Considered one of the best parks in Spokane, Washington, Manito is a 90-acre public park located in the South Hill neighborhood just minutes from downtown. Manito is much more than just any old park. With spacious manicured lawns, playgrounds, walking and biking paths, flowers, topiary shrubs, ponds, a greenhouse conservatory, a cafe, scenic drives, and picturesque gardens, it is an oasis for the 150,000 people who visit the park each year.
Gardens of Manito
The Formal English Garden
Duncan Garden, the most dramatic of Manito's gardens, was created in a classical European Renaissance style. The garden encompasses three acres and includes manicured turf areas and vast displays of colorful annual bedding plants. The bilateral symmetry, central water feature, and geometrical planting beds draw a striking resemblance to the Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg, Austria, the garden featured in the Sound of Music.
The Informal Perennial Garden
Ferris Garden, the natural balance to the formality of the Duncan Garden, consists over 300 plant species. With the perennial bedding space quadrupling in 1996, the now large beds and small trees provide a continually changing array of flowers through the season. Visitors can find bulbs and primroses in the spring and asters in the fall.
The Award Winning Rose Garden
Rose Hill, a joint venture between the Spokane Rose Society and the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department, holds 150 varieties of roses. The types include hybrid tea, grandiflora, floribunda, miniature roses and some old-fashioned roses as well. In 2007, All-American Rose Selections chose Rose Hill as the best rose garden in the nation, so yeah, it is pretty awesome.
Nod to Spokane
Manito's Lilac Garden is home to a rare new double pink lilac called Syringa vulgaris ‘Spokane’. For those who don't know, Spokane is the Lilac City, so Syringa vulgaris is genuinely unique to Spokane. The Lilac Garden contains well over 100 named cultivars from 23 distinct species, making it one of the most important lilac gardens in the West.
The Japanese Garden
Spokane decided on the name, Nishinomiya Tsutakawa, for this garden to honor its sister city Nishinomiya, Japan and for the man who founded the sister city relationship, Ed Tsutakawa.
Other Manito Features
The pond in Manito Park was a natural body of water called Mirror Lake that would dry up during the summer months. The lake was large enough to accommodate canoes that could be rented on site. Later, a concrete retaining structure was built to keep the pond full throughout the year. Today, Mirror Pond is a favorite meeting place for those who enjoy watching ducks and other waterfowl.
Park Bench Cafe
Originally called the Peanut Shack, this building was built in 1923. Its original purpose was to provide refreshments for zoo visitors and peanuts for the monkeys. The Parks Department now offers a variety of sandwiches, salads, and treats for your enjoyment. Summer hours 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sometimes closed due to inclement weather 509.456.4349.
History of Manito
After acquiring the property from a real estate developer and several other private entities in 1901, the City of Spokane opened Manito Zoo. They thought that this was a good idea because there was a trolly system already running to the area.
When the park first opened in 1904, the Zoo was the main attraction, taking up about one-third of the entire park. Manito’s zoo had many animals such as kangaroos, buffalo, elk, deer, muskrat, beaver, monkeys, polar, black and grizzly bears. However, the bears were the most popular attraction.
Unfortunately, It would be the parks most popular attraction that would eventually lead to its closing. While a little girl was feeding a polar bear, the bear drew blood accidentally when it took the food. Another bear in the cage that was attracted to the blood lunged at the girl and bit her arm. Panicked, the staff pulled the girl back, ripping her arm clean off.
Amazingly, the girl claimed that it was her fault and that the bear should be left alone. The zoo stayed open for about another eight years until August of 1932 before it was shut down due to the rising costs and the effects of the Great Depression.
In 1907, Spokane authorized the creation of a board of park commissioners and an annual levy for parks. One of the first actions of the board was enlisting the services of the famed Olmsted Brothers of Massachusetts.
John Olmsted was retained to prepare a recommendation for Spokane’s existing parks and to help in the development of an overall park system.
Olmsted submitted his report to the Spokane Park Board in 1908; however, it was not released to the public until 1913. The Olmsted report helped create the misconception that the Olmsted Brothers designed Manito Park. This is just not true. The content of the Olmsted report describing the existing layout confirms they did not design Manito Park, but the park board did implement several of their recommendations.
Manito by Season
Spring in Manito Park is a time of preparation and work. Visitors to the park will find park staff removing winter debris in Ferris Perennial Garden and preparing the annual beds in Duncan Garden for planting. The Japanese Garden typically opens April 1st, and Duncan Garden is fully planted by the end of May. In late Spring, the Friends of Manito host the Spring Plant Sale.
Summer in Manito means things are in full swing. The Park Bench Cafe is open on the weekends, and you can find music almost every Friday night at the park as well. Summer is also the best time to visit Duncan Garden because the annuals will be in full bloom.
Fall in Manito is time for things to wrap up. The beginning of the fall season is highlighted by the Friends of Manito Fall Plant Sale. Fall is also the best time and last chance to see the Japanese Garden before it closes for the winter.
You would think that things would shut down in winter at Manito, but they actually don't. In December, the Friends of Manito completely light up the Gaiser Conservatory with holiday lights. This activity is entirely free for the public. Manito also provides a great place to go sledding in the winter.
When You Go
There are plenty of places to park, but the best parking spot is by the main entrance on E 18th Ave, and Grand Blvd.
There is an upper and lower manito playground for children to play.
Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash at all times.
Sorry, no alcohol or marijuana allowed at the park.