Spokane's Riverfront Park- a Spot with Interesting History and Spokane's Hub of Activities
Riverfront Park is one of the most recognizable landmarks of downtown Spokane. Some would say the park is the epicenter of downtown activities as it hosts several of Spokane's largest local celebrations. It was built after Spokane hosted one of the largest celebrations in the world.
The Beginnings of Riverfront Park
Riverfront Park is located on the banks of the Spokane River and Havermale Island a very small island in the middle of the river. This land was first developed as a rail yard supporting the railroad industry that put Spokane on the map in the early 1900s.
Fast forward to 1974 as the city of Spokane prepares to host Exposition '74- "The World's Fair, also referred to as Expo '74. This area along the river was cleaned up to be the fairgrounds. The rail yards were removed including Great Northern"s Railroad Depot on the island. Though a remnant of the depot remains, the clock tower.
The Pavillion that stands today was a gift to Spokane from the United States government for the Expo. The pavilion has since been upgraded. At the time of the fair, it was an 850-seat air-conditioned amphitheater with a full enclosure. The fair brought more than five million people to Spokane, which at the time of hosting, was the smallest city to host the world's fair. After the fair had gone Spokane retained the grounds as a city park.
In 1978 the park was officially named Riverfront Park with a dedication from President Jimmy Carter. President Carter commended the city for taking a declining area of the city and breathing new life into it. In addition to the tower, the pavilion, and the gondola ride are the only structures that remain in the park from Expo "74. Though many people believe the historic carousel was part of the park it was moved from a theme park that closed in the 1960's.
Riverfront's Big Makeover
The park has undergone several changes through the years. In 2014 the citizens of Spokane overwhelmingly voted in favor of a bond to improve and makeover the park. Changes made to the park with bond funds started with a renovation of the pavilion. They also included restructuring the ice rink housed in the winter at the pavilion into an ice ribbon and a new building to house the carousel.
Attractions in Riverfront Park
- Spokane PavillionThere is now an impressive light display in the canopy that was originally enclosed. This is the spot to take in a live performance of the symphony and several local and large acts throughout the year. The most popular may be the free concerts held during the Pig Out festival.
- Numerica Sky Ride The newly redesigned gondola ride in the park along the river. It is a 15-minute round-trip ride that is fully enclosed allowing for enjoyment all year.
- Skate and Wheels Park A concrete skateboard and scooter park with street features, two bowls, a flat bar, and a transitioned wall ride.
- Ice Age Floods Playground One of the newest attractions in the park. A great place for families. Kids love the three-story slide, giant play structure, splash pad, and sand pit with fossil dig.
- Providence Playscape The Playscape is a space for kids of all abilities to play together. It is a space with play structures and interactive elements that provide easier play for kids of different abilities and sensory play.
- Looff Carrousel A historic carousel that is iconic in the park. it may be one of the most recognized attractions.
- Bridge Over the River There is a couple of bridges that take you from one bank of the river, across the islands, and to the other side. Once bridge overlooks Spokane Falls and is a fun spot to stop and take in the beauty.
- Clock Tower The original clock tower from the train depot still stands as a nod to the original history of the area. It is one of those Spokane-identifying landmarks.
- Giant Red Wagon There is a huge radio flyer red wagon replica in the park. The handle of the wagon is a slide. Kids love to climb the staircase into the wagon and explore then use the slide as their way down.
- Fountain There is a giant fountain on the downtown or Riverpark Square side of the park. It is a welcoming signifying the main entrance of the park. In the summer people love to walk through the fountain and cool off.
Yearly Festivities in Riverfront Park
A festival centered around great food. The park is packed out with several food booths from local and faraway vendors. In addition to all of the amazing food to try are free concerts from big-name performers.
The world's largest 3 on 3 basketball tournament. Spokane nicknames itself Hooptown USA. The tournament blocks off several city blocks all through downtown. The park acts as a center for food booths and gaming booths from the sponsors.
The Lilac Parade winds through downtown every year to highlight the Lilac City and festival. The hub of festival fun and food can be found in the park.
Bloomsday is a popular marathon-style run in Spokane every year. When the run is over the celebrations and food booths can be found in and around the park.
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