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Free summer fun includes cycling, concerts, comics

Visitors to the Japanese Garden at Manito Park look for koi in the pond. (CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON / The Spokesman-Review)
Visitors to the Japanese Garden at Manito Park look for koi in the pond. (CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON / The Spokesman-Review)

At some point each summer, most parents are sure to hear their children utter the dreaded refrain, “I’m bored!”

Unfortunately, economic woes have many families watching their budgets closely this year. That can be bad news for kids because entertainment expenses are often the first thing trimmed. The good news is, in the Spokane area it doesn’t take a lot of money to have a lot of fun. There are plenty of free family activities to choose from this summer.

Outdoor fun

Take to the trails: Both avid cyclists and the youngest of pedal-pushers can find a great bike trail to explore. The region has at least 15 major trails.

For example, the 37-mile paved Centennial Trail follows the Spokane River to the Idaho border and beyond. Riverside State Park offers 75 miles of trails for bikers, hikers and horseback riders.

East of Spokane, Liberty Lake County Park is a popular destination for cyclists of all ages. In addition, the newly beautified Beacon Hill area in north Spokane features a mountain bike skills park at Camp Sekani.

The Fat Tire Trail Riders Club provides a list of great rides at For information about the Centennial Trail visit www.spokanecentennial

Splash in the parks: More than a dozen splash pads at city parks offer an entertaining way to cool down. Kids can run through rings of water or get doused by giant buckets.

West Spokane resident John Willis said his three young sons are enjoying the splash pad at Audubon Park. For most of his boys, the water gun feature is a huge favorite, though Willis said, “Well, one of them really likes the buckets that dump water.” A list of splash pads can be found at www.spokane subpage.php?page=3

Play in the park: Riverfront Park offers 100 acres of fun. It doesn’t cost a dime to slide down the 26-foot-long Radio Flyer Wagon or feed the garbage-eating goat sculpture. Avista’s agreement to keep the water flowing through the downtown area means even in the peak of summer, the view of the falls will be impressive.

If all that water inspires the kids, they can run through the Rotary Fountain, which features 40 overhead jets, eight geysers and dozens of mist jets. For information about park hours, visit

Catch a concert: Each Thursday, free music fills the air in Coeur d’Alene Park, in the heart of Browne’s Addition. From 6-8 p.m. the neighborhood hosts a variety of local bands playing everything from bluegrass to classical music (www.mybrownes

In addition, the Northwest Neighborhood Association sponsors a free summer concert series at Audubon Park ( Friends of Pavillion Park at Liberty Lake offer free concerts and movies on Friday and Saturday during the summer ( And the Spokane Symphony will serenade the end of summer with two free concerts: at Pavillion Park in Liberty Lake on Sept. 5, and at Comstock Park on Sept. 7 (www.spokane

Go garden hopping: Summer is the perfect time to explore the five gardens within Manito Park. The Japanese Garden offers a soothing oasis, and the Rose Garden features hundreds of fragrant varieties (www.manitogardens. com/gardens/about_ manitogardens.htm).

Also not to be missed is the Moore-Turner Heritage Garden. City Parks Recreation Supervisor Mike Aho said two years’ worth of restoration means there’s never been a better time to tour this city treasure (www.heritagegardens. org/index.htm).

Walk through history: Take the family on a stroll through time. Choose one of three maps at www.historic Walk/index.html and take a self-guided walking tour through Spokane history.

Of course summer doesn’t always equate to sunny skies, but families can find an abundance of free indoor activities as well.

Indoor fun

Make it movies: The historic Garland Theater is once again offering free movies Monday through Friday throughout the summer. Their famous bottomless tub of popcorn isn’t free, but at $4.75 it’s still a bargain, (www.garland

More free movies can be found at Spokane Valley Mall Cinemas Tuesdays through Thursdays at 10 a.m. For more information, call (509) 922-2590. The Downtown Public Library is showing Alfred Hitchcock movies throughout the summer. Find a schedule at

Explore elegance: Davenport Hotel spokesman Tom McArthur said both young and old enjoy the hotel’s free History Detective scavenger hunt. “We have found that just as many adults as kids ask to be a history detective,” he said.

Families don’t need to be guests to join the fun. Copies of the scavenger hunt are available at the front desk. All of the answers to questions like “What street runs outside the revolving door?” are visible from the lobby level, or can be answered by staff members. Prizes for both adults and kids are available at the front desk upon completion of the hunt.

The Davenport also offers complimentary copies of a self-guided walking tour at the front desk or concierge desk for those who’d like to learn more about the historic hotel.

Linger at the library: The Spokane city and county libraries have launched their summer reading programs featuring hours of enjoyable activities. Kids can learn how to make their own comics with graphic novel author Lars Brown. Or they can enjoy humorous rhymes with poet Kenn Nesbitt, or watch a magical performance by Dick Frost and his fuzzy sidekick Clyde the Dodo bird. Check out the city library calendar at and the county library schedule at

This is just a sampling of the many free, family-friendly activities in the Spokane region. Regardless of the economy, there’s still plenty of summer fun to be enjoyed.