it may have had the title of the world’s largest red wagon stripped by a behemoth dedicated in Chicago for the longtime wagon-maker’s centennial birthday. Spokane’s version boasts a twenty-foot slide. It also has monkey bars underneath that make it tough to pull the kids (and amateur thrill-seekers) away.