How do you keep grandparents, parents, teens, tweens, kids, and toddlers entertained simultaneously? The answer may lie in those uniquely intergenerational activities dubbed “family-friendly.” Spend a day climbing, skating, splashing, and sliding without leaving the same patch of ground. Find a spontaneous, shared path to creative expression. Or pass an afternoon beautifying your backyard or balcony with flowers. And best of all, having fun and making memories together doesn’t have to cost a fortune. All but one of the activities suggested here requires minimal to no outlay.
EXPERIENCE THE REVITALIZED RIVERFRONT PARK
Just in time for summer, Riverfront Park has unveiled a North Bank area that’s been transformed into a one-stop activity complex. Key elements of the 40,000-square-foot complex take their design cues from the Ice Age floods that transformed the regional landscape somewhat more dramatically 14,000 years ago.
“There’s a three-story play structure, a climbing wall, an inclusive playscape, a sandpit, a splash pad, a signature basketball court as well as a skate and wheels park. It’s for basketball players, for skaters, for children who want to run through the fountains or play in the sand,” says Riverfront Park Director Jonathan Moog.
“This is the final keystone in making Riverfront Park a fun, must-visit downtown destination — and not just for tourists. The North Bank improvements make Riverfront a neighborhood park. And just like your neighborhood park, this is entirely free. It’s really just a great way to spend family time together downtown.”
Of course, the arrival of the glacially themed play equipment doesn’t mean that the traditional favorites have gone away. The Looff Carrousel recently reopened and will be operating — along with the Skyride — on extended summertime hours starting in mid-June.
Should pandemic public health guidelines start to relax a little further, more in-person group events will start to pop up on the schedule. Moog says that the park has already begun hosting smaller, family-oriented activities like Riverfront Moves, a free fitness series that caters to all ages and abilities. Keep an eye on my.spokanecity.org/riverfrontspokane for news along those lines.
DROP IN AT SPARK CENTRAL
True to its name, Spark Central’s Drop-In program encourages anyone from the Spokane community to simply show up and take part in anything from crafts to card games, writing, drawing, science experiments, and coding — completely free of charge.
The evening and weekend events are geared more toward families, but that doesn’t mean the morning programs are age-restricted. In fact, the only limit is capacity. As of this writing, the center has a mask and social distancing mandates in place, which cap the number of guests at 30 for now. Fortunately, some Drop-Ins, like the creative writing session, allow Zoom participation.
“Drop-In is a program of free activities that are run by our talented volunteers,” says Programs Manager Wilson Faust. “Each one has a different creative focus. They’re open to all different age groups to come in and do something together. It’s a casual opportunity for folks who have shared interests to gather, learn something new and leave with a shared experience.”
Later in the summer, Spark will also likely be adding a Minecraft club to its programming. That will give kids an “art prompt” to build something of their own imagining in the block-based construction game. There will also be a digital art club that will help participants hone their skills in graphic design software like Procreate or Photoshop.
And even though the center offers its Drop-In events and clubs at specific times during the week, Faust stresses that families are truly welcome to drop in whenever they like.
“Even when a Drop-In program isn’t happening at Spark Central, we have 31 creative kits that kids can use. Each one provides an activity in a box with instructions written up for a parent or one of our volunteers to walk kids through the activities step by step,” he says. Be sure to check the Spark website at spark-central.org for new events, updated public health guidelines, and which creative kits are currently on offer.
Whether you’re doing it for food, aesthetics, or a little bit of both, few activities are more inclusive, relaxing, rewarding, or closer to home than backyard gardening. All it takes is a few seeds or starts. Stumped for ideas? Several farmer's markets across the Spokane area offer a free weekly kids’ activity where families can learn about pollinators or companion planting and maybe even take home a plant or two. It’s called Kids Eating Right: Nutrition and Exercise for Life — or KERNEL for short. Stop by your neighborhood market and ask about it.
SILVERWOOD THEME PARK
A reliable destination for a family outing and something of a rite of passage in any local childhood, Silverwood’s 413-acre facility offers a huge choice of rides and entertainment for everyone. Depending on your preferred adrenalin levels, you can take a leisurely ride on the puppy-go-round or rocket through the unrelenting daredevil twists and barrel rolls of Stunt Pilot, the park’s all-new coaster. When the summertime temperatures start to rise, the whitewater raft experience of Thunder Canyon or the superfast waterdrop known as Velocity Peak offers a fun and occasionally heart-pounding way to beat the heat. Check out silverwoodthemepark.com for more info plus current deals and events.