Moving to Spokane: 15 Things You Need to Know

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Spokane is a beautiful city, but it’s not for everyone. If you’re thinking about moving to Spokane and don’t know what to expect, you’ve come to the right place!

Many people move here from other cities without realizing how different life in Spokane can be. There are some things that might seem strange at first, but we promise they won’t bother you after awhile (like how much everyone loves visiting the Garbage Goat).

While not a Spokane native, I’ve lived in Spokane for a long time – 10 years! – including the “not as nice” 2000s when it seemed everyone was trying to leave while I was desperately trying to say (thanks, recession). I’ve seen Spokane change in monumental ways over the last 10 years. Gone is the super cheap real estate, but arriving on the scene is an increased quality of restaurants, cultural activities, and a revamped downtown that makes spending time there fun!

Below, we’ll cover a few things that might surprise new residents of our Lilac City – and we’ll help you pronounce common Spokane words!

Considering a move to Spokane? Follow me on Instagram, where I give you a local’s look on living here – the good and bad!

Things to Know About The City of Spokane Before You Move to Spokane

Before you pack up your life and move to Spokane, Washington, there are a few things that we recommend you know before moving. First of all, before you even get here make sure to check out the pronunciation of our city! It’s “Spo-CAN” not “Spo-cane.”

“Spokane” means “Children of the Sun” and is the perfect cross between big-city living and small-town vibes. Being the second-largest city in the state of Washington, in Spokane, you can enjoy the comforts of living in a big-city, mixed cuisines, top-notch schools, happening nightlife, budding arts and cultural communities all while relaxing with a down-to-earth small-town feel.

The city of Spokane spreads along the Spokane River for 59.2 square miles with a low population of about 230,000, making Spokane less dense population-wise than many other comparably-sized cities.

Spokane is also the largest inland city in America. This means that it’s not only a great place to live, but an ideal destination for those looking to take advantage of all four seasons- especially if you like snow! Winter sports such as skiing and sledding are some popular activities enjoyed throughout Spokane. With 171 sunny days per year, it’s always easy to find something fun going on outside.

Related: What is Winter Like in Spokane?

As far as when to visit Spokane? Other places might suggest visiting in August, but we don’t! We recommend visiting in June, early July or September. June and July will be warming up, and September will start to cool down (plus you may see peeks of fall!)

August, unfortunately, is typically the hottest month and lately the smokiest month. For that reason, we encourage family and friends to visit June, July or September.

A Quick Note on How to Pronounce a Few Things

We already went over how to pronounce Spokane (basically, drop the ‘e’ and pronounce it like Spo-can), but what about other areas and spots around Spokane? Here’s what to know!

Gonzaga – Gone – zag – uh (zag as in ‘zig zag’). And yes, we exist, Jimmy Kimmel!

Coeur d’Alene – core – duh – lane.

Lake Pend Oreille – Lake Pond Or Ray.

Spendy – how some Spokanites refer to expensive things. “Wow, prices have really gone up! The steak at the store is so spendy now!”

Cheney – Chee-knee (not Chay-knee)

Moscow – Mos-co (Melissa’s note: I still struggle with this!)

Colville – Callville.

Spokie vs Spokanite – Spokanite. Spokie isn’t a preferred term of most Spokanites, but you might hear it!

“Going to the beach/going to the lake” – Lake life is big for a lot of people in Spokane, and sometimes you’ll hear people refer to the beach. They COULD mean the coast (West side of Washington), but they likely mean the beachy sand at the lake.

Moving to Spokane: 15 Things You Need to Know

1) Spokane’s Climate

Pleasant and temperate climates are found in Spokane (at most times of the year). July-August are generally the hottest months, and December-January the coldest.

Local Spokanite’s joke about there being 6 seasons in Spokane—the regular 4 seasons as well as a “construction season” (where the temperature is just right for crews to knock out all the road-work), and a “fire season” where fires and dryness turn Spokane into “Smoke-an” (fire season usually includes several days of thick smoke and stay-inside orders.)

A pretty common Spokane meme in the spring!

You can expect summers to be relatively hot and dry. Autumn is crisp and cool with gorgeous colors appearing in the local foliage. Winters are cold and snowy with ample places to play in the snow, and Spring is full of cooler nights followed by warm sunny days.

Manito Park in the South Hill in fall
Manito Park in the South Hill – Rewarded by scenes like this!

If you’re moving to Spokane, learn how to drive in winter! Understand that it’s basically the same as regular driving… Just travel a bit slower, brake a little sooner, don’t over-correct, don’t panic, breathe, get suited-up with some snow-tires, and don’t EVER put your car in cruise-control.

Want to learn more about what winter is like in Spokane? Check out our article on winter in Spokane!

2) Traffic and Transportation Around Spokane

Public transit is quite limited around Spokane, however there are numerous bus routes that run throughout the city. There is an Amtrak station, and ample Uber, Lyft and taxi services. Spokane even has a Flix Bus service to take you to Seattle, Portland, and other cities.

Spokane was designed on a grid, with roads running east to west labeled as avenues and north to south known as streets. One-ways can get a bit hectic, so as always, please drive mindfully.

Commuting anywhere in Spokane is generally simple as the city’s traffic is still quite light. “Rush hour” is still just that: about an hour of backed-up traffic and nothing more. The average commute-time for Spokanites is less than 20 minutes. Spokane is considered a very walkable and bikeable city with trails and paths for all your commuting and recreation needs, so put down your keys and get some fresh air while running errands or getting to work.

3) Crime in Spokane

Crime is quite possibly the only downfall of Spokane living. The crime rate in Spokane is relatively high when compared to many cities around the world. Locals joke that, “so many people steal chicken from Safeway, you’d think it was expensive!” Or, “If you see someone dead in their car, they’re probably just on something.” And finally, “Don’t leave things in your car to prevent break-ins, and don’t lock your car doors in order to protect your windows.”

For more about the crime and the cons of living in Spokane, check out our article on the pros and cons of living in Spokane, Washington.

4) Outdoor Activities

Looking to get outside? Outdoor enthusiasts are amazed by the natural wonders of Spokane. We’ve got countless lakes, rivers, forests, mountains, hiking, biking trails, arboretums, gardens, and parks. Even a simple walk to the grocery store in most neighborhoods can be a beautiful outdoor experience. In Spokane, it’s easy to enjoy the outdoors year-round. 

Rose Garden and Dahlias at Manito Park

Spokane is known as the “Lilac City,” as you’ll see and smell thousands of Lilac trees throughout the Spring, especially in Manito Park’s Lilac Garden. Fishing, hiking, biking, boating, rafting, skiing, and snowboarding are some of the many Spokane activities mother nature provides to city dwellers. 

You’ll usually find two distinct camps when it comes to the outdoors: those who love summer living, and those who embrace winter. You’ll know as soon as you meet someone what kind of outdoor adventurer they are, because they’ll either mention “going to the lake” (summer person) or “going up to the mountain” (winter people). Rarely do they overlap, but they can!

And of course, you’ll find gardeners, hikers, snowshoers, and just casual Spokane farmers market aficionados like myself. 

Why are people so enamored with the outdoors? For many, winter lasts a long time (at least 4 months of cold and/or snow) and then the spring can bring showers, which keep many inside. By the time sunshine rolls around (or good skiing conditions, for the snow-people) people in Spokane are itching to get outside. 

There’s never a shortage of things to do in Spokane, no matter the season!

5) Riverfront Park in Spokane, WA

Riverfront Park is perhaps Spokane’s most iconic place to spend any day. It’s composed of over 100 acres of playable parks, playgrounds, murals, and art pieces along the Spokane River.

There’s an epic skate park, a roller rink, concert pavilion with an after-dark lightshow every night of the year, beautiful waterfalls, bridges, scenic backdrops, cable-cars and even a vintage carousel.

6) Lakes Around Spokane

There are hundreds of lakes within an hour of downtown. Lake Coeur d’Alene, about 30-minutes from downtown Spokane is one of the most beautiful and quaint lakes in the country. If you’re moving to Spokane, get ready for a summer packed with boating, fishing, and jet-skiing.

Related: Day Trips from Spokane: Coeur d’Alene

In the summer, renting a lake cabin, taking a drive along Lakeside Drive, or staying in a lakeside campground are all great ways for families to frolic through a hit day. When headed to Spokane, bring a couple bathing suits as you could literally hang out at a different lake every day of the summer if you wanted to.

Related: Things to Do in Coeur d’Alene with Kids

There are many lakes within an hour of downtown which make it possible to go boating, fishing, and jet skiing in the summer. And if you love to kayak or enjoy those SUP boards, you can do that as well one of Spokane’s many lakes. The City of Spokane often hosts pick up and drop offs for kayakers on the Little Spokane River, and kayak rentals, too.

7) Ski and Snowboarding Around Spokane

Spokane has five top ski resorts within only a 1.5-hour drive from downtown. Thank goodness for these because winters can feel quite long, though mild, in this part of the Pacific Northwest. Getting to these resorts is as easy as hopping in your car and making the short road-trip. These mountains are known for some of the best powder-conditions around.

Fun times at Schweitzer Mountain - photo by Alena Horowitz (1)
Photo by Alena Horowitz – at Schweitzer!

One popular location is the Schweitzer Mountain Resort, which sits on top of a mountain and features tons of slopes with varying degrees of difficulty. It also has the “Snowplay Area” with all sorts of activities for kids and adults.

Spokane also offers great skiing and snowboarding on some surprisingly big hills close to downtown, such as Mt Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park which features 21 runs with a base elevation of 2480 ft high enough for all levels.

During the winter months, it’s easy find a variety of activities at any skilled level: Nordic (cross country) skiing; alpine (downhill) skiing; snowshoeing; tubing – even dog sledding!

8) Downtown Spokane

Nature is probably the biggest pull to Spokane, but we’ve got an incredible downtown historic district as well. Spokane’s downtown moves at a slower pace than most cities’ downtowns, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring – far from it!

Downtown Spokane has an incredibly vibrant urban environment mixed in with incredible brick-buildings that have lasted through history. Spokane’s business district is a blend of big companies that make life more comfortable as well as mom-and-pop shops that create a thriving economy and active metropolitan area.

Enjoy a night at the Spokane Symphony in downtown Spokane, or walk to many of the best romantic dinner spots around Spokane. One of our favorite things to do for date night is enjoy a meal at Tavolata, then see a movie at the AMC – just a 5 minute walk from Tavolata!

image of Harry Potter at the Spokane Symphony
Harry Potter at the Spokane Symphony

9) Major Events

Spokane is home to Hoopfest, an annual 3-on-3 basketball tournament that’s held outdoors in downtown Spokane and practically takes over the entire city with cheerful onlookers, supportive businesses and local deals.

Hoopfest is the largest outdoor basketball tournament in the entire world! It’s not just any old ballgame either- it has some crazy rules with winners chosen based off who can throw their team mate through two hula hoops before they bounce twice after being thrown.

Bloomsday is another massive event in Spokane. Every year, Spokane hosts over 50,000 runners, joggers, and walkers for a 12-kilometer timed road-race. This event has been held on the first Sunday of May since it’s humble beginnings in 1977.

Other events like Terrain’s Brrzaar and the sports venue The Podium are also beginning to draw out of town crowds, too, bringing in more tourism and revenue to the city.

Overall, I find these events to be a net benefit. Sure, it can get crowded (especially during Bloomsday and Hoopfest) but it makes the city more vibrant, helps benefit our local restaurants, and is a great opportunity to showcase our beautiful city to visiting guests!

Downtown Spokane has been revitalized over the last decade with new additions such as Riverfront Park that includes skate parks, playgrounds, and art installations.

10) Theater Around Spokane

There are so many amazing theaters in the area that it’s difficult to list them all, but some of the most notable include The Fox Theater (a National Historic Landmark) which hosts touring Broadway shows as well as concerts for pop stars like Katy Perry; Bing Crosby Theater – a historic venue built before WWII with incredible views; or the INB Performing Arts Center where you can see everything from comedians to operas. Wherever your taste lies, there will be something here for you!

Mixed in with the beautiful natural environment, Spokane offers great entertainment experiences in the form of museums, galleries, venues, shopping and restaurants. Basically, in Spokane, there’s something fun to be found for everyone.

The Magic Lantern Theatre is home to a movie experience that’s one-of-a-kind. They have intimate theaters and show films that don’t usually come out in mainstream box-offices. Spokane Comedy Club is a must-go if you’re looking for a lot of laughs.

11) Farmers Markets in Spokane

Farmers markets in Spokane are a great place to not only get your hands on fresh produce, but also enjoy some of the best live music around.

Three Birdies Bakery night market
Jamie the Cookie Lady at the Kendall Yards Farmers Market

Lucky for us Spokanites, there are farmers markets around Spokane almost every single day of the week! You can find the full list here: Spokane Farmers Markets and Schedules

Some of our favorites include:

  • The Kendall Yards Night Market
  • Perry Thursday Market
  • Fairwood Farmers Market
  • Liberty Lake Farmers Market

12) Museums in Spokane

The Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture is home to over 500 years of arts and culture with exhibits that cover art from Ancient Egypt as well as contemporary trends.

The museum has an entire wing dedicated just to Native American artifacts. The Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture has many rotating installations – you can find the latest MAC exhibits here.

That said, there could be more museums in Spokane! For being the second largest city in Washington, Spokane lacks many of the unique and distinct museums that other cities have. While the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture is terrific, I’d love to see more historical museums, an art museum, or even a museum of Inland Northwest Native American history. 

13) Nightlife Around Spokane

Nightlife in Spokane often includes drinks at any number of bars, piano lounges or even karaoke joints before hitting up one of the many dance clubs.

The Knitting Factory is one of my favorite places to find live music. The Knitting Factory often features national touring acts, so you never know who might show up! They also have an incredible craft beer selection that goes far beyond any normal bar. Whether you’re looking for jazz or rock n’ roll, there are plenty of local spots around town with amazing musicians taking over stages nightly.

If you’re into wine, Spokane is also a haven for wine connoisseurs! There are so many Spokane wineries and tasting rooms – you could spend a whole afternoon in downtown Spokane wineries and still not visit all of them (and yes, I’ve tried!)

Some of our favorite wineries are Arbor Crest (incredible views!), Winescape, and Maryhill Winery (perfect for a happy hour meet up in Kendall Yards!)

And we would be remiss if we didn’t mention one of the highlights of the winter months: Inlander Restaurant Week. Foodies will love the culinary scene in Spokane, highlighted by the Inlander Restaurant Week. With over 125 participating restaurants offering three-course meals at set prices, it’s a fantastic way to explore the local cuisine.

14) Higher Education in Spokane

Being home to FIVE universities, Spokane is a hub for higher-education. There are also many wonderful elementary, junior-high and high schools (both public and private) around Spokane. 

University District, adjacent to downtown, includes five Universities, two medical schools, and a plethora of avid-learners in the same area of town. Here, you’ll find lots of creative collegiate energy coming from Gonzaga, Washington State University, Eastern Washington University, Whitworth University, and the University of Washington.

15) Spokane Neighborhoods

Spokane has many neat and family-friendly neighborhoods. If you’re looking to move to Spokane, choose a neighborhood that fits your needs and lifestyle. Here’s some of the best neighborhoods (in our personal opinion) to check out and visit:

  • The South Hill
  • Garland
  • Corbin Park
  • Lower South Hill
  • Indian Canyon
  • University District
  • Peaceful Valley
  • South Perry
  • Kendall Yards
  • Downtown
  • Browne’s Addition

Check out our comprehensive guide to Spokane neighborhoods, too!

Planning a Move to Spokane? Stay in the Know with Everyday Spokane

Spokane is a great place to live! It has beautiful neighborhoods, mild climate (on average), and there are plenty of things to do.

The city has lots of fun attractions like parks, museums, art galleries, outdoor sports venues, and more. If you’re considering moving here or just want to learn more about it before making your decision for any reason–such as if you have kids who will be attending school in the area–sign up for our newsletter so we can keep you updated on all that happens around town.

Finally, if you’re considering a move to Spokane and want to see what it’s like living here, follow me on Instagram! I’m constantly highlighting fun things to do here, plus I’m happy to answer any of your questions or give you recommendations for excellent local realtors!

-Alena Horowitz with additional reporting from Melissa Berry

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