PharmD students’ top 10 things to do in Spokane —winter edition

This is the cozy view you get when studying in the Spokane Academic Center. The high ceilings, cafe, and book store make it the perfect place for students to meet up for a study session.

By Elina Schmauch, class of 2025

When I first moved to Spokane, I had no idea how to spend my free time. In my opinion, Spokane is best tackled in seasons since winter and summer are two varying degrees of intensity. For this winter I narrowed down a long list of fun winter activities from WSU student pharmacists to these 10:

Going up the ski lift at Lookout Pass Ski & Recreation Area.
1. Skiing at Lookout Pass Ski & Recreation Area

Did you know that Lookout has a discounted student pass for $159 dollars for the ENTIRE season? Whether you ski, snowboard, or are just starting out on the bunny hills, Lookout Pass has become one of the favorites of WSU pharmacy students due to its convenient location and affordable price. Lookout Pass is about an hour and half drive from WSU Spokane. If you’re looking to get into winter sports and need to buy some gear, Shred Sports in Spokane has the most helpful and knowledgeable staff! Of course, Facebook marketplace or Ebay has been a favorite to find gear on what I call a “student budget.”

2. Ice Skating at the Numerica Skate Ribbon at Riverfront Spokane

I can’t ice skate to save my life, but the people at the skate ribbon definitely can! While I’m still using the baby-walker, feel free to zip past me and say hello! The skate ribbon is the best ice ‘rink’ I have ever seen, and it’s located in Riverfront Park near downtown Spokane so grabbing a bite to eat after you’ve worked up an appetite from skating is almost necessary. You can rent skates, or bring your own, just make sure to dress warm! This has been described as a fun lighthearted group activity, and great to bring your entire family as well!

3. River Park Square Mall

I go to the mall to seek shelter from the elements while satisfying my window shopping desires! Not to mention there’s a huge AMC theatre on the top floor and after a long exam week kicking my feet up in a recliner chair and devouring a large popcorn is just about all I need. Also, I don’t know how many people are as obsessed with Ben & Jerry’s ice cream as I am, but there’s a Ben & Jerry’s stand that calls your name as you walk to the escalator for the movies. Going to the movies alone has become something that I actually enjoy doing—being in pharmacy school and constantly surrounded by your peers means sometimes you just need a little ‘you’ time!

My friend and fellow classmate Grace Rogers on the main thoroughfare in Coeur d’Alene (CDA). Though it’s known as one of the most beautiful places to visit in the summer, CDA has become known for one of the largest holiday light shows in the country.
4. All Things Coeur D’Alene

Coeur D’Alene (CDA) is a resort town next to one of the biggest lakes in the Pacific Northwest. It’s about a 35–40 minute drive from downtown Spokane, but it is definitely worth the travel. During the winter there are these amazing igloo pods that you can rent at the resort and if you can get a big enough group of people together it ends up not being too pricey. It would be a really fun bonding night for a cohort—plus the pods are heated! If you want to grab some dinner before the pods, my favorite restaurant to visit in CDA is Crafted. There are two sides of the restaurant. If everyone is over 21 you can seat yourself in the bar or you can grab a table inside of the restaurant. I cannot leave CDA without getting the gouda fondue sweet potato fries and I can promise that after you try them, you won’t be able to either!

5. Saranac Commons

The Saranac Commons is just a short walk from campus and has everything you need to warm up on a winter day! Saranac Commons is a large space containing six separate locally owned businesses. There is Black Label Brewing company, Café Affogato, Peace Pie Pizzeria, Parrish & Grove, and Stella’s Café. From pizza and sandwiches to grabbing a casual beer—whether you are stopping here for lunch with friends or enjoying lunch on your own—visiting Saranac Commons supports local businesses and provides a fun and lively atmosphere.

6. Cozy Study Spots

I have a few cafes in Spokane that are my go-tos for studying and a yummy lunch. First on my list is the Thomas Hammer Reserve on the South Hill—their WiFi is the fastest public Wi-Fi I have found in the city which is necessary for watching pre-class videos, and the vibes are immaculate. Second on my list is the Meeting House Café—my roommate and I can always find a big table to spread out our study materials here, and no one minds when we are shouting out answers when we are reviewing Kahoots (the gamified study platform our instructors put together) ! The third café I swear by is Ladder Coffee Roasters downtown—this place has the best food and coffee. I survive off of cold brew and this location has some of the best I have ever tried.

Just outside one of the reindeer farms in Leavenworth, Washington. During the winter months, it feels like you are being transported to a small European town with old world charm.
7. Leavenworth

Leavenworth is a small Bavarian town hidden in the middle of the mountains. I’ll admit, it is a few hours away, but you will feel like you’re stepping into a tiny German town. There are cider tastings, delicious mouthwatering giant pretzels (with cheese and mustard), sleigh rides, skiing, hiking and so much more! Whether you go for a day or a weekend, there is enough to do in this tiny town to make it feel like it is a true vacation. It’s also very dog friendly so feel free to bring your pup!

8. Frank’s Diner

Y’all… it’s a Spokane staple. Frank’s Diner is this small locally owned restaurant that is an old train car. Yes, train lovers, a real train car! A man by the name of Frank Knight took this ‘observation car’ and turned it into a diner way back in 1931, and the restaurant has been around ever since. Frank’s has earned just about every award you could win in the Spokane region, and they continue hanging up gold medals. This restaurant is frequented by many parents and students during their visits, and it is truly the gem of Spokane. Before you graduate, make sure you get a stack of pancakes from Frank’s!

9. Numerica SkyRide at Riverfront Spokane

I am from western Washington so I am not used to the couple of feet of snow in Spokane every year, but I have realized that an aerial view of a fresh blanket of snow is something everyone should see. The Numerica SkyRide offers an enclosed cabin where you ride through the air past Spokane falls and the Spokane river while riding through downtown. I hadn’t seen the Spokane falls before wandering into the park, and it is truly magnificent. Groups of 10 or more get to enjoy a 15% discount on their tickets, but if you’re riding solo its only about $13! If you want to be one with nature but not brave the elements, this is definitely a must do in Spokane.

10. WSU Spokane Campus

Okay, okay, I promise I’m not throwing this out there to appease some readers—I swear that campus is one of the most beautiful places in the wintertime. If you go up to the third floor of the Pharmaceutical Sciences Building (PSB) on campus, there are floor to ceiling windows showing more of an aerial view of campus, and no matter the season it is breathtaking. I have frequented the café on campus, the private study rooms in the library, and my friends and I often meet in classrooms to do larger study sessions together. The Wi-Fi is dependable, and the space can be quiet or a little more social depending on what you’re looking for. After you’re done hitting the books, it is easy to walk to any downtown restaurant to grab a bite to eat as well.

Whether you’re currently a student, a future student, or an alum, I strongly encourage you to seek out one new thing this semester. When I started pharmacy school I had no friends, no family, and no one remotely in the same area as me from undergrad. I had two choices: sulk or learn to take my life into my own hands. I explored, made friends in the process, and have continued to fall in love with Spokane. Someone great once told me, “Continue to do the things you love and are passionate about, and you will meet people who are passionate about the same things.”

It sounds simple, right? Wrong.

As a student, sometimes you forget that you are not just a student. Push yourself to stay passionate, learn new things, try new food, and do not forget that you are ultimately still you.

Signing off until next time.


Elina Schmauch is a second-year student pharmacist at the WSU Spokane campus. You can find her posting about her WSU doctor of pharmacy experience and perspectives on the @WSUPharmacy Instagram and TikTok channels.