By Joey Amato
The Pacific Northwest is and has always been one of my favorite places in the country to visit. Natural beauty is around every corner and Spokane is no different. The city, historically overshadowed by Seattle, is going through a bit of a renaissance as of late and creating a vibe and culture that sets itself apart from its larger neighbor to the west.
Begin your tour of Spokane by walking around downtown. Visit Riverfront Park, take a ride on the SkyRide (over the Spokane River) and jump on the Looff Carousel. Yes, I was probably the oldest person riding the carousel, but when in Rome…
An interesting note: Walt Disney tried to purchase the carousel for his Anaheim property but was outbid.
Downtown Spokane is an Instagrammers paradise. A giant red wagon, garbage eating goat, running statues and of course the waterfalls, make downtown the perfect spot for vacation photos.
The first stop in my downtown tour of the city was Maryhill Winery, a beautiful winery overlooking the river and the perfect place for a tasting of some local wines. Washington state is known for having some of the best wines in the country and Maryhill didn’t disappoint. Out of eight wines offered during the tasting, I think I enjoyed all but one. I was also informed that visitors who travel on Alaska Airlines get to check wine for free in the airline’s Wine Flies Free program.
Spend your evenings at the Davenport Grand, a 4-star property located in the heart of the city, which provides easy access to all of Spokane’s main attractions and dining. Their penthouse suites feature king size beds with luxury linens, a cozy seating area with electric fireplace and magnificent views of the city. The Grand Terrace Bar is the perfect place to enjoy some happy hour cocktails before heading out on the town.
Grab dinner at Wild Sage Bistro, a wonderful restaurant in the heart of downtown. Being so close to the Pacific, fish should be your top choice. I opted for the Hawaiian Style Poke and Alaskan Halibut, which came pan seared with basil butter, Walla Walla sweet onion soubise, dressed peas and pickled rhubarb. Wild Sage is a favorite among residents of the ‘Lilac City’ and I was able to see why.
LGBTQ nightlife is vibrant in Spokane. To catch a glimpse of the local crowd, head to the Blind Buck, one of Spokane’s hottest gay bars. I got a chance to meet some of the bartenders, a really cute shot boy and a few of the drag queens. They informed me about a gay pride cruise in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho that has been going on for over 20 years in conjunction with Spokane Pride. I wasn’t originally planning on going on the cruise, but now I needed to see what all the talk was about.
The journey to Coeur d’Alene takes about 45-minutes and well worth the trip. It is one of the most beautiful places I have visited in recent memory. As I boarded the ship – emblazoned in a huge rainbow flag – I quickly noticed how diverse the crowd was. Every member of the LGBTQ rainbow was represented. Over 200 revelers sipped cocktails and danced on the sun deck as the DJ spun classics from Cyndi Lauper, Madonna and Cher, leading to multiple sing-alongs. The 2-hour cruise took us around Lake Coeur d’Alene, whose shoreline dotted with mega-mansions that would make the Kardashians jealous.
During my visit was Volume Music Fest, a city-wide festival similar to SXSW in Austin. Even Nyne, one of the city’s gay bars was a featured venue for the festival. Nyne is a lesbian-owned establishment that plays host to many drag performances and is usually the place where partygoers end their evening.
If you prefer to keep things a bit more casual, head to another gay bar called Baby Bar. A few years ago, Neko Case, a member of the Canadian indie rock group The New Pornographers called Baby Bar the “best bar in America.”
Spokane is also a great destination for adventure seekers. If you want a truly unique experience, book a whitewater rafting excursion with Wiley E. Waters. The 2-hour tour on the Spokane River, which runs through downtown, boasts Class II and III rapids, enough to get the heart rate going and feel the power of the river. For most of the trip, the river was smooth, and you start to let your guard down, but then you turn a corner and are met with raging waters. It was quite exhilarating and enjoyable especially given I didn’t fall in the water.
If navigating rapids isn’t necessary your thing, visit Mica Moon Zip Tours & Aerial Park in Liberty Lake, just a short drive from downtown. The last time I went ziplining was in Costa Rica, so I was excited to experience this again, although I wasn’t ready for the fear that took over my body as I was getting ready to fly hundreds of feet above the ground below. There are about 8 lines in total, some longer than others. The last line, is aptly named Big Mama and at 3,500 feet in length, is one of the longest zip lines in North America.
Spokane is a very cool destination with a thriving culinary, arts and music scene. It may not be as large as Seattle, but that adds to its appeal. Consider the destination for an upcoming adventure.
Enjoy the Journey!
Joey Amato is the publisher of Pride Journeys, a website dedicated to LGBT travel. Joey has spent over a decade in LGBT media and public relations and currently resides in both Nashville, Tennessee and Indianapolis, Indiana. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org