For me, Spokane, WA, has always been a city to go through on my way to some other place. The last time we were there, Ruth & I discovered a vibrant urban area that has vastly improved since we first stayed in it to visit its world’s fair. Spokane, population only 217,000, seems larger than it is. Way back in the last century, Spokane successfully hosted the 1st environmentally focused world’s fair, making it the smallest city in the world to sponsor such an event. Its equivalent would be if Rochester, New York, mounted an expo and invited everyone to come there. Ruth and I, then very young, attended because Ruth had relatives in Pomeroy, WA, the village of gulches, who invited us to go with them to see it. We liked the fair but didn’t much care for the city sponsoring it.
Things have changed. Spokane’s industrial downtown has been transformed. Its one-time world fair’s site has become Riverfront Park, a 100 acre green space with thundering waterfalls. Spokane is one of the few urban centers in the world with major cascades in its downtown area. Clever walkways encourage strolling and take pedestrians not only close to the falls but into a downtown complex of buildings like Minneapolis does. Among Riverfront Park’s many attractions is SkyRide. Its gondolas dangle riders over the falls.
Like Atlanta, Georgia, Spokane has a surprisingly high altitude that somewhat air-conditions it even though its summers can get hot. It’s almost 2,000 feet above sea level, about 800 feet higher than Atlanta and close enough to higher elevations to have 5 skiable mountains nearby. Hiking and running are wildly popular city activities, as is eating. Downtown Spokane is now home to many fine dining establishments that look inviting. The only one we sampled, however, was the highly recommended dining room in the Davenport Hotel that has been around for a long time and rivals celebrated, historic hotels in cities like New York. It’s a tourist attraction as fine as anything else in Spokane. It was so remarkable that Ruth and I stayed there far too long instead of seeing some of the other highlights of this surprising city. We will go back later this year.
It didn’t surprise me to learn that Spokane has been named one of “6 Great Small Cities for Food Lovers” by the Wall Street Journal because Spokane has become the unofficial capital of the American Northwest.
PS The Palouse, my favorite part of my adopted state, is south of Spokane and is also a great, and different, place to spend some time. Visit Walla Walla while there there.