Washington’s second-largest city is home to nearly a quarter-million residents. Located in Eastern Washington, Spokane is closer to Missoula than to Seattle. While the downtown area does have an urban vibe, Spokane is surrounded by mountains and lakes. In fact, there are 76 lakes within two hours drive of the city.
Ponderosa pine trees line the Spokane River, where you’ll find outdoor enthusiasts whitewater rafting during the warmer months. And the local food scene has grown to the point where food tours are now a thing.
Here is a weekend guide to Spokane, Washington.
The Historic Davenport
Wooden City Spokane
Iron Goat Brewing
Start your weekend in Spokane with a stroll through Riverfront Park
Riverfront Park is located in the heart of downtown and is an ideal place to start your weekend in Spokane. This 100-acre park is where the 1974 World’s Fair was held. The main attractions include the carousel, Radio Flyer wagon, and various sculptures. But the quirkiest attraction is the garbage-eating goat, which is a remnant from the World’s Fair. It’s made of recycled material and has a vacuum digestive system.
Grab a taco or two at Cochinito Taqueria
After exploring Riverfront Park, head two blocks northwest and grab a taco or two at Cochinito Taqueria. Each taco is made to order on Cochonito’s house-made, fresh corn tortilla. Individually, they are all under $5, but for $11.95, you can choose any two and get a meal (with rice and beans included). If you prefer beef tacos, try the short rib birria and their 20-hour carne asada. The latter comes filled with tender sous vide tri tip meat, which is rubbed with chili and slow-braised. The birria is more simple, yet much heavier, due to the fried shell and succulent cheese which comes melted into the cut-with-a-fork short rib meat.
This is one of the stops on the Wander Spokane food tour. Cochinito is closed on Sundays.
Rent a bike or scooter and see just how photogenic Spokane really is
One thing that will surprise first-time visitors to Spokane is just how photogenic the city is. To get an idea of this, grab a bike or Lime scooter and explore the paths along the river. You can start at Riverfront Park and head east along the Centennial Trail, through the University District, and either up to Mission Park or across the Iron Bridge to the Chief Garry Park neighborhood. The paths are well marked and usually not overcrowded. If you plan to stop for photos, allow at least 2-3 hours.
Ride the gondola above Spokane
While a gondola ride high above a riverfront city is far from an original idea, there are reasons to take advantage of the Numerica SkyRide. In just 15 minutes, you can get a bird’s eye view of the downtown skyline, waterfalls, and the Monroe Street Bridge. The latter was featured in the 1985 film Vision Quest.
Have dinner at Zona Blanca Ceviche Bar
Following an afternoon of cycling and a gondola ride above Spokane, it will be time to freshen up before dinner. Zona Blanca Ceviche Bar is one of those must-try eateries in Spokane. Former Top Chef competitor Chad White opened this super-casual downtown spot in 2016 after living and cooking in cities like San Diego and Tijuana. He takes pride in throwing what he refers to as “high fives to the mouth.” The flavors are far from subtle, and the ingredients are anything but typical of what you might expect in the Pacific Northwest.
Chef Chad takes pride in getting the most out of the ingredients that his team uses. Talk to him for five minutes or less, and you’ll quickly realize that he has a knack for making commonplace dishes interesting. Raw oysters are everywhere, but at Zona Blanca, they combine them with quail eggs and Baja ponzu for what the menu refers to as liquid Viagra. For the guacamole, they dehydrate the leftover avocado skins and mix them with salt and chilies before burning them and grinding the thin black skins into an ash salt to season the tortilla chips with. They also top this normally simple dish with crushed grasshoppers.
Enjoy Sunday brunch at Browne’s Bistro
Browne’s Bistro is located in Browne’s Addition, which is the oldest neighborhood in Spokane. You’ll find a handful of dining options at the intersection of Cannon and Pacific, but Browne’s stands out the most, thanks to its homey atmosphere. Like Italia Trattoria, they have outdoor dining, but while Italia feels like dining in your uncle’s garage at your cousin’s graduation party, Browne’s is housed in a residential building with historic 8×10 framed photos lining the walls.
Browne’s is closed from November to February.
Take a leisurely stroll through Browne’s Addition
Walk off your Sunday brunch along the quiet, tree-lined streets of Spokane’s oldest neighborhood. This diamond-shaped enclave is mostly residential, but the mansions themselves are as much of an attraction as any museum or outdoor activity. Speaking of museums, the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture includes a tour of the 13,000-square-foot historic Campbell House. You can see the downtown skyline from the parking lot.
Enjoy a late lunch at Iron Goat Brewery
After a leisurely stroll through Browne’s Addition, make the half-mile journey back downtown to Iron Goat Brewery. This super-casual high-ceiling tap room also has an excellent food menu. The menu has enough variety to make dining here feel like going on an international food tour in one Downtown Spokane building. Dates & bleu cheese, spicy banh mi, and Thai green curry are just a few of their pizza options. The latter also comes in a planet-based bowl version. For more traditional bar food, try one of the small plates.
Go on a whitewater rafting adventure along the Spokane River
Unless you’re visiting during winter, you should definitely consider joining a whitewater rafting adventure along the Spokane River. Wiley E. Waters takes people of all experience levels on scenic journeys along the river that runs through the heart of downtown. While the excursions are a bit too rough for traditional photography, you’ll see views of the city that could only be matched by the gondolas, which run for a much shorter stretch. They’ll provide wet suits, but you should still plan to get changed before dinner.
Have dinner at Wooden City
At Wooden City, you’ll find modern takes on both Italian and American classics. Of the eight starters, Hungarian peppers stand out, as does the Parisian gnocchi, which is served in a lemon pepper sauce and topped with fried basil. The latter is just beginning to catch on in North America. In summary, Parisian-style gnocchi are made with hot water dough and tend to be much softer than the more common potato-based version.
The house favorites (or main courses) do change from time to time, but if it’s on the menu, you must try the lamb bolognese. Beet ravioli is the only vegetarian option. If your diet is entirely plant-based, try the vegan pizza. It’s one of their six wood-fired pies. The fresh mozzarella pie is a traditional margherita with added parmesan cheese. If you’re interested in vegan parmesan cheese, check out Parma!
Wooden City also has a Tacoma location.
End your weekend in Spokane with a stroll through Riverfront Park
Riverfront Park has an entirely different vibe after dark. The Great Northern Railway clock tower lights up, as does the U.S. Pavilion. And while the park gets a bit crowded (albeit by smaller city standards) during the day, it has a far more intimate feel after the sun goes down. The Garbage-eating goat will still inhale your trash, and the skyline looks much more picturesque when lit up at night.
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During my visit, I stayed at the Historic Davenport, which is a Marriott-brand hotel. As of this writing, CHASE is offering 35,000 bonus points when you sign up for the no annual fee Marriott Bonvoy Bold Card. And they are offering 105,000 bonus points when you sign up for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Card, which has a $95 annual fee. Get more details on both offers here.
Have you been to Spokane? Or other parts of the Pacific Northwest? If so, how did you enjoy it? Leave a comment below!