August, 2011

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Party at the Farm! Tis the Season for Green Bluff

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Thorson’s Country Farm and Nursery

You don’t have to go far from the city to experience some good old fashioned farm fun. Just 20 minutes north of Spokane, at Green Bluff, you can pick your own delicious peaches, apples, and other produce in season (or buy them already harvested), take a free wagon ride, taste local wine, listen to live music, have a picnic with lunch and snack items from one of several places, tour some farms, and entertain the kids at numerous play areas. The scenic area is at the foothills of Mt. Spokane.

If you haven’t tasted just-picked Green Bluff peaches and apples, you are in for a treat! Local, farm fresh produce is a world away from the usual grocery store fare and may inspire you to try new recipes and cooking methods. A great website with recipes for natural, healthy cooking that really highlights farm fresh food is At My Kitchen Table. Pictures with the steps make the recipes easy to follow.

The Green Bluff Growers, founded in 1902, is an association of small farms and food stands. In two driving loops, you can visit over 30 farms and stands with an abundance of locally grown and manufactured food. In addition to extremely fresh fruits and vegetable, you will find gifts, alpaca yarn and wool goods, frozen Italian meals, candy, honey, jams, pies, and much more.

Each farm is a little different, and food and entertainment offerings vary by season. Although many farms are open on weekdays, most of the entertainment only happens on weekends. Some farms are closed on Sundays. Check the website to see what is happening at each farm. There are several big festivals at Green Bluff—currently, farmers are celebrating the August Peach Festival on weekends through Labor Day as it is prime soft fruit season. Next up is the September Apple Harvest Festival, when you can pick up some of the best chunky applesauce and fresh pressed apple cider you’ll ever taste. In the fall, pumpkin picking and corn mazes are always popular, and you can even come back for a Christmas tree in the winter. A Sanctuary Bed and Breakfast, on 11 wooded acres at the gateway to Green Bluff, offers the option of a retreat without travelling far from Spokane.

Parking is available and free; expect the roads to be crowded on weekends, but with over 30 farms, lines are generally short. Click here for directions. Green Bluff is great for anyone who loves fresh food, and it is a great family outing, with plenty for kids to do. Each farm sets its own hours; check the farm locator page for details. Click here for a map that shows what each farm offers.

All the Food and Free Music You Can Handle: Pig Out in the Park 2011

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

For six days, August 31–September 5, Riverfront Park in downtown Spokane will be filled with 48 food booths (225 menu items), three adult beverage gardens, and three stages that will host 82 free concerts. Pig Out in the Park, now in its 32nd year, brings dozens of great bands from near and far to perform on outdoor stages without charging any admission fees, raising the $320,000 needed to put on this year’s event through sponsorships, restaurant participation fees, and support from over 385 local businesses.

MarchFourth Marching Band

This year’s headliners are Marcy Playground, Charlie Musselwhite, Too Slim, Leon Russell, Carbon Leaf, and MarchFourth Marching Band. Pig Out in the Park will also showcase many local favorites, including Mon Cheri, Blue Ribbon Tea Company, and Hot Club of Spokane. Click here for a full schedule of bands.

 

Pig Out in the Park is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and the music starts at noon each day. You won’t run out of new kinds of food to try even if you eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the park, with everything from bacon-wrapped hot dogs to authentic Greek, Vietnamese, and Indian dishes. As Spokane’s largest cultural event, this is a golden opportunity to broaden your taste horizons for a decent price—the price cap for all items is $8.95. Picky kids (of all ages) will be happy to see plenty of tame options like Zip’s hamburgers, pizza, and of course funnel cakes.

Riverfront Park is always a fun place, and all the usual attractions will be running during Pig Out—IMAX Theatre, Looff Carrousel, Spokane Falls SkyRide, and Pavilion amusement rides. The day pass is the best deal at just $16.25 for unlimited amusement park rides and mini-golf plus one regular IMAX feature.

Getting there: As Pig Out is contained in the park, street closures are not an issue; however, this very popular event means close parking will be limited. If you drive, try to carpool and arrive as early as possible. In the afternoon, expect a healthy walk if parking on the street. Parking meters are free on Sunday and Labor Day. Buses will be running all weekend, including the Arena park-and-ride shuttle, but check schedules to make sure you don’t miss the last bus home! Bicycles are a great option for this event, with places in the park and surrounding businesses to lock up. Most concert seating is on the grass. Feel free to bring your own chairs and blankets, but keep in mind that wandering through the food booths can be a little tight for carrying bulky items, so think slim folding chairs and/or backpacks. See you there!

Low Fees, Great Views, and Easy Tee Times: Golfing in Spokane

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Qualchan Golf Course

Spokane boasts a number of scenic golf courses with prices that are lower than in other cities. There are a variety of options—public, private, and municipal—to choose from. This is not a comprehensive list and only includes 18-hole public courses in the immediate Spokane area. For a more comprehensive list, try GolfLink.

Spokane Parks and Recreation operates four golf courses: Downriver, Esmeralda, Indian Canyon, and Qualchan. Standard fees are $27–$29, $20 for Mon.–Thur. 9-hole, and $12–$22 for juniors (but see the $15 deal below!). If you plan on going several times, discount cards are available. By comparison, Seattle Parks and Recreation golf courses are $32 to $37 for standard rates.

Money-Saving Tip: Take advantage of the $15 August deal (golf cart rental $22) at the four Spokane Parks and Recreation Golf courses. The special is good at Esmeralda Mondays 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Downriver Sundays 2 p.m. to dusk and Mondays 1 p.m. to dusk, Indian Canyon Sundays and Mondays 1 p.m. to dusk, and Qualchan Sundays and Mondays 2 p.m. to dusk. Call pro-shop for tee times.

Downriver

Built in 1916, this heavily treed 18-hole course lies along the Spokane River and is bordered by Riverside State Park, a natural area with great hiking, fishing, and bicycling opportunities. To schedule a tee time, call 509-327-5269.

Esmeralda

Excellent for seniors and beginners, this northeast Spokane course offers open space and flat fairways lined with over 2,000 trees. Call 509-487-6291 for tee times.

Indian Canyon

This place, designed in 1930, has been selected by Golf Digest as one of the top 25 public courses in the U.S. You can enjoy a view of the city among towering pines from the west entrance of Spokane while enjoying a diverse playing environment that hosts many major tournaments, including the Rosauers Open. Call 509-747-5353 for tee times.

Qualchan

Spokane’s newest golf course, Qualchan sits in a natural setting that is a sanctuary to many protected birds and wildlife species. A creek meanders through the course, and there are five ponds, wooded and hilly areas, and beautiful open areas. Call 509-448-9317 for tee times.

Hangman Valley (Spokane County operated) is a public municipal golf course along Spokane’s lovely Latah Creek. The same low standard fees as at the Spokane Parks and Recreation golf courses (see above) apply here; discount cards are available, and through the end of August, tee times after 3 p.m. are 20% off.

Wandermere opened in 1929 and is located in the peaceful Little Spokane River Valley just north of Spokane off Highway 395. This scenic course offers some of the most challenging golf in the area. Standard fees are $25–$29 or $19 for 9-hole on weekdays. Punch cards are available for a slightly discounted price. Call 509-466-8023 for tee times.

Sun Dance is a challenging and rewarding course in Nine Mile Falls, just twelve miles from the center of Spokane. Standard fee is $24. Call 509-466-4040 for tee times.

The Fairways is located ten minutes west of downtown Spokane just off of I-90. Here you can play through natural wetlands and native grasses, with panoramic views of the surrounding hill country, making it an excellent place to be around sunset. Standard rates are $17–$27. Call 509-747-8418 for tee times, or reserve online.

With beautiful Spokane weather and numerous great choices for affordable golfing, you may just want to take a golf mini-vacation and get away from home for a couple of days. If you do, be sure to check out Stratford Suites’ beautiful rooms with full kitchens, leather furniture, pillow top mattresses, and 52” hi-def. televisions. Located minutes from downtown Spokane, close to the airport with easy freeway access, Stratford Suites Hotel is perfect for your getaway.