Downtown Spokane, Washington, “is walkable, it’s beautiful, and it’s this quirky mix of urban and natural,” said Kate Hudson, public relations manager for Visit Spokane. The downtown core straddles the Spokane River, with historic, arching bridges connecting both sides.
City officials have emphasized renovating and repurposing historic buildings, so the area maintains much of its original character. The Historic Davenport Hotel is a must-see for visitors, who can get a drink in the lobby bar or take a self-guided walking tour of the 1914 building, Hudson said.
Shoppers will find higher-end stores at River Park Square, and local businesses and independent restaurants dot the entire downtown.
Downtown is also home to about two dozen breweries and taprooms on the Inland Northwest Ale Trail. In the Cork District, visitors will find 18 wineries with tasting rooms within walking distance of each other.
The river is a major downtown attraction, and groups can go whitewater rafting, paddleboarding or biking on the riverfront trail. Spokane Falls Skyride offers rainbow-infused waterfall views as the gondolas glide over the river. The tram was built in 1974 along with Riverfront Park to host the Expo ’74 fair. The park is undergoing a $64 million restoration, and a new “ice ribbon” just opened in December as part of the project. Skaters can step off the meandering path of ice to warm up at nearby fire pits, Hudson said.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
In Eureka Springs, Arkansas, nothing is flat, including its downtown, which is lined with historic stone buildings and elegant Victorian homes that stair step up hillsides and steep streets. Downtown can be a little tricky for groups because motorcoaches aren’t allowed on the hilly, hairpin roads, but a tram can easily shuttle groups downtown.
The Eureka Springs Tram Tour showcases the city’s history, including that of the historic downtown business district, which is dotted with natural springs, and the adjacent neighborhood, where many of the ornate homes are now bed-and-breakfasts, said Gina Rambo, publicist with the Eureka Springs Advertising and Promotions Commission.
During a Downtown Underground Tour, groups can see what used to be the street level of downtown Eureka Springs, which went underground when the city raised Main Street — nicknamed Mud Street for how often it flooded — an entire story. The Mud Street Café is housed in the original first level of an 1888 building, which means it’s now in the basement. There’s a window in the floor that shows the spring beneath the building that caused the flooding.
Downtown is almost chain-free, populated instead with chef-owned restaurants, independent boutiques and art galleries where visitors can find works by local artists.
Eureka Springs has 64 springs within the city limits, Rambo said, and in downtown, “every 100 feet or so, there’s a natural spring.” Basin Spring Park, home to one of the most prominent springs, acts as a gathering spot for free concerts, art festivals and craft fairs.