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Spokane among ‘Cities on the Rise,’ according to National Geographic Traveler magazine

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 16, 2018, 9:09 p.m.

Spokane made National Geographic Traveler’s list of best U.S. small cities, earning high marks as a “hipster friendly” and “caffeinated” urban area.

The Traveler partnered with a global branding firm, Resonance Consultancy, to come up with its list of 29 “Cities on the Rise.” The ranking appears in the magazine’s February-March edition, which is on newsstands now and can be found online.

“Happy places for locals are also rewarding places for travelers,” George Stone, National Geographic Traveler’s editor in chief, said in a news release. “Our index of small cities on the rise is based on unconventional metrics that we think produce happiness: green spaces, coffee shops, breweries, music venues, Instagrammable moments and puppies.”

Spokane stood out for the number of coffee shops and its hipster environment, as measured by concentrations of tattoo parlors, record shops and vintage stores, according to Traveler.

“It’s great that we’re appealing to a younger crowd,” Kate Hudson, Visit Spokane’s public relations manager, said Tuesday. “Spokane has historically had a more old-fashioned reputation, rather than a hipster place and a place to get a great cup of coffee.”

Other cities on the list included Albuquerque, New Mexico, recognized for its breweries; Madison, Wisconsin, recognized for green space and parks; and Annapolis, Maryland, for its dog-friendly ambiance.

Olympia, the only other Washington city on the list, earned marks for coffee shops, parks and green space.

In 2013, Outside Magazine included Spokane on its “Best Towns” list, based on attributes such as number of trail heads, farmers markets and gear shops. Sunset Magazine also plans to list Spokane among its best small cities on the West Coast in its February issue, Visit Spokane’s Hudson said.

“It creates buzz,” Hudson said of the lists. “People are talking about us. They start to recognize our name and recognize that is this is a great place to live and visit.”

This is the second time in the past couple of months that “Spokane” and “hipster” have been mentioned together. In November, London-based Movehub, which specializes in overseas moves, ranked Spokane No. 7 for hipster U.S. cities. Vancouver, Washington, and Tacoma also ranked in the top 10.

Hipsters, according to Movehub, are 20- to 30-somethings “who position themselves as non-conformist pioneers.” Some hipster preferences include “progressive politics, sustainable food, thrift store bargains and delicious local beer,” according to Movehub.

“I think in Spokane, we’ve always had this hipster component,” said Juliet Sinesterra, the Downtown Spokane Partnership’s economic development manager. “Spokane has always had a pretty robust counter culture. … We just haven’t embraced and promoted it.”

Sinesterra, who grew up in Spokane, remembers thrift shopping, Led Zeppelin concerts and friends who listened to punk music. “People who live here and have connected to it have seen it happening for a long time,” she said.

Sinesterra thinks Spokane’s recent notoriety for hipster attributes is probably tied to its rise as a midsize city. As people get priced out of large U.S. cities, they’re looking to midsize metro areas as places to raise families, buy homes and start businesses, she said.

“People are realizing that you can’t have it all when you move to Seattle or San Francisco,” Visit Spokane’s Hudson said. “You can’t afford to buy a house and still afford to go skiing every weekend or go out to eat. Everything is more affordable and accessible in Spokane.”