Spokane is Eastern Washington's metropolitan hub, a thriving city cut through by the sinuous curves of the sleek Spokane River and garnished with plenty of green parks to give this urban center a distinctly natural feel. Many historic buildings downtown have been recently renovated, preserving a sense of old atmospheric Spokane amidst the modern hum of business; in addition to a selection of shops and a long list of dining possibilities scattered throughout the city's heart, find on hand more than a dozen wine cellars representing area wineries, all of them happy to offer visitors a taste of Eastern Washington 's finest tipples. And for those hard to please few who expect still more of a flourishing spot like Spokane, rest assured - the city boasts a very busy cultural events calendar to compliment the nine-to-five side of life, which numbers amongst its nights dance and theater productions, lively concerts, livelier festivals and an assortment of arts-oriented occasions to keep even social butterflies all aflutter.
Spokane's population hovers somewhere around the 200,000 mark, though for the proximity of big parks it hardly feels like a big city. Savvy locals escape six miles out of the city proper to Riverside State Park - at nearly 8,000 acres, the park is expansive enough to support campers, hikers, bikers, bird-watchers and kayakers on the Spokane River with shoulder space to spare. Paved trails follow the contours of the Spokane River for miles like the 37-mile Centennial Trail that runs from Nine Mile Falls all the way to Coeur d'Alene across the border in Idaho, the length of it suitable for users on wheels or on foot. In May thousands of runners flock to the area for the famous Lilac Bloomsday Run, named for the purple flower that flourishes in these parts come spring and lingers on long after the tired racers have thrown in the towel.
If city parks and urban races are still too close to civilization for comfort, drive 30 miles northeast to Mt. Spokane State Park; hikers can climb Mt. Kit and Mt. Spokane in summer when the snow has melted, while climbers can tackle granite at Minneha Rocks or volcanic rocks at Riverside State Park. Those looking for a way to beat the heat can raft or kayak sections of the Spokane River or look to local creeks and lakes for a day of recreational canoeing or angling.
In winter, Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park turns on their five lifts during the day, then switches on the lights at night for some aprŠs-work skiing. Snowmobiles are available for rent in the area, and there are nearly 20 miles of cross-country ski trails close to the downhill runs.
Spokane is 230 miles east of Seattle and 289 miles northeast of Portland, Oregon.