Spokane family festivals: year-round family fun

Who says families need to go to Seattle or Portland to have a good time, see an up-and-coming band, or celebrate a quirky holiday? During the seven years we lived in Spokane, WA, we happily became family festival guinea pigs, trying out a little of everything. In the years since, here’s what we deem worthy of a return visit.


Spokane festivals worth the trip:

Green Bluff Growers Apple Festival:

Held September 20 through October 26, Spokane’s popular Apple Festival takes place at Green Bluff, a collective of 28 farms a short drive from downtown Spokane. Expect the usual fall harvest offerings–hay bales, corn mazes, freshly-pressed cider, and U-Pick apples–multiplied by 28. At the entrance of the Green Bluff area, families can grab a driving map and choose which farms to patronize. Most vie for attention with colorful banners, inflatable bounce houses and slides, apple pie cook-offs, and live music. Best of all, the party continues for over a month, giving travelers flexibility.


First Night:

It’s New Year’s Eve in Eastern Washington. Let’s spend it…outside? Sure! First Night is Spokane’s alcohol-free, family friendly, New Year’s Eve arts festival held in downtown Spokane. Come for the afternoon Children’s Festival, then grab a bite at any number of family-friendly downtown restaurants and stay for the Grand Procession; over forty downtown venues stay open for the night, offering live entertainment and art. If your little ones can stay up until midnight, they’ll be rewarded by a fireworks display in Riverfront Park, the 100 acre park originally created for the Expo of ’74 (remember the World’s Fair?).


Come to Spokane on the first weekend in May, and run in (or watch) Bloomsday, held annually on the first Sunday. Believe it or not, this 12K run is one of the largest running events in the world, with over 50,000 entrants (and counting). Families can opt to walk the course (strollers welcome in certain categories), or cheer on elite runners and wheelchair racers in the morning. The weather can be all over the map: I’ve run Bloomsday in hail storms, snow, and heat! Stay for the celebration in Riverfront Park afterward. Kids who have not tired themselves out on the race course can play on the world’s largest Radio Flyer wagon (yep, it’s here, in Riverfront Park). There’s a slide down one side.

Lilac Festival:

On the heels of Bloomsday, the Spokane Lilac Festival (second Saturday in May to third Sunday of May) is your typical small town celebration…in a big city. The Lilac Festival includes a torchlight parade, the crowning of a queen and her court, and fun activities in the park. Local businesses offer discounts and restaurants sport speciality drinks just for the occasion. Kids will like the parade and ongoing fun in Riverfront Park. Beware: there’s a lot of purple in evidence during this week!



Our favorite of all Spokane festivals, Hoopfest is the world’s largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament. What is it with Spokane and ‘world’s biggest’s? Hoopfest transforms downtown Spokane, closing off streets and covering 40 city blocks of on the last Saturday and Sunday in June. We usually come with a player (Pit Stops for Kids’ own dad!), but Hoopfest is equally fun to watch: grab a schedule and head to the center courts, where elite college basketball talent is on display, or hit the park, where a carnival-like atmosphere includes bungee trampolines, bounce houses, and even a ferris wheel (open all summer).

Plan ahead if planning to visit Spokane during any of the above festivals; Hoopfest especially has travelers scrambling for hotel rooms to book. And if your trip to Spokane doesn’t align with the dates above, have no fear: head to the Riverfront Park area any time of year to check out Spokane Falls, ride bikes, ice skate in winter, and enjoy carnival games and IMAX movies in summer.

Disclosure: the above post is written in partnership with Trivago.com.

Photo credit: Mike Tigas, Hugh Millward, Kelly Jones