It's as much a part of the college experience as dragging your new towels and trusty computer up three flights of stairs to your tiny new dorm digs, or getting used to the gelatinous substance the cafeteria tries to pass off as scrambled eggs. After the first few weeks of class, the question remains, "What do I do with my downtime for the next nine months?"
While your student activities department can guide you in the direction of what to do on campus -- everything from second-run films in the campus auditorium to lectures by well-known thinkers and writers -- you're on your own when it comes to that nebulous frontier on the perimeter of school.
"Generally, students talk to other students about what to do off campus," says Jane Nielsen of the Student Activities office at Whitworth College. "We don't really point them in the direction of what to do in town, or tell them where the fun spots are. They usually find them quickly enough on their own."
Well, not entirely on their own, and that's where we come in with this handy little guide to some places you'll no doubt want to discover sometime between now and graduation day.
Galleries and Museums
You can't go wrong with your local campus art gallery; in particular, the galleries at SFCC, U of I and EWU have some of the most innovative contemporary exhibits in the area. And the Jundt Art Museum, on the Gonzaga University campus, had shows last year on the shopping-bag-as-art, the ceramic installations of Montana artist Robert Harrison and a retrospective of works by painter Robert Gilmore. While you're there, be sure to check out the sinuous flames of the museum's Dale Chihuly chandelier.
SFCC, EWU and the Northwest Museum of Art and Culture (MAC) have teamed up for the Visiting Artist Lecture Series, which brings such significant contemporary artists as Nancy Chunn and Graciela Iturbide to town. The first Visiting Artist Lecture this year is collector/artist David Mach, who speaks in November.
It seems like a modest Mardi Gras when all the city's art-lovers turn out for the Visual Arts Tour, which takes place Friday, Oct. 5, and again on Friday, Feb. 1, in downtown Spokane. Local galleries stay open late with live music, artist receptions, hors d'oeuvres and other cultured amusements.
On Dec. 5, the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture reopens at its original site in Browne's Addition, making the $28 million project one of the most enviable cultural destination centers in the Pacific Northwest. A new exhibition space with five galleries, a three-tier parking garage, an outdoor amphitheater, eight acres of park-like grounds, a community conference room, a caf & eacute; and a new museum store join the existing Campbell House, which showcases life in the Inland Northwest at the turn of the century.
While a lot of your literary needs are going to be more than amply met by your Victorian Lit and 20th-Century American Poetry classes, for those who prefer their literature a little more contemporary, look no further than Auntie's Bookstore. In addition to the store's extensive fiction, travel, history and essay sections, there's an entire floor of used books and near-nightly readings in the auditorium.
In Moscow, we've found a friendly haunt in Bookpeople, which has some of the most disorganized but remarkably eclectic bookshelves we've ever seen.
In Pullman, be sure to check out Brused Books for the occasional college text on the cheap.
It wasn't too long ago that the art film scene in Spokane was more like the dust-and-tumbleweeds opener of many a grainy Western. In recent months, however, cinephiles have been heartened by such near-weekly art film openings as Memento and Sexy Beast at Regal's Newport Cinemas. Better yet, beginning Oct. 3, Art Cinema at the Met resumes under the guidance of KPBX film critic Bob Glatzer.
While it's not hard to find the usual sexist and clich & eacute;-ridden stand-up routine at a number of local bars, you'll be cheered to know that improv is alive and well at two downtown venues, the Blue Door Theatre and SpoComedy. The Blue Door has regular Friday night improv shows that change thematically throughout the year, including those geared specifically for the holidays. SpoComedy is making good use of the old Magic Lantern venue at S. 123 Wall on Saturday nights.
While most colleges stage their own live productions, there are other options, too. Interplayers is Spokane's only professional theater, and their season starts in a couple of weeks with Noel Coward's Private Lives. The Civic Theatre is a nationally recognized gem located near the Spokane Arena, opening their season with My Favorite Year. For the more experimental stuff, the Firth Chew Theatre, in the Civic's basement, always has something challenging to offer. -- SB
As far as nightlife in Spokane goes, if you're under 21, your options are pretty limited. But a new club for 16- to 20-year-olds called Say What? (at Browne and Pacific) is out to change that perception. Here, dance music reigns supreme with hip-hop on tap and DJ o2-n on duty every weekend night. The club also features a fabulous laser-light show, a thoroughly kicking sound system, good eats and drinks, pool, vids and air hockey.
Then there are the coffeehouses, which offer a pub-like social atmosphere without all the bad vibes sometimes found in alcohol-soaked establishments. And as far as live music goes, the Spokane coffeehouse scene is as vibrant as any in town. We recommend The Shop on South Perry for its cozy auto shop-turned-performance-and-visual-art-space ambience and friendly crew, Common Grounds on North Ash (for many of the same reasons) and any of the ever-growing number of Rocket coffeehouses for great coffee, tunes and attitude. Another good bet is the Mercury Caf & eacute; on North Monroe.
A new twist on the coffeehouse formula can be found at Cybergate Coffee Caf & eacute; on West Indiana, where the usual java, chai and yerba drinks mix with Internet access via a row of computers. The normal $5-an-hour rate for terminal usage is discounted to $3 for students with a valid high school or college ID. Our favorite coffee haven in Coeur d'Alene? Well, that would have to be Java on Sherman.
If you're at WSU, all you have to do is wander down the hill and across the Pullman-Moscow Highway to find one of the largest and nicest Starbucks you'll ever see. It's a great place to socialize or stay late studying under the ambient light. Venture into town and you'll discover the popular local chain The Daily Grind. In Moscow, try Botticelli Espresso or the caf & eacute;/bakery at the excellent Moscow Food Co-op on Third Street.
Hard booze is en vogue once again, and downtown Spokane is loaded with happening joints specializing in your favorite spirits. Between Division and Monroe along Sprague and First alone there are no less than six spots for the 21-and-over set to check out -- but don't forget your designated driver. Starting at Bernard and travelling west, Outback Jack's features pool tables, DJ-driven tunage, dancing and the occasional live band, comedy or raunchy special event. Mootsy's is a friendly, unpretentious former oldtimers' hangout now populated by hippies, punks and everyone in between with live music on the weekends and its own locally brewed beer (the one with the mock-Campbell's Soup tap handle). Nightlifers pack The Satellite on a routine basis for its decent chow and "see and be seen" atmosphere. A similar though slightly more relaxed mood permeates Gabby's, where the conversation can get pretty riotous and the drinks are pretty stiff. Nearby is Hill's Someplace Else, a cozy, slightly seedy throwback to the glory days of lounge culture. Up the street is the Blue Spark, another great watering hole, whose kitschy modern d & eacute;cor only adds to the frenetic energy found among the pub's clients.
If you're satisfied with beer and wine only, by all means seek out the casual and inviting Elk Public House in Browne's Addition and Spokane's import brew mecca, The Viking, just north of Boone on Stevens.
And we don't even need to tell you that in Pullman, The Coug is where all crimson-and-gray vortexes originate.
Dancing Like a Fool
For dancing till last call, try Thirsty's on North Division, Havana's at The Ram or Dempsey's on First downtown (where it's certainly okay to be gay).
If pool is your game, I've got a couple of recommendations for ya. For a relaxed atmosphere with great food, a friendly staff and a kick-ass beer selection, try Far West Billiards on First and Monroe. For a much rowdier time, Fast Eddie's on Division and Spokane Falls might be just the ticket.
Live Music by Fellow Humans
Live original music struggles in Spokane but can be found fairly consistently at a few choice clubs, including Mootsy's, the Blue Spark, the Quarterhorse, The Shop and Spokane's bastion of hard-rocking rock, Ichabod's North on Division and Indiana. In Coeur d'Alene, check out Capone's quality acts and fantastic brew selection.
John's Alley is a venerable old drinking establishment in Moscow; look for the dated alley cat sign and come on in for live music and a genuine tavern experience.
How can you be with karaoke everywhere? This spring, our readers chose Peking North as the best place in the Inland Northwest to get up and try out the pipes.
Look, its kinda dorky, but c'mon, admit it, bowling is fun. And at Lilac Lanes, with its state-of-the-art technology and dance-club atmosphere (especially at night, when the lights go down and the music goes up), it isn't exactly your old man's game anymore. For a more traditional 10-pin experience, check into the venerable Colonial Bowl on East Boone or North Bowl on West Sinto. -- MC
On the cheap
So you just can't take another day of cafeteria hall cuisine? Well, have no fear, bunkie. Inexpensive, youth-oriented eateries spring up around college campuses like chanterelle mushrooms after a fall frost. David's Pizza is a favorite with both the Gonzaga students living in its immediate surroundings and the rest of Spokane. In the same neighborhood is Sonic Burrito, whose massive, tortilla-wrapped parcels can fill a hungry student for several consecutive meals.
In the Whitworth area, we know Didier's to be a reliable place for a quick soup, sandwich or frozen yogurt fix. And Fat Daddy's Pizza by Albertson's is making some tasty pies.
For fast food, slip past all the national chains and opt instead for a Papa Joe or the fish and chips at Zip's, especially if you're out in Cheney.
Tastes like home
Sometimes nothing transmits the comfort and safety of dinner with Mom and Dad like a big ol' plate of diner fare. And if you're feeling the lonely and peckish pangs of homesickness, you're in luck because Spokane is positively studded with cozy joints like Frank's and Knight's, Spokane's two railroad diner cars (one's downtown near Browne's Addition; the other's up north on Market Street). Whether it's eggs Benedict, huge mountains of hash browns or a good old-fashioned hamburger you're cravin', they'll get you fixed up in no time.
The Wall Street Diner just opened a month or two ago, but we're already hearing that their hot turkey sandwiches, retro look and welcoming breakfast menu are worth a visit. Finally, we must tout the restorative virtues of a fresh-from-the-oven donut, especially if you're with a group of friends at Donut Parade, a funky little donut shop on North Hamilton that has never seen the well-meaning hands of a renovation staff. And that's just what we like about it.
And can we just say that a place that calls itself The Breakfast Club and serves its namesake meal until 2 pm every day has already kind of won us over? We discovered this place in Moscow on a recent visit and were impressed with how this one-time clubby lounge has become a friendly breakfast hangout. Try the huckleberry pancakes or a Denver omelet and marvel at all the homespun folksy touches.
If you want to explore the backroads of the Palouse, check out The Dusty Caf & eacute; in Dusty, Wash., which has been immortalized in song by one of our favorite local bands, Wylie and the Wild West Show.
places to impress your date
This is a tricky category, in that you don't want to spend several hundred dollars at dinner, but you also want to pick a place that's got an inventive menu and great atmosphere. One of our favorites, Quinn's, enjoys close proximity to the Met and the Fox, but even if you're not catching a bite before or after a play, you'll dig the leopard print and dim lighting along with the rosemary chicken soup. Just down the street is Fugazzi, a colorful, chic and inventive restaurant adjoined by their gorgeous, sophisticated lounge, Cavallino's.
Up north, not too far from Whitworth, we've found Bella Union Bistro to offer some amazingly substantial salads, which, with a glass of wine, are an excellent way to start off the evening.
In Moscow, if you're wanting something upscale with a nice wine list, let us recommend The Red Door. And if you're up for the drive down to Dayton, Wash., you can sample some of the best French cuisine in Washington state at Patit Creek.
parents' weekend destinations
Heh heh heh... now's the time to fill your empty belly in style and impress the folks with your new town's eating establishments. Best of all, you know you're not picking up the check. Excellent! Clinkerdagger's is housed in the Flour Mill and offers a near unrivaled view of the falls. Try their prime rib, or maybe some artichoke heart and dungeness crab dip. Shenanigan's also has a nice view of the river, this time on the south bank and alongside the Centennial Trail. It's a great bet for Sunday brunch or a hearty dinner.
If you want to go all-out, Jadwin's at the Kempis Hotel just reopened with a new name and a new contemporary menu, or else consider Spokane's great mainstay, Patsy Clark's. Housed in an opulent turn-of-the-century mansion in Browne's Addition, Patsy Clark's excels in the kind of Sunday brunch that will have Mom talking about it for weeks. -- SB
Walking, Hiking, Biking
Close to town, there are many popular hiking areas and even more that are off the beaten path. The Centennial Trail, which runs from Spokane to Coeur d'Alene, is an obvious all-around good choice for getting out and biking/walking/running/skating/whatever. For a slightly wilder hike, with eerie basalt formations around every turn, wooded areas and great rock climbing, seek out Riverside State Park. Upstream is the Bowl and Pitcher, another fine spot for a hike or picnic. Out near Dishman-Mica Road in the Spokane Valley is the fantastic Dishman Hills Natural Area.
Tubbs Hill is the top spot in Coeur d'Alene. Not far from Pullman is Palouse Falls State Park. And in the warmer months, students in the Palouse like to hit the beaches along the Snake River.
We've got that -- and lots of it, all within about a two-hour drive, starting with the Mt. Spokane resort just a short hop north of town. Further on, near the town of Chewelah, is 49 Degrees North. Across the border in North Idaho near Sandpoint is Schweitzer, the top pick in our recent Readers' Poll. The community of Kellogg, Idaho, is home to a fine ski resort as well in the form of Silver Mountain, which boasts the world's longest gondola ride. And Lookout Pass is always first to open and a favorite among snowboarders. -- MC