I had never heard of Coeur d’Alene (pronounced Core-Duh-Lane) until this year and Idaho was nowhere on my “must visit” list if I am being totally honest. However, in a strange turn of events this summer, I found myself with 3 tickets to Idaho and 9 days of adventuring ahead of us. My two toddlers and I packed up our stuff and headed to middle America. It didn’t take long before I realized that everything I thought I knew about Idaho was wrong. There is so much more than potato farms, single stop light towns and endless fields….which is what I imagined it being like. From the massive playgrounds to delicious food to hiking galore, Idaho is the perfect place for families. I was surprised again and again at how thought out many of the playgrounds and restaurants were. There seemed to be an extra effort given to making everywhere friendly for young families with babies and toddlers. If you are considering a trip to Idaho, don’t forget to visit the panhandle or “Upstate Idaho” as the locals call it. Ever since coming home, I have been thinking of how I will get us back to the “Gem State.”
After spending about 5 days in and around Coeur d’Alene (or “CDA” as the locals call it), here is my round-up:
The Best of CDA with Kids
We stayed with a friend in a gorgeous neighborhood on the outskirts of town, BUT if I came back as a guest with no local friends, I would FIRST look to stay at the Coeur d’Alene Resort. It is situated directly on Lake Coeur d’Alene. The resort has many shops located near the lobby and my personal fave; a Starbucks with a huge aquarium next to it to entertain the kiddies. There are also restaurants inside the hotel. If the resort is a bit out of your price range, there are ample places to stay on Airbnb — and if you use our link, you’ll get $40 off your first stay!
Tubbs Hill – DON’T MISS* This nature park is completely free. The main trailhead is located right downtown near the lake and the CDA resort. There is a second entrance with a small parking lot at the opposite end of the trail. There are two trails here that I know of. One is 2.2 miles long and goes around the bottom of the hill along the lake shore. This is the trail we hiked. The other trail goes up to the top of Tubbs Hill, but I don’t know how long it was. We chose the bottom hike for three reasons; it has better views of the lake, it is not hilly or strenuous and I felt less likely to be attacked by a mountain lion… Yes. There have been mountain lions sighted on Tubbs Hill, so don’t even judge me for this fear. The views from TH of Lake CDA are absolutely worth this hike and it is easily hiked by small children – C hiked about a mile before she decided she wanted to ride and take a nap.
McEuen Park – DON’T MISS* This park and massive playground are located right near Sherman Street in downtown CDA. Actually, it’s in this park where you will find the entrance to Tubb’s hill. CDA is extremely convenient in the location of their activities. We utilized the playground 2 different days. There are clean restroom facilities with water fountains directly next to the playground. There are basketball and tennis courts within this park. A perk if you’re visiting in summer, the park also has a large splash pad – so bring your kid’s suits! The entrance to the public library is in this park, so if you’d like a book to read while the kids play, it’s right there.
City Hill Park & Fort Sherman Playground – This park and playground sit directly on the banks of Lake CDA. We spent time walking along the beach front and taking in the views from the lake. There are restrooms between the lakefront and Fort Sherman playground. This playground is also massive. It has two sides; one for smaller kids and one for older kids. The playground itself is a large wooden based one and is almost entirely enclosed. The kids loved it!
Coeur d’Alene Resort Floating Dock/Boardwalk – Randomly, this is the largest floating dock in the world. It is 3,300 feet (nearly 3/4 mile) long and 12 ft wide and it encircles the marina on Lake Coeur d'Alene. A 60 ft-long arched bridge provides access to the marina - and great views for pedestrians too. There's a bar at the west entrance, picnic and seating areas along the way, and the boardwalk is illuminated in the evening. It was a fun walk with the kids, but be ready to carry them because there are no handrails in some sections. There are some lake cruises that depart from this area. We didn’t go on any, but we heard they are relatively inexpensive. Also, do NOT miss the Christmas cruise!!
Kootenai Country Farmers’ Market – There are two locations for this market. We visited the Hayden location. We easily found a parking spot and headed into the open air market. I found my way to an RV turned coffee shop for a hot Pumpkin Spice Latte, bought the kids some small pumpkins to carry around, came across unbelievably cheap but huge and beautiful flower bouquets, bought some homemade pastries, and finally, I paid $3 to hold a baby bunny. The kids went nuts for the baby rabbit. The cool thing is she lets you stay as long as you want, so we just got our baby fix via this little bunny. The market had a wide selection of items from homemade jewelry to local beef jerky to an entire stand dedicated to fresh paella. It was a great market with a large variety of items and food!
Chomper’s Cafe - *DON’T MISS* This restaurant is as family friendly as they come and their food is DELICIOUS! YUM. The restaurant offers indoor and outdoor seating, plus there is an indoor play area for the kids. This meant I was able to drink my coffee hot and the kids were entertained the entire meal. The kids got their usual pancakes and sausage while I dug into a spicy omelet. This was the first place I ever tried huckleberry jam too – it was so good I brought some home. Chompers only serves breakfast and lunch, so get there before 3pm or you’ll have to eat somewhere else! Outside of the restaurant is a gorgeous farm and play area! *This place can get very busy, but it is worth the wait. The kids can play outside while you wait!
Hudson’s Hamburgers - *DON’T MISS* - This joint was established in 1907 and the menu has never changed! Get ready for some DELICIOUS hamburgers & fries! We also ordered two grilled cheese sandwiches for the kiddies. There are no tables here, only stools at the dining bar. Also, bring cash with you; while everything is very cheap, they only accept cash!
Whoops! - If you’re looking for some Instagram worthy European inspired light fare, this is your place. From colorful macaroons that melt in your mouth to decently sized sandwiches and espresso drinks, Whoops has you covered!
Meltz Extreme Grilled Cheese - The name says it all. This place is a cheese lover’s paradise. I ordered the Pepperoni Pizza Grilled Cheese for the kids and I got the pot sticker melt. These sandwiches are ginormous. Be ready mentally and physically for the amount of food you’ll be consuming. We also ordered a side of chips and it’s a very generous portion, so one side was good for the 3 of us. Another recommendation is the Mac-n-cheese soup — YUM!
Nosworthy’s Hall of Fame - To be up front, this is a bar atmosphere, BUT their breakfast is nothing short of impressive. Huge pancakes, decent coffee, and a delicious plate of eggs and hash brown. Nosworthy’s is famous for their omelets and big schooners of beer!
Day Trips from CDA:
Bayview – DON’T MISS* If you find yourself in CDA for any amount of time, make the trek out to Bayview. I was SHOCKED at the beauty of Lake Pend Oreille. The town is situated on the lakefront, surrounded by mountains. There are floating homes all along the pier making this town look like something out of a magazine. After labor day, the town’s few stores and restaurants close down, so be sure to account for that when you visit. We were able to snag some breakfast and coffee at Ralph’s Coffee House, but other than that, nowhere was open until after 12pm. If you’ve got more time, look into the hikes around Bayview and inside of Farragut State Park!
Sandpoint – We drove to Sandpoint from Bayview. It’s a very short drive. We went straight for the Sandpoint City Beach Park. This park is located directly on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille. There is a decent sized playground, a walking trail, swimming area, lots of beach front, clean bathrooms, and plenty of parking. The kids were obsessed with finding rocks and throwing them into the water. We spent a couple hours playing. The snack bar and swimming areas were closed since it was cooler and after labor day, but I am sure they are popular in the summer months. Randomly there is a small Statue of Liberty in the park, so be sure you don’t miss that!
There is a cool downtown area that I would love to explore, but we didn’t have time. We only had time to stop for some Idaho famous Second Avenue Pizza. It definitely lived up to the hype. Note: the large is LARGE. 4 of us still only ate about half of one.
Schwietzer Mountain – Schwietzer Mountain is a ski resort town. The mountain overlooks Sandpoint and Lake Pend Oreille. The views are incredible. It’s free to drive up the mountain and explore the small town. Since we visited after Labor Day, mostly everything was closed in preparation for their busy winter season. We did manage to snack some Huckleberry Ice Cream and hot coffee at Chimney Rock Grill before we set up shop on a ski slope and threw rocks with the kids for a while. In the summer months, you can visit Schwietzer to mountainbike, hike and the Gondolas are running to the top of the mountain. They also have a seasonal playground for kids. In the winter, the place is packed with Skiers.
Spokane – We actually flew into Spokane to get to CDA. They are a short 30-40 minute drive from each other. I only managed to spend one evening in Spokane, so we ate dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory before we headed for Manito Park. This park is amazing. Not only does it have the usual playground, but it has massive gorgeous gardens. We went straight for the rose garden where the kids and I ran around looking at the over 1,500 rose bushes which represent over 150 varieties of roses. This park is public and completely free. It’s a sight worth stopping for. Spokane has so much more than Manito to offer and I suggest scheduling at least 1 full day if not 2 full days to really experience Spokane’s atmosphere!
If you have the opportunity to take yourself or your family to Idaho, go. There is truly something for everyone from babies to toddlers to big kids and teenagers. Idaho is an ideal spot for families looking to reconnect in the great outdoors. I can’t wait to find myself back in grips of the Pacific Northwest (and yes! Idaho is actually a part of the PNW!)
Have you ever visited Idaho?
Prepare for your trip:
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