Spokane is the largest city between Seattle and Minneapolis, and is the second largest city in the state. The Spokane metropolitan area population now stands at 556,000 and stretches from the downtown area to the Washington/Idaho border. The Indian fishing grounds on the Spokane River are now Riverfront Park, the site of the 1974 World's Fair. Spokane is the smallest city ever to host a World's Fair. Fishermen still fish off the bridges in Riverfront Park. In 1977, Spokane was one of the U.S. cities to be designated an "All American City," and in 2015, Spokane was once again awarded as an "All American City."
Four colleges and universities and two community colleges add to the cultural atmosphere and provide a myriad of educational opportunities. Private colleges include Whitworth College and Gonzaga University. Eastern Washington University offers on-campus courses in Cheney, 15 miles from Spokane, as well as at their downtown Spokane center. Washington State University also has a branch campus in Spokane. Spokane Community College and Spokane Falls Community College, as well as several trade and technical schools, round out the educational offerings. All six academic institutions join together on the new Spokane Intercollegiate Research and Technology Institute (SIRTI) which develops commercial applications for research conducted in academic environments as well as providing support for small and medium-sized businesses.
Spokane serves as a cultural center with numerous art galleries and performing arts events.
INB Performing Arts Center is home to the Spokane Symphony Orchestra, traveling Broadway shows, and top name entertainment. The Bing Crosby Theatre is a more intimate setting for smaller performances of opera, jazz, plays, and musical events. The Spokane Civic Theatre, Interplayers Ensemble, and Valley Repertory Theatre each produce a series of stage plays during the year to round out the entertainment opportunities in the community.
Sports, Parks and Recreation
Spectator sports play a part in the Spokane experience. The Spokane Indians play a summer schedule of professional minor league baseball games at the Fairgrounds and the Spokane Chiefs take over the Coliseum ice in the winter months for hockey action with future stars of the NHL.
Riverfront Park is Spokane's centerpiece. This 100-acre park in the center of the city was the site of Expo 74, Spokane's successful world's fair in that year. Now, it is a green space with a variety of attractions and events throughout the year and is a primary gathering place for the community. During the winter months, residents come together to sing carols and light the town's Christmas tree. The warmer months are always busy with a full schedule of outdoor entertainment events in the park. On the Fourth of July, residents gather for spectacular fireworks displays. The entertainment pavilion is the location for amusement rides, mini-golf, the ice rink, and the IMAX theatre. The city's prized possession is the Looff Carousel in Riverfront Park. This 1909 antique comprised of 54 hand-carved horses is a joyful piece of Spokane's past that continues to delight people of all ages. Riverfront Park offers spectacular viewing areas of the mighty Spokane River and Falls.
Other Spokane parks include Manito Park on the city's South Hill featuring the Duncan Garden, Rose Garden, Lilac Garden, Japanese Garden, and the Conservatory, as well as ponds, play fields, and picnic areas. Riverside State Park offers another view of the Spokane River with wilderness-like natural trails, picnic areas, and camping facilities just minutes from the downtown area.
Beautiful, economical and challenging courses await golfers in the Spokane area. Municipal and County golf courses offer a variety of terrain and elevations. In all, there are 19 public courses within a 45-minute drive of Spokane. For those who embrace the great outdoors, Spokane is heaven's backyard with snow skiing, running, camping, fishing, hunting, and summer water sports being a part of the many activities available nearby. There are seven ski areas within 2 ½ hours from the city. Seventy-six lakes are located within 50 miles of Spokane. Rock climbing is right outside of town and wilderness adventures are minutes away.
Attractions and Points of Interest
One of the area's finest attractions is the Spokane River Centennial Trail. The trail is a 37-mile long path, up to 12 feet wide, and paved for use by runners, walkers, and bicycles. The trail is closed to all motorized traffic and begins at the confluence of the Spokane and Little Spokane Rivers and ends at the Washington/Idaho border. Most of the trail from the downtown area to the Idaho state line is now completed. The trail connects to the Idaho Centennial Trail for an additional leg into downtown Coeur d'Alene.
Other attractions in the Spokane area include the Museum of Arts and Culture, formerly the Cheney Cowles Museum, with its excellent regional history exhibits, art exhibitions and Native American Indian artifacts, and the Fairchild Air Force Base Heritage Museum with an extensive display of Air Force memorabilia and aircraft.