The Eastern Washington city with a gritty reputation is fast remaking itself as a regional business hub.
If you haven’t been to Spokane in a while, it’s not the dusty city you might remember.
“Downtown Spokane is really changing and growing,” says Bobbie Gunkel, owner of the Oil & Vinegar stores in Bellevue and Spokane. “It used to be when I first started coming here, I felt like I walked into the Twilight Zone — it was old and kind of struggling. Now downtown is really nice; it’s up and coming.”
Healthcare is the region’s largest employment sector, with a workforce of 34,000, according to Greater Spokane Incorporated. The billion-dollar Spokane healthcare market includes 1,100-plus businesses, led by five major hospitals. The high-tech, education, and clean technology industries are also key to the economy, and the greater area still houses plenty of agribusiness and manufacturing companies. Spokane also has plenty of street cred among the outdoor recreation crowd: Outside magazine last year named it one of the best places to live in America. When work takes you from the Eastside to the east side, here’s what you need to know:
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
You can make the drive to Spokane in five hours. Amtrak’s Empire Builder train stops in Spokane enroute to Chicago, but it’s an eight-hour journey. Amtrak has a bus option that also takes about eight hours, with prices comparable to the train. A flight to Spokane International Airport from Sea-Tac takes less than an hour; Alaska Airlines offers multiple flights daily. “When you go into bigger cities, the airport is so far away,” Gunkel says. “Here, you’re talking 10 minutes from the airport to downtown.” Downtown is walkable, and if you drive or rent a car, Spokane is divided into four easy-to-navigate quadrants, she adds.
The Power Lunch
For a sit-down restaurant with a stunning view, try Clinkerdagger, which is housed in a turn-of-the century flour mill overlooking the Spokane River. Patrons enjoy American cuisine and complimentary Wi-Fi. For a more casual option, Fire Artisan Pizza dishes up thin-crust pies and salads in a modern, high-ceiling environment. Spice fans should try the Thai pizza topped with roasted chicken breast, cashew satay sauce, serrano chilies and Sriracha. Gunkel recommends Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar, which has a location in River Park Square that’s particularly good if you need to get some shopping done. “They have some unusual salads, including a pear and roasted beet salad that’s really good,” she says. “For those people who are gluten intolerant, they have a good gluten-free menu, too.”
Get Some Sleep
The proverbial feather in Spokane’s hotel cap is The Davenport Hotel, which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. Hand-painted frescoes, ornate woodwork and European-inspired marble were all meticulously restored after the hotel barely escaped demolition in the early 2000s. Each room comes with a desk, complimentary Wi-Fi, an oversized marble shower, and 24-hour access to the fitness center. A business center provides photocopiers, faxes, printers, and desktop computers. If you want to be near the airport, Hilton Garden Inn Spokane Airport (with an airport shuttle) and Hampton Inn Spokane are both solid options.
After a long day, sometimes you just need to sing the stress away at a karaoke bar. Fortunately, you can do your best Bon Jovi or B-52s impression most nights of the week at Monterey Cafe, where pizza and liquid courage are never in short supply. If you’d rather leave the musical entertainment to professionals, Zola features live music in the evenings. When the songs start, so do the drink specials.
Gonna Make You Sweat
Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean your exercise routine gets to go on hiatus. The 100-acre Riverfront Park is perfect for strolling, jogging, and accessing the Centennial Trail, a 35-mile delight for cyclists. The park is home to Spokane Falls, the second largest urban falls in the country. While they’re most dramatic in springtime, the waterfalls are worth seeing any time of year.