Many people don’t know much about Idaho except "famous potatoes." But, Idaho is rich in much culture and history. Its scenery is breathtaking and if you are looking for a quaint place to relax then you have chosen the right place.
For family fun, pack up the kids and drive to northern Idaho for an action-packed vacation filled with parks, rides and water adventures at places like Silverwood Theme Park, Boulder Beach Water Park, Triple Play in Hayden, Wild Waters Water Park in Coeur d’ Alene, and the new Water Park at Silver Mountain.
If mountain biking down picturesque pathways, across high-mountain tresses and along alpine lakes is your idea of a great family vacation, start out your family adventure following the Route of the Hiawatha. Once a railroad passage called Milwaukee Railroad, this span was noted as one of the most scenic stretches in the country. With the rails removed and construction complete, the wilderness biking and hiking trail path winds through ten tunnels and seven trestles on this 15-mile route which crosses the Bitterroot Mountain Range. It’s best known for the long, cavernous St. Paul Pass, or “Taft” Tunnel, which descends into darkness for 1.66 miles underneath the Idaho/Montana state line. This relatively easy trail is great for riders of all ages and ability levels from beginner to novices alike, so there’s certainly something for every member of the family.
Northern Idaho is filled with history and stories from the days of the big mining era. Experience this look back in time with a trip to the Silver Valley including Wallace, Murray, Prichard and Kellogg.
Until recently, mining was the lifeblood of Wallace. Established in 1892 Wallace served as supply center for one of the largest silver producing areas in the world in the late 1800s. Today the entire town is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Northern Pacific Depot - an architectural gem - and the Coeur d'Alene District Mining Museum serve as interpretive centers for regional history. The Oasis Bordello Museum provides a more "colorful perspective" of the town's past and the Sierra Silver Mine gives a good feel for the life of an underground miner.
Located near Wallace in the Idaho Panhandle, Murray and Prichard also feature the history of the early mines that put Idaho on the map. Travel to Murray to see the famous Spragpole Museum Restaurant & Bar along with the Bedroom Gold Mine Bar.
Next, travel southwest to Kellogg where kids will enjoy panning for their own gold on the Crystal Gold Mine Tour. This 30-minute tour takes visitors deep inside this old mine which, after miner Tom Irwin blasted the mountain away to hide the mine’s entrance in 1882, lay hidden to the world for more than 100 years. Visitors experience a time gone by witnessing Tom’s old mine car and tools inside. Paved walking paths make it easy for all ages to get around.
Idaho’s history is deeply intertwined with the American Indians who first inhabited this land. Experience the history of Idaho’s American Indians by visiting the Nez Perce National Historical Park and Trail. The historical park and museum pays tribute to the lives and legacy of the people of the Nez Perce Tribe.
For a truly all-encompassing history of Idaho, stop along the Lewis and Clark Trail. Relive the steps of the historic Lewis and Clark Expedition with the Riverside Tepee and Canoe Camp where you will enjoy Lewis and Clark history, Native American historical and cultural activities, expedition re-enactments, special events and hands-on activities with American Indian staff.
As Idaho’s capital city Boise is a mecca for art, culture, cuisine and of course, outdoor recreation.
With annual events like the Gene Harris Jazz Festival, Art in the Park, and the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, Boise is the cultural center of the gem state. Food is a top priority for Boiseans, and unique events like the Soul Food Extravaganza showcase this priority.
As home to the largest population of Basque’s outside of Spain, Boise is proud to host Jaialdi, an event which takes place every five years and showcases the Basque culture through music, food, dancing and history.
Spend a day at the Discovery Center of Idaho and learn about the physics of science or check out Boondock’s Fun Center and Roaring Springs Water Park in nearby Meridian, a 17-acre park where kids enjoy bumper boats, race cars, mini golf and gallons and gallons of water.
For an “up close and personal” animal experience families love the World Center for Birds of Prey and the Boise Zoo. Both offer unique exhibits and a chance to learn about specific birds and other animals native to Idaho and other parts of the world.
In the winter, a day at Brundage Mountain Resort should calm the need for speed. With a vertical drop of 1,800 feet the mountain has a little something for everyone. There are acres of untracked powder for dare devils and beautifully groomed runs for the less adventurous.
After a day on the mountain, slow things down a bit and enjoy the quaint town of McCall and the annual McCall Winter Carnival. This mountain paradise comes to life with a Mardi Gras Grand Parade, Snow Sculpture Contest, Grand Bingo and Monte Carlo night, Tubing Races, Fun Run, and Beard & Sexy Leg Contest.
People of all ages enjoy the natural waters of Zims Hot Springs, located in scenic New Meadows north of McCall. Open year-round these natural hot springs surface at 145 degrees Fahrenheit and are cooled by aeration in two large pools. One pool is kept at a cool 93 degrees and the other soaking pool is a muscle-relaxing 103 degrees.
A trip to South Central Idaho isn’t complete without a stop at The Herrett Center, located on the campus of the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls. This facility houses a collection of artifacts including pre-Inca textiles, Mayan jade and Peruvian pottery. In 1995 the college added the Faulkner Planetarium, a 151-seat, state-of-the-art multi-media domed theater offering programs emphasizing space and science.
Traveling Interstate 84 there is much to see right off the road. The Great Rift, Balanced Rock and the City of Rocks are just a few places to stop along the way for family fun and adventure.
The Great Rift is a geological national landmark located in the Snake River Plain and one of only two such features in the world. It contains undisturbed and unusual geologic features throughout the 380,000 acres of the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Wapi lava flows. Many of Idaho's most fascinating geological features lie along the Great Rift awaiting the adventurous desert hiker. The only other such geologic area in the world is in Africa.
Traveling southeast the City of Rocks’ granite columns - some reaching 60 stories tall - loom high above Circle Creek Basin and are popular with climbers. Many of the granite rock formations are over 2.5 billion years old, some of the oldest found in North America.
Finally driving west towards Buhl, visit world-famous Balanced Rock. Standing over 48 feet tall and weighing more than 40 tons, the wind-carved rock balances precariously on a pedestal only 3 feet by 17 inches.
In Montpelier, stop at The National Oregon/California Trail Center which offers an excellent, structured educational experience about the largest mass migration in American history, the Oregon Trail.
The Museum of Idaho in Idaho Falls is a national traveling exhibit museum dedicated to preserving and showcasing the natural and cultural history of Idaho and the West. Children and adults alike experience regional educational programs in the sciences and humanities. Nationally-acclaimed exhibitions including a T. Rex Named Sue; Discovering Idaho: The World of Lewis & Clark and Space Journey (NASA). The museum offers permanent displays about the Columbian Mammoth, Lewis and Clark and the race for atomic power.
In Yellowstone National Park, watch for bear signs. The beauty of eastern Idaho will draw you in as you explore many parts of this region. Start of with a family-friendly experience unlike any other at Yellowstone Bear World. Located in Rexburg,
Another great event in Rexburg features hundreds of dancers from around the world as they come together to share their culture and promote world peace. Events at the Idaho International Dance & Music Festival include opening and closing ceremonies, street dance, parade, fireworks and Youth Culture Day.
Don’t miss a minute of the action at the Sun Valley Ice Rink named by Budget Travel Online as “one of the top 10 ice skating rinks in the nation.” Known for headlining the biggest names in skating, including Olympic gold and silver medalists, professional skaters have even been known to train here during the off season. A large sun shade keeps this outdoor rink open 365 days a year.
Be sure to visit Shoshone Ice Caves. This cave complex is one of the natural wonders of the world. Trained guides explain the geologic, volcanic and historic background in these large lava caves with year-round ice floors.
Sacajawea Heritage Days celebrates the assistance Sacajawea, a native of the Lemhi valley, gave to the Lewis and Clark Expedition as it passed through the Lemhi Valley. The event features the annual Great Salmon Valley Balloonfest with hot air balloons, arts and crafts reminiscent of the period, breakfast, cattlemen's barbeque, a concert, talent stage, Lewis & Clark artifact replicas, tribal dancing and an ice cream social.
Although scattered throughout the state, nine of Idaho’s finest golf courses have joined together to comprise the Idaho Golf Trail. Each course offers a great golfing experience on the challenging courses and with the luxurious resort accommodations. Enjoy the scenic beauty on the courses and on the journey between each course as your route travels past picturesque lakes, incredible mountains and impressive vistas.
With over 3,000 miles of whitewater, Idaho offers adventure opportunities for everyone. Whether your taste runs from a white-knuckled roller coaster trip or a mellow scenic float, a river awaits you in the Gem State.
Enjoy a leisurely train trip back through time as you travel the winding canyon of the North Fork of the Payette River on the historic Thunder Mountain Line. Choose from many different routes, each with its own unique flare. Special events throughout the year include Dinner Train, Wild West Train Robbery, Wine Tasting Train, Pumpkin Liner Train, Easter Egg Hunt Egg and the North Pole Express.
Idaho offers many adventures and many types of accommodations as well. While traveling through this fascinating state you can stop at inns, bed and breakfast establishments, camping facilities, cabins and much more.
Photos and wording courtesy of Idaho Department of Commerce