Best Towns 2013: Spokane, Washington

With killer farmers’ markets, quick access to adventure, and bike shares galore, these 17 towns redefine living well

Spokane river Spokane River Riverside State Park Riverside State Park trail bridge

Suspension bridge over the Spokane River in Riverside State Park.     Photo: Kirkendall-Spring Photographers

Population: 209,525
Median Household Income: $41,466
Median Home Price: $165,500
Unemployment: 8.8 percent
Votes: 1,668

Mochaccino-sipping Seattleites may call it Spokompton for its perceived crime, but the city is about as dangerous as Bend and safer than Colorado Springs.

Set on the eastern edge of Washington, where the desert meets the Rockies, Spokane lives up to its motto: “Near nature and near perfect.” Within minutes of downtown, you can paddle past moose on the Little Spokane River, climb 5.13 sport routes in Deep Creek Canyon, or hike the Spokane River Gorge.

“You can be in the river three minutes from your office,” says Jeanna Hofmeister, who works at the visitors bureau, “and have no idea that you’re just outside downtown.”

There are also five ski resorts within a two-hour drive. “The skiing around Spokane is absolutely top-notch,” says reader Anthony Gill. “Mount Spokane is only 45 minutes away, and Schweitzer is one of the most underrated resorts in the country.”

Home to Gonzaga University, regional government, and Fairchild Air Force Base, Spokane has the economy to support the diverse dining (e.g., there are eight Vietnamese restaurants) and vibrant neighborhoods of a big city—the South Perry District has health-food stores, trendy boutiques, and a Thursday farmers’ market with the best of eastern Washington produce. “Between a bike and Spokane Transit, you can get almost anywhere,” says reader Barb Chamberlain.

Food and Nightlife: You hardly need to remove your spray skirt at The Flying Goat, an artisanal pizza joint near Riverside State Park. The Manito Tap House has 50 local and imported beers on draft. And breakfast is served all day in an old railway car at Frank’s Diner. (Try the Joe’s Special.)

Access: There’s plenty of good stuff within city limits, from the Spokane River to the rugged singletrack in 10,000-acre Riverside State Park. And adventures farther afield are easy.“Spokane is the best trailhead ever,” says Chamberlain. Head two hours north into the Colville National Forest for multiday backpacking, or drive four hours to Idaho’s iconic Selkirk Mountains and Lochsa and Salmon Rivers.

Biking: “You can pound out 100 road miles on the Palouse, get downhill crazy at Camp Sekani, do the 37-mile Centennial Trail, or charge 35 miles straight up to the top of Mount Spokane,” says Jon Snyder, a 44-year-old member of Spokane’s City Council. “If you like to log miles instead of dodging crowds, it’s the perfect place to ride.”

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