Ritzville is a small town along Interstate 90 that makes for an interesting stretch-your-legs stop. The downtown area emphasizes its historic nature, and some interesting items are on display at the town’s train station. You’ll probably find that the town is quiet, but if you need a short break from the long haul across Washington, Ritzville provides a good excuse to stop.
The last time I was in Ritzville was in 2006, about 8 years prior to this visit. That time, just as this time, I needed a break from the monotony of the interstate, and I wanted to see a small town. Back then, a low-powered radio station broadcast an endless loop of advertisements for Ritzville, and after 20 minutes of listening while I was driving, I couldn’t resist the tease.
This time, I couldn’t find that radio station. Maybe they gave up on that marketing idea, which is a shame, because it sure worked on me.
After you leave the interstate and make your way downtown, one of the first things you may see is Philip Ritz, the town’s namesake. The town is filled with rough-cut metal sculptures like this one. You’ll get some idea of what Philip Ritz looked like, but some mystery remains.
Ritzville has the stuff you’d expect in a small town, like the Ritz Theater, which first opened in 1937. It’s still showing movies.
Here’s something you won’t find in a lot of towns: a Carnegie library. The Andrew Carnegie Foundation provided some cash to the town, back in the early 1900’s, that was used to get the fledgling library off the ground. The library now displays a local photograph collection, and other historical items from the area.
Walk over to the train tracks, and you’ll find an open-air museum of sorts. Various farming implements are on display, along with signs that explain their uses.
There’s also a nice water fountain feature, that has a bit of a leakage problem on windy days.
On the other side of the tracks, you’ll see this old gas station, just waiting to be restored.
Ritzville has some nice neon on display, such as this sign for the Whisperin’ Palms Restaurant…
… and several great old ghost signs. You’ll want to wander down some of Ritzville’s alleyways…
… to find old painted signs like these.
You can check out my visit to 2006 visit to Ritzville, to see more photos from the town. I also paid a visit to nearby Sprague, Washington during that trip, which I thought wasn’t quite as interesting.
The Bottom Line
A visit to Ritzville, Washington is by no means mandatory. But, it’s more interesting than your average small town, thanks to the effort that the town has put into its downtown district. So, if you’re looking for an excuse to stop, go see Mr. Ritz.
Ritzville is located along Interstate 90, about an hour southwest of Spokane. The downtown business district is just to the north of the interstate, and accessible by either exit 220 or 221.
Downtown centers around Main Avenue and Division Street. Northwest of town, Division Street becomes Rosenoff Road — a nice alternative to I-90 westbound for a few miles.
Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from Spokane to Ritzville: