Things to Do in Spokane: Riverfront Park

IMG_6467_LUCiDWe had a wonderful weekend in Spokane with my parents, staying at the incredible Historic Davenport Hotel, experiencing the city’s evolving food scene, and exploring the beautiful Riverfront Park.

Our hotel was only a few blocks away from the park so we walked over at several points during our weekend.

If you’re headed to Spokane, the park should be on the top of your list for three main reasons: the falls, the skyride, and the landmarks.

Spokane Falls

One of the highlights of Riverfront Park is Spokane Falls, which was originally the name of the city  (the ‘Falls’ was dropped in 1891). You can view the different areas of the falls from multiple perspectives, and two of my favorites were viewing the Lower Falls from Huntington Park and the Monroe Street bridge.

We set out early on a Saturday morning for the park, which we accessed via the plaza next to Spokane City Hall. There were only a handful of people out and about, some running/exercising and others walking their dogs. For the most part we had the walk alongside the falls to ourselves.

The sun was coming up behind the Washington Water Power building, casting rays of light out over the water that created rainbows in the mist.

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Huntington Park features a number of sculptures depicting indigenous people participating in different activities. There were also informational plaques providing additional background.

The park has been recently renovated with clear walking trails and is a great spot to view the Lower Falls and the surrounding area.

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Later in the day and in the evening we also took in the Lower Falls from the Monroe street bridge. The sun was to our backs, perfectly lighting up the area. In the evening the falls were illuminated!

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We also spent some time exploring the Upper Falls, taking Park Trail down to a bridge crossing over to Canada Island and then taking another bridge from Canada Island over to Broadway Avenue.

Just before crossing we stopped to read about the Great Fire of 1889. According to the Spokane Historical Society website:

The year 1889 was an eventful one in the Pacific Northwest when Spokane Falls, Seattle, and Ellensburg were destroyed by disastrous fires. Known as a night of terror devastation, suffering and awful woe, Spokane’s response to the Great Fire of 1889, which destroyed 32 blocks of the central portion of the city, was to rebuild immediately, and in a far grander fashion of substantial and elegant brick, stone and terra cotta.

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Crossing over the first bridge, we could see part of the Upper Falls as well as the white Howard Street bridge.

In the pictures below, you’ll see the view from Canada Island of the bridge we crossed, which is right next to the Upper Falls Power Plant.

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From Canada Island, we crossed a second bridge overlooking a powerful stretch of the Upper Falls. Brian and I were lagging behind and took some pictures of my parents on the second bridge overlooking Upper Falls.

I recommend spending some time criss-crossing the park and viewing both the Upper and Lower Falls from different viewpoints. There are a number of parks, bridges and restaurants overlooking the different areas of the falls, all of which offer a different perspective.

 

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Landmarks

There are several fun landmarks throughout Riverfront Park, including a number along the front of the park by W Spokane Falls Avenue that are easily accessible. This brochure has background on all of them and offers a self-guided tour through the park!

A few of our favorites, pictured below, included:

  • The Joy of Running Together sculpture (1984) that celebrates Bloomsday runners of every shape and ability
  • The Great Northern Clocktower of the former Great Northern Station of the Northern Pacific Railway, which serves as a reminder of Spokane’s railway history
  • The Childhood Express sculpture (1990) of a giant Radio Flyer!
  • The hand-carved Looff Carrousel, which was built in 1909 is on the National Register of Historic Places. The hand-carved wooden carrousel features 54 horses, 1 giraffe, 1 tiger, and 2 Chinese dragon chairs
  • The Centennial Sculpture (1978) by Harold Balazs that floats out in the Spokane River (our foodie tour guide really liked his work and pointed it out around downtown as we walked from restaurant to restaurant)
  • The remains of the United State Pavilion of the 1974 World’s Fair, which was the fourth of five major world’s fairs held in the Pacific Northwest (1905 Portland, 1909 Seattle, 1962 Seattle, and 1986 Vancouver)

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Bonus! Not pictured is the trash goat, a sculpture by Sister Paula Turnbull. While many people simply walk past this steel sculpture of a goat, what they don’t know is that it will eat small pieces of trash with the aid of its vacuum digestive system! We fed it, but somehow I failed to take a picture!

Skyride

Another family-friendly activity in Riverfront Park is the Numerica Skyride, which opened in 2013 and allows passengers to ride out and over the Lower Falls and back. The four of us comfortably fit in one of the pods and headed out over the water.

While you could stand up and move around a little to get better views, the basket did swing around a bit, especially when we came to a stop as other passengers loaded and unloaded back at the entrance.

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The walls of the pods are somewhat translucent, which didn’t allow for clear pictures, but we were able to sneak some shots out the open areas at the top of the pod. It was a fun little ride!

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A weekend wasn’t nearly long enough to see everything on my list in Spokane, but our experiences in Riverfront Park and checking out the local food scene made me want to go back and tackle the rest of our list soon! Here are a few things we’d like to prioritize next time:

What are some of your other favorite activities in and around Spokane?

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