Hello? Yes, I have a question for you. What comes to mind when you hear "Spokane, Washington"? Farmers? Conservatives? Rachel Dolezal? The buzzy neon lights of fast food restaurants flickering by as you cruise down I-90 back toward civilization, aka Seattle? OK, that's fine. Please continue to hold these associations close to your heart so we can keep the population of my glorious city down, since I like being able to go wherever I want to without having to worry about traffic. Spokane may not have the be top-of-the-list of desirable cities for Millennials, but frankly, I kinda think it should be. I love it here. And more importantly, I love raising my kid in Spokane. I've called it home for nearly five years (not consecutively, but more on that later), which I think is long enough to understand the pros and cons. It's not perfect (we have a ways — a long ways — to go when it comes to diversity) and my own personal politics don't always agree with my fellow Spokanites, but I can deal. I like it here.
For context, I've lived in some great places, like Western Washington (Seattle and Tacoma) and Southern California (Orange County, to be exact), and I've been fortunate enough to have visited a number of other states and a handful of other countries. So, while I'm no expert on geography, I'm not a hermit either. I've ventured out enough times to have a decent grasp of what I like, and what I want for my young family. And right now, Spokane is it.
It's Not My Hometown, But It's Homey
I grew up approximately 300 miles away from here, on the other side of the state. I was close enough to know that it's pronounced Spo-Can and not Spo-Kane, but far enough away that I never crossed paths with this town until my early 20s. Still, for someone originally from the Pacific Northwest, who for many years was THISCLOSE to getting a tiny tree tattooed on my foot, Spokane feels as cozy as a warm bath, a hot cup of coffee, and a new issue of Real Simple delivered to my door all at the same time.
I have many reminders that I'm still living in Cascadia, but I'm in somewhere other than my hometown, and this makes me feel like a grown-up. Shoutout to people living in their hometowns (my husband is one of them, we are literally within walking distance of the house he grew up in). Right now though, I'm glad to be away, and glad to be experiencing something new with my family.
All That Extra Cash! (JK. Kinda.)
In Orange County, I think that we were years — maybe even decades — away from being ready and able to purchase a home. We never seriously looked into it because the high cost of living made the idea in itself seem absurd.
However, here in Spokane, we were able to buy an actual house years ago. It's modest and could use a few updates, but it's a house nonetheless, and it's ours. There's a garage and a driveway and a backyard for our son and our dog, with a tree swing gifted to us by one of our neighbors.
We Have Four Distinct Seasons
Spokane is the first place I've lived with four distinct seasons. The Seattle area really has two (summer takes place June-August, while pretty much all other months feel like permanent late fall), while California has barely one and a half (summer, all the time, with the occasional clouds).
In fact, during my tenure in CA, I used to joke that I knew the seasons were changing because Starbucks rotated their drinks, or because Disneyland put out their holiday decorations — both awesome things, don't get me wrong. I just happen to prefer boots, Crock-Pot weather, and the way everyone feels reborn when spring finally arrives. But my absolute favorite part about seasons here? The leaves get SO orange in the fall. And, I love that my toddler gets to experience them.
Like Usher, We Take It "Nice And Slow"
I mean, I've certainly been to places where live unravels slower than it does in Spokane, but I've not lived in them. That said, it's pretty dang relaxed here. Summers are spent at "The Lake" which, depending on who you ask, could be one of 50 nearby (yes, 50, 5-0), and I've found that The Lake vibe permeates the rest of the city. Everyone slows down and savors the sweetness of the season. It's rare to need a restaurant reservation, parking is *~hardly ever~* an inconvenience. I like being able to take my son to almost anywhere in the city whenever we feel like it, without having to worry about logistics.
Forget What You Heard: Northwest Is Best
Trees. Flannel. Coffee. Wineries. Breweries. Rainy Sundays. Facial hair. Friendly strangers. Boots. Apples. Lakes. Mountains. Hoodies.
Activities! And Beer!
While we've got a ways to go before we can really say Spokane's got this area covered, we're definitely trying. We have Broadway tours, decent concerts, arts events, so many breweries and wineries that I've lost count, and a plethora of locally-owned shops and restaurants.
Sure, there are some things that I wish were here, but I used to live walking distance from Disneyland so my expectations aren't exactly realistic. I'm confident that there is going to be plenty to keep my son busy as he gets older. (It doesn't hurt that there's plenty for to do in the meantime, though.)
All The Good Stuff Is Close By
For decades, I didn't even realize that Spokane is the second largest city in my home state of Washington, beat only by Seattle. Yes, you read that correctly, it's larger than Tacoma, than Olympia, Bellevue, and even larger than Forks during Twilight tourist season. It has all the many of the perks of a large city, but without many of the inconveniences.
For starters, we have two coffee shops, a major park, four restaurants, and a convenience store all within walking distance of our home. And yes, my son knows many of these spots quite well already. Bingo!