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by Gary Casteel
Another "don't miss" is the historic carousel. In 1907, wood-carver Charles I.D. Looff began two years of work on the 54 horses, one giraffe, one tiger, and two Chinese dragon chairs that would make up this large and unique attraction for the city of Spokane. All of the animals were constructed of New England Chinese elm and balsam. Each horse is different from the others in many ways, yet is authentic down to the last detail, i.e. to the number of nails in its shoes, and teeth that indicate its age. The horses are fitted with specially carved harnesses and are inlaid with a rainbow of imported, German cut glass. Each piece of scrollwork and gold leaf was the work of a skilled artisan. The carousel's gears, which are still in use, were imported from Germany. It is interesting to note that the same General Electric 15-horsepower motor has always powered the carousel. A German organ with more than 300 pipes and with instrumentation equal to that of a 60-piece band still provides the music for the carousel. The organ was built in 1907.
If you would prefer a ride with more altitude, try the Gondola Sky Ride. This ride takes passengers on a thrilling journey over the beautiful, cascading falls of the Spokane River. Do not forget your camera. The park train transports guests on the ground, and it is a welcome addition for those who are weary of walking to and from all of the rides and exhibits.
Every weekend and holiday during the summer, the park holds an arts and crafts show that is free to the public. The show features handcrafted work by many local artists, including a number of pieces designed by Native Americans. Free concerts, art exhibits, and special entertainment events are scheduled throughout the season as well.
You have just crossed the beautiful mountains of northern Idaho on Interstate 90, and the Pacific Ocean is only one day's drive away. Driving 18 miles west of the Washington State line, you are enjoying the six lane divided highway and the first flat land since Missoula, Montana, when you pass through the middle of Spokane. That is a mistake. A mistake because by failing to stop in Spokane, you are missing out on the many wonderful opportunities that a visit to this community offers the visitor, especially Riverfront park - the park that was built to house a world's exposition.
Spokane is the largest city between Minneapolis and Seattle. While you might expect the cosmopolitan environment, which includes fine dining (more than 300 restaurants), excellent shopping (downtown Spokane's main shopping area is connected by 14 blocks of an unusual skywalk), and many cultural activities, you will also experience the feeling of visiting a small western town. The more than 190,000 residents appreciate the many outdoor recreational opportunities that are readily available to them in and around Spokane. Many are active RVers who are fortunate enough to have 76 mountain lakes within a 50-mile radius of their homes. There are four major ski resorts within a two-hour drive of the city, as well as 14 public and private golf courses. When it comes to camping, it is hard to compete with the 15 national forests and 10 national parks that are located nearby, or with the many excellent public campgrounds. But, what about all the rain and cold we hear about in Washington?
Surprising to many is the mild climate that Spokane enjoys. Located between the Cascade and Rocky Mountain ranges, the city is protected from the damp weather that is associated with the western side of the state as well as from the cold temperatures that are experienced on the eastern side of the Rockies. While the annual rainfall is only about 20 inches, 70 percent of it falls between October and April, and the city enjoys more than 200 days of sunshine per year. "Spokane" is a Native American word that means "children of the sun." July's mean temperature is 80.5 degrees Fahrenheit with humidity of 39 percent. In truth, the weather is beautiful.