We Never Would Have Guessed Spokane Is So Funky and Rad

Craig Goodwin

Spokane is the cultural and industrial hub of Washington State’s sprawling Inland Empire. While plenty of non-locals get their first taste of Spokane when they arrive for a convention or trade fair (the city hosts many), a simple scratch beneath the city’s tranquil veneer will reveal its quirkier side. From the favorite haunts of a famous crooner to a hunt for buried missile silos, Spokane offers the curious plenty of the exciting and unusual to see and do.—Carl Pettit

Visit Spokane

The Centennial Trail

If you love to run, walk or cycle, the Centennial Trail is the spot for you. The trail—which starts (or ends, depending on your perspective) in Washington near Nine Mile Falls—stretching roughly 40 miles, clings to the banks of the Spokane River, passes through woodlands, downtown Spokane, the iconic Riverfront Park and beyond, all the way to the Idaho border. Diverse and scenic bike rides and strolls through the center of the city or other areas along the trail make it exceptionally easy to get a quick workout while getting back to nature at the same time.

Insider Tip: Friends of the Centennial Trail offers a digital map of the trail online.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Spokane and Eastern Washington Travel Guide

Visit Spokane

The Bing House and Bing Theater

The celebrated crooner Bing Crosby grew up in Spokane in a Craftsman-style house built in 1911 by his father and uncles. Today that house is the Bing Crosby House Museum, and open to the public. Hundreds of items (out of the thousands in Gonzaga University’s Crosby Collection) are on display in Bing’s childhood home. They include his Oscar for the film Going My Way, his gold records, and other memorabilia from his life.

While studying law at Gonzaga, Bing and a pal performed skits at Spokane’s Clemmer Theater in between the showing of silent films. Built in 1915, the Clemmer is one of America’s few remaining palace-style theaters. Renamed The Bing Crosby Theater in 2006, it hosts the Bing Crosby Holiday Film Festival every December, which highlights some of Crosby’s best films from his storied career.

Insider Tip: Entry to the Bing Crosby House Museum, just north of downtown Spokane, is free of charge.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Spokane and Eastern Washington Travel Guide

Jon Joncers

Hoopfest: The World’s Largest 3-on-3 Outdoor Basketball Tournament

Hoopfest is a big street party with a whole lot of basketball going on. The annual June tournament, which takes over swaths of downtown Spokane, is an orgy of 3-on-3 outdoor basketball madness. With roughly 7,000 teams competing on 450 courts sprawled across 40 city blocks, people can witness hoop action encompassing a wide range of age groups and abilities. When you need a break from the all that sweaty play, plenty of food and drink are available for ample gastronomic distraction.

Insider Tip: If you can get three friends together, why not compete? Brackets from children to seniors are on offer. Just make sure you register in time.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Spokane and Eastern Washington Travel Guide

Craig Goodwin

Arbor Crest Wine Cellar

Fine wine and superb views can be had in Spokane at Arbor Crest Wine Cellar, which is perched atop a 450-foot cliff overlooking the Spokane River and Spokane Valley. The winery features the Florentine Cliff House Estate (a national historic landmark) and Wine Bar, the aforementioned spectacular views, leisurely strolls across the grounds, great food, and of course the chance to sample plenty of Arbor Crest’s Washington wines. The selection includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Cliff House Red, Chardonnays from the Columbia Valley and more.

Insider Tip: For live music, visit Thursday, Friday or Saturday evenings for the Fireside Music Series, with free admission.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Spokane and Eastern Washington Travel Guide

Visit Spokane

Cat Tale’s Zoo

If you want to observe some big cats up close, then Cat Tale’s Zoo, just north of Spokane, is the place to go. Bobcats, cougars, leopards, lions, tigers and more are cared for at this big cat rehabilitation center and zoological training center. Many of the cats were rescued or placed here from other sites where their chances of survival weren’t all that great. Patrons have the opportunity to “adopt” a cat (funding its basic needs for a year), which is a great way to help out some massive felines in need.

Insider Tip: If you’re over 8 years old and want to get really close to a lion or tiger, you can opt to hand feed one of the big cats (or a bear). Can’t get much closer than that—unless you’re the food.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Spokane and Eastern Washington Travel Guide

Visit Spokane

Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle

Spokane’s Garland District is home to Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle, which is, as you may have guessed, a two-story building in the shape of a gargantuan milk bottle. It’s also a classic American diner serving up burgers, fries and yummy milkshakes (try the huckleberry shake), with a hefty dose of retro charm. If you’re a longtime fan of Johnny Depp, you can catch a bit of Mary Lou’s Milk Bottle in his 1993 rom-com Benny & Joon.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Spokane and Eastern Washington Travel Guide

Craig Goodwin

Post Street Bridge

Spokane’s Post Street Bridge, a concrete arch bridge spanning the Spokane River, offers marvelous views of the river and falls, and also happens to be the site where the murder weapon for the nation’s oldest active murder investigation was discarded (tossed off the span) in 1935 — and then rediscovered decades later in 1989. Come for the wonderful views and, if you’re a true crime buff, for a slice of history about the Newport Creamery robbery, the murder of Marshall George Conniff and how the crime was finally solved more than 50 years later.

Insider Tip: If you want to read about the murder case, and how Sheriff Tony Bamonte finally cracked it open, check out the book Breaking Blue.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Spokane and Eastern Washington Travel Guide

Waymarking.com

Greenwood Cemetery

If you dig spooky legends and have an affinity for ghoulish things, the staircase at Greenwood Cemetery, also known as “1000 steps,” should be your cup of unsettling tea. According to local lore, anyone courageous enough to climb the dilapidated staircase will witness and hear the spirits of the dead, all of whom are doing their ghostly best to keep you from reaching the upper terrace of the cemetery. For those who do ascend the stairs, they might also feel a rain-like sensation tickling their skin, purported to be the dead prickling their flesh.

Insider Tip: The steps are privately owned, so if you climb without permission, those strange shapes chasing you through the darkness are probably security guards, not ghosts … or so you hope.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Spokane and Eastern Washington Travel Guide

Visit Spokane

Boo Radley’s

Boo Radley’s gift shop belongs on any list about “quirky” things to do in Spokane. One of the best gift shops in town, Boo Radley’s combines the vibe of a curiosity shop with a vintage toy store, all sprinkled with a dash of the eclectically funky and cool. It’s a great spot to find an unusual gift for a friend or spend some time browsing through the unexpected. Original and creative toys, cards, games, T-shirts, masks and statuettes are just some of the treasures you’ll find inside this playful downtown establishment.

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Spokane and Eastern Washington Travel Guide

Visit Spokane

Garland Theater

The Garland Theater, first opened in 1945, was a pretty big deal back in the day. Film lovers adored it. In the modern age of the multiplex, the Garland has reinvented itself as Spokane’s only independent movie theater. With room for 650 patrons, “bottomless bags” of popcorn, booze and tasty grub (slow-roasted pork shoulder, pasta in a five cheese sauce, and more) that you can take into the cinema, it’s hard to go wrong with the Garland. Catching a flick here is a terrific way to enjoy the traditional big screen experience for a fraction of the price of a chain movie theater (and with better food).

PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Spokane and Eastern Washington Travel Guide