Exploring Spokane and Northern Idaho with kids

Two of my three kids were born in Spokane, Washington. During the time we lived in this Eastern Washington city, downtown Spokane remained fairly sleepy, with quiet, understated shops and eateries framing beautiful Riverfront Park. In the years since we moved to Oregon, we’ve been lucky enough to return multiple times for the wonderful outdoor opportunities in Washington and Idaho, and have watched Spokane grow into a more robust, even trendy city with a vibrant downtown.


This past June, we were able to spend three fun nights in Spokane, enjoying the city’s annual Hoopfest street basketball tournament. As we often do during road trips, we looked for a hotel with plenty of space to spread out, plus a complimentary breakfast or kitchenette to make our own. With three kids (two of whom are teens), we highly value the ability to make some meals en suite. We found a Staybridge Suites hotel that fit the bill: The Holiday Inn Express Spokane Downtown, and were even able to use our IHG points to book during this popular time to visit Spokane.

What to do in downtown Spokane (any time of year):

downtown-spokaneDowntown Spokane is pedestrian-friendly, and from the Holiday Inn and Suites, we were able to easily access Riverfront Park. The walk through the park is lovely, and takes visitors directly into the main downtown core. Here’s what we never miss in downtown Spokane:

Riverfront Square:

This downtown urban mall includes multiple stories of trendy shops, dining options, and activities for families. Directly next to Riverfront Park, families can retreat here for a bite to eat or a movie after a fun day outdoors along the Spokane River.

Mobius Children’s Museum:

Located in Riverfront Square on the lower level, this award-winning children’s museum includes hands-on exhibits for kids from babies and toddlers to pre-teens. We love the ride-on toys and trucks best with boys!

Riverfront Park:

Much more than an urban green space, Riverfront Park was once the location of the World Expo, and infrastructure from these days still exist. During the summer months, families will find a permanent carnival area with Ferris wheel and bumper cars in the park (in winter, this area is transformed into an ice skating rink) and there are walking and biking paths throughout the park and along the roaring Spokane River. Take a gondola ride over the falls, or catch an IMAX movie.

Outdoor Recreation in Northern Idaho:

Spokane is an ideal home base for outdoor recreation. Northern Idaho includes some of the most unspoiled wilderness we’ve seen, with multiple sun-kissed lakes perfect for hikers, fishermen, and boaters. Where we love to go:

Lake Coeur d’ Alene:

Drive 30 minutes to downtown Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho, and enjoy a full day at any one of a number of public sand beaches along the lake. Families can rent motorized watercraft, or just float on river rafts. An excellent wooden playground structure is within easy walking distance.

Haiwatha Trail:

This rail trail in Northern Idaho is ideal for family cycling. It’s been named a top 10 mountain biking trail in the US, but it’s not difficult for kids to navigate. The scenery throughout the Idaho panhandle is breathtaking, heading over seven trestles and through 10 tunnels.

Timberline Adventures:

Located in Couer d’ Alene, this outdoor adventure park includes multiple tree canopy zip lines. A big favorite of teens, kids start out on four-wheelers, which deliver them to the top of a mountain to experience over two hours of continuous zip lines.

Holiday Inn Express Downtown Spokane review:



When we plan a vacation that will take us outdoors and around town, and keep us out until late, our prime criteria for our hotel includes location, space, easy parking, and free breakfast. As a family of five, we need as much room as we can get, and food is always being consumed by our crew! We don’t necessarily need a pool or complimentary WiFi, but those are sure nice, too.

Holiday Inn Express is a division of IHG hotels, which means we could use our earned points. The Downtown Spokane Holiday Inn Express was especially clean and friendly, with a great breakfast and perfect location. It put us located right by the park, so we could walk around Spokane, but also very close to I-90, so we could hop in the car and be in Northern Idaho in no time.


As a happy surprise, our hotel offered the special touch of fresh cookies in the lobby nightly from 7 pm-9 pm. When we arrived back at the hotel after a full day of city walking and basketball, we were very happy to see these waiting for us!

Do you use hotel points when you travel? Which ones?