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Sun and scenery in Spokane, Wash.

Photos courtesy Spokane Regional CVB

The natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest goes hand in hand with a hip urban aesthetic in Spokane, a city in eastern Washington that enjoys 260 days of sunshine each year. With historic neighborhoods, farming villages, river rapids and modern attractions all within easy reach, the city offers abundant activities to keep youth groups busy for a long weekend.

With so much sunshine and so little time, make the most of things, and visit some of the great attractions in Spokane’s great outdoors

Park it downtown

An oasis in the center of the city, the 100-acre Riverfront Park has natural wonders and man-made marvels. The Spokane River runs through the park to Spokane Falls, which visitors can admire from above as they pass over it on a ride in a glass gondola. Youth will also enjoy sliding down the handle of the 26-foot-long Radio Flyer wagon model in the park. Other attractions include minigolf, outdoor ice skating and an IMAX theater.

The river road

The Spokane River and its tributaries create great outdoor recreational opportunities for groups in the area. The river runs right through the heart of downtown, which means that visitors can canoe or kayak from the heart of the city to sites such as Indian Painted Rocks, where ancient pictographs were left by former inhabitants. Another option is the Centennial Trail, which follows the river for 37 miles to the Idaho border and is ideal for hiking or biking.

Courtesy Cat Tales

Lion + tiger = liger

Napoleon Dynamite was right after all; cross-breed a lion and a tiger and you get a “liger,” an extremely rare animal found only in captivity. Visitors can see one of the few ligers in North America at Cat Tales Zoological Park, which is home to more than 42 exotic and endangered large cats. Tours take groups within feet of pumas, lynx, leopards, lions, tigers and other cats that live at the park, and participants learn about how zookeepers feed and care for the cats and dozens of other animals on site.

Pitching produce

Vegetables literally fall from the sky during the autumn at some of the orchards and farms near Spokane. Knapp’s on Green Bluff uses a large hydraulic cannon for “pumpkin chunkin’” during autumn weekends, shooting pumpkins into a field more than a quarter-mile away. Nearby Walters’ Fruit Ranch uses a “corn cannon” to launch ears of corn into the sky. Both facilities also offer tours, tastings and other harvest celebration activities.

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.