Spokane/Couer d'Alene/Missoula suggestions

My partner and I will be in Spokane for business August 30-31 which neither of us have been to before. We’ve decided to make a little weekend getaway of the trip as well, so we are flying up on Saturday August 29. Our tentative plan is to arrive in Spokane around 11 am, rent a car, drive to Missoula where we’ll spend the night, then return to Spokane on Sunday, possibly via a route that will take us through the corner of Oregon. (Montana is one of five states on my list of states I’ve never visited, and Washington, Montana and Oregon are on his list.)

Any suggestions for places to visit, see, and eat at along the way? The more kitschy the better!

I’m originally from the area. Beautiful country.

A few suggestions: if you’re looking for kitschy, go to Riverfront Park in Spokane and find the mechanical goat that eats trash. I don’t know if it’s still there, but there used to be a mechanical goat that you could feed your trash to. Very strange, but as a kid I got a big kick out of it.

About 8 miles east of Coeur d’Alene, on I-90 (on your way to Montana), you’ll find a place called the Wolf Lodge. If you’re looking for an authentic Idaho eatery, that’s it. It serves good hearty meals of meat and potatoes. Literally, that’s it. You’ll get steak and potatoes. No sides or anything (at least, that’s the way they used to be).

Around Coeur d’Alene is also the Cataldo Mission, an old Catholic mission that served the Indians. It’s the oldest building in North Idaho (if I recall correctly).

South of Coeur d’Alene on US 95 you’ll find the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s Casino. Haven’t been there in a few years, but it’s supposed to be pretty nice now.

Let me see if I can recall anything else. That’s what comes to mind right now, though.

Thanks Renob! I have heard of Wolf Lodge and have placed that on my short list. And the mechanical goat is a definite see! I’ve also gotten recommendations for Frank’s Diner and the Old European in Spokane as good food spots.

If you think of anything else, please pass it on. Thanks again!

Frank’s Diner is a good place to go. Doing an Internet search I found this museum (which I didn’t know existed), and it may be right up your alley:

Folks with a taste of the bizarre and tacky won’t want to miss Carr’s One of a Kind in the World Museum, 5225 N. Freya, 509-489-8859 or 800-350-6469. Open Sat.-Sun. 1-4 p.m.; $5 adults, children under 10 free. Inside are JFK’s 1962 Lincoln Continental (not the one in which he was killed), Jackie Gleason’s 1968 limo, and Elvis Presley’s 1973 Lincoln. Other exhibits include a Chinese junk made from 27,500 matchsticks, plus a Cheyenne chief mannequin atop a papier-maché horse! Only in America.

My perennial suggestion for Missoula is The Oxford (I’ve linked to the cafe section because it features a list of the old hash-house terms for some of their menu items). It may not be to your taste, but probably worth at least a look in the door.

According to my father (on whom be peace) though, it hasn’t been the same since they swept up the sawdust and started admitting women. . . .

Thanks Otto! This is definitely the type of place we’re looking for. We will most likely check it out if we make it to Missoula. Our plans are evolving even as I type. As it is right now, we’re thinking of heading up to Glacier instead, so we might not make it down to Missoula. But thanks for the suggestion anyway.

I just drove up 95 from Elgin to Lewiston then to Spokane… 1200 miles on the car just last week including the trip home to Seattle.

Trust me, north-eastern Oregon looks just like central Idaho and eastern Washington. Hell’s Canyon doesn’t know the difference. It’s a sun-blasted expanse of sage and basalt, with a trickle of whitewater river down the middle.

Stick to Northern Idaho, where they have the sense to have lakes and rivers and measurable rainfall.

When I go to Spokane, I abuse my arteries at breakfast at Dave’s Bar and Grill on Sprague (in the Spokane Valley) and for dinner at the Red Lion on Division downtown for ribs and fried bread.

I get the feeling you don’t quite appreciate the scale of things on our map out there. While it looks as though you could day-trip to Missoula and have plenty of sight-seeing time, it’s a pretty tough five hours each way.

Spokane’s downtown is decrepit, but rising. The Clinkerdagger is the best restaurant for fancier dining, but I prefer dives. You can get free Wi-Fi in a large portion of downtown ! The park in question is in the midst of the Spokane River and once hosted the World’s Fair.

Get out to Lake Coeur d’Alene and maybe drive north to Sand Point or someplace where there is some genuine natural beauty and not nearly as many white supremacists as there used to be.

To my chagrin, the Silver Mountain resort in Kellogg, ID is hosting FISHBONE and a mountain biking race that weekend. That amphitheater (it’s a long gondola ride up the mountain) is often a good concert venue couched in a wilderness setting. I saw George Thorogood there a year ago and the security people are still nursing a grudge.

Unless you’re a fan of air-conditioned cigarette smoke and a vague sense of despair, I’d avoid the casino down on 95. It’s huge, and modern, and I prefer to sleep in the woods rather than stay in its hotel when I work in the region. Indian casinos of the Northwest just strike me as very sad, both for the owners and the patrons.

Kakkerlak, you’re right about my sense of distance being skewed. Being from Texas, where one could drive for 10 hours in a straight line and still be in Texas, all of those “small states” :wink: seem so driveable by comparison!

Tell me, is it reasonable to think that we could arrive in Spokane around 11 a.m., begin driving to Kalispell, stopping only occasionally for photo ops, and arrive by early evening to spend the night? Could we get up early the next morning and explore Glacier NP for a few hours (not in depth exploring, but more “scenic drive” exploring), then head back to Spokane to arrive late in the evening?

Mapquest gives a 238 mile driving distance and 4.5 hour driving time between Spokane and Kalispell. And since my experience with Mapquest is that it typically inflates the driving time, I’m figuring that we could make this two-day trip without any problem. What do you think?

I live in the wet part of Washington State, so I can’t give you much help about distances to Glacier etc. However, the one thing that I WOULD NOT miss if I ever went back to Spokane is Cat Tales!!!

This place is so amazingly amazing. It is a sort of mini-zoo, with an almost exclusive focus on felines. They run a zookeeper training program. And they do rescue work. They have beautiful lions and tigers, and apparently now some bears. They have white bengals, and black panthers, and much more. Their zookeeper graduates work in the best programs around the country, and while they’re studying they work in the park and walk around and lead tours and answer questions.

It’s probably better to go in the morning, because they get the cats to come to the front of the exhibits to be seen by feeding them snacks, and by the late afternoon the cats may or may not be interested in more snacks. There’s one lion who has a dog for a best friend.

The very best thing of all, and why I am so absolutely crazy about this place, is that THEY LET YOU FEED A LION OR A TIGER IF YOU WANT!!! I am so NOT KIDDING!!! This is one of the coolest things I ever did in my life. I fed a tiger, my husband fed a lion. From my hand to the Tiger’s mouth (through a chain link fence with a zookeeper in training right next to me, but still) and she growled at me because she’s a growly old lady tiger.

This was several years ago, and remembering it today I am just as excited as when it happened. An unforgettable experience.

If you like museums, there are several good ones in the Silver Valley. Not to be missed is the Oasis Bordello Museum on Cedar Street in Wallace. The Oasis was one of Wallace’s famous whorehouses, in operation as such until recently (1986 ?).

Their phone number is 208 753-0801.

“Tell me, is it reasonable to think that we could arrive in Spokane around 11 a.m., begin driving to Kalispell, stopping only occasionally for photo ops, and arrive by early evening to spend the night?”

Easily. Here’s a route suggestion. When you get off the interestate at St. Regis, take the left to Plains then at Plains take the right to go north to Hot Springs and Elmo in to Kalispell. (or for you city people, "Take 135 then 200 to 28 to get to 93).

Why? 93 is the direct route between Kalispell and Missoula and has heavy traffic. It’s not FUN drive. The other route has way less traffic. If you insist in going across, you could stop in Moiese at the National Buffalo Range.

If you drive into Plains and go just north of town, you can get you picture taken with a 6 foot tall jackalope.

In Hot Springs, you can take a dip at the Symes Hotel. It’s a old refurbished hotel with a natural hot springs.

“Could we get up early the next morning and explore Glacier NP for a few hours (not in depth exploring, but more “scenic drive” exploring), then head back to Spokane to arrive late in the evening?”

Yes, if you get up early and translate “a few hours” to mean “6-8 hours”. Glacier is a big place. If nothing else, do the Going to the Sun road to St. Mary and the turn around. FYI, check the Montana department of Transportation website to look for all the construction around Glacier.

“Mapquest gives a 238 mile driving distance and 4.5 hour driving time between Spokane and Kalispell. And since my experience with Mapquest is that it typically inflates the driving time, I’m figuring that we could make this two-day trip without any problem.”

3 hours is excellent time, four is around average. Beware that once you leave the interstate, everything is two lane. And unlike Texas, our roads have corners and hills and rivers and stuff, when limits chances to pass very slow motor homes.

You’ll have a good time, just some long days. But that’s a good thing.

In Kalispell, the Kalispell Grand Hotel is a funky old railroad hotel right on Main Street. The rooms that aren’t in the back can be noisy, but it’s a cool place. Right next door to it is the Painted Horse Grill. And if you go to Kalispell, you have to go to Moose’s (two blocks north), a pizza and beer joint with sawdust on the floor.

You could also stay at the West Coast Cavanaugh’s (or similar name). It’s attached to the mall, but that isn’t a problem.

Book your room now - it’s still the tourist season when you plan to visit.

Whistlepig, who travels everywhere in Montana. But I won’t be in Kalispell until that Sunday night.

I’d suggest an alternate trip, closer than Glacier and more suited to a two day adventure with the advantage of visiting a foreign country.

Head north from Coeur d’Alene to Bonners Ferry, (my home town) Stop at our museum and check out the kitchy white Caribou, Continue up to Porthill Customs on the Canadian border. From Creston, take the very scenic route to Kootenay Bay and ride the free ferry across the lake to Balfour. From there it’s a short drive to the famous Ainsworth Hot Springs. Oh yeah, you want kitchy…stop at the glasshouse in Boswell. It’s a castle built entirely of embalming fluid bottles.

From Ainsworth north to Kaslo for more kitch, the SS Moyie, the oldest surviving stern wheeler in existance. It is really an interesting museum. Then head back south to Nelson for a truly interesting town. I absolutely hate shopping, but it’s so different there, more international in flavor, with such a wide variety of humanity, that I can sometimes be enticed.

From there, there are a couple possibilities for your return trip to Spokane, But I’d suggest the Stagleap Highway back to Creston.

Aww heck, might as well post the Selkirk Loop Webpage and you can check things out for yourself.

If you do get to Missoula, I’ll second the suggestion for the Oxford (liquor in the front, poker in the rear).

Personally, I don’t think you’d enjoy the Glacier trip with your short time frame. It’s 2.5 hours from the Spokane Airport to Bonners and another 4 to 5 hours to the start of the Going to the Sun Highway. Unless you plan on driving the area at 70 miles an hour, which you just can’t and won’t want to do, it’s going to be too far. You could easily spend a week on that particular trip and feel that you hadn’t done it justice.

If you have specific questions on the area, let me know, and if yer of a mind and have the time, I’d spot ya to a beer at the Sportsmans right around the corner from the ratty old white Caribou.

If you have time for lunch while you’re in Spokane, you really should try Domini’s downtown at 703 West Sprague. HUGE sandwiches consisting entirely of your favorite meat and cheese along with all the freshly popped popcorn you can eat. A small sandwich is enough to fill you up for the rest of the day. However, the owners are on vacation during part of August and I’m not sure if it’s around the same time of the month you’ll be here. (I think it’s the first half of the month but I’m not 100% sure.)