Planning an international trip is challenging and nerve-racking, no matter where you’re coming from or where you’re going. As an international transplant who has been living in Spokane for five years, I could go into endless detail about Spokane’s weather, many restaurant options, shopping, and transportation. Instead, I put together a guide to Spokane for international travelers.
I grew up in Madrid, Spain. When I was 18, I got a scholarship to attend Whitworth University in Spokane, WA. I had never been to Washington, so I didn’t know what to expect. I often found myself searching everywhere for travel tips, guides, or any relevant information about the city. As prepared as I thought I was to move to Washington, I soon realized that Spokane is not like the rest of the state.
Spokane Weather: What to Except
I was so convinced that Spokane was cold and rainy. This is a general misconception, but it wasn’t until I moved here that I realized Spokane has four seasons, unlike many cities worldwide.
Summer in Spokane is sunny and warm. Expect beautiful sunsets, camping trips, berry picking, and swimming at over 70 lakes in the area. Located less than an hour away from downtown, Mt. Spokane is my favorite place to escape the city on a sunny day. Other beautiful places to hike and bike include Riverside State Park, located 9 miles away from downtown, Iller Creek/Rocks of Sharon with a 5-mile loop trail and stunning views, and Liberty Lake loop trail featuring a waterfall and breathtaking views.
If there’s one thing that Spokane's citizens know how to enjoy, it’s Fall. Fall is remarkable in this city. Leaves are turning colors, the weather is cooling down just enough to start wearing flannels and beanies, and local coffee shops are coming out with traditional Fall flavors. But, of course, the best place to go in the Fall is Green Bluff. Conveniently located 15 minutes away from North Spokane, explore endless local farms with award-winning pumpkin patches, cider tastings, apple picking, corn mazes, wagon riding, and more!
Winter in Spain, never heard of her. The thought of a Spokane winter was almost intimidating. But, between the endless holiday festivities, and the five ski resorts within two hours from downtown, Spokane winters end up being fun and something to look forward to. You won’t want to miss out on ice skating at the Numerica Skate Ribbon downtown, Manito Park’s annual light show, or the Historic Davenport Hotel’s stunning Christmas Tree Elegance for some of the most beautiful Christmas trees you’ll ever see.
Spring is hope in Spokane. While it might seem like an “in-between” season, everyone is in a great mood, and the excitement for warm weather and summertime makes Spokane glow in a special light. Spring in Spokane also means restaurants are opening up their outdoor dining areas. Some of my favorite restaurants to enjoy a meal in the sunshine are Luna for seasonal menus and drinks and Versalia for great pizza and views of the city and Spokane river below.
Restaurants: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
The restaurant scene in Spokane is incredible. You’ll find all kinds of cuisine, from local and fresh traditional products to endless international food options.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Spokane is big on breakfast. So if you’re a breakfast lover, you should check out The Bruncheonette, Chaps, or Italia Trattoria to try out menus with the perfect mix of sweet and salty food options, making it impossible not to find something you’ll love.
If you’re looking for a place to eat lunch or dinner, I recommend Tavolata for outstanding Italian food, Wooden City for more traditional American cuisine, South Perry Pizza, or the Flying Goat for the perfect pizza, and Clinkerdaggers to enjoy a nice meal with beautiful river and city views.
The main piece of advice I have is to check in advance if a restaurant takes reservations. Many places tend to get full quickly, so having a reservation made ahead of time can save your future self a long wait time.
Also, make sure to check restaurant hours. In Spain, I’m used to all restaurants being open from 11 a.m. until 2 a.m. However, that’s not the case here since every restaurant has completely different schedules and it can get confusing at times if you don’t come prepared.
Coffee in Spokane is Pretty
I was so surprised by the coffee scene in Spokane. In Spain, coffee is straightforward - no fun flavors or pretty presentation. Spokane has made my love for coffee grow in unimaginable ways. Coffee shops like Indaba and Ladder have some of the best coffee I’ve tried. I’m convinced that you will find a good coffee shop in Spokane no matter where you are. Most coffee shops have large sitting areas, and it is common to see people sitting down enjoying friends or getting their work done.
A Top City for Beer Lovers
Spokane is ranked one of the best cities for beer lovers in the United States. This is because of the exceptional and award-winning locally-made beers and ciders. In the summer, I often find myself at No-Li Brewhouse or Brick West Brewery for great quality drinks and a fun environment and outdoor events such as concerts, game nights, and more!
Nightlife in Spokane doesn’t fall short. Everything from small bars to hidden speakeasies and elegant cocktail bars in the most prestigious buildings in town.
Check out Borracho Tacos & Tequileria or Fast Eddie’s for traditional college bars, Zola for live music and a fun environment, or The Globe Bar & Kitchen for a great mix of food and drinks, music, and drag shows.
If you’re looking for a different kind of night scene, don’t miss out on Emma Rue’s, a new bar with elaborate drinks and alcohol from all over the world. Also, speakeasies like Durkins Liquor Bar and Cease and Desist are some of the most unique cocktail bars I’ve been to.
Shopping and What to Wear
The combination of city and outdoor life makes Spokane different from most cities. If you’re not into outdoor activities, you can still enjoy Spokane! One of the best things about this place is the endless shopping opportunities. Northtown Mall, Riverpark Square Mall, and Spokane Valley Mall are three prominent locations where you’ll find major stores. However, what makes the shopping experience special are the local shops and small businesses that are all over the city. Two of my favorites are From Here and Atticus Coffee & Gifts for hundreds of locally made goods that make the perfect gift such as wall art, jewelry, clothing, home goods, or coffee beans.
Also, if you’re into thrifting and vintage shopping, Spokane’s the place for you! Check out 1889 Salvage Co., Boulevard Mercantile, and Chosen Vintage for one-of-a-kind finds.
Clothing is tricky because it depends on the weather, but Spokane fashion is practical and simple instead of elegant and elaborate. People in Spokane reflect the city’s personality through their clothes - outdoorsy, fun, unique, and even a little quirky.
I recommend packing basic clothing pieces that showcase your personality. Spokane’s big on stylish layering. Just because it’s cold out doesn’t mean that you can’t look good. Also, in the Spring and Fall temperatures rise and drop drastically throughout the day, so it’s always practical to wear something that will allow you to adapt to the weather. If you don’t want to stand out like a tourist, you might want to lean towards brands like Carhartt, Patagonia, or The North Face.
Transportation: How to Get Around Spokane
While Spokane has an excellent bus system, I recommend purchasing or renting a car. There is so much to explore outside the downtown area that it’s more effective to have a rental car. Even though it’s the second biggest city in Washington, traffic isn’t a big issue in Spokane, especially when you compare it to larger cities like Seattle or Portland. It’s an easy place to navigate, and even during rush hour, you won’t find yourself sitting in traffic for too long at the end of your day.
However, if you’re planning on staying within the city, the bus will take you all over town! In addition, there are many friendly Uber, Lyft, and taxi drivers ready to help you move around and give you tips on things to do here. Also, during the warmer months of the year, you’ll find Lime scooters and bikes everywhere! Just download the app and learn how to navigate downtown Spokane like a local. If you’re not into bikes in scooters, no need to worry. The streets of downtown are extremely walkable, making it easy for you to get from one place to another.
Spokane also has an airport that works with ten different passenger airlines. From my experience, the airport is the best and cheapest place to rent a car. Also, if you need to exchange currency, you can do it right there when you land. Flying in and out of Spokane is so much easier than it sounds. It’s the second biggest airport in the state but, it’s efficient and you’ll be in and out quickly whether you’re coming or going! There are no stressful TSA lines and you don’t need to arrive two hours before your flight.
If you are thinking about visiting Spokane from abroad, you should look forward to being in a creative place with a beautiful mix of city life and outdoor opportunities, affordability, outstanding education options, and warm and welcoming people who are ready to make you feel at home, no matter where you come from.
Traveling far from home is never easy, but places like Spokane make the transition to a new place trouble-free and painless. Hopefully, this guide gave you more insight into what to expect and how to prepare before your trip. And if it did, get ready to fall in love with a place where the city meets nature.