As winter slowly releases its grip on the Northwest, put away the heavy sweaters, wool socks and just-in-case snow gear and prepare for spring. It’s the perfect time to plan for a family getaway. Hawaii? Mexico? The Caribbean? That fun in the sun is a plane ride and a TSA tango away, so why not find outdoor adventure nearby? Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is the perfect close destination this spring, so pack the family up and drive, or even fly, east to this recreational region.
A (Brief) History of the Heart
Lake Coeur d’Alene is the heart of this North Idaho town. It’s been the center of people’s lives in these parts for hundreds of years, and continues to be the main attraction today. Local lore says French-speaking fur traders first named the lake in the early 19th century. The native Schee Chu’Umsch were difficult traders, and the French-speaking explorers dubbed the lake and its surrounding areas Coeur d’Alene, meaning “Heart of Awl” in reference to the local people’s trading practices. An awl is a sharp, pointed tool used by many different artisans and craftsman to make markings or punch holes (like in leather or tough fabrics).
Shrewd business practices kept the Coeur d’Alene area growing over the years. The establishment of Fort Sherman in 1887 made Coeur d’Alene a hub of activity. The town served as the main railroad and steamboat transfer station between the nearby mines and smelters. The area flourished in the early 1900s as the demand for timber rose. Since roads were scarce, and the automobile hadn’t quite become popular yet, dozens of steamboats dotted the lake, carrying fur traders, explorers, businessmen and lumberjacks and loggers to their respective places of work along with mail and cargo. Steamboats even carried day trippers and thrill seekers on the weekends. Over time, as roads were built and expanded, and cars became prevalent, the need for steamboats dwindled, and many were decommissioned. You can still see evidence of a bygone era floating around the lake. Steamboats carry tourists around the lake on dinner shows and sightseeing tours on a daily basis. And while the town has changed by leaps and bounds over the years, turning in to a recreational destination, the natural splendor of the lake has stood the test of time.
The Lake and Beyond
Aside from the lake itself, one of Coeur d’Alene’s most recognizable landmarks is the Couer d’Alene Resort because of its grandeur, unique architecture, and the triangular, sky-blue boat covers that dot the resort’s shoreline boundary. Towering over the northern part of the lake, the resort offers luxury accommodations, quality restaurants and a world-class spa, not to mention some of the best golf in the Northwest, if not the United States. The resort’s course, which sits on the site of a saw mill that operated for more than 70 years, boasts the world’s only floating green (distance from the tee changes daily, via computer). Avid golfers travel to Coeur d’Alene yearly to take on the challenging course.
Many guests choose to dine in luxury at Beverly’s, the resort’s premier restaurant. Beverly’s dishes up Northwest cuisine and boasts a $2 million wine collection you can tour. Again, the views here are stellar and it’s an ideal place to bring the family or have a romantic dinner. If you want a nostalgic treat, order the cotton candy after dinner. It’s not on the menu, and is generally reserved for special occasions, but the deliciously sweet cone of fluffy spun sugar wrapped around a ramekin full of vanilla ice cream is a fun way to end a nice dinner.
Attached to the resort via a sky bridge is The Shops, a small resort retail space packed with stores selling resort wear, kitschy souvenirs and knickknacks, and other fashions. You can’t miss The Painted Pony (paintedponyonline.com), mostly because there is life-sized horse statue in the store window that’s intricately painted with an epic thunderstorm across its hindquarters and body. He’s a beaut. The Painted Pony specializes in men’s and women’s Western attire. Big belt buckles? Check. Cowboy hats? Check. Incredible boots by Dan Post Boots, (danpostboots.com). Yup. They have you covered.
While guests may enjoy all that the Coeur d’Alene Resort has to offer, the pinnacle of your trip might be found in one of the hotel’s many lake-view rooms. Several feature stunning 180-degree views of Lake Coeur d’Alene and all the swimming, splashing, and boating activity it has to offer. And most visitors are drawn to the lake, whether it be as tame an activity as lounging on the relaxing beaches or taking in the view on a public cruise via steamboat (season opens April 23, cdaresort.com) or as breathtaking as sightseeing tour by seaplane via Brooks Seaplane Service (book your flight at the City Dock at Independence Point).
As with any travel destination, it’s always great to step out of your hotel and see what else is out there. Downtown Coeur d’Alene is full of great restaurants, pubs, coffee shops, boutiques, antique stores, art galleries and more. For breakfast, try The Garnet Cafe (315 E. Walnut Ave.). Its full portions of tasty American breakfast fare with unique additions like duck sausage and house-made rosemary bread are a tasty way to start your day. The Coeur d’Alene Brewing Co. (209 E. Lakeside Ave.) will quench your thirst all day, with several house brews and a couple of seasonal beers in rotation. For dinner, a local favorite is Scratch (501 E. Sherman Ave.), where, not surprisingly, the proprietors boast their American bistro menu items are all made from scratch.
There’s a bounty of springtime outdoor activities in Coeur d’Alene, but it’s also a great time of year to plan ahead to a family summertime trip. Silver Mountain Resort (silvermt.com) is a fantastic destination, just 35 miles west of the city. You can find everything from white water rafting and fishing, to hiking, biking and more. One of the signature activities is a scenic tour on North America’s longest gondola. In the summer, starting June 18, passengers ride more than 3 miles up Silver Mountain on the gondola. From July 1 to Sept. 2, there’s a “Ride and Dine” package where you can indulge in a fantastic barbecue at the top of the mountain after your gondola ride.
Silverwood Theme Park and Boulder Beach Water Park (silverwoodthemepark.com) are just 30 minutes north of Coeur d’Alene. Silverwood is the largest theme park in the Northwest, and has more than 65 shows, rides and attractions. Silverwood’s incredible rides, like the 191-foot-tall steel roller coaster, Aftershock, or Tremors, a 65 mile-per-hour coaster that drops underground four times and drops 103 feet, will appease your need to scream for joy. Make a splash at Boulder Beach Water Park, where you’ll find the 650-foot Avalanche Mountain water slide, two wave pools and many more pools, slides and rides. Silverwood is open weekends only, May 1 to May 23, then daily from May 29 to Sept. 6. Boulder Beach is open June 5 to Sept. 6.