Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Riverfront Park, Spokane, WA, 7/16/2016

Expo '74 was the first environmentally-themed world's fair. It was held for six months (May 4 to November 3, 1974) in Spokane, WA, and was the first world's fair in decades that did not focus on futuristic living. There were 5.2 million visitors to the fair and it brought $150M to the economy. It also revitalized the urban core of the city. Riverfront Park in Spokane is a city park that was the site of the 1974 exposition. 

A world's fair in such a small city was an ambitious undertaking, but it ended up being a break-even opportunity for Spokane. The countries that had a major presence at Expo '74 in addition to the United States were: AustraliaCanadaWest GermanyIranJapanTaiwanKorea, and the USSR

When the fair closed, the property became the city's 100-acre scenic urban park. There is so much to see and do here, but we only spent a few hours walking around the park (in part because of the weather and because we had our sweet doggy, Sadie, with us). 

Before I knew anything about this park, I just wanted to see the beautiful Spokane River and Falls. There are multiple bridges and viewing terraces for the Upper Falls.

Multiple power plants have been built and are still in operation in the area as well.

On the Hamilton Bridge is a simple plaque at the site of the Wilie Willey Rock. Willie was a "nature boy" that spurned convention and clothing. He was a disciple of simplicity. It is a truck-sized boulder dedicated to the Spokane folk hero.

An iconic image for Expo '74 and, now, the city of Spokane is the Great Northern Railway Depot Clocktower built in 1902. The Depot was demolished but the Clocktower remains and is operation. It can be seen from many points in the park. 

The United States Pavilion at Expo '74 was where the IMAX movie theatre made its world debut. A newer IMAX theatre is at the site today where movies are still shown. There was a large tent-like structure covered with heavy vinyl at the Pavilion that was never intended to be a durable building. When the deteriorating vinyl was removed, the infrastructure of cables were left in tact. It can be seen in the photo below in the upper right. The Pavilion Amusement Park is located there now with about 10 rides. Tickets can be purchased for individual rides or all-day and/or annual passes are also available for frequent visitors. 

The Washington State Pavilion for Expo '74 serves today as the Spokane Convention Center and INB Performing Arts Center. It is a 2,700-seat venue that is used by the Spokane Opera and for many other events. The Aluminum Fountain is an abstract style sculpture located on the south side of the Arts Center (George Tsutakawa, 1974).

The Lilac Bowl Amphitheater (1988) is an outdoor performance venue that is also very popular. Below is the stage and there is outdoor seating on the opposite side of the Spokane River in front of the INB Performance Arts Center. 

The Centennial Sculpture (Harold Balazs, 1974) is an abstract aluminum sculpture that floats in the Spokane River. 

The Inland Northwest Vietnam Memorial is located on a hill near the Clocktower. The sculpture was created by Deborah Copenhaver (1984). The names of Spokane-area, deceased veterans of the war are inscribed around the base.

Our doggy, Sadie, had fun exploring Riverfront Park, too, meeting lots of dogs and dog-lovers. If there's a wall, she has to look over it to see what she can find on the other side!

The Looff Carousel opened in Natatorium Park in Spokane in 1909. When the park was closed in 1967, the carousel was purchased and fully restored for Expo '74. Still in operation today, it is a very popular attraction at Riverfront Park ($2/ride). The carousel has 54 hand-carved and painted wooden horses, a Bengal tiger, a giraffe, and two Chinese dragon chairs. What a lovely reminder of days gone by. 

The Skyride over the Falls ($5/per) is the best way to view Spokane Falls. A 30-minute narrated tour of the park is available on the Tour Train. It departs from the Skyride area. 

The Ice Palace was closed when we were there, but skate rentals are available ($5.00) in addition to the cost to use the facility. Other attractions include mini golf and video games. There are multiple food service options in the park ranging from snack bars to full service bistros.  

We saw many bicyclists enjoying the Centennial Trail that runs through the park. The Trail connects Spokane to Coure d'Alene, ID, and is 37.5 miles long. For more information about the trail, see

While we were making our way back to the parking lot, we saw a small crowd admiring some huge snakes owned by private citizens (with a tip jar, of course). This reticulated Python eats a bunny rabbit or small piglet once a month (yuck!) He is expected to grow about 10 more feet. He slithered over to get a closer look at Sadie. Yikes!

Two other snakes were being held by their owners. They were shy and less interested in checking out their surroundings.

Riverfront Park has something for everyone. We saw many families, couples, and people of all ages enjoying this place. We had been told about it by our friends in the area and were glad that we had the opportunity to see some of it.

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