Culture to Fill Your Soul
The longer days in the Inland Northwest provide plenty of daylight to get out and enjoy the many affordances of the region. Much of that includes getting out into nature: hiking, biking, camping and boating, to name a few.
But this summer also provides a full slate of arts and entertainment for locals and visitors to enjoy, from some of the season’s staples—Art on the Green in Coeur d’Alene and the Festival at Sandpoint—to any of the musical acts that come through the numerous venues in the region.
Spokane is filled with concert halls and smaller theaters and clubs with a series of local and national acts, while wineries and breweries also play host to bands and orchestras, meaning that just about every night all summer there are plenty of options for live music.
There are also plenty of places to see and buy art (along with food and drink from local vendors) on both sides of the Washington-Idaho border, and many museums that offer stories and artifacts from the region’s rich history.
If comedy is your thing, the region has that—you can even take your turn at an open mic night. Or if you’d rather spend a summer evening at the ballpark, the Spokane Indians’ season runs during the longest days of the year from June to August. And if golf is your thing, well, you’ve come to the right place.
Always be sure to check theater and venue websites to confirm performances and secure tickets. New acts are often added—and sometimes subtracted—mid-summer.
As for kids, just about every place welcomes them, and often they can enter museums for free or at a reduced rate. But it is always good to check websites and call ahead, just to be sure.
ArtFest (May 31 - June 2)
While Memorial Day tends to be the unofficial start of summer, the local art scene has its first big summer event the following weekend with the ArtFest at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture in Spokane. About 150 art vendors will present their work, and children can make their own in the Kids Fair. Food and beverages are available, and local musicians will provide the backdrop for browsing the art booths. Admission is free. ArtFestSpokane.com
Hoopfest (June 29 - 30)
Dubbed the Best Basketball Weekend on Earth, Hoopfest takes over Downtown Spokane every June, turning streets into courts as the city drums with the sound of bouncing basketballs. Form a team of three and participate in one of the many divisions, or just make your way downtown to watch the action and stroll Riverside Park. With thousands of teams and volunteers, nearly 500 courts and plenty of shopping, dining and sporting available downtown, it’s easy to make a day of it at the largest three-on-three tournament in the world. SpokaneHoopfest.net
Art on the Green (August 2 - 4)
After celebrating its 50th anniversary a year ago, Art on the Green kicks off August with music, food and, of course, art at North Idaho College in Downtown Coeur d’Alene. It is free (including parking) and family friendly, and it features nearly 200 artist’s booths. Two stages of music will host live, local music all weekend, and a beer and wine garden will feature some of the best breweries and wineries in the region. There’s also a full lineup of food options. Check out the list of artists in advance at ArtOnTheGreenCdA.com.
Festival at Sandpoint (August 1 - 11)
Since its start in 1983, the annual Festival at Sandpoint brings in a variety of musical acts for its 11-day run. This year is no different, with performances from Jackson Browne, The Avett Brothers, Lake Street Dive and Walk Off The Earth headlining the event. Held at War Memorial Field on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille, the festival shows off the natural beauty of North Idaho. Bringing your own food is fine; you can also buy from the dozen vendors on-site. And yes, by all means, come ready to dance. FestivalAtSandpoint.com
Blue Waters Bluegrass Festival (August 9 - 11)
Overlapping the end of the Festival at Sandpoint is this event on the shores of a different lake—Medical Lake, just across the Washington border. Now in its 18th year, Blue Waters features performances from Wood & Wire, High Fidelity and Masontown among its 10 acts this season. Bring your own food or buy from vendors at the festival, and feel free to camp the entire weekend (for a $40 fee). The weekend also features the Blue Waters Youth Camp where anyone 20 or younger can begin to hone their skills on a variety of bluegrass instruments. BlueWatersBluegrass.org
Large music venues
The First Interstate Center for the Arts in Spokane kicks off its summer musical season with “School of Rock” in early May and then hosts the touring performance of “Les Miserables” from August 6 through 11. Its summer slate also includes performances by Bella Fleck and the Flecktones (June 3), Lonestar (August 1) and O.A.R. (August 13).
Across the river at the Spokane Arena, Carrie Underwood performs on May 22, Khalid will be there July 9, and Disturbed takes the stage on July 31.
Northern Quest Resort and Casino in Airway Heights, just west of Spokane, also brings in some big acts this summer. Colin Hay (May 11) and Charley Pride (May 30) start the season indoors, and then a few big acts take their concerts outdoors. Train and The Goo Goo Dolls perform on June 9, followed by Judas Priest on June 19.
The Outdoor Concert Series continues with a number of other performances, headlined by Toby Keith on August 6, Styx on August 22 and the Steve Miller Band on August 28. A full schedule is available on the Resort and Casino’s website.
Medium-sized music venues
Downtown Spokane has a number of historic venues that major acts often make part of their national tours. Now 104 years old, the Bing Crosby Theater starts its summer bill with “Disney’s Newsies: The Broadway Musical” from May 24 to June 2.
Just a short walk away, the Spokane Knitting Factory is bringing in a variety of acts this summer to the Bing as well as its own concert house downtown. Its lineup is eclectic with acts to suit a number of tastes. The full schedule is available online (Sp.KnittingFactory.com), and often new performances are added during the summer.
The Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox, another historic downtown venue, hosts Art Garfunkel on May 16. John Ford Coley (June 7), Indigo Girls (June 18) and Illusionist Jay Owenhouse (July 11) visit in the first half of the summer. Norah Jones also performs live on July 26.
Smaller music venues
The indie music venue The Bartlett in Spokane hosts a series of acts this summer, most with tickets for $15 or less. The Big Dipper and The Pin in Spokane also bring in live music throughout the season.
The Hive opened six years ago in Downtown Sandpoint, and a variety of acts will roll through this summer. The 219 Lounge in Sandpoint also hosts live music. While it doesn’t offer as many music events, The Panida Theater in Sandpoint screens films and hosts other small events throughout the summer.
The Snake Pit, a restaurant and venue about 30 minutes east of Coeur d’Alene, has musical performances nearly every Friday all summer.
Art galleries, museums and more
A number of art galleries in Spokane, Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint offer visitors the chance to see and buy work from local painters, photographers, sculptors and other artists. But the area also boasts a number of places to learn about the region’s history and culture through a variety of lenses.
The Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, referred to as the MAC, is the region’s largest organization of its kind. Its exhibits, collections and buildings in the Browne’s Addition neighborhood of Spokane are open Tuesday through Sunday, with adult tickets $10 and less for other age groups. It has plenty to offer families of all ages.
The MAC’s late spring special exhibits focus on paintings and films from the Canadian North, Inuit Art, and Women of the Plateau Tribes. In July it will open its exhibit on “Giants, Dragons and Unicorns: The World of Mythic Creatures.”
In addition, the MAC’s permanent exhibits include one of the largest American Indian Art collections in the country, and its Campbell House recreates and captures life in Spokane 100 years ago.
Across town, the North Spokane Farm Museum highlights the region’s agricultural history, including farm machinery from as long as 160 years ago. On June 29 it will demonstrate how some of its equipment worked.
The Spokane Valley Heritage Museum focuses on the local history of the cities between Spokane and Coeur d’Alene. It offers tours and a permanent exhibit that includes many historical photos and background on the area.
The Museum of North Idaho in Coeur d’Alene offers visitors the chance to discover the history of the region, including that of Native Americans and the growth of sawmills and logging a century ago. It also offers “Living History Walking Tours” as a way to discover the background of the town.
The Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center, next door to Sandpoint in Sagle, highlights the contributions of aviators and innovators. It has more than a dozen airplanes on-site. Entry to the museum, open Monday through Saturday during the summer, is free.
The Bonner County History Museum, on the shores of Lake Pend d’Oreille in Sandpoint, contains a number of exhibits detailing the history of the peoples of the region as well as the Kinnikinnick Native Plant Society arboretum. The Museum’s hours are a bit more limited—Tuesday through Friday from 10am to 4pm—but offers a free first Saturday every month.
A few local wineries host all sorts of events through the summer and often invite visitors to bring a blanket, buy some wine and enjoy music and entertainment in some of the region’s most beautiful settings.
Arbor Crest Winery at the Cliff House overlooks Spokane and hosts weekly outdoor concerts on Thursday and Sundays from May through September, and on Sundays invites food trucks. Be aware, though: The estate has a strict age limit (21 years old) that cannot be broken for infants or toddlers. Pets are not allowed either.
The Pend d’Oreille Winery regularly offers live music at its tasting room in Downtown Sandpoint. It also hosts “paint and sip” events where, for a fee, guests get specialized instruction, supplies and wine as they paint.
A night out doesn’t need to include music. The Spokane Comedy Club hosts a number of acts through the summer, many for multiple nights in a row. Its summer slate includes Drew Lynch, Steve-O and Michael Quu in May; and Matt Bellassai, Jose Bolanos, Carlos Mencia and Gary Owen in June. The rest of its acts will be posted later in the summer. And, there’s always open mic night on Wednesdays. The 219 Lounge in Sandpoint also is host to several comedy acts throughout the year.
In addition to Hoopfest, Spokane’s summer sports scene is punctuated more regularly with the Spokane Indians, a Single-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers organization. The Indians play at Avista Stadium, and their season runs from June until the end of August, right up to the Interstate Fair.
At that Fair will be the 32nd annual PRCA Rodeo on September 7 and 8. It features seven events, including steer wrestling and bull riding, and is the summer’s premier rodeo in the region.
If golf is your flavor, there are dozens of world-class courses to play in the Inland Northwest, including the famous Floating Green at the Coeur d’Alene Resort Golf Course.
Children are welcome nearly everywhere—though it’s good to call ahead at breweries, wineries and concerts just in case—but a few places cater specifically to a younger crowd’s entertainment interests.
Mobius has both a Children’s Museum and Science Center in Spokane. The Museum, located inside River Park Square downtown, is open every day but Monday and has a variety of activities and areas for kids to interact and play. The Science Center, located next to Riverfront Park, focuses on more inquiry-based exhibits and skill-building activities.
Located between Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint, Silverwood Theme Park is the region’s amusement park, with more than 70 rides and attractions. Boulder Beach, the waterpark next door, offers slides and pools of various levels of intensity for children (and adults) of all ages.