Go on an art, history outing
Self-guided tours accessible, thrifty
There is no better time than summer to really get to know a city. Many of us are creatures of habit, driving the same way to work, picnicking at the same park and taking the same evening walk, so here are a few pre-planned routes to get you out of the daily rut:
‘OLD’ CITY DRIVE
Have you ever wondered if the brown “City Drive” signs with the arrowhead actually take you anywhere? They do. You’ll need directions to follow the signs easily. The route only goes one way, and it hasn’t changed in 60 years – but it’ll take you past many Spokane attractions and through a variety of residential areas.
In the summer of 1947 the Publicity Tourist Bureau, City Council and Chamber of Commerce agreed on this route to best showcase Spokane.
It passes parks and museums, golf courses and picnic areas, and is a great way for visitors or newcomers to get an overview of town.
Children will totally get into the game of spotting the next sign – there are more than 50 out there to help keep you on track.
City Drive begins at South Stevens and Sprague, then heads straight up into the heart of the South Hill toward Manito Park.
Follow the meandering route east, through the Rockwood neighborhood, before heading south all the way up to High Drive, and you’ve gone through some of the most spectacular residential areas in Spokane.
Coming off the South Hill, City Drive takes you through Browne’s Addition, past both the Museum of Arts and Culture and the Campbell House, before you hit Sunset Boulevard and Finch Arboretum.
From there it goes way north to Riverside State Park and the Bowl and Pitcher area before turning south to return to downtown, ending at Riverfront Park.
On the way you pass more attractions than you can possibly manage in one day, so pick and choose a few stops in advance.
There is a lot of public art in Riverfront Park, and most of it can be reached with an hour and a half of walking.
The Spokane Arts Commission has published a map of the Spokane Sculpture Walk, but a word of caution: Numbers indicating Rotary Riverfront Fountain and the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial have been switched on the map.
The sculpture walk begins on the Riverpoint Campus east of Division and ends at the Monroe Street Bridge, but most of the art pieces are along the Centennial Trail. It’s a diverse collection, including the garbage-sucking goat, the Red Wagon, the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial and a poem about Spokane Falls engraved in granite.
If you’re taking kids along, bring pencils and paper, and encourage them to draw or paint the art piece.
Once you’ve done the walk, you can look up artists online or at the library, finding out more about them or perhaps locating other artwork they’ve created in our area.
NEW CITY DRIVE
This is an updated version of the “old” City Drive that takes you to many of the same destinations, but also north to Cat Tales and out to the fruit growers at Green Bluff.
Beginning at the Spokane Regional Visitor and Information Center on West Main downtown, this 60-mile loop features 26 highlights, including the Gonzaga University campus with Bing Crosby’s childhood home. Because this tour includes both GPS coordinates and street addresses, it’s a great guide to separate destinations and includes a lot of information about individual landmarks.
These three self-guided tours of downtown’s National Register Historic Districts have been around for a while, but now they’re available online.
Each tour takes about an hour and a half to walk, and they’re not loops; rather, they take you across each approximately five-by-five-block district.
Once you start reading the detailed descriptions of the buildings and the people who built them, you’ll never look at downtown quite the same way again.
The Glen Dow Academy, for instance, resides in a building constructed for the Sons of Norway. The nearby Robertson Building was torn down after the Mars Hotel fire, and its site is now a parking lot. The Onion restaurant’s building used to be part of a whole block of hotels. And City Hall was originally built for Montgomery Ward – the list goes on.
The tours are planned by the City-County Historic Preservation Program, together with the MAC, Spokane Preservation Advocates, Downtown Spokane Partnership,and Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau.
If you do all three, you’ll have seen 50 historic buildings and acquired an overview of Spokane’s heritage.