Idaho Resorts: A Perfect Holiday Retreat

The holidays are a special time, but sometimes they can be a little bit stressful. Here are some Idaho getaways to help you relax, reconnect with friends and family, and enjoy this time of celebration. From Thanksgiving through the New Year, Idaho’s resorts offer the perfect retreats for relaxation and fun. Cross country and downhill skiing, sleigh rides, snow tubing, snow shoeing, spa services and sparkling lights will make this holiday season one to remember.

Teton Springs Lodge & Spa – Victor, Idaho

Snowshoeing near Teton Springs Lodge & Spa.

Snowshoeing near Teton Springs Lodge & Spa.

Get away for a Thanks-giving Escape! Guests staying two nights at the Teton Springs Lodge and Spa November 26 through December 7 will get the third night free – and a jump on the winter ski season at Grand Targhee. Visit Teton Valley area restaurants for a scrumptious Thanksgiving feast or make a traditional dinner in your mountain log cabin or lodge suite, complete with full kitchen. With enough notice, the Teton Springs staff will even do the shopping for you!

If you need a break from turkey dinner leftovers, relish some quiet time in the Stillwaters Spa. Put your feet up, have a pedicure, and let yourself dream of deep powder turns. There’s no better time to begin a new tradition with family & friends.

The Coeur d’Alene Resort – Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

Holiday Lights on Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Holiday Lights on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

The 2014 Coeur d’Alene Resort Holiday Light Show will illuminate Coeur d’Alene with a stunning 1.5 million lights and more than 255 displays from Nov. 21 to January 4. What began as a few lights decorating the front entrance of the hotel has grown to a family destination celebrated by ABC’s Good Morning America as one of the nation’s best holiday towns. This year’s new attraction is an animated Floating Christmas Tree on Lake Coeur d’Alene. The tree rises 60 feet tall right out of the water, with lights dancing in time to the popular Christmas tune “Carol of the Bells,” and a surprise burst of fireworks. The Holiday Lights Bed & Breakfast package includes a $20 Breakfast credit at Dockside Restaurant or Room Service, two tickets to the Journey to the North Pole Holiday Lights Cruise, and cookies and milk delivered to your room by Santa’s Elves.

Western Pleasure Guest Ranch – Sandpoint, Idaho

Couple enjoys a winter sleigh ride at Western Pleasure Guest Ranch.

Sleigh ride at Western Pleasure Guest Ranch.

Ever wanted to ski down remote hills and perfectly groomed runs in the secluded wilderness and then, at the end of the day, return to a warm cabin and sit in front of a crackling fire? Western Pleasure Guest Ranch’s two-day Schweitzer Ski Vacation package includes hearty country gourmet breakfast in the Grand Lodge, a day of skiing at Schweitzer Ski Resort and a romantic horse drawn sleigh ride for two. The package can be personalized to accommodate preferred lodging (cabin or Grand Lodge), additional guests, another day of skiing, snowmobiling, cross country skiing or spa services.

Shore Lodge – McCall, Idaho

Snow blankets the Shore Lodge in McCall.

Snow blankets the Shore Lodge in McCall.

If you’re looking to hit the reset button between Thanks-giving and Christmas, the Massages and Martini package (starting at $182 per person) at Shore Lodge has you covered. Enjoy a one night stay in a lake view suite, a one-hour treatment at The Cove Spa and a signature huckleberry martini. Order a “Chaser” and extend your stay for a second night for just $61.50 per person and retreat to the immersion pools before returning to reality. The Massages and Martinis package is available through December 18.

The Shore Lodge hosts two signature holiday events in December: Breakfast with Santa on Dec. 13 and Holiday Cookie Decorating on Dec. 20. Guests may also enjoy delicious meals on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and a New Year’s Eve party will close out the season.

Sun Valley Resort – Sun Valley, Idaho

Sun Valley is a sparkling winter wonderland.

Sun Valley is a sparkling winter wonderland.

Flocked in a frosty coat of white and adorned with shimmering lights, wreaths, and a reverence for tradition and family gathering, few places are as magical during the Christmas season as Sun Valley. With skiing, ice skating, snow tubing, caroling, sleigh rides, dining, shopping and even late night bar hopping, Sun Valley is the place to make winter memories.

The Sun Valley Resort has you covered this holiday season with Thanksgiving, Pre-Holiday and Mid-Winter packages. Everything is on the menu in Sun Valley for a spectacular Thanksgiving Holiday. The Thanksgiving Package includes a delicious and lavish buffet, four night’s lodging and a three-day lift ticket starting at $330 per person.

The Pre-Holiday Package gives early season skiers/boarders a jump on un-crowded slopes and huge savings. Stay and ski November 26 through Sunday, December 21, 2014 starting at $84 per night. The Mid-Winter Package is available January 4, 2015, through March 28, 2015 and you can stay AND ski at Sun Valley Resort starting at only $162 per night, per person, double occupancy.

The resort also has a number of special dining events planned throughout the holidays. Enjoy High Tea, wine tasting, Brunch with Santa, and prix fixe meals at the Ram Restaurant, Elkhorn Clubhouse, Trail Creek Cabin and two thirds up Bald Mountain at the Roundhouse. Great views and great food await!

What’s New at Idaho Ski Areas

Schweitzer Mountain Resort.

Schweitzer Mountain Resort.

Idaho is a popular winter destination for skiers and boarders with 18 ski areas offering beautifully groomed runs and glades of feather-light powder for all skiing and boarding abilities. With more than 28,000 leg-burning vertical feet, 20,000 skiable acres and a wide array of Nordic trails, terrain parks, cat ski trails, heli-ski opportunities and tubing hills, Idaho has become a hub for skiers and boarders seeking blue skies, fresh powder and few crowds. Learn more about Idaho’s ski areas at www.skiidaho.us, or explore all of Idaho’s winter recreation opportunities at www.visitidaho.org/winter.

A family does not need to live in Idaho to take advantage of the Ski Idaho Fifth and Sixth Grade Passport Program. With the passport, any fifth grader can ski or ride free three times and sixth graders can ski or ride free two times at participating ski areas. Families may learn more and submit passport applications at www.skiidaho.us/5th-grade-ski-or-ride-free-passport.

Idaho Winter Giveaways – Get your Vitamin ID!
Idaho winters promise bluebird skies, rays of sunshine, fantastic snow and spectacular skiing and boarding. Idaho Tourism and Ski Idaho want to offer everyone a cure for the wintertime blahs with skiing in Idaho. Beginning in October and running through late February, 2015, visit www.idahowinter.org to enter to win Idaho winter getaways.  New offers are available every Friday. Learn more at www.idahowinter.org.

Here’s a look at what’s new at Idaho’s ski areas and resorts for the 2014-2015 ski season.

Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Sandpoint
Schweitzer Mountain Resort has invested over $1 million in mountain improvements heading into the 2014-2015 ski season. In order to maintain the quality and expected grooming everyone has grown to expect, Schweitzer purchased a new grooming machine and has upgraded the snow making system on the lower mountain to improve capacity and reliability. Guests will also notice improvements such as a newly paved main parking lot, new bathrooms near the Hermit’s Hollow Tubing Center and new ski and snowboard racks throughout the Ski & Ride Center.

Back by popular demand, Kids & Parents Night Out is returning for a second season. Parents may leave the kids with professional and caring Schweitzer staff for the evening then enjoy some fun in the Village. Pay a $25 deposit for each child ($50 max). Show the evening’s receipts when you pick up the kids and if the spending total is more than your deposit you will get your entire deposit back.

For those looking to learn and share the experience, Schweitzer favorites like Funatics and Mountain Xplorers will continue unchanged this year, but they have changed the Learn to Ski/Snowboard Program. The new “Ski FREE in 3” program is as good as it gets: 3 lessons, 3 lift tickets and 3 equipment rentals for only $159. Those who complete all three steps may ski for FREE from mid-March through the end of the season. As an added bonus, those who bring a friend to join in the process of learning will receive an extra lift ticket to use any time during the season.

Guests will also enjoy new flavors at the Gourmandie. The new chef has reworked the inside space, created a brand new menu and is serving up delicious food in one of the resort’s most popular venues.

The Lake Louise Plus Card is back again this season. The LLPC will provide 3 FREE days, discount lift tickets all season and they are redeemable at Schweitzer and four other top, Canadian resorts. More details coming soon.

The Powder Alliance is bigger and better this year with the addition of its first Canadian resort, Silver Star Mountain in British Columbia. With the purchase of a Schweitzer season pass, skiers receive 3 FREE days at 12 other western resorts. 

Deep powder at Silver Mountain.

Deep powder at Silver Mountain.

Silver Mountain, Kellogg
Silver Mountain offers two mountains, 76 runs and 1,600 acres of terrain, 2,200 vertical feet and more than 300 inches of snow annually. Silver has made a number of improvements in the off-season to enhance the guest experience. A new Mountain Host program will provide staff to answer questions and help acclimate guests to the mountain and resort offerings. Additionally, the ski school has added terrain-based teaching techniques to its lessons, the rental shop was remodeled to improve efficiency and the snow tube hill has added an extra session to accommodate the off-slope crowd.

Two new runs that were roughed in last year, Bootlegger and Shady Lady, were cleaned up, widened and are even better this year. With their length and challenging pitch, they quickly became two of Silver’s most popular runs last season. The progression terrain park has been expanded this year, giving more young and adventuresome skiers the thrill of hitting rails and catching some air. For early risers, Silver now offers a First Tracks program on Saturdays. Enjoy an early morning breakfast, hit the slopes and be the first to lay down tracks in the fresh snow. To see just how much fresh snow awaits, Silver has installed a new night vision webcam on the top of Kellogg Peak to provide real time snow levels and temperature.

This season, guests will have even more time to enjoy all Silver has to offer – the resort has added another week of operations to the end of its regular winter season.

Rolling Thunder Terrain Park at Lookout Pass.

Rolling Thunder Terrain Park at Lookout Pass.

Lookout Pass, Wallace/ Mullan
Jibbers at Lookout Pass will discover numerous improvements and upgrades to the Boarderline (front side), Rolling Thunder and Huckleberry Jam terrain parks this season, including features where tricks can be performed in plain view of guests relaxing on the deck. A “natural themed park” is also in the works, with some special features to come.

With legendary powder and the best snow quality in the region, Lookout Pass is committed to a great grooming product. With this in mind, a new PistenBully Edge Snowcat will join the experienced grooming crew and fleet of five snow grooming machines to insure world class grooming every day.

A higher level of instruction is now available at Lookout for skiers and riders of all ages and abilities. Programs include the Senior Workshop on Mondays, Downhill Divas for women only on Fridays and Next Level for intermediate and advanced skiers on Sundays. Individual and group lessons are offered every day the mountain is open. With so much snowfall at Lookout, Powder Wednesdays will continue this year– the mountain will be open six days a week, Wednesday through Monday.

Sun Valley Sunset.

Sun Valley Sunset.

Sun Valley Resort, Sun Valley
Turn through the trees this winter with 25 new acres of glade-skiing in the Frenchman’s area of Bald Mountain. Through the Sun Valley Resort’s partnership with the Ketchum Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service, a large-scale tree-thinning project was completed, disposing of dead trees to preserve healthy existing trees, yielding even more tree skiing for the 2014-15 season.

A new and equally bold vision is unfolding as the resort’s signature Sun Valley Lodge is re-imagined for a new generation. While the iconic façade of the Sun Valley Lodge will be maintained, the interiors will be redesigned and rebuilt to offer more spacious rooms, many doubling in size, with fireplaces and modern comforts, including expansive bathrooms.

The redesign and expansion includes the addition of a 20,000 square foot destination spa with 15 treatment rooms, complete with steam and sauna, a world-class fitness center and yoga studio, and a selection of wellness treatments. Adjacent to the spa, guests will also enjoy a beautiful new outdoor swimming pool and pool café framed by views of Bald Mountain. The Sun Valley Lodge lobby, Gretchen’s restaurant, and Duchin, the signature lounge, will be expanded and remodeled.

Throughout the renovation and closure of the Lodge, the Sun Valley Inn, cottages, and condominiums, as well as restaurants, retail shops, entertainment venues, and ski mountains will be fully operational. The Lodge and Spa will celebrate a grand opening in June 2015.

Direct flights from Denver International to Sun Valley on United Airlines will begin this 2014-15 ski season. The flight, just under 2 hours, departs daily from Denver to Sun Valley at 11:15 a.m. and returns, Sun Valley to Denver, at 1:40 p.m. The direct flight is just one of several daily non-stop flights into Sun Valley. Other gateway cities serving Sun Valley include San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA), Los Angeles (LAX), and Salt Lake City (SLC). All Sun Valley Resort guests receive complimentary roundtrip airport transportation between the Hailey airport and the resort.

Brundage Mountain Resort.

Brundage Mountain Resort.

Brundage Mountain, McCall
In the off-season Brundage completed a major upgrade to its base lodge. Skiers and boarders will enjoy a more spacious and hassle-free lodge experience including new ticket windows and guest services facilities just steps from the parking lot. Visitors will be able to purchase passes and tickets without climbing a long staircase to the upper floors. The new ‘plaza’ level will provide easier access between the lodge and the base area and create a more welcoming entrance to the lodge.

The expansion doubles the size of the Rental Shop and retail areas, easing congestion during busy times. New decks added to the south and southeast sides of the lodge allow for outdoor table service from Smoky’s Bar & Grill in both the winter and summer seasons.

This latest phase adds more than 3,200 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, including:

  • 1,200 square feet of table-served deck for Smoky’s Bar & Grill
  • 750 square feet of indoor space for the Rental, Tuning and Retail Shops.
  • 700 square feet of brand new plaza-level space for Tickets, Ski & Ride School Reservations and Guest Services
  • 550 square feet of additional deck space on the southeast side of the lodge.

Brundage trail crews have constructed a scenic, one-mile nature trail which will serve as a dedicated snowshoe trail in the winter. The trailhead is next to the main lodge where guests may rent equipment from a new fleet of snowshoes, including youth and women-specific models.

Tamarack Resort.

Tamarack Resort.

Tamarack Resort, Donnelly
Tamarack Resort will resume seven-day operations for the 2014-15 winter season and announced a slate of capital improvements. The resort has been operated by the Tamarack Municipal Association on a four days a week schedule during ski seasons, Thursday through Sunday, since 2010. To operate on an expanded, full-week basis, the resort anticipates adding about 40 additional employees and is expecting mid-December opening. Unlike many of the region’s ski areas, this level of certainty for opening day is enabled by the resort’s snowmaking capabilities.

Improvements are planned for the terrain park and include expanded acreage, new rails, boxes and table tops ranging in size from 10-30 feet. The resort has also removed underbrush to expand and improve skier terrain and invested in new snowcats for grooming. 

Grand Targhee Resort.

Grand Targhee Resort.

Grand Targhee Resort, Teton Valley
Grand Targhee Resort is the first ski resort in the United States to embrace and endorse fat bikes, aka snow biking, on its Nordic trail system. Bikers who purchase a Nordic Day Ticket or a Nordic Season Pass will have access to ride on the Grand Targhee Resort Nordic Trail System. Grand Targhee Resort is nestled on the west side of the majestic Teton Mountains and receives 500 inches of snow annually. Famous for spectacular snow and magnificent scenery, Grand Targhee offers skiers two mountains totaling 2600 acres. Four chairlifts on Fred’s Mountain gives access to 1500 acres and 2200 vertical feet. A high-speed quad on Peaked Mountain opens accesses open bowls, groomed runs and tree skiing with an additional 602 acres reserved for snowcat skiing. Tubing, snowshoeing, Nordic trails, sleigh ride dinners, and spa services make for a complete winter vacation. Lodging is available slopeside and in Driggs, Idaho.

Airbag at Little Ski Hill. Credit John Webster

Airbag at Little Ski Hill. Credit John Webster

Little Ski Hill, McCall
Located two miles north of McCall, Idaho on highway 55, this small but action-packed facility has an alpine hill served by a T-bar providing 405 vertical feet of terrain which is the only lit ski and snowboard hill in the area. The Little Bear Basin Nordic facility has 30 kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails. Little Ski Hill will operate an airbag Friday-Sunday this year giving freestylers the opportunity to show their stuff. Nordic ski lessons are now offered through the ski area’s PSIA certified Nordic ski school and group lessons will continue on Saturdays. The Little Ski Hill is open Tues-Sunday 3:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m on weeknights and until 9:30 p.m on Fridays. Skiers may enjoy the slopes from 12:00 p.m – 9:30 p.m. on Saturdays, and 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. Bear Basin Nordic Center is open 7 days a week from dawn until dusk.

Bald Mountain Ski Area.

Bald Mountain Ski Area.

Bald Mountain, Pierce
This small, family-friendly ski area located in Pierce welcomes skiers this season with an updated lodge, including a new wood stove, and a new rope tow. As part of the Pierce Winter Festival the first weekend in February, Bald Mountain will host its second annual Vertical Challenge competition to see who can ride the most vertical in one day.

Backcountry yurt at Soldier Mountain.

Back country yurt at Soldier Mountain.

Soldier Mountain Ski Area, Fairfield
Soldier Mountain offers alpine skiing and full and half day cat ski trips.  Its new 12-passenger SnowCat-complete with a 47” big screen TV-is sure to keep skiers comfy during the ride. Soldier also has a back country yurt available for winter enthusiasts.  The yurt sleeps 12 and has a four burner gas stove, fully equipped kitchen, wood stove and BBQ grill on the large deck. Families and groups may also rent the Mountain or the Lodge for an incredible winter experience.  This not-for-profit, family-friendly mountain offers lessons, a rental and tuning shop, season pass packages and 4-day punch cards.

Veterans Day: Military History Runs Deep in Idaho

November 11th is Veterans Day, and in honor of the men and women who have served our country, we would like to dedicate this blog to sharing a bit of Idaho’s military history. Idaho is home to numerous war memorials, historic military sites, and current military operations. For example, the Mountain Home Air Force Base and the 366th Fighter Wing have a history stretching back more than 70 years. Gowen Field (Boise) is home to the Idaho Air National Guard, Army National Guard, and the reserve units of the Army, Navy, and Marines. While these bases continue to grow Idaho’s place in military history, our memorials and historical sites commemorate Idaho’s past.

Original Fort Boise.

Original Fort Boise.

Near the original location of Fort Boise, visitors can see a commem-orative marker. When the Oregon Trail opened in 1841, the post was a major stop for the wagon trains crossing the Snake River into Oregon. The fort was damaged by a flood in 1853, partially rebuilt, then abandoned in 1854 due to skirmishes with the Native Americans. A replica of Fort Boise now stands in the city of Parma and offers a historical museum and pioneer cabin amid the fort’s reconstructed concrete walls.

In 1863, the military chose a location for the new Fort Boise in what is present-day Boise and construction began soon afterward. With the protection of the military, the town grew quickly. Other names for the fort were the Boise Barracks and Camp Boise. After 49 years at the fort, the U.S. Army left the site in 1912. The Idaho National Guard occupied it until 1919, when the Public Health Service obtained it for a center for veterans of World War I and tuberculosis patients. The foothills above Ft. Boise were used for gunnery practice. Today, many of the original buildings and officers’ quarters still stand and house Veterans Administration and Medical Center offices. Visitors may drive through Fort Boise or walk along the narrow, tree lined streets.

Original Fort Hall.

Original Fort Hall.

The first Fort Hall was built in the early 1830s as a trading post and resting spot for fur traders and emigrants traveling the Oregon Trail. Destroyed by flood in 1863, a second Fort Hall was built, but occupied for barely a year. The third Fort Hall was established in 1870 by Captain James E. Putnam, 12th U.S. Infantry. The Army post was designed to protect stage and freight routes and the Bannock Indian Reservation and abandoned in 1883. None of the original buildings remains at either site. The 1870 site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The

Fort Hall Replica in Parma.

Fort Hall Replica in Parma.

Fort Hall Replica is located in Pocatello, a wonderful display of period lifestyle and replicating one of the Northwest’s earliest fur trading forts.

In 1878, Camp Coeur d’Alene, later renamed Fort Sherman, was established as an Army post along the banks of the Coeur d’Alene River and Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Fort Sherman Chapel

Fort Sherman Chapel

Built in 1880, the Fort Sherman Chapel is Coeur d’Alene’s oldest church, school, library and meeting hall and one of few remaining buildings of Fort Sherman. The fort was abandoned in 1900 and the buildings and property sold at public auction in 1905. Fortunately the buyers who purchased the land let the church remain and it has been used by many denominations over the years. The Chapel, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was donated to the Museum of North Idaho in 1984 to ensure its preservation. Fort Sherman once occupied the land where the North Idaho College sits today. Visitors may tour the North Idaho College Campus year round or visit the North Idaho Museum May through October.

A number of forts were also built by pioneers and missionaries for trading and protection. Take a look at this Pinterest account for more information on those and other military forts and camps around the state.

While many of the forts were established by the US Army, Idaho also plays an important role with the U.S. Navy. The Farragut Naval Training Station was located on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille in Bayview, Idaho. Ground was broken in March 1942, and by September the base had a population of 55,000, making it the largest city in Idaho. At the time, Farragut was the second-largest training center in the world (behind Naval Station Great Lakes). The last recruit graduated from Farragut in March 1945 and the facility was decommissioned in June 1946.

Commemorative art piece at Farragut State Park.

Commemorative art piece at Farragut State Park.

The grounds are now part of beautiful Farragut State Park. Guests may visit The Brig Museum, home to boot camp, naval and war memorabilia dedicated to the 293,381 naval recruits who received their basic training at Farragut. In the Memorial Plaza, the centerpiece artwork is a large bronze bust of a U.S. sailor positioned on a base that resembles a “whale” boat, which recruits were trained to row in unison to learn a valuable lesson in teamwork. Surrounding the sculpture and facing the flags are 29 sets of footprints at attention.

Lake Pend Oreille also plays an integral role in the nation’s military readiness. The Navy’s Acoustic Research Detachment is still in Bayview and takes advantage of the excellent conditions in the lake for submarine acoustic research, development, testing and evaluation.

Submarine research also took place in southeastern Idaho. Learning that the Germans had developed the concept of nuclear power, the U.S. Navy began its nuclear research with the goal of powering submarines. In December, 1951, work at the Naval Reactors Facility (NRF) near Arco produced one of the most significant events of 20th century: the first usable amounts of electricity were generated by nuclear power. Two years later, the culmination of the work at the facility slid down a ramp into the icy waters off Groton, Connecticut — the world’s first atomic-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus.

From the early 1950s to the mid-1990s, Idaho’s NRF supported the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-powered fleet by testing reactor designs, receiving spent nuclear fuel for processing and storage, and training nearly 40,000 Navy personnel to operate surface and submarine nuclear power plants.

USS Hawkbill at sea.

USS Hawkbill at sea.

When you travel through Arco, the odd sight of the conning tower of the fast-attack nuclear submarine USS Hawkbill (SSN-666), known as “The Devil Boat,” rises from the ground in a roadside park. Reportedly the only known “submarine in the desert,” the Hawkbill’s sail is most fittingly located in the city of Arco, where nuclear propulsion for submarines began. During the Cold War, much of southeastern Idaho was a hotbed of nuclear testing and advancements – but because their studies were classified, no one knew about it.

A Buddy Poppies, the official memorial flower of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States

Buddy Poppies, the official memorial flower of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States

There are many ways to celebrate and honor our veterans. Visit a military museum. Idaho has some good ones:  Idaho Museum of Military History, the Warhawk Air Museum, Teton Aviation Center Warbird Collection, and Legacy of Flight Museum. Visit a fort replica or memorial, attend a parade or veterans memorial service or buy a poppy. Most importantly, find the opportunity to say “thank you” to veterans and serving members of our armed forces.

Downtown Boise Restaurant Week

Dine Out Downtown Boise logoThe Downtown Boise Association’s annual Restaurant Week(end to Weekend) is upon us! Dine Out Downtown Boise, October 31 – November 9, is a the perfect time to try out new spots or old favorites and see what their chefs have to offer at a reduced price. Choose your favorite participating restaurant or somewhere new throughout the week to enjoy special prix fixe menus. Choose from a 2-course prix fixe lunch for $10, 2-course prix fixe dinner for $15 or a 3-course prix fixe dinner for $30. No passes, tickets or coupons are required. Reservations are recommended.

To help promote the many Idaho products used in preparing these delicious meals and to celebrate the diversity of products and the regions they come from, Idaho Tourism partnered with Sysco and the Downtown Boise Association to encourage local restaurateurs to incorporate at least one Idaho product into their menus. Many of them were happy to oblige! Please check out the individual menus at the Restaurant Week homepage.

We have listed below the Idaho products being served and where the items hail from. Learn more about where these goods are made, grown or processed, or plan a visit. Many have storefronts, tasting rooms or product available in grocery stores.

Sausage from Salmon Creek Farms (Twin Falls) featured at Alavita.

Purple Sage Farms (Middleton) featured at Red Feather and Alavita.

Wine from Split Rail Winery (Boise) featured at Bodovino.

Trout and sturgeon from Hagerman via SeaPac of Idaho and Fish Breeders of Idaho featured at Chandlers, Saint Lawrence Gridiron and Flatbread.

Wines from Coiled Wines (Boise) featured at Juniper.

Rollingstone Chevre (Parma) featured at Red Feather, Fork and Solid Bar & Grill.

Wines from Crossings Winery (Glenns Ferry) featured at Angell’s Bar & Grill Renato.

Nuts from City Peanut Shop (Boise) featured at Fork.

Dairy products from Cloverleaf Creamery (Buhl) featured at Alavita, Red Feather and Matador.

Beef and pork products from Snake River Farms (American Falls) featured at Bardenay, Brickyard, and Kindness.

Lave Lake Lamb (Hailey) featured at Chandlers.

Ruby trout from SeaPac of Idaho featured at Lucky Fins Seafood Grill.

M&M Heath Farms (Buhl) featured at Red Feather.

Happy Idaho-grown eating!

National Monuments Offer a Look Into Idaho’s Past

We are frequently asked, “What national parks are in Idaho?”

The answer is pretty straight forward: “Other than a thin slice of Yellowstone National Park, Idaho doesn’t have any national parks,” we say. That is the correct answer, but it is only part of the story. While Idaho doesn’t have national parks, we are fortunate to have national preserves, reserves, monuments, and historic trails, which, like national parks, are managed by the National Park Service (NPS). Consider visiting the following national monuments, historical parks and sites as you travel through Idaho.

Mesa Falls in eastern Idaho.

Mesa Falls in eastern Idaho.

Yellowstone National Park

This is the one that started it all—Yellowstone – the first national park in the United States. Idaho’s portion of Yellowstone National Park includes a very narrow strip of the park’s southwest edge located along the Idaho/Wyoming border. Visitors heading to the park from Idaho typically enter at West Yellowstone, MT or just north of Jackson Hole, WY. The splendor of Yellowstone doesn’t stop at the park’s borders.  In the shadow of the Teton Mountains, eastern Idaho is home to upper and lower Mesa Falls, blue ribbon trout streams, bike trails and wildlife viewing. With state parks, resorts and everything in between, visitors can experience the beauty of the Yellowstone region at a slower pace.

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

Lava rock at Craters of the Moon National Monument.

Lava rock at Craters of the Moon National Monument.

While Idaho has just a sliver of Yellowstone National Park within its borders, the state’s landscape was most certainly affected by the volcanic activity of Yellowstone. At Craters of the Moon National Monument the lava field is made up of about 60 lava flows and 25 cones.

The Oregon Trail pioneers were hoping to find a route that was safer than the more popular Snake River Plain route to the south to avoid clashes with the native Northern Shoshone and Bannock tribes. Goodales Cuttoff, as it was called, led them to this weird and scenic lava landscape but it was not the easier path they were hoping for.  In contrast, this desolate landscape was just the place for NASA astronauts Alan Shepherd, Edgar Mitchell, Eugene Cernan, and Joe Engle to explore in 1969 while training to visit the moon.

When planning your visit to Craters, you may want to do some research on the types of lava a volcano produces. If you don’t, how will you tell Pahoehoe toes from Spittle Bombs, or know when you’re looking at Breadcrust lava?  Under the earth’s crust, caves that were once gas pockets can be explored with a permit.

Paved walking paths criss-cross the park, allowing visitors to explore the lava field’s interior. There is also an auto route available April-November. After the snow flies, paths are open for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Craters of the Moon National Monument hosts a number of events throughout the year, including guided hikes and cross-country ski tours, family activities and more.  Be sure to visit the Visitor Center, where you can see exhibits and pick up maps and interpretive information.

Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument

Hagerman Horse fossil.

Hagerman Horse fossil.

Did you know that the horse evolved in North America? The Hagerman Horse, Equus Simplicidens, Idaho’s state fossil, was the first true horse. It was about the size of a modern Arabian horse. However, its bones most closely resembled those of the Grevy’s zebra. The Hagerman Horse Quarry is recognized as one of the most important sites in the world related to the fossil history of the horse.

The Hagerman Fossil Beds are home to over two hundred different species of fossil plants and animals. The list includes Sabertooth Cat, a Hyena-like dog, Peccary, Mastodon, Otter, Bear, Shrew, Camel, and Ground Sloth, as well as many other species. With over 3,000 new fossil fragments found each year, it is one of the most fossiliferous Pliocene-aged sites in the world.

Because of the fragile nature of the fossils, visitors aren’t allowed to explore the area where most of the fossils have been found. Begin your visit to the fossil beds with a stop at the interpretive center in downtown Hagerman. You can see a complete skeleton of the Hagerman Horse, watch an educational video, learn about the Oregon Trail and explore the Discovery Center. The Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument also includes a portion of the Oregon Trail. Interpretive programs include Hagerman Fossil Beds NM and Paleontologist Junior Ranger programs, paleo porch programs, Junior Paleo Camp, and Oregon Trail living history programs.

If you enjoy birds, Hagerman’s mild weather and constant source of 58-degree spring-fed water makes the area a magnet for migrating ducks and geese who winter in the valley. Check out the Idaho Power Hagerman Valley Birding Checklist or participate in the Hagerman Bird Festival in February.

Nez Perce National Historical Park

Nez Perce Artifacts

Nez Perce Artifacts

The Nez Perce National Historical Park is a non-traditional national park because it tells a story about a people rather than a location. The Nimiipuu – which means ‘the people’ – were also called Nez Perce – meaning pierced nose – by French fur trappers.  The Historical Park includes 38 sites in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Montana, so if time allows, plan for a road trip rather than a single stop.

A great place to begin exploration of the Nez Perce Historical Park in Idaho is at the Spaulding visitor center, located 11 miles east of Lewiston on Highway 95. Here, visitors can view exhibits, pick up maps and information, and learn the stories behind the sites along your journey, including Coyote’s Fishnet, Whitebird, and Heart of the Monster.  Following the Nez Perce trail, visitors will learn about epic battles fought between white men and the Nez Perce, and come away with a rich sense of Idaho’s past.

The Idaho panhandle was part of the Nez Perce home range for over 10,000 years. The park itself preserves some of the locations and stories of Idaho prior to the white man’s arrival, and retains many of the traditional names known to the Nez Perce. While in the area, consider exploring Lewis & Clark’s route. The expedition depended on the kindness and assistance of the Nez Perce, and is a big piece of the area’s history.

Minidoka National Historic Site

Commemorative plaques now stand at the entrance to the Minidoka Monument.

Commemorative plaques now stand at the entrance to the Minidoka National Historic Site. Photo credit National Park Service

The Minidoka National Historic Site is a monument to a difficult time in United States history: the internment of US citizens and their families because of their Japanese ancestry. In February 1942, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order that moved nearly 120,000 Japanese and Japanese Americans into 10 isolated relocation centers in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming. Looking at the site between Twin Falls and Jerome, Idaho, it is difficult to believe that nearly 10,000 Japanese American citizens and legal resident aliens of Japanese ancestry once lived on those 34,000 acres. The Minidoka War Relocation Center was in operation from 1942 to 1945 and housed citizens from the coastal states of Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. In January 1945, internees were allowed to leave the camps and were given $25 dollars and a train ticket to return to their former homes.

The buildings from the camp were sold and moved, but today visitors will see a newly restored entry guard station, waiting room and rock garden. Visit the Relocation Center display at the Jerome County Museum in nearby Jerome and the restored barracks building at the Idaho Farm and Ranch Museum southeast of town. There is a small marker adjacent to the remains of the guard station, and a larger sign at the intersection of Highway 25 and Hunt Road, which gives some history of the camp. The Hagerman Fossil Beds visitor center also has some displays about Minidoka’s history.

Friends of Minidoka, a group that encourages preservation, education, and research of the WWII incarceration experience holds an annual pilgrimage and educational event to share and remember. Read about the 2014 pilgrimage in the Minidoka Pilgrimage’s Blog, and watch for the dates of the 2015 event on their website: http://minidoka.org.

City of Rocks National Reserve

Granite formations at City of Rocks.

Granite formations at City of Rocks.

Known as “The City” to its climbing devotees, the City of Rocks National Reserve is situated within Castle Rocks State Park near Almo, Idaho. The sculpted landscape of City of Rocks dates back 28 million years. Some of the granite spires are in the 2.5 billion year old Green Creek Complex, which contain some of the oldest rocks in the western United States. Emigrants of the California Trail described the rocks there in vivid detail as “a city of tall spires,” “steeple rocks,” and “the silent city.”

Summer is the peak season for visiting the City of Rocks, especially if you want to catch one of the lectures, tours, or educational programs put on by the Castle Rock State Park rangers. Park visitors can enjoy a wide variety of activities, with rock climbing, biking, hiking, camping and bird watching among the favorites. Over 22 miles of hiking trails wind through the City of Rocks National Reserve, leading to arches, windows, and dramatic overlooks. Auto touring is another great way to enjoy City of Rocks. Begin the drive in Albion, following the 49-mile City of Rocks Back Country Byway, or refer to the City of Rocks auto tour guide. In Almo, be sure and stop at the City of Rocks/Castle Rocks State Park visitor center for maps, information, and to watch an 8-minute orientation video of City of Rocks geology, history, and things to do.

For bird watchers, focus on the pinyon-juniper-mahogany forest, aspen-riparian areas, sagebrush flats, and spruce-fir forest above 7,000 feet to see the most variety. The birding hot spots guide will help you get the most from your visit. Keep an eye out for Idaho’s state bird, the Mountain Bluebird, enjoying the preserve.

If you don’t make it to the City of Rocks before the snow falls, no worries. You can still enjoy it on cross-country skis or snowshoes. Ice climbing is also popular. Be aware, some roads may be impassable from November through April. The park has gravel roads, but they are easily traveled by passenger car in fair weather.

Spending time at these monuments gives visitors an appreciation of the natural, cultural and social forces that have shaped the state of Idaho – not to mention the fun that comes with exploring someplace new. Start planning your ‘monumental’ road trip at www.visitidaho.org.

How Do You Beat A Fall Motorcycle Ride Like This!

By Moto-Journalist Blogger Guest,  Liz Jansen

How do you beat a ride like this in Idaho? Amazing scenery that goes on and on, excellent roads and very little traffic.

Lake view from Shore Lodge

The Shore Lodge in McCall overlooks beautiful Payette Lake. Photo courtesy Shore Lodge

Leaving Boise on Highway 21, my route took me through the historic old town of Idaho City, population 485, once the largest mining town in the Pacific Northwest.

Even though Diane described the scenery I would ride through, I wasn’t prepared for the awesomeness at every corner. Mountains, canyons, river, twists, turns, elevation changes, I had to stop to catch my breath and get my bearings. It’s easy to get completely absorbed in the experience – and really important to stay focused on the road.

Massive rock walls line the road where it’s been cut through the mountain. These rocks were once living beings  – imagine the energy contained in these formations.

Astounded and humbled by the energy of the natural beauty that envelopes me as I ride through it.

Arriving in McCall

A former logging town, McCall, Idaho is now a picturesque resort town of about 3,o00 permanent residents, nestled on the south shore of Payette Lake.  An all-season tourist destination, it’s centered in the Payette National Forest and is renowned for alpine skiing, boating, fishing, hunting, hiking, golfing, rafting – and of course, motorcycling.

Read the entire article click here.

Safe travels – wherever your road leads.
Ride  miles  180

Byway Bites: Foodie Stops Along the Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway

 

Begin your beautiful drive of the Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway with a tummy full and ready for the day! Whether for breakfast or lunch, The Orchard House provides food made from scratch. The chef is “hand cracking” each egg and utilizing as much locally sourced product as possible. In fact being located on the byway they are able to get fresh fruits and vegetables directly from local suppliers. They also have their own garden they tend in the back. The Sunnyslope Scramble is very popular as well as their seasonal offerings such as Peach and Apricot Pancakes. Located right on Sunnyslope Road across from Ste. Chapelle Winery, a day of wine tasting at the 14 wineries along the Byway is a great way to show off the state of Idaho to friends visiting. The Orchard House owners, Kris Thompson and Sherri McCay, along with Head Chef Rubio Izaguirre, Jr. welcome you into this charming historical location with a full outdoor patio with waterfall and creek.

The road leads to wine on the Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway.

The road leads to wine on the Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway. Courtesy ID Wine Commission.

Culinary Specialist, Chef Patrick Rolfe stopped by to visit the Orchard House to find out more…

Q: What is it like to be on the Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway?
A: Being surrounded by all the famous Idaho wineries, there is hardly a day when we don’t have a local wine maker enjoying a meal here. Some of the wineries do not have tasting rooms, so we will set up private tastings upon request. We were highlighted in the Sunset Magazine Fall Travel edition in 2011. Additionally, we are proud to serve only Idaho wines – over 85! We have been voted the “Best wine list in the State of Idaho” by the NW Wine Press for the last two years. For those on a winery loop tour, we offer box lunches to go. One of our signature items is our fresh pear pie, an afternoon treat.

Q: What else can you say about your menu?
A: We have three separate menus: Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We keep up on current menu trends; in fact we have recently embraced Gluten Free offerings. People come from all over just to have a bowl of our made from scratch soups. Our sandwiches are made with the highest quality bread which to the Orchard House is the base of a true quality sandwich. Only Rice Bran oil is used in cooking which is lower in cholesterol, but also is so light that less oil is absorbed into the food so the flavor of the food lingers in your mouth (and reduces overall calories). We have many customers who purchase bottles of rice oil to use in their own cooking. Customers know that good scratch food takes a little longer to prepare. Our motto is “Fresh, Local, and Seasonal Cuisine. We think all happiness depends on a leisurely meal!”

Q: What is your biggest success?
A: We’ve been in business now for five years and I think our biggest success is “We’ve survived!” Opening up when the recession was first hitting, and gas prices were soaring was a challenge. Located out this far, we really had to develop ourselves as a destination spot. Now we are packed most weekends. Many people really enjoy the scenic drive to the countryside of Sunnyslope. We host special events like “Meet the Wine Maker”, and “Christmas at Sunnyslope”. Besides the regulars like birthdays and anniversaries, large group reservations include rehearsal dinners (for weddings at nearby wineries), tea parties, bridal showers, and class reunions. The large outdoor patio makes a perfect place for celebrations!

Chef Patrick finishes the Snake River Canyon tour by visiting Brick 29 in Nampa. A perfect location to end your tour with a dinner you will never forget. Executive Chef/Owner Dustan Bristol and his wife Keela welcome their guests with a smile. And why not, according to food lovers in southwest Idaho, the best restaurant in Boise is actually in Nampa! Brick 29 is the culinary love child of the Bristols where Chef Bristol brings a culinary panache to traditional comfort food.

Vineyards are a frequent site along the byway.

Vineyards are a frequent site along the byway. Courtesy ID Wine Commission.

Culinary Specialist, Chef Patrick Rolfe stopped by to visit the Brick 29 to find out more…

Q: Explain your concept of reinventing comfort food.
A: Well here is an example. I like to take something traditional, for example Poutine (a Canadian dish of fries, gravy, and cheese curds) and put my spin on it. So I created an Idaho Poutine from all locally sourced products: Potatoes from Wada Farms, Ballard cheese curds, Beef Cheeks from Homestead Farms, Purple Sage chives, with a glaze sauce made with a local Snake River Appellation Cabernet. I happened to serve my creation to a gentleman from the Idaho Potato Commission who ate three of them and had one packed to go! That was a compliment.

Q: What else on your menu have become your signature dishes?
A: Four entrees have really evolved to my customer’s liking. Bistro Chicken: sautéed chicken breast with mushrooms, shallots, bourbon and cream served with crispy polenta. Angus
Ribeye Steak: dry aged, spice rubbed, fingerling potatoes, blue cheese fondue and crispy onions. Eggplant Napoleon: Parmesan crusted eggplant layered with roasted pepper, mozzarella, and basil, oven roasted and served with polenta, tomato coulis and seasonal vegetable. Lamb Shank: domestic raised lamb, slow braised, smoked mushroom risotto and red wine demi glace. Even though these are my signature dishes per se, I don’t particularly like repetition myself so I’m always coming up with something new. Right now my favorite thing on the menu is our new BLT Pizza (with brown sugar and chili bacon)!

Q: Do you enjoy being on the tail end of the Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway?
A: Yes, we see many people ending their wine loop having dinner here. We offer “Free Corkage” when guests bring a bottle from any local winery. And we have just completed some Brick 29 brochures with two separate wine loops designated with a full map and history of the SW Idaho local wineries to visit. Our wine list consists of 25% local wineries, where most fine dining restaurants carry about 10%. And we only have beer taps from Treasure Valley breweries. I love supporting all Idaho products, mostly to support the local economy as I myself am a local business owner. We also have a Happy Hour from 4-6 if you want some light snacks after your tour, because then we also offer “Grab and Go” dinners.

Q: What is your biggest success?
A: I think it is the evolution of my staff and that we work as a full team. My Sous Chefs really understand my palette and have begun to think like me. They are thinking and creating on their own which is exciting. I also have my wait staff work 6 hours a month in the kitchen and 2 hours at the bar. They understand personally about how everything is prepared and become the spokesperson on the floor for the Chef. I don’t do any suggested wine pairings on my menu as I think everyone enjoys differently. So the time my wait staff works in the bar, they are tasting the wines and become a part of knowing how to recommend.

Q: I know you also have your Food Truck B29 Streatery that’s taken off with the Food Truck craze. What’s next for you?
A: We opened On The Fly Rotisserie Deli in downtown Boise (8th & Main). It serves breakfast and lunch with sandwiches and salads made fresh every morning. A couple soups are available, but just minimal seating so we will are set up for “grab and go” too. Perhaps I’ll add a business delivery service with kids on bikes. But I really want an avenue to explore braising meats and rotisserie. And maybe we will try a Happy Hour from 4-6 before closing for the day. It’s just an exciting project to expand.

For a list of wineries in the Snake River Canyon visit www.idahowines.org.

Travel & Dining – Check out these Byway Bites Blogs.
Sawtooth Scenic Byway Bites
Thousand Springs Byway Bites
Ponderosa Pine Byway Bites
Western Heritage Scenic Byway Bites

Learn more about the Snake River Canyon Scenic Byway and all of Idaho’s scenic byways here.

Idaho Winter Giveaways Are Back! Enter to Win!

Vitamin ID Winter Giveaways graphicIdaho’s snow-capped scenic landscapes and bustling outdoor activity create a winter wonderland. With 18 ski areas offering more than 20,000 skiable acres, and an extraordinary array of Nordic trails and loops, skiers and boarders from around the world travel to Idaho for a winter experience like no other. Crystal clear skies, fresh powder, and short lift lines are just a few things to expect during an Idaho winter getaway.

Idaho Tourism and Ski Idaho want to give everyone a chance to experience the greatness that is winter in Idaho. Beginning October 6 and running through February 2015, snow lovers may visit www.idahowinter.org to enter the Vitamin ID Winter Sweepstakes. Prizes include getaways to some of Idaho’s most popular destination ski areas including Sun Valley, Brundage Mountain, and Schweitzer Mountain, along with lift tickets, cat ski excursions, indoor water park adventures, and more! New offers are posted on Fridays so enter weekly for your chance to win!

Idaho Winter Giveaways and new prize post-dates for October:

10/6/14: A two night stay at the Coeur d’Alene Resort and two tickets to the Holiday Light Show Cruise.

10/10/14: A one night stay at the Wallace Inn and four lift tickets to Lookout Pass.

10/17/14: A two night stay at the Sun Valley Resort and two lift tickets to ski Sun Valley.

10/24/2014: A one night stay at Silver Mountain Resort, four lift tickets to ski Silver Mountain and four 2-day passes to Silver Rapids indoor water park.

10/31/2014: A two night stay at the Shore Lodge, and one day of cat skiing for two at Brundage Mountain Resort.

Favorite Haunted Happenings and Family Fun in October

October in Idaho is the time to relax after a busy summer, acclimate to cooler weather and best of all…Celebrate Fall!  If we had to choose a favorite month, it would be October. From corn mazes and pumpkin patches to football games, changing leaves and caramel apples, Idaho knows how to do fall.

When you see dry corn stalks standing in fields and huge bales of hay and straw strategically placed in open fields, you know it’s time to visit your favorite corn or straw bale maze!  From family-friendly to terrifying, you can find a corn maze, haunted hay field or a delightfully confusing straw bale maze wherever pumpkins grow—which is pretty much anywhere in Idaho!

All aboard the Zombie Slayer Bus at the Incredible Corn Maze.

All aboard the Zombie Slayer Bus at the Incredible Corn Maze.

Corn Cannon at the Incredible Corn Maze.

Corn Cannon at the Incredible Corn Maze.

Start your tour of tricky terror in northern Idaho at the Incredible Corn Maze in Hauser.  It has a corn maze, a corn cannon, helicopter rides, Zombie Slayer Paintball, pumpkins and gourds for sale, and lots of games.  If you’re brave, try out the Field of Screams at night. This separate 3.5 acre maze will scare all who dare to enter.  

If you’re traveling in southwest Idaho between Boise and Meridian on Interstate 84, you won’t want to miss The Farmstead and its many autumn offerings, including Idaho’s original corn maze, u-pick pumpkin patch, hayrides and family-friendly activities. Ride the potato sack slide, and watch the pig races and enjoy live entertainment on Saturdays. The Field of Screams is open Fridays and Saturdays beginning at dark.

Linder Farms in Meridian takes pumpkins seriously. Test your directional skills in a corn maze designed in tribute to the Boise State Broncos. Three paths range from a quarter mile to over three miles. Up for a challenge? Conquer all three for a total of nearly six miles of trails!  Other attractions include hayrides, 20-acre pumpkin patch, pumpkin slingshot, rock climbing wall, zip line, food concessions and more! The nighttime Trail of Terror is open Thursday-Saturday. Or take a one-of-a-kind bus tour through zombie infested terrain with only a paintball gun for protection.

QueysMaze, located near Mountain Home, offers fun for the whole family.  Kids will enjoy climbing on the hay pyramid, playing in the corn box (a sandbox, but with corn), mini mazes, hay rides and a pumpkin patch.  And don’t forget the “Who Knows?” corn maze. See if you can answer the questions to map the maze. Open Fridays and Saturdays.

Creepers await at the Burley Straw Maze.

Creepers await at the Burley Straw Maze.

In south central Idaho, the Burley Straw Maze awaits. Test your skills and try your luck in the straw maze, where over 1,000 straw bales are used to create a maze with 8-foot walls! Enjoy the regular straw maze during the week but bring your courage to the haunted straw maze on weekend nights through October 26.  Spooky!

In eastern Idaho, it’s easy to fill your evening at Wild Adventures Corn Maze in Blackfoot.  Get lost in over three miles of trails and three mazes. On Fridays and Saturdays, Hunt for Hundreds in the ultimate scavenger hunt. Win your share of prizes, coupons and a chance to win the grand prize! Other activities include the Farm Scene Investigation game, corn cannon, Farm Scene Tracks, tube slide, jump houses, barrel train, paintball, concessions and more!

Get lost at The Squealer’s Fun Park Maze in Rigby! They’ve changed it up this year with a Sunflower Maze, rather than corn.  Play #sunflowermazing – search for characters hidden in the maze and post a facebook selfie with them and tag it #sunflowermazing for a chance to win weekly drawings. Open Monday-Saturday.

Maybe the corn mazes and pumpkin patches are a bit too tame….  If being terrified is more your style, check out these frightening options.

It’s been said that the Haunted Mansions of Albion is the nightmare you never wake up from! Are you scared of clowns? Then the “House of Clowns” should get your heart racing. Not scared yet? Maybe the “Zombie Academy” will do the trick. Visit this great attraction to see its new haunts and old favorites!

For the brave at heart, creep on over to The Haunted World in Nampa for a terrifying, 30-acre voyage full of deadly dungeons, vampires, zombies, and monsters. Wind through Gristle’s cornfield then make your way underground and into his 700 ft. dungeon of torture. Those still on their feet must pass through Gristle’s barnyard to visit his ravenous animals and find their way through the tortured halls of Skullvania. Timid guests will enjoy the friendly corn maze, bonfires, and Halloween celebration.

The Northwest’s largest theme park, Silverwood, becomes Scarywood Haunted Nights for the month of October.  With attractions like the Crypts, Clowntown, Zombiewood Express and Total Darkness, this normally happy theme park becomes the nightmare you never imagined! Even the rides are more frightening!

Otus the Discovery Owl on display at Scarecrow Stroll.

Otus the Discovery Owl on display at Scarecrow Stroll.

A more refined adventure awaits you at the Idaho Botanical Garden where scarecrows adorn the Garden during the annual Scarecrow Stroll. Created by local school kids, area businesses and artists, the variety and styles of custom built ‘crows invite giggles and smiles. Garden guests are invited to join the fun by voting for their favorite through October 31.

Let’s not forget football!  Football fans anxiously anticipate October game days. Join communities as they gather for high school Friday night lights. Tailgate with blue and orange scarves and school spirit at Boise State’s Albertson’s Stadium. Catch some Coyote action in the College of Idaho’s first football season in over thirty years. And if you’re up north, wear black and gold with pride at the University of Idaho’s famous Kibbie Dome. Even if you don’t understand the game, it’s easy to be entertained by the marching bands, fight songs, cheer squads, mascots, tailgating, sports pubs, and nightlife that make up Idaho’s football fanfare.

For more Idaho vacation ideas and information visit www.visitidaho.org.

Top Spots to See Fall Colors in Idaho

Colors line the Payette River near the Rainbow Bridge. Credit Idaho Tourism

Colors line the Payette River near the Rainbow Bridge. Credit Idaho Tourism

As September draws to a close, we start receiving calls asking for suggestions for the best places to see fall colors in Idaho. The foliage displays east of the Mississippi are legendary, but Idaho’s trees and native vegetation put on a pretty darned good show with the added bonus of wildlife, flowing rivers, and magnificent mountains as their backdrop. Our evergreen landscapes present a stark contrast to the vibrant golds, oranges and scarlets that dot the hills and countryside.

It is impossible to say exactly when and where the colors will be at their peak, but generally they start popping in early October in northern, central and eastern Idaho, and by mid-October the colors are coming on in the more southern locations.

The US Forest Service also has a hotline and website offering suggested Idaho viewing locations and foliage webcams.

Here are some favorite locations we’ve collected over the years.

Northern Idaho

Two safe bets for fall color in the northern Idaho panhandle are along our Scenic Byways and at ten State Parks. Riparian areas around lakes and rivers are home to species of trees and shrubs sporting splashes of color that contrast the soft muted greens of the pines.

Color along the St. Joe River

Color along the St. Joe River. Credit ID Transportation Dept.

Northern Idaho’s segment of the Selkirk Loop runs from Priest River, through Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry, to the border town of Porthill. A beautiful drive any time of year, it’s especially lovely in the fall. To get an up close view of the fall foliage, spend some time at The Little Pend Oreille National Wildlife Refuge.

Traveling the St. Joe River Scenic Byway, the combination of latitude and reflections on the lazy St. Joe River create a kaleidoscope of warm shades all along this 89-mile route.

The University of Idaho campus in Moscow is awash in color in the fall, both from students dressed in Vandal gold, and from the venerable old trees that have witnessed the school’s growth. At the University of Idaho Arboretum you may learn the roles the various trees play in the ecosystem.

Southwest Idaho
Boise, nicknamed the City of Trees, is ground zero for deciduous, non-native trees. Oaks, maples, and ash add brightness to the downtown, area parks and the North End neighborhood. The Boise riverbanks and adjoining parks are resplendent with mature trees adding brilliant oranges and deep reds to the landscape. Cottonwoods and aspens add gold to the palette, with native low-growing plants and shrubs adding shades of red. The Boise Greenbelt – perfect for a walk or bike ride – follows the river, keeping you smack dab in color central.

Southwestern Idaho’s State Parks are ready for fall color seekers. Eagle Island State Park near Boise and Three Island Crossing State Park in Glenns Ferry have plenty of mature trees and native shrubs that beg to have a photo taken.

Traveling north from Boise on Hwy 55, the Payette River Scenic Byway and the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway to its east promise riverside color including reds, golds, aspen and native shrubs.  Traveling  Hwy. 55 through Cascade, Donnelly and McCall, you’ll see pockets of color in the surrounding mountains with red bursts along the roadside and rivers.  The Rainbow Bridge overlook is a great spot for a photo.

Central Idaho

Gold contrasts with green in the Salmon Valley. Credit Sacajawea Center.

Gold contrasts with green in the Salmon Valley. Credit Sacajawea Center.

The whole of the Salmon River Scenic Byway  will dazzle you, and the closer you get to the Idaho/Montana border, the more amazing the painted landscape will be. With increased elevation, the color increases. It is also likely that you will see wildlife so be aware that you may be unexpectedly sharing the road!

The areas around Stanley and the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway are always beautiful. The Boulder Mountain Range to the east frames the pallet of golds and oranges of the aspen and cottonwoods and their attendant red shrubs. If you’re ready for a hike after your drive, head for Redfish Lake and its surrounding trails. Just sitting by the lake is good too!  The Sun Valley/Ketchum area also has some beautiful views.

Eastern Idaho
Our first suggestion for eastern Idaho is easy: Mesa Falls Scenic Byway. Stop at the Mesa Falls Visitor Center and walk down to the viewing platforms for a spectacular view of the falls. Mother Nature is quite the accomplished artist.

Lower Mesa Falls.

Lower Mesa Falls. Credit Rexburg Chamber.

Continue to the Island Park area and up to Henry’s Lake to extend your trip. Being close to the mountains means plenty of water for a wide variety of plants and trees, and the colors are magnificent. River corridors and mountains promise blazing golds and oranges sprinkled amongst the evergreens and along the riverbanks. There is also a strong likelihood of seeing wildlife when traveling the area’s four scenic byways.

As you can see, Idaho is packed with fall color. As locals, we sometimes feel they are a bit elusive, but we welcome the subtleties of color and vivid contrasts against our majestic backdrop. Fall is a special time in Idaho, but it is a beautiful state year-round. For an Idaho fall preview, visit our Pinterest board.

Steve Stuebner suggests some Idaho City area trails that offer plenty of leaf peeping.  Read his blog here.