Spokane is the financial, cultural, and retail center for a large area of Washington, Idaho, and western Montana known as the “Inland Northwest.” The dry climate and relatively plain infrastructure differ from what one might picture for a Pacific Northwest city, but the area is on the upswing after years in the shadow of the larger Puget Sound cities to the west. The economy of agriculture, commerce, and industry is diverse and once again healthy, aided by a large migration for retirement and to escape more crowded and expensive coastal cities. Nearby outdoor and mountain recreation are excellent.
The downtown area is clean, lively, and popular with attractive new and restored buildings. The notable 100-acre downtown Riverfront Park, once the 1974 World’s Fair site, is an excellent urban park dotted with attractive cultural venues and recreation opportunities. The modest but diverse cultural amenities are noteworthy for a city with this size and location. Residential areas on the plateau to the south range from average to very attractive. The area to the east blends into Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, a growing recreation and retirement area.
The cost of living remains attractive for the region, although recent migration has driven home prices up a bit. Southwest Airlines provides ample, inexpensive air service to other areas in the west. Except for rugged winters, some sprawl and a relatively high property crime rate for the region, Spokane is a balanced and attractive place to live.
The city sits on the eastern edge of the broad Columbia Basin, which is bounded by the Cascade Range to the west and the Rocky Mountains to the east. Much of the urban area lies along both sides of the Spokane River with residential areas spreading to plateau crests 500 feet above the city. The climate combines characteristics of damp, coastal weather with high-altitude, high-latitude, arid conditions. Rainfall is less than 50% of that directly west of the Cascades. However, the location receives more clouds and rain than most of eastern Washington. Continental air masses occasionally bring sub-zero winter temperatures. Summer weather is mild and arid while winter varies from coastal and wet to cold and dry. Like most of the Pacific Northwest, the majority of precipitation falls from October to April. Winter days are often cloudy or foggy with an occasional snowfall of several inches. First freeze is early October, last is early May.