Questions about Spokane (Seattle, South Hill, Liberty Lake: to rent, townhouses, teaching jobs)
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We are thinking of moving to Spokane. On paper, it looks like the perfect city for us. I am looking for some information on neighborhoods and schools. I have 3 kids, ages 6, 3, and 1. I would love any advice or suggestions you have for me!
What would a 4 bedroom, 2 bath home cost to purchase? to rent?
Which neighborhoods are considered good family neighborhoods with strong schools?
Are there any good neighborhoods intown that would be good for a family - one where you could walk to shops, restaurants, parks, etc?
How is Spokane for bicycling?
Do you have kindergarten or preK funded by the state? And is kindergarten full or 1/2 day?
Spokane has lots of great family areas and is well known for having good schools and lots of community/family activities. You can buy a 4BD/2BA home for $150,000 and up - depending on condition and size. Some homes are small but will have bedrooms in the basement that are usable. In public schools, kindergarten is 1/2 day usually with an option for after school care, if parents work. If you write back to me on my email, I will send you a link to several helpful Spokane websites, including all the school districts, so you can learn more about the area. I have 3 kids, all teenagers now, but we moved here from FL in 1998 and my youngest started kindergarten here and is now in 8th grade. Yikes! Am I really that old? Anyway, I think you and your family will love living here - there are so many caring, fun, involved families here. If you want to be able to walk to shops and restaurants, you'll want to be either on the South Hill, or north side close to the main roads. Spokane is spread out but you can drive from one side of town to the other in about 1/2 hour, depending on time of day and the route you travel. All roads are numbered in blocks NS and EW measured from Sprague, which runs east/west and Division that runs north/south. Hope this helps!
We lived in Spokane for 3.5 years and there are a lot of really good things about the city, especially for a young family. School District 81 is not so good, had friends whose children had been through the system and had trouble getting services, response, etc. My kids were in special ed pre-k in East Valley SD and it was a simply awesome district to deal with.
Spokane is a fairly inexpensive place to live, we rented a really big duplex for $650 a month, with 4bds 2ba and about 1900SF in a nice area in the Valley...we also rented a similar house, which was admittedly very nice, but for $1000/mo. That's high for the area, though. The area is kind of depressed, with unemployment being high, so you want to make sure you have secured employment before you come. We moved there for hubby's job, so that wasn't an issue for us (I was SAHM), but it might be for some.
We found Spokane to be rather boring as far as any form of night life was concerned. We had small kids and almost NEVER went out, but would have liked some fun places to go on the few occasions we did. What's in Spokane is basically it, it not like there's a big city a few hours away or anything. Seattle is far away. There are a lot of great parks in the city, though, and lots of great "nature" things to do in the area and beyond. Really, it's a good place for kid-friendly activities and has more culture than you might expect considering where it's at.
Forget finding any decent places to eat. Say good-bye to restaurants. There is one good restaurant in town, called Tomato Street, which is really yummy Italian in a fun, loud, kid friendly environment. I'm not kidding...the only edible mexican is at chain restaurants and the quality is not the same as those chains elsewhere. There is NO edible chinese food. The only time I have ever literally gotten sick from the way food tasted was at the chinese restaurant that locals all said was the "best". Don't take restaurant advice from locals, ask a transplant, trust me.
What really made us want to leave, and it was hard for me as it really IS a nice place to raise your kids, was the weather. The winters are just soooo long and yucky and cold. I'm from California, but hubby is a New Yorker and he couldn't hack the length of the winters either. The days are sooo short and so dark for about 6-8 months of the year it seems. Summer, however, is absolutely lovely.
All in all, I would definitely NOT warn you away from Spokane. It is a good place to raise your kids and if the negatives that I mentioned don't matter so much to you, you'll probably love it. There are lots of Stay At Home Moms and moms interested in playgroups. There are lots of home-schoolers as well. It's easy to meet other parents with kids your age. I found the town to be very family-oriented. It's a larger city with a small-town sort of feel.
There is a fairly new YMCA in the Valley which is extremely nice and a good place to have fun with your family, swim (big waterslide, heated, indoors) in the winter or summer and meet people at the same time. Very big and clean and one of the things I missed most about leaving, surprisingly enough. The Y's here in the south are all nasty and old *sigh*
I would reccomend Spokane Valley. Liberty Lake is also a really nice community, though it's a bit more expensive. South Hill is nice, but scared me in the winter (big, steep hill in the snow, yikes). A lot of people like the Mead area, but the traffic into town was kind of yucky and it just takes a lot longer to get into town from there. Stay away from Airway Heights and Downtown areas.
I must respectfully disagree with the last poster-- there are lots and lots of great places to eat in Spokane, you just have to know where to go. I grew up there and have since lived in Seattle and San Francisco-- and love to eat at diverse and exciting resturaunts. There is an awesome Vietnamese place, great Thai resturaunts, a much-improving sushi scene, and a good italian resturaunt downtown. There are also lots of indian food places, greek places, organic/ local bistros, and TONS of Chinese places. If you like chains there is also an olive garden, a tomato street, a brand-new PF Changs, and lots of others. The best local mexican is Rancho Chico and it is AUTHENTIC and really great. A popular food blog for Spokane is www.remi1000.com . the best place to check out resturaunt reveiews is at the Inlander's website. The Inlander is Spokane's "alternative" weekly press, although it is pretty mainstream compared to similar publications in Seattle, San Francisco and New York. They have a great list of resturaunt reviews and descriptions online: www.inlander.com . I am currently in Seattle getting a master's degree in urban planning but my boyfriend and I are planning on returning to Spokane as soon as we are done with school and can get good jobs there (that is the biggest issue). I am really dreaming of helping out in the rennaissance Spokane is currently experiencing. Downtown spokane has gone through a great revitalization and there is a brand-new 77 acre neighborhood going in called Kendall Yards-- townhouses, walkability, etc. etc. As for schools, I went to Mead schools which are north of town, but I had plenty of friends who went to district 81 schools and had a great experience. The best district 81 high schools are Lewis and Clark and Ferris-- they are on the south hill. Mead is also great-- very high quality education-- but basically no diversity, everyone is white, upper middle class suburbian up north. When I move back I will most likely buy a house someplace south, preferrably in the LC school district, because i want my future children to be exposed to diversity and culture. Compared to lots of places in the country, the public schools are very strong and teaching jobs are EXTREMELY competitive-- everyone wants to teach in Spokane, so the teaching quality is very high. I also ski raced competitively in high school and missed lots of school-- my friends at LC and I all had very communicative teachers who supported our lack of attendance due to competition.
The outdoor activities are plentiful-- I helped launch a local bike shop the last time I was home and became very involved in the bicycling community, and it is not great yet but it has a lot of momentum. There are 3 different areas to mountain bike within city limits and the Centennial Trail, which runs through downtown, is a paved trail that runs all the way into Idaho past Couer d' Alene (over 50 miles of trail)
If you want any sort of walkability in your lifestyle, then the South Hill, especially the South Perry district, is a great place to be-- or in the new Kendall Yards neighborhood, although it will be pricey, and may not be best for families, especially if you want a big yard. If you live in the Valley or up North you will be doing a lot of driving, but you will have lots more space at your disposal-- bigger lot sizes, etc. etc. overall it is an awesome place and feel freel to email me privately if you want more information-- I am a huge spokane advocate so let my bias be known now. Best of luck with your decision!
I heartily agree with you Meg. There is a lot more to do here than most people realize. There are many good restaurants in all price ranges, lots of clubs, a vibrant downtown, great live music scene, etc. It's got a perfect balance of family activities, adult time, outdoor fun and many types of homes and neighborhoods for your private "at home" time. Spokane - near nature, near perfect!
Thanks so much! I appreciate your responses. Do you have any info on the proposed rail system? Do most people support it? Are there any bike paths, lanes, etc? How about access to organic products, farmers markets, etc?
Lots of farmers markets and organic gardeners around here. Gardening seems to be one of the top hobbies for Spokane area folks. The Centennial Trail is the longest bike path - about 40 miles worth from Idaho to Nine Mile Falls WA (just NW of Spokane). There are bike lanes on some of the major roads too. You should check out the Spokane Mountaineers - they're a group of outdoor enthusiasts who walk, bike, hike in all different areas of town. Lots of mountain biking and other bicycle groups, too. I'm not one of them but I do see lots of them riding around.
I used to live in Montana (Missoula and Kalispell) and used to visit Spokane and CDA pretty often during that time ('95-2001). Loved it and came close to moving there. Ended up near Denver, though.
Interesting thread cuz we (wife and 2 kids) are strongly considering moving to Spokane/CDA area, leaning toward South Hills area. I have been there several times (SH), but never paid attention to how the streets/sidewalks were set up as far as running/biking. Can you access the trail systems directly from SH? (ie-leave directly from your house on foot/bike)
I remember the downtown area was a bit run down looking, realize thats not at all indicative of everything but does it still look rundown from I-90? In general, does it still have the same feel as when I was there?
Also, I actually do not miss the grey cloud that seems to lasts from May to June. Anyone there who could hopefully convince me that its better than Kalispell? I realize its still there, but I have grown quite fond of the 300 days of sunshine here in Denver.
Oopps. I ment the grey cloud that seems to last from OCT to June (the grey weather)
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