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Spokane

Washington's second-biggest population center (edging out Tacoma by about 5000 people) is situated at the nexus of the Pacific Northwest's 'Inland Empire,' on the banks of the Spokane River. It's home to the impressive Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture, which mounts thoughtful, world-class exhibitions on regional subjects, from paintings of the arctic wilderness to Native American beadwork to prints and sculptures by Inuit artists. There's also Gonzaga University, the 1974 World's Fair site, and a dramatic waterfall right in the middle of a well-preserved historic downtown core. There are plenty of rough edges left, but a patient visitor can find a lot of surprising beauty and charm in this oft-maligned city.

Spokane was also the childhood home of crooner Bing Crosby; a museum and theater bear his name, and the Historic Davenport Hotel has display cases of Crosby memorabilia in its lobby.

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