by Laurie McConnell, Idaho Tourism Staff
The kids grow up so fast, and before you know it, they’ve moved on to college and careers. We really have just 18 summers to make those family memories. This idea hit home with me. I immediately started thinking about the few remaining summers I have with my boys and what our family could do together this summer. We’ve come up with some vacation ideas that promise thrills, giggles, and stories your family will share forever.
Stay tuned to this blog for more ideas in the coming months. Be sure check out our 18 Summers docu-memory at 18Summers.us and enter to win a sweet family vacation in Sun Valley.
Bikes and Boats – Head to northern Idaho for spectacular scenic bike trails and thrilling jet boat action.
The North Idaho Centennial Trail, Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes and Route of the Hiawatha put you in the center of spectacular scenery. Sparkling lakes, bubbling rivers, towering trestles, shadowy tunnels and sometimes wildlife are the highlights along these trails. Bring your own, or rent bikes with trailers for the little ones. Bike shops are located in nearby towns, including St. Maries, Kellogg, Coeur d’Alene and at Lookout Pass, the access point for the Route of the Hiawatha.
If you are looking for water thrills, give jet boating a try. Jet boat outfitters provide relaxing and highly entertaining trips into beautiful river canyons with half-day trips, lunch and dinner tours or longer trips with an overnight stay at a riverside guest lodge. Guests can learn about geology, river lore and history, but crashing over the waves is the best! The Hells Canyon section of the Snake River is a popular trip. It is the deepest canyon in North America and very narrow, so big waves are the norm. The Salmon River and southern stretches of the Snake are also great trips.
Rocks and Rafts – These southern Idaho activities are sure to induce entertaining stories and a good night’s sleep.
With more than 3000 miles of whitewater, it makes sense that whitewater rafting and kayaking are popular activities. Rafting outfitters offer trips ranging from a half-day float to multi-day trips through scenic wilderness. Family trips appropriate for first-timers are available on the Payette River and the Salmon River. More challenging trips are offered on these Rivers, as well as the Snake in southern Idaho, and the Lochsa and Selway Rivers in the northern panhandle. Check out the Thunder Mountain Line’s Payette River Flyer — rafters and rafts ride the train to the rafting put-in location.
There are many unique and interesting geological features in southern Idaho that give kids the chance to explore and even learn something along the way. Walk on a moonscape at Craters of the Moon and see fossils of long extinct animals, including the Hagerman Horse, Idaho’s state fossil, at the Hagerman Fossil Beds, both are National Monuments. The primary units of Thousand Springs State Park include: Malad Gorge, where the Malad River crashes down stairstep falls and into the Devils Washbowl, then cuts through a beautiful 250-foot gorge on its way to the Snake River; and Niagara Springs, where churning water springs from the canyon wall. Near Almo, at City of Rocks National Reserve, see granite spires and monoliths reaching 60 stories tall – a climbers’ mecca. Neighboring Castle Rocks State Park, a former ranch, also has outstanding rock formations and early 20th century ranch structures. North of Twin Falls, Idaho’s Mammoth Cave and the Shoshone Ice Caves offer an underground look into Idaho’s past.
Springs and Falls – Idaho Falls and hot springs resorts make family fun easy.
Did you know some of Idaho’s family-friendly destinations were developed around hot springs? At Lava Hot Springs in eastern Idaho, kids and adults alike will enjoy the natural hot pools and indoor and outdoor swimming pools, complete with towering water slides and splash parks for the little one. For a real blast, tube or kayak down the Portneuf River! In Downey Idaho, 100-year-old Downata Hot Springs Resort has hot spring pools with big slides, kiddie slides, spa services, a restaurant, a campground and picnic areas. East of Idaho Falls in Ririe, Heise Hot Springs has been a site for respite and recreation since the early 1900s. Today the resort offers swimming, golf, camping, and a zip line tour. In Soda Springs, kids thrill to see the captive geyser erupt every hour, on the hour, between 7:00am and 10:00pm.
In Idaho Falls, visit to the Museum of Idaho’s Race to the End of the Earth exhibit, chronicling the epic quest of two teams to be the first to reach the South Pole. Interactive and hands-on activities help visitors understand what it would have been like to travel to the coldest place on Earth 100 years ago, and what it is like there today. Photographs, paintings, and rare historical artifacts from the expeditions are also featured. The city’s 6-mile greenbelt follows a placid stretch of the Snake River. A stroll or bike ride lets families relax or get the wiggles out after a day of exploring. Travel north to Rexburg to visit Yellowstone Bear World. You will be surrounded by the free-roaming wildlife of North America as you drive your vehicle through the park. Take the Curator Tour and get close to Rocky Mountain Elk, American Bison, Timber Wolves and Arctic Wolves – and you can feed the bears!
Idaho’s cities and town offer the lodging, dining and amenity options families enjoy with easy access to memory-filled activities. Visit www.visitidaho.org for travel information and ideas.