City Guide: Spokane

Spokane, Washington, is the home of my husband’s alma mater, Whitworth University, and while we were dating, I visited him there several times. But all my past visits ushered in multiple feet of snow, so seeing Spokane in the summer was like visiting a different city. This time, we were in town for another wedding, the occasion for many of our trips in 2014.

The Recap

Favorite Eats

  • Madeleine’s Cafe & Patisserie. This place was so good we went twice, both times for breakfast, and I have no doubt that their food is superb at any time of day. I loved the croque madame with a cardamom mocha.
  • Atticus Coffee. Delicious coffee, adorable gifts. A literature nerd’s paradise. To Kill a Mockingbird references adorn the place, as expected with a name like Atticus. Great wi-fi, too. My recommendation? Get the chocolate chip molasses cookie.
  • Mizuna. A charming restaurant in the heart of downtown with lots of fresh, organic options. I had the white cheddar and apple salad, with citrus-shallot vinaigrette, which was excellent.

Favorite Sights

  • Riverfront Park. A well-planned park with lots of beautiful scenery and cool attractions, including Spokane Falls.
  • Spokane Falls. Rushing, churning water in the middle of a city? Absolutely. Steps from the Spokane city center, get your nature fix from the many bridges crisscrossing the falls in Riverfront Park.
  • Green Bluff. We were in this small city outside of Spokane for the wedding, but it’s also a great place to pick produce, particularly cherries, or tour a winery. There’s a different fruit festival in each month of the summer, too!

Notable Lodging

  • DoubleTree Spokane City Center. Though a bit outdated, the DoubleTree is the perfect home base for touring downtown Spokane. The rooms are spacious and the beds are comfortable, and of course, you get DoubleTree’s famous warm cookies whenever you like.

The Rundown

As my husband was busy with wedding activities and I had to work on this trip, it wasn’t quite as adventurous as our trips tend to be, but we did stay in downtown Spokane so that I could walk wherever I wanted to go, and I made good use of the access.

This was the view that greeted us from the DoubleTree Spokane City Center, an excellent place to stay if you want to be able to walk straight into Riverfront Park from your hotel. (And if you love DoubleTree cookies like I do.)

The skyline of Spokane tinted with ash from wildfires.

On our first evening, the sky was tinted a hazy orange-pink because of the ash floating over from wildfires a few hundred miles away. Every time we were outside on the first day, it smelled like a campfire. And if you looked closely, you’d see tiny bits of ash falling down like grey snowflakes. It was bit eerie, but it thankfully lifted to cool and clear weather just in time for the wedding we were in town to attend.

The next morning, a short walk from the DoubleTree brought me to this view of Spokane’s Riverfront Park.

As seen from the main downtown entrance to Riverfront Park, the Clock Tower rises above patches of flowers.

It’s funny; you wouldn’t think it, but I had been to Riverfront Park before. In fact, I had stood on one of the main bridges overlooking Spokane Falls in late November four years prior. The memory is marred by how absolutely frigid it was during the brief stop we made there, and because the falls were frozen over in the winter, I had a hard time reconciling the winter view with the summer view as one in the same. At first, I didn’t believe my husband when he said I’d stood on that bridge before; it’s truly that dramatic of a seasonal difference.

I spent much of my time doing work at Atticus Coffee, where I had several delicious cups of coffee. I also sampled their chocolate chip molasses cookie at the behest of the baristas. As if molasses cookies weren’t good enough on their own, chocolate only adds to their goodness.

Not surprisingly, with a name like Atticus Coffee, the shop pays homage to one of my favorite novels, To Kill a Mockingbird.Atticus coffee signage and pages of To Kill a Mockingbird.

A large frame near the back of the shop holds the first pages of the novel, and other mementos to the book are scattered about the shop. Atticus doesn’t just serve coffee, either; they sell all kinds of items, most of them as whimsical and nerdy as a shop named after a novel. Items that I had my eye on included a Titanic-shaped tea steeper and several decor items touting the importance of coffee. I ended up buying several Seattle-made chocolate bars to tote back home as presents. If you need a gift for someone who loves coffee or books or both, it’s an excellent place to browse.

I took breaks from my work by walking around the park (and I even did a bit of work in the park). My favorite thing about Riverfront Park isn’t just the well-planned walking paths or attractions like the Looff Carousel or the larger-than-life Radio Flyer red wagon — no, it’s by far and away the waterfalls! It’s not often that you see such large, rushing waterfalls in a metropolitan setting. I loved ambling past the falls with a coffee in hand, or even sitting by them with my laptop while I worked.

Another side of Spokane Falls.

Even though I also appreciate the more common practice of hiking to a waterfall, it was nice to have them so close. I made time for several walks to them each day while in Spokane. (Easy enough to do, when I could walk from my bed to the falls in under fifteen minutes.)

One side of Spokane Falls as seen from Riverfront Park.

Riverfront Park was formerly the center of the 1974 World’s Fair, and some of the fair remnants still remain, including the metal supports of a huge tarp that covered many of the exhibits.

The Pavilion, as it is called now, can be seen from several locations around Spokane, and is an icon for the park. It adds an extra element of architectural allure and contributes to the park’s larger-than-life theme, found in the towering clock, 12-feet high wagon, rushing falls, and spanning suspension bridges.

A blue sky peeks out above the Pavilion, a remnant of the World's Fair.

We wrapped up the wedding weekend in Spokane with back-to-back breakfasts at Madeleine’s Cafe & Patisserie, where we went twice since we liked it so much. I had the croque madame, a French open-faced breakfast sandwich, both times. I also enjoyed a cardamom mocha with some pretty latte art on it the first time we went. While it was too early in the morning for sweets, they have enticing desserts, from macarons to cakes to pastries. The cafe is decidedly large by Parisian standards (a good thing since the lines can be long to get in), but it still exudes a classy ambiance that I would expect from any good French restaurant.

Some pretty latte art on my cardamom latte at Madeleine's Cafe in Spokane.

Sadly, we didn’t have time for all of our favorite Spokane eateries and sights, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the spots below. We made it to a few of these briefly (no trip to Spokane would be complete without at least grabbing a vanilla bourbon stout from Steamplant), but most will have to wait until another day.

  • Steamplant Grill
  • O’Doherty’s
  • Manito Park
  • Bruchi’s Cheesesteaks
  • Tomato Street
  • Twig’s

While our visit was short and sweet, I realized that Spokane is much more than a freezing cold, quiet city. In the summer, it comes alive with a vibrance! It’s also full of great food, attractions, and a gorgeous city center park.



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