September is here … already? Thanks to an extra dose of spring rain and cooler-than-average temperatures in June, Inland Northwesterners might be feeling as though they were cheated out of a long, hot summer.
You can’t do anything about the changing of seasons, but you can keep the spirit of summer alive with fall family staycations or day outings. Here are ideas for weekend getaways and activities close to home that let you breathe in the Spokane area’s crisp autumn air and give the kids breaks from the back-to-school routine.
For many Inland Northwest families, a fall visit to Green Bluff is already carved in stone on their calendars. September and October are prime time for apples and harvest-time fun. Freshly-pressed cider, live music, craft booths, straw mazes and choosing this year’s Halloween pumpkins all can be done at most of Green Bluff’s many charming farms.
Don’t miss Cole’s Orchard, the only certified organic operation at Green Bluff, at 18423 N. Green Bluff Road, or #15 on the Green Bluff Growers’ map.
Or take a ride on the Fruit Loop Express tractor train at Walters’ Fruit Ranch, 9807 E. Day Road (#4 on the Green Bluff Growers’ map).
Knapp’s Farm (7722 E. Ballard Road, #23 on the Green Bluff Growers’ map) offers Punkin’ Chunkin’ (watch a catapult hurl a pumpkin a quarter-mile through the air), miniature horses and donkeys for petting and a straw and corn maze.
Another Green Bluff favorite is Hansen’s Orchard, at 8215 E. Green Bluff Road (#14 on the Green Bluff Growers’ map). Hansen’s retail shop carries jams, rag rugs, honey, baskets, jars of chunky applesauce and more.
Do the Fairs
The further and further Americans get from the source of their food, the more important it is to connect kids with agriculture. One long-standing community ritual—the annual county fair—is an easy way to help children understand where food originates.
The Southeast Spokane County Community Fair, held in Rockford Sept. 24-26, offers small-town charm and old-fashioned fun. There’s a children’s parade, livestock displays, pancake feed and more. Visit www.sespokanecountyfair.org for more information.
The Spokane County Fair, Sept. 10-19 at 404 N. Havana in Spokane Valley, might be in the big city, but still celebrates our area’s rural roots. Take the family to the rodeo, demolition derby, traditional fair exhibits and five nights of concerts, including Clint Black Sept. 13.
If that’s not enough to convince you to go, maybe this will: Abba: The Tribute Show is performing Sept. 15. What kid doesn’t feel like a Dancing Queen (or King) now and then?
Visit www.spokanecounty.org/fair/sif for information.
Ready for Some Football?
For many families, the arrival of fall means football. Finally.
Get off the couch, and attend a live game in the Inland Northwest.
Eastern Washington University fans will be eager to see the Eagles play on the new red Sprinturf field. In North Spokane, Whitworth University gives spectators a traditional small-college experience.
Pack some bratwurst in the cooler, fire up the grill and tailgate before the games, since tailgating has become a sport of its own in Pullman and Moscow, where the Washington State University Cougars begin their home games Sept. 11 and the University of Idaho Vandals started Sept 2.
Cheer on the teams, buy souvenirs at the bookstores and snack on Cougar Gold cheese dip. Include a stop at the Moscow Farmers’ Market, held in downtown Moscow on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Live music starts at 9:30 a.m., and the market runs through Oct. 30.
Make a weekend of your football outing by booking a hotel room. The Pullman Chamber of Commerce suggests lodging options on its site (www.pullmanchamber.com).
Ride the Rails
Another favorite fall Inland Northwest activity is to take the North Pend Oreille Valley Lions Club’s autumn colors train ride. The voyage begins in Ione and takes passengers on a 20-mile roundtrip ride to Metaline Falls, winding along cliffs above the Pend Oreille River.
Parents will enjoy the scenery and kids will love the thrill of a train ride, plus possible elk sightings and a robbery by Ma Cutter and her gang (don’t worry—they’re just looking for donations for the historic Cutter Theatre in Metaline Falls).
The fall-colors rides take place Oct. 2-3, 9-10, 16-17, and then there are Great Pumpkin Rides on Oct. 23 and 24. Visit www.lionstrainrides.com for more information.
If you really, really miss summer, keep it alive with a visit to one of the Inland Northwest’s indoor water parks.
Silver Rapids at Silver Mountain Resort, in Kellogg, Idaho, includes a 35-mile-per-hour wave pool for surfing, a lazy river, a toddler spray deck, private cabanas and other attractions. Visit www.silvermt.com for more information.
In Hayden, Idaho, there’s Raptor Reef Waterpark at Triple Play Family Fun Park. It has a wave pool, a children’s lagoon, a 2-story play structure with a tipping water bucket and a 60-foot tower with tube and body slides. Visit www.3play.com for info.
Closer to home, the Ramada Inn at the Spokane Airport also offers an indoor water park, with a 108-foot-long slide and a wading pool. Book a room for a wet-and-wild weekend. www.ramada.com.
More Ideas for Fall Family Fun
Here are other events and activities you might consider for your autumn calendar:
*Tune up your bicycles and pedal the day away on the Hiawatha Trail (www.skilookout.com/hiawatha), the Centennial Trail (www.spokanecentennialtrail.org) or the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes (friendsofcdatrails.org/CdA_Trail/index.html)
*Attend a laser light show at the Grand Coulee Dam. The story of the Columbia River is told on the face of the dam (a mighty-big screen), performed nightly at 8:30 p.m. in September. (www.grandcouleedam.org/html/area_events.html)
*Even the most difficult-to-impress teenager will be amazed by the acrobatic agility of performers in the world-famous Cirque du Soleil, which brings its Alegria show to the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena Sept. 22-26. www.ticketswest.com.
*Jack Johnson is the type of modern musician both parents and kids enjoy. Put him in a gorgeous setting (the Columbia Gorge Amphitheater in George, Wash.) and you have the makings for a perfect weekend. Oct. 2. www.jackjohnsonmusic.com.
*Heeeeee haw! The Rockin’ B Ranch Cowboy Supper Show, just east of Liberty Lake, is sure to please the cowboy and cowgirl in everyone. Enjoy songs from old Western movies, a Patrick F. McManus comedy performed by Spokane actor Tim Behrens and a barbecue dinner. As the Rockin’ B website puts it, “It’s dinner theatre peppered with chuckwagon cookin.’”
For more information, visit www.rockinbranch.com.
*If you’re looking for old-fashioned fun, the town of Rockford hosts family-friendly bingo nights on the third Tuesday of every month. Play for only 25 cents per card. The bingo nights are held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the McIntosh Grange, 319 S. First. (509) 535-1165 for more information.
*Want to get away from it all? Leave your mobile phones and Nintendo DSis at home, pack books or even homework assignments and rent a quiet cabin in the woods for a weekend. You can find vacation rentals in the classified ads, or go through a resort, such as Elkins or Hills’ resorts on Priest Lake.