On a visit to Spokane, you can easily spend all your time downtown as Riverfront Park offers an endless array of fun activities for families. But you should also check out the outlying neighborhoods where you’ll find leafy streets lined with historic homes, bright blooming gardens and clusters of charming cafes, unique boutiques and hip restaurants where local chefs are using the freshest ingredients from the Spokane Valley to create inventive dishes. Put on your walking shoes and explore these enclaves!
1) Brown’s Addition: Spokane’s oldest neighborhood
This was Spokane’s first residential neighborhood and for years the city’s wealthiest elite lived in its opulent mansions dating back to the 1800s.
Today many of those storied homes remain and through the Spokane Historical Society Web site you can take a self-guided tour of the neighborhood’s historical buildings. Many of the big, airy homes have been divided and turned into apartment buildings, but a few have been restored to their original glory and are still inhabited by a single family. As you stroll the streets, notice the bronze plaques in front of homes offering up historical facts.
After a neighborhood stroll, we stopped in the Museum of Arts & Culture, aka the Mac, where a well-curated display of artifacts tell the city’s history. My kids had a lot of fun looking at the random assortment of items, including a racehorse blanket worn by a Kentucky Derby champ named Spokane, the mouth piece used by a famed local Trapeze artist who performed all over the world, and a case of artificial eye balls from 1900. Included in admission is a 45-minute tour of the neighboring Campbell House that’s been beautifully restored to the exact condition it was in when the Campbells, one of the town’s wealthiest families, lived there in the early 1900s.
You’ll find a handful of cafes and restaurants in the neighborhood and our favorite was Trattoria Italia, a great Italian spot for lunch or dinner. Sophisticated yet casual, this restaurant could hold its own in any metropolitan city with its menu featuring fresh, flavorful, and light dishes. For lunch we especially liked the panzanella salad — grilled crusty bread tossed with tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, prosciutto and chicken. At lunch, everyone gets a free chocolate sundae; a scoop of creamy vanilla gelato drizzled with dark chocolate sauce and topped with fresh cream comes in a cherry red dish.
2) South Perry: Spokane’s hippest hood
This might be Spokane’s hippest neighborhood. On a warm, balmy Friday evening we visited, the main drag, South Perry, was buzzing with young families pushing strollers and professionals getting off work early. A bright-blue-eyed musicians strummed his guitar outside the Wollnick’s General Store where you can buy everything from a toy mustache for your dog to green cleaning supplies to baby blankets made from bamboo. It’s basically modern take on the general store specializing in green, high-design items.
Next door, at the newly opened Perry Street Brewery, every table was taken at the outdoor patio. This pub makes its own beers and you can order food from the trucks that pull up on the curb outside. The menu will tell you which trucks come on which days.
Looking to hang somewhere cool in Spokane? This is your spot.
My recommendation for visiting the neighborhood: Start with a stroll along South Perry where you’ll find a few shops from Wollnick’s to the running store Title Nine. Grab an outdoor table at the Brewery and order a sample flight of beer so you can get a taste of this pub’s wide array of
Then head over to South Perry Pizza where the cooks pull fro the oven piping hot blistery pies topped with fresh vegetables such as arugula and cherry tomatoes and salty meats like sopressetta salami.
Before leaving the main drag, stop in The Shop for a latte or a scoop of ice cream. Try the dirt, Oreo Cookie in chocolate pudding ice cream.
4) Manito: Spokane’s garden enclave
Spokane’s tony South Hill neighborhood includes many smaller enclaves including Manito, which is the area around the Manito Gardens. Within this 90-acre Eden you’ll find blooming flower beds, well-manicured lawns, a duck pond, biking paths, and playgrounds. The park is beautifully cared for and immaculate.
The park is divided into five gardens: Rose, Japanese, Duncan, Dahlia, Lilac, and Perennial. In the Joel E. Ferris Perennial Garden all of the plants are labeled and we had fun reading the names: Lamb’s Ears, Woolly Thyme, Dwarf Clustered Bellflower, Elfwort.
At the Rose Garden, we played a family game of tag, running along the broad grassy boulevards dividing the rows of rose bushes.
5) Davenport: Downtown’s history spot goes cool
This urban hood is centered around the historic Davenport Hotel, an opulent property dating back to 1914 and filled with hand-painted frescoes, ornate woodwork and European marble.
Across the street you’ll find one of the city’s coolest restaurants that looks as if it belongs in downtown Manhattan. Noodu (above) was opened by Josh Hissong, who owns the cutting-edge architecture firm HDG Architecture and Design. His firm has designed the spaces for many restaurants in Seattle and the eatery right next door to Nodu, Fire Artisan Pizza (also worth a try). Hissong wanted a restaurant of his own and opened the ramen house Nodu in 2014. The walls of the narrow restaurant are covered in tantalizing Roy Lichtenstein-style pop art and diners sit in sleek gray booths and modern white chairs.
|The ramen burger at Nudo in downtown Spokane looks unusual but tastes great.|
My kids slurped up bowls of steamy ramen noodles topped with meat and veggies and my father was adventuresome and ordered the burger with a bun made from compressed ramen. My father declared it bizarre but delicious.
|Ice scream you scream for ice cream at Bruttle’s historic candy shop in Spokane.|
Next door to Nudo, we stopped in Bruttles, an old-timey candy store with chocolates and caramels made with the same recipes that were used when the shop was originally opened 60 years ago. The businesses started as a turn-down service for the Davenport Hotel across the street and now sells its treats to the public. The store’s signature candy is a soft peanut butter brittle introduced by the original owner Aunt Sophia. My kids opted for some ice cream.
A few blocks away the Fox Theater is a sentinel in the neighborhood with it’s towering sign reaching for the sky. This classic theater first opened in 1931 and was built with a full-height stage house, orchestra pit and dressing rooms to accommodate a range of movies and live performances. On opening night searchlights rose above the theater and the streets outside were packed with over 30,000 people. The world premiere of Merely Mary Ann was shown and the film’s stars, Charles Farrell and Janet Gaynor, attended.
In the 1970s, the audiences waned as movie-goers turned to suburban theaters and the Fox was divided into several small theaters and then slowly declined into disrepair. In 2000, the plan was to demo the theater to make way for a parking lot but local philantrhopist Miss Martin Woldson decided the theater must be saved and put $3 million toward restoring it. The community rallied and more money was raised and in 2007 the Fox, beautifully restored to its original glory, opened. It’s now home to the Spokane Symphony and hosts big-name musicians from all over the world.
If you’re visiting, it’s worth checking to see if you can get tickets to a performance.
Across from the Fox, you’ll find Spokane’s first movie theater, The Bing Crosby, originally opened in 1915. The theater was originally called the Clemmer but later named after Bing Crosby, one of the city’s most famous locals. Today it hosts touring groups and performances by local music and theater groups.
The block of Sprague Avenue just past the Fox and Bing Crosby Theaters has become a popular for unique boutiques. We stopped in Artemis a home and clothing store specializing in items by local designers.
Next door, the shelves at Vintage Angel are filled with gently used cowboy boots that have been dusted and polished.You’ll find all styles and colors but I especially loved the row of white boots. The salesperson told me the owner had been collecting the white boots for years.
Audubon: Gateway to Riverside Park
If you follow the Spokane River northwest of downtown, you’ll enter this residential neighborhood of tree-lined streets, wide sidewalks and well-kept bungalows. The neighborhood is often called the “Gateway to Riverside Park” as it borders this popular hiking spot. Also, you’ll find a couple excellent restaurants, including Flying Goat Pizza and the Downriver Grill, as well as Audubon Park, where locals spread out their blankets and unpack picnic baskets to listen to live music under the pines during the summer.
|The best Pizza in Spokane: Flying Goat|
We drove to this neighborhood on our last day in Spokane and grabbed lunch at Flying Goat Pizza, where we enjoyed what was hands-down our best meal in Spokane. The menu is simple with fresh salads and thin-crust pizzas but the preparations are inventive. The Kiernan pizza is topped with a hay stack of arugula with a poached egg at its center.
A modern take on an old-school English pub, “The Goat,” as locals call it, aims to embrace the surrounding hood. Pizzas are named after local streets, salvaged wood from an old grain elevator is used throughout the restaurant and an arresting image from nearby Riverside Park hangs on the wall. But what was opened as a watering hole and pizza joint for Audubon residents has turned into one of Spokane’s most loved eateries. Arrive early to avoid lines!
After lunch, we drove less than 10 minutes to Riverside State Park. A network of trails winds through 14,000 acres that make up the second largest state park in Washington. It’s a great spot for a brisk 30-minute walk or a full-day hike.
We visited the most popular Bowl and Pitcher area where a suspension bridge crosses the Spokane River. As my family hiked into a forest of towering pines, I thought about the past few days in the Washington city. We glided over a waterfall in a gondola built in a park that was originally built for a World’s Fair, walked the halls of a beautifully restored 1900s mansion and dined at restaurants as good as any you’ll find in Manhattan. And now here we were in pristine wilderness just minutes from all the action.