If you haven’t made it to Spokane’s Riverfront Park yet, this is a must-see spot in the Lilac City. Riverfront Park boasts stunning waterfall views, great family activities and plenty of other stops to hit within just a few blocks.
Not many cities can boast that they have a scenic waterfall running through downtown, but Spokane, Washington definitely can. The Spokane River takes a mighty tumble through Riverfront Park with both an upper and lower falls section. Multiple bridges throughout the park offer up-close views of the Spokane river and our iconic purple gondolas take riders directly over the roaring lower Spokane Falls. The best part of it? It’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The World’s Fair
The ’74 Expo, Spokane’s World Fair, was a definitive event in Spokane’s history, and paying homage to that is the ’74 Expo Tent. Recently given a renovation, it will now feature a gorgeous light show at night and an 80-foot viewing platform to take in the greater downtown area.
Nearby, you’ll find the Great Northern Clocktower, which is all that is left of Havermale Island Depot. It was preserved as a tribute to the railroad industry which played a huge part in building up Spokane. It’s beautiful to take in while saying hello to some of our resident Canada Geese and Mallard ducks. There are some concrete steps that allow you to get close to the water and often the waterfowl will come right over.
If you notice the reflection of a purple carousel in the water, that’s not your imagination. Right across the river lies the Looff Carousel, a piece of Spokane’s history from its Natatorium Park days. The carousel was built in 1909 and is still in operation today. Park visitors are welcome to take a ride on its ornate horses, sending them back to years gone by. The interior is lit with magical purple lights, and at night, it makes for a stunning reflection on the water.
The Garbage Goat
If you have any garbage to dispose of, seek out the resident garbage-eating goat, he’ll be happy to help. As part of a public art installation for Expo ’74 and an attempt to discourage litter, Garbage Goat continues to keep things clean by ‘eating’ any trash you may feed it. Just place the garbage in his mouth, press the red button on the right and watch as he makes short work of it. This is a fun activity for kids of all ages. Speaking of kids of all ages, head due east of Garbage Goat and you’ll find the world’s largest Radio Flyer wagon. This spot is a great photo opportunity, especially considering the huge handle acts as a slide.
Strolling along the river further to the west you’ll see an intriguing sculpture that has a water feature in summer months. If it’s a warm day, chances are you’ll see kids cooling off with its elaborate splash pad. Designed by Harold Balazs and installed in 2005, it now welcomes people to Riverfront Park and adds sculptural beauty to the park. Just a hop to the west is the Skate Ribbon, which is an excellent outdoor skating rink in winter and a fun roller rink in summer. From here, you can jump on the Sky Ride for a jaunt over the falls.
Washington Water Power
Another option to view the falls is to take a walk through Huntington Park. It’s short but with some significant elevation change to get you to the bottom of the falls. You’ll see the historic Washington Water Power building that was instrumental in establishing Spokane as a modern city. In fact, the power of the falls was the inspiration for establishing Spokane as a city in the first place.
As you get to the bottom of Huntington Park you’ll have a great angle to view the Monroe Street Bridge to the west and the lower falls to the east. Sunset is a particularly gorgeous time to come down here as the mist rising from the falls catches the light beautifully.
Searching for Sculptures
If you haven’t had enough activity, try tackling the various bridges throughout the park. Or, go on a butterfly hunt. A Butterfly sculpture from the ’74 Expo has been re-installed and it’s worth searching the park to find it. You’ll find it on the path as you make your way toward Spokane Falls.
After your adventure at Riverfront Park you might be feeling peckish. Fortunately, you’re in downtown and have plenty of options to choose from. For truly mind-blowing Mexican food, check out Cochinito Taqueria on Riverside Ave. Adorned with sugar skull art, wooden tabletops and colorful décor, it’s a delightful spin on a typical taqueria. They feature innovative tacos like their Oregon Rockfish with mango-chili sauce or their Fried Maiitake Mushroom. Appetizers include Marinated Melon Salad and Charred Spanish Octopus. For a refresher, try one of their agua frescas made with fresh fruit.
The end of any day trip ought to be punctuated with good coffee. Again, lots of choices in downtown Spokane but for the coffee shop closest to Riverfront Park with a side of eccentricity, stop by Atticus Coffee & Gifts. With a broody interior theme featuring black walls, a fireplace and a rather prominent quote from “To Kill A Mockingbird” it’s a lovely café for a peaceful retreat. After grabbing coffee, you may feel compelled to peruse their gift shop. There you’ll find plenty of unique and quirky items like Spokane coffee mugs, books, cocktail kits, plants and more. You can also pick up some locally roasted coffee beans by 4 Season Roasters.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed reading about Spokane’s Riverfront Park. It’s a remarkable city park and a must-see when visiting Spokane. It’s played a major role in establishing the Lilac City and continues to be a quintessential part of it, paying homage to our history and celebrating modern ingenuity.
Plus, an added bonus, visiting Riverfront Park positions you to be right next to all of the great spots to see in Kendall Yards.