Spokane is a city in eastern Washington, also known as the "The Inland Empire", pre-dating by nearly a century the use of the same title by a region in Southern California. It is the second largest city in the state, and the largest between Seattle and Minneapolis.

Downtown Spokane from Riverfront Park


The city is pronounced as "spo-CAN," but often mispronounced as "spo-CAIN." Its nickname is "The Lilac City". Spokane is named for a local Salish-speaking tribe of Native Americans who frequented the area.

The city is the economic and transportation hub of a surrounding agricultural area that serves roughly 1.5 million people, and the county seat of Spokane County. The immediate metropolitan area is home to roughly 500,000 citizens and the city proper is home to over 200,000. It is a rather conservative area, with a liberal city proper, and has a fairly small racial minority population (around 10%).

Spokane receives only a fraction of the rain that falls in Seattle and western Washington. However, winters are a lot colder with much more snowfall. Summers are hotter, but still more mild and less humid that those in the Midwest and East.

Get in

By plane

Spokane International Airport (IATA: GEG for Geiger Field) is about seven miles to the west of Downtown off of I-90 from Exit #277B (along US Hwy 2) towards Airway Heights. Airlines fly to/from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Portland, Denver, Salt Lake City, Oakland (near San Francisco), Los Angeles (LAX), Minneapolis, Chicago, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Boise, and Atlanta (the only destination on the east coast). There are no non-stop international flights at this time (though there were in the past to Canada). Connections to/from Canada normally go through Seattle (most common), Minneapolis, or Chicago. If everything is full, you might have to go further south. Currently, there's no way to get to Calgary and Edmonton without flying to a quite out-of-the-way hub city.

The following airlines serve Spokane (some distant cities are seasonal and/or weekly):

To travel from the airport to downtown:

By train

Spokane is located on Amtrak's Empire Builder route, which operates between Seattle/Portland and Chicago. Spokane is located at the point where westbound trains are split in half, one half going to Seattle through the Cascades and the other half to Portland OR-Vancouver WA along the Columbia River Gorge, and where eastbound trains from those cities are joined together to continue eastward. The Empire Builder connects with Amtrak's Coast Starlight & Cascades in Seattle and Portland and multiple east-west-south trains in Chicago .The Amtrak intermodal station, which is shared with Greyhound buses, is a new facility located downtown, close to major hotels and attractions at 221 W 1st Ave.

By bus

The bus station for local and long distance buses is the same as the train station (intermodal station) at 221 W 1st Ave and/or the airport:

By car

Interstate 90 connects Seattle with Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and passes through Spokane.

Get around

By bus

The STA (Spokane Transit Authority) is an excellent way to get around to the North, South, and West sides as well as to the Valley and Liberty Lake in the east. Public Transit is a great way to get to meet the people of a city. Bus route maps can be found in a few stores and gas stations. Most drivers are very friendly and helpful so ask any questions you may have.

The STA uses a new farebox system and offers 2 hour and all day passes. With the new fare boxes you must ask the driver for a pass before you put your fare in the fare box.

By car

Car rentals are available in many locations, mainly near the Spokane International Airport. All the major companies are located there. Returning cars at the airport can be a little confusing. The main entrance to the rental return is an entire mile before the airport terminal (left at Flint Rd.) You can also drop off passengers and turn right at Flint Rd. just past the terminal. Note there are no directional signs for rental cars between these two places.

Interstate 90 is an excellent way to cross town East-West. A north-south freeway is under construction, and won't be finished for years. Allow more time if you have to go very far in this direction, as there's no express route yet. (The construction itself is unlikely to cause you any delays, as it's not on the main roadways.)

Be aware of Spokane's many uncontrolled intersections in older residential neighborhoods. Watch for cross traffic and yield as necessary. Also, there are a few one-way thoroughfares well outside of downtown.

Check with Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) for current driving conditions.

By bike

Monroe Street Dam on the Spokane River

Spokane is located in a valley, bicycling around can be challenging due to the hills. This can be complicated by weather, which can be cold and snowy in winter and hot and dry in the summer. It is suggested that bikers avoid Division as it is the main thoroughfare. There are other options available with more space, less traffic and slower speeds. There are multiple bike clubs (road and off-road) in the area. Some sections of the city have bike trails along arterials.

The Centennial Trail is 60 miles long and runs along the Spokane River from Higgins Point about 8 miles west of downtown Coeur d'Alene, Idaho through the City of Spokane Valley and downtown Spokane, ending near Spokane House in Nine Mile Falls. The 37.5 miles of trail (30 of which are class 1) in Washington are blacktopped and usually in good repair, although care should be taken in spring if the river has risen; much of the trail follows the contours of the Spokane River. It is excellent for bicycling, rollerblading, or walking; no motorized vehicles or horses allowed, pets must be on leash. Parts of the trail, especially in Spokane Valley, run adjacent or on the shoulder of roads. Caution should be taken not to leave valuables visible in cars if using a trailhead. Sections of the trail are isolated by hills, forest, the river and other natural features. There are multiple trailheads, some with outhouses. Take your own drinking water, although there are fountains in parks along the trail (and at least one pump near the stateline in Idaho). The trail is relatively flat, but has some nice hills west of downtown Spokane.


Downtown Oasis - Riverfront Park


Golf- There are 33 golf courses within a short drive of the city center. The city of Spokane runs 4 Public golf courses including the award winning Indian Canyon, Spokane County runs 6 other public courses. The Coeur d'Alene resort golf course features a green floating in the lake.


runners participating in the Bloomsday race


Many of the newer, suburban-style stores and shopping centers are located on the far north side of the city. The huge Northtown Mall is on the NE corner of Division (US Hwy 2/395) & Wellesley. A mile further up is Francis Ave., and there are many places to shop as you go north on both Division (US 395) and the Newport Hwy (US 2) (which soon splits off from Division).






Being a Western city in the U.S., it has its fair share of bars and taverns. Washington state law says Bars can sell alcoholic beverages of their choice, while Taverns are restricted to Beer and wines and such. Along Sprague in Downtown, there are a fair number of Bars and Taverns.


Spokane is the center of the Inland Northwest Ale Trail of over 25 different microbreweries. Many of them have food or partner with food trucks.





Note: The historic Ridpath Hotel has been closed since 2008, but may be renovated in the future.

Interior of Historic Davenport Hotel

Stay safe

All-in-all people in Spokane are very kind and hospitable. It is a very safe city at most times of the day and there are no really bad neighborhoods of which to be advised. That being said, Hillyard, the East Sprague red light district, and the west side area north of downtown are not great places to be alone at night. Also, use caution when walking through Riverfront Park or on the Centennial Trail at night.


Spokane is one of a few cities nationwide that has Wi-Fi access just about everywhere Downtown. The entire Downtown area is a Wi-Fi hotspot or an area where wireless Internet is provided free of charge (2 hours per day) if your computer is equipped for Wi-Fi. There is also free Wi-Fi at the airport (with commercials before access).


During the last weekend in June, Spokane hosts the Hoopfest basketball tournament, while nearby Coeur d'Alene, Idaho has the Ironman Triathlon on the same weekend. These are both hugely popular events with tens of thousands of visitors. If you're not interested in either, avoid the area altogether on this weekend (Thursday night to Sunday), as traffic will be extremely bad, and accommodation impossible. Likewise for the Bloomsday 12 Km timed street run on the first Sunday in May (avoid Friday night to Sunday), though Coeur d'Alene has nothing major scheduled then. Barring some unusually severe weather, the other 50 weekends each year should be just fine for visiting.

Go next

Although the destinations of Seattle, Portland, Glacier National Park, Mount Rainier, and Mount St. Helens are popular with locals, these are not day trips, and even a two-day excursion will seem rushed. The distance to Mt. St. Helens is easily underestimated, as the only access is from I-5 between Seattle and Portland (with substantial backtracking).

The area to the west and south can be considerably hotter in summertime than it is in Spokane. Bring plenty of drinking water.

Routes through Spokane

Seattle/Portland Ephrata/Pasco  W  E  Sandpoint Minot
Seattle Ritzville  W  E  Coeur d'Alene Missoula
Wenatchee Davenport  W  E  Newport Kalispell
Ends at  N  S  Colfax Lewiston
Ends at Colville  N  S  Ritzville Pasco
Ends at  W  E  Mt Spokane State Park End
Ends at  W  E  Spokane Valley Ends at
Tumtum Suncrest  N  S  Ends at

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, March 31, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.