BIG TOWN—SMALL CITY
This is the epitome of Spokane! It’s rare to find a city that features all of the desired amenities without the traffic and chaos that come with them. However, that is exactly what you will find here. You’ve probably heard about the “7 degrees of separation”; in Spokane it’s more like 3.
This beautiful city offers a robust downtown with plenty of shopping, including big stores like Apple and William-Sonoma as well as local hot-spots such as Boo Radley’s. There are tons of eateries and restaurants, many locally owned, with phenomenal food prepared by renowned chefs. You can also find so many unique spots to explore like The Flour Mill that features a variety of local shops, a chocolatier and a restaurant overlooking the Spokane River.
Surrounding downtown are quaint neighborhoods worth the short walk or drive. The Perry District, Garland District, Browne’s Addition and the South Hill are just a few.
Spokane is not a very old city and many of the downtown buildings were lost in the Great Fire of 1889, but the history is still rich. There are beautiful buildings, underground walk-ways and monuments dedicated to Native Americans throughout the area.
Additionally Spokane hosts some major, world-recognized events. Bloomsday is a 5-kilometer race that takes you around downtown Spokane in early May. People travel from all over the world to compete and, thankfully, there is a meet for everyone: it goes from competitive runners all the way to strollers and walkers. As many as 60,000 people have participated in Bloomsday in a year. Hoopfest is another such event. It is the largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament in the world and is hosted in Spokane at the end of June each year. Food vendors fill the streets and the downtown corridor is closed to set up basketball courts. It’s a 3-day competition that is fun to watch even if you don’t play.
There are Broadway shows, local shows, concerts and many more artistic events throughout the year. “The Nutcracker Ballet” is performed each December at the Fox Theater. Spokane even has its own world-renowned symphony orchestra. Just steps away from downtown, The Museum of Arts and Culture (The MAC) hosts both permanent and visiting exhibits from around the world.
When you aren’t busy exploring, there are plenty of places to rest and relax. Riverfront Park lines the Spokane River and is a wonderful spot for a picnic or round of Spikeball. Centennial Trail winds its way through downtown providing ample opportunity for strolling, running, biking or skating. Spas and salons are plentiful throughout the city.
Despite the wealth of offerings, you still get the small-town feel. People are welcoming and friendly; many people know each other (or know someone who knows that person). The traffic is relatively light if you compare it to any other big city and you can get just about anywhere in Spokane County within 30-45 minutes.
There are so many great reasons to call Spokane home, but whether considering relocation or just a vacation, it’s worth a trip to visit and explore to see what Spokane can offer you!
SO. MANY. PARKS!
We aren’t even sure where to start with this one….there truly are so many parks throughout Spokane and the suburbs. Spokane itself has over 75 parks ranging in size from part of a city block to over 90 acres. Some are wide open and others are lined with trees. Spokane has over 3500 acres of parks which equates to 1 acre for every 8 people in the city.
The obvious park to start with is Riverfront Park. It runs along the Spokane River right in downtown. If you are a movie buff, you may have seen it featured in “Benny and Joon” (with Johnny Depp) from the 1990’s. However, over the last few years Riverfront has had a major facelift while still preserving the pieces of the park that everyone adored. The carousel has a beautiful new building to house it that overlooks the river and includes a gift shop. There is a water fountain for kids and adults to play in at the entrance. The skating ribbon replaced the old rink and features ice-skating in the winter and roller-skating during the rest of the year. If you want an amazing view of the river, the Gondolas are the ride for you! Bridges throughout the park take you directly over the waterfalls (which are massive during the spring run-off) and lead you to a little island in the center of the river. Throughout the park are benches and walkways and the new gorgeous outdoor pavilion. You can spend hours just in this one park.
Another well-known park, about a 10 minute drive up the South Hill, is Manito Park. This park features a duck pond, Japanese Garden, rose garden, Duncan Gardens (an English-inspired spread) and over 90 acres of manicured space. It’s nestled within a neighborhood, surrounded by beautiful early 1900’s-era homes, many of which have been restored.
One of the state parks in the area is the Bowl and Pitcher which is part of the larger collective of the Riverside State Park that stretches for miles along the Spokane River. This particular spot allows you to cross the river on a suspension bridge to trails on the other side. You often see hikers and bikers out along these paths. Camping is also available here!
Those are just a few of the seemingly unending list of parks in the Spokane area. For a full list of parks, click here.
Parks leads us to the next best reason to live in Spokane: outdoor activities! If you are someone who likes to get out and explore the great outdoors there is almost nowhere better to do so.
There are so many places either in Spokane or within a short drive to do these activities it’s almost too much to list.
- Dirt bikes
Spokane is also perfectly situated for anyone who likes to take a short drive to find additional activities and towns. Because the city is located in eastern Washington it is only a few miles/hours from Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Canada. Here are some of our favorite spots to visit:
This town is located in the middle of Washington state (about 3 hours from Spokane) and was renovated to look like a Bavarian town. Even the McDonald’s looks like it is straight out of Bavaria. You can browse a variety of quality shops, dine at specialty restaurants and find plenty of hikes close by. Leavenworth is in the Cascade Mountains which provides beautiful scenery. If you are lucky enough to book a hotel there during the Christmas season you won’t be disappointed. It is especially magical at the holidays, with all the festive lights and decorations as well as horse and sleigh rides.
Two hours North-Northeast is a small artsy town in Idaho named Sandpoint. It’s located on the top of Lake Pend Oreille with a host of lake activities, beaches, hiking and, in the winter, skiing at Schweitzer Mountain. The downtown area features eclectic shops and restaurants, many with locally-made merchandise. Lake Pend Oreille is massive and sparsely populated. You will find many of its shores are pristine with very few, if any, homes visible.
This little gem isn’t very well known outside of the Pacific Northwest. However, if you enjoy a good glass of wine then this is your spot! Roughly two hours south of Spokane this town boasts over 140 wineries. When you head here it’s best to stay for a weekend and enjoy the many beautiful locations for tastings of the wines and paired delicacies. Downtown Walla-Walla is very appealing with large sidewalks, attractive shops and enticing restaurants. A wide array of great Airbnbs encourage an easy and relaxing getaway.
Seattle and Portland
Looking for a little more city life? Seattle and Portland are each about a 5-hour drive away. Both of these West Coast cities offer tons of art, culture and city-specific landmarks. Some of our favorite places in Seattle are the Woodland Park Zoo, Green Lake, Pike Place Market, and of course, the Space Needle. The Pacific Science Center is also fun to visit. In Portland you can get lost in the quaint streets and shops. Don’t miss the Rose Garden, Japanese Garden and the Portland Zoo. Portland Saturday Market, Voodoo Donuts , Stumptown Coffee and Pioneer Square are all “must visit” places to stop and shop. A short drive east on I-84 is the gorgeous Columbia River Gorge with the stunning Multnomah Falls. This is a great place to get out in nature for an invigorating hike.
Some of our other favorite spots to visit are:
Canada (specifically Banff National Park): about an 8-hour drive
Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming: 8-hour drive
Montana (so many different places): can reach Missoula in 3 hours
Pacific Ocean: roughly 5-hour drive (to the Washington coast)
Boise, Idaho: 8-hour drive
ALL 4 SEASONS!
For anyone who has lived in an area that experiences only one or two seasonal shifts then Spokane will definitely shock you. We truly get all 4 seasons and sometimes a few curveballs thrown in.
Winter is probably the most diverse season in Eastern Washington. Due to our location, with mountains to the east and open desert/farmland to the west, our weather can change pretty drastically. Some winters we get a lot of snow (similar to Idaho winters) while others are more rainy and windy (similar to Seattle and Portland).
Springtime in the Inland Northwest usually brings a fair amount of rain. Temperatures tend to be in the 50’s and 60’s which is excellent for outdoor activities when the weather is clear. Even though we get the rain, it isn’t like rain on the west coast that creates cloudy dreary weather for days and weeks at a time. Our rain usually lasts a day or two and then the sun emerges again to lift our spirits.
And then there is summer, which here means sunshine for days (often weeks) at a time. Occasionally the weather warms up into the upper 90’s and 100’s but our average is in the 80’s. There is no humidity either. We rarely see rain from July through September but, every once in awhile, we do get an epic lightning storm.
October is when it begins to feel like fall. The color in the trees is magnificent and, unlike New England, the vibrancy remains for weeks. This is such a great time to hike as the weather starts to get a little cooler and the rain tends to hold off until into November.
The best thing about having all 4 seasons is that it gives you something new to look forward to every few months and opens up new outdoor activities to pursue.
AFFORDABLE HOUSES AND COST OF LIVING
Washington State has the highest minimum wage in the country. As of 2021 it is $13.69 an hour. While housing prices and the cost of living in Seattle and surrounding areas are very high, we do not have the same issues in Spokane.
Here our cost of living is 92.3 (average is 100), ranking us slightly lower than the average. Even the suburbs around Spokane are right at the average mark.
Housing prices have increased over the last few years with the average home price currently around $350,000. Still, homes in the low $200k’s are available. We’ve seen the biggest price increases in rentals. As more people move to Spokane the rental market has tightened which has led to higher rents and more limited availability of rental homes.
Gas, food and other essentials are affordable and easy to access. There are many farmers markets, local farms and orchards that make eating fresh and healthy meals easy!
We also have a pretty robust public transportation system: the STA buses. There are discount programs for low-income riders and college students get free passes with their tuition. The buses run all over Spokane county and the bus plaza is right in downtown Spokane. New to the area are many “park-and-ride” lots which are excellent for commuters from the neighboring towns.
CHOICE OF COLLEGES
Looking for higher education? Spokane offers a wide variety!
One of the most widely known universities in Spokane, due to their basketball accomplishments and their law program, is Gonzaga. Gonzaga is located just east of downtown within walking distance to shopping and restaurants, and is situated along the Spokane River. It boasts beautiful brick buildings on an attractive campus.
Head to north Spokane and Whitworth University will surprise you. Nestled in a parklike setting, Whitworth University is a small private liberal arts Christian school founded in 1890. The school is highly regarded nationwide for the quality and value of its programs for both undergrads and graduate students. Out to the west, about 20 minutes from downtown, is Eastern Washington University. EWU now offers a host of different degrees but was first known as a teacher’s college. Additionally, EWU sports are well-known, specifically the football program which has made it to the Championship quite a few years in a row. EWU is located in Cheney and the campus is gorgeous. There are many dorms as well as a lot of options for off-campus living. EWU as well as Washington State University (main campus located in Pullman, WA) and Whitworth University have smaller campuses in downtown Spokane.
There are also two community colleges; Spokane Falls Community College (SFCC) and Spokane Community College (SCC). Both offer a wide variety of two-year degrees for a lot less than the four-year universities. Many students begin their college education at a community college and then transfer to earn a bachelor’s degree in their chose major.
The state of Washington also has a program called Running Start that allows high school students to attend our local colleges and complete college credits (which transfer with them) free of charge! It’s a great way for high schoolers to get a good start on their college educations without incurring debt.
And our Favorite Reason: PEOPLE ARE KIND
This may seem like an odd reason, and if you’ve never lived anywhere other than Spokane you may not realize just how kind Spokanites are!
However, if you’ve lived anywhere else then the friendliness of people in this area is shocking. Sometimes it throws outsiders off and they are skeptical, which is understandable. But the best part is that it truly is genuine!
It’s not uncommon for Spokanites to hold the door open for someone they don’t know or say “hi” to a stranger. People here smile more often at others they don’t know and are willing to help someone in need. The sense of community in Spokane and surrounding areas is strong!
Just about everyone we know who has moved here from another area has found this unexpected welcome. It certainly makes the transition easier. Come and find out for yourself!