September 11 2009 by Sam Lowe
My two best two reasons for returning to Spokane, eastern Washington's largest city, are whimsical and photogenic. The first is whimsical - the giant red Radio Flyer wagon that sits in the lush, 100-acre Riverfront Park. It's about 12 feet high and 20 feet long, substantially larger than the ones we lugged our brothers and sisters around in many years ago. This one is a slide. You climb up one of the wheels and slide down the handle. It's not quite as much fun as riding over a bumpy road in one like when we were kids, but still it's worth one trip down just to partially relive those wondrous days of our youth.
The second, and most important, reason is that there's a waterfall running right through the center of town. The Spokane River makes its way through the surrounding hills into the city, then puts on a frothy display as it plummets, then cascades while evolving from a river into Spokane Falls. They are a delight to watch, and photograph, from any of the 17 pedestrian and traffic bridges that cross the (at this point, at least) raging river. Most of the bridges are located in the park, from Monroe Street eastward to the campus of Gonzaga University.
The falls are great most of the time, but they're at their best in the spring when the snow melt raises the water level which, in turn, sends more water down the chute and causes the falls to become even more spectacular.
A third contender, if I were to select one, would be the magnificent old Looff Carousel, also situated in Riverfront Park. It recently observed its 100th anniversary and still lights up the eyes of those who scramble aboard it, be they first-time cowboys or us old veteran jockeys.
Spokane is also convenient. The airport is less than 10 miles from downtown; the city's four municipal golf courses are each about 10 minutes away, regardless of your starting point; and should you tire of watching water rush over rocks, there's a 191-foot tall roller coaster waiting to turn your tummy into jelly at Silverwood Theme Park, just a few minutes outside the city limits.
After a ride like that, a visit to the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist might be in order to settle your nerves. The classic English Gothic structure, built in 1927, has some of the best stained glass windows anywhere in the state. It's also located in the downtown area.
Another plus - Spokane is only 20 miles west of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, a city rich with artistic and cultural events. It's less than a half-hour away on Interstate 90.
Those who select Spokane as a destination should know these two important bits of folklore: Bing Crosby was born there, and "Spokane" means "children of the sun" in the local native language. And if you really want to impress your traveling companions, you can mention that Spokane's population is just under 198,000 and that when it was founded in 1872, it was originally known as Spokan Falls.