In a landscape of fertile rolling hills on the Idaho-Washington boundary, Moscow is the county seat of Latah County and the home of the University of Idaho, founded in the early 1890s.
The city has a cozy downtown with historic brick buildings from the turn of the 20th century and lots of community events, like a weekly farmers’ market spring through fall, and a bustling artwalk in June.
As you would expect, the University of Idaho plays an important role in the city’s cultural, social and sporting life, and many of the attractions in this list are connected to this institution in some way.
The surrounding Palouse landscape of rambling hills decked with wheat fields, can be explored on two paved rail trails, heading out east and west of the city.
1. University of Idaho Arboretum & Botanical Garden
The loveliest feature of the university campus’ verdant grounds is the UI Arboretum & Botanical Garden.
You’ll find it in 63 acres, just south of the President’s Residence and the university’s golf course, with undulating Palouse hills in the background.
Open to the public with free admission, the arboretum was laid out on a former hayfield in the early-1980s, although its origins go back way before, to the early 20th century.
In fact you can check out the site of the first arboretum, planted in the 1910s with majestic specimen trees, including a giant sequoia, on the north side of the President’s Residence.
As for the “new” arboretum, this counts more than 17,000 plants from over 2,400 taxa, mostly organized into geographical regions, including Europe, Asia and Eastern and Western North America.
On the south end are exquisite display gardens for xerophytes, ornamental willows, irises and heather, as well as a butterfly garden, magical in summer.
2. Latah Trail
Twelve miles long, this paved trail will take you east from Moscow all the way to the neighboring city of Troy.
The Latah Trail was completed in 2008 and is on the course of a dismantled BNSF railroad line that junctioned at Arrow, some 30 miles to the southeast.
The path is ten feet wide, allowing plenty of space for walkers and cyclists in summer, and snowshoers and cross-country skiers after snowfall in winter.
As this is a rail trail there are no difficult slopes but you’ll be guaranteed breathtaking panoramas of the Palouse, with tilled slopes interspersed with sweeps of coniferous forest.
In Moscow the Latah Trail merges seamlessly with the Paradise Path, in turn connecting with the Bill Chipman Palouse Trail, which we’ll talk about below.
3. Appaloosa Museum and Heritage Center
The Appaloosa, identified by its colorful spotted coat, is a horse breed synonymous with the Palouse region, so it’s fitting that there should be a museum for it, right on the Idaho-Washington state line.
The museum shines a light on a variety of topics, like the history of spotted horses in art and literature, Appaloosas’ various coat patterns, and the importance of Appaloosas to the native Nez Perce people.
Display cases are loaded with interesting objects, from saddles to black and white photography and Native American artifacts. There’s also a hands-on area to keep children engaged, as well as a theater and an extensive library.
4. Moscow Farmers’ Market
Taking place on Saturdays, 9 am to 1 pm, May through October, Moscow Farmers’ Market is now well into its fifth decade.
Right on Main Street, this is a celebration of the Moscow area’s farmers, artisans and musicians, giving them an opportunity to connect with the city’s residents and visitors.
For shoppers interested in food provenance the market is a chance to find out where your produce comes from and pick up tips about storage and preparation.
There’s a wide range of vendors for vegetables, fruit, plants, flowers, local grass-fed meat, pastries, honey, jams, cosmetics, home decorations, hand-forged knives and much more.
The market has live music most weeks, as well as freshly prepared food, from tacos to samosas.
5. Bill Chipman Palouse Trail
Following the right of way of the old Union Pacific Railroad, the Bill Chipman Palouse Trail runs west from Moscow, crossing the state line and taking you to Pullman, Washington.
Pullman is the home of the flagship campus for Washington State University, the second-largest institution of higher education in the state.
Seven miles long, the trail, paved all the way, carries you through bucolic Palouse scenery, parallel to State Route 270.
There’s a shallow gradient, and you’ll come across rest areas and interpretive signs along the route. And while the landscapes are gorgeous, the trail also has an important practical use as a commuter route for cyclists between the two university campuses.
6. Prichard Art Gallery
This outreach facility for the University of Idaho is located in downtown Moscow, and moved to its current location on Main Street in 1986.
The Prichard Art Gallery has a lively schedule of exhibitions, events and educational programming, receiving upwards of 17,000 visitors a year.
You can check out the creativity of members of the Idaho College of Art and Architecture, as well as temporary exhibits for local, regional, national and international artists in a whole spectrum of media.
The exhibits rotate at short intervals, so there’s always something fresh to see, while the gift shop sells unique pieces by artists and craftspeople from the area.
7. McConnell Mansion
On leafy Adams Street, a couple of blocks east of Main Street, stands the palatial W. J. McConnell House.
In a Stick/Eastlake style, this elegant residence was built in 1886 for William J. McConnell (1839-1925), who served as Governor of Idaho from 1893 to 1897, after previously representing the young state as one of its first United States Senators.
The mansion is the headquarters of the Latah County Historical Society, and you can take a look around a series of themed period rooms, featuring authentic furnishings and appliances.
The society also puts on fascinating exhibits and learning events, often in partnership with the University of Idaho and always well worth attending.
8. Colter’s Creek Winery
The rolling country south of Moscow has everything you need to make great wine, and in 2016 the Lewis-Clark Valley gained official AVA (American Viticultural Area) designation.
Colter’s Creek has a storefront and tasting room in Moscow, growing its grapes on the sunny slopes where the Potlatch flows into the Clearwater River.
Planted between the 1980s and 2010s these vineyards produce a wide variety of grapes, running the gamut from Riesling to Cabernet Sauvignon, for local handcrafted wines that have earned widespread acclaim.
The stylish Moscow tasting room is in Main Street’s Hattabaugh building, constructed in 1890, and has a choice of estate wines on tap. Wine tasting classes take place regularly, to help you tell a Sangiovese from a Tempranillo.
9. Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre
On the National Register of Historic Places, this fine old Spanish Revival cinema has a history going back to 1926, and was founded as a vaudeville stage and silent movie house.
The current tiled facade, in a pared-down Art Deco style, has been in place since 1949, and up to the late-1980s this was downtown Moscow’s main movie theater.
Since 2000, the venue has belonged to the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre, which carried out thorough renovations in the 2010s. Come for classic, independent and foreign films, as well as a variety of community stage performances and other events.
10. Hamilton-Lowe Aquatics Center
Summers in Moscow wouldn’t be the same without this public outdoor pool, splash pad and water park, open June through September.
If you want to get your laps in, the Hamilton-Lowe Aquatics Center has a 25-yard, six-lane pool.
Meanwhile parents can bring children to the extensive play area, which features a toddler-friendly slide, tumble buckets, interactive equipment, slides for bigger kids and a small lazy river.
The center also has picnic tables, barbecues, lounge chairs and free Wi-Fi, as well as a full-service concession area, though you’re free to bring your own food.
11. Idaho Vandals
The 16,000-seater multipurpose arena, Kibbie Dome is home field for several of the University of Idaho’s sports teams, all called the Idaho Vandals.
So depending on the time of year you can catch pulsating football, basketball (men and women), soccer (women), tennis and indoor track and field at this venue.
The Kibbie Dome was completed in 1971 as an open-air stadium, and was given its barrel-vaulted roof in 1975.
The football team competes in the Big Sky Conference in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), returning in 2016 after 20 years bouncing around the Big West, Sun Belt and Western Athletic Conferences.
The Vandals’ golden age came between 1985 and 1995 when it reached the I-AA playoffs in ten out of 11 seasons.
If you’re wondering about the name, “Vandals”, it goes back more than a century, when UI’s feared basketball team played defense with such ferocity that they were dubbed the Vandals by the famous coach Hec Edmundson (1886-1964).
12. Ghormley Park
Bordered on the south side by Paradise Creek, Ghormley Park is the favorite destination for family fun and outdoor recreation in summer.
The park covers just over ten acres, a large section of which is in the shade of tall, mature trees.
This is where you’ll find the picnic shelter, fitted with BBQ grills, as well as a children’s playground.
Elsewhere there are amenities for baseball/softball, basketball and horseshoes. You can use the Paradise Trail, which traces the creek and connects a number of green spaces in Moscow, to get onto the Latah Trail on the east side of the city and the Bill Chipman Trail in the west.
13. Palouse Ice Rink
You can hit the ice at this popular local rink on the southeast side of town. Resembling an aircraft hangar, the Palouse Ice Rink has a temporary look about it, and when we wrote this article was making strides raising money for a permanent complex.
There are regular public skate sessions early in the day, after school and in the evening, and skate rental is reasonably priced.
Also on the schedule are casual stick-n-puck sessions, pick-up hockey, drop-in late-night curling, league curling, Palouse Adult League Hockey and much more. Check the calendar for learn-to-skate sessions.
14. Moscow Artwalk
Beginning back in 2004, the Moscow Artwalk is a landmark on the Palouse calendar. On one Friday evening in June, more than 60 businesses and 100 artists around downtown participate in a vibrant cultural and artistic event.
Moscow Artwalk brings exhibitions of a wide variety, as well as live demonstrations by artists, workshops, live music, dance performances and food vendors, on Main Street and its intersecting streets.
You can take in this cultural feast on a self-guided trail, and there’s a passport system, with six stamps making you eligible for a prize draw. And if you miss something, many of the participating businesses also have Saturday hours.
15. Fondo on the Palouse
The foundation responsible for the Latah Trail organizes this cycling event, normally staged on the last Saturday in June.
Fondo on the Palouse takes you out into the beautiful rolling Palouse landscape on a variety of group bike rides, all setting off from Moscow.
The Family Fondo is a 15-mile route from Moscow to Troy. If you want something longer but want to stay away from road traffic, there’s a 50-mile ride along the Latah and Bill Chipman Palouse Trails.
And finally the grand Moscow Fondo is a 100-mile tour of the region, passing through Troy, Deary, Princeton and Potlatch, crossing the state line to Pullman and Colfax, WA, before returning to Moscow.