After my daughter said "Ida who?" for the bazillionth time, I let my kids (ages 9 and 5) in on all the fabulous details about our first true vacation. I say true vacation because we’ve traveled a lot but it has been mostly to Oregon and Washington, and only to visit family in a car. We’re going all out now – and taking an airplane!
After wrapping my head around the idea of taking the kids all by myself on a bunch of first experiences, we were booked to go and the excitement built. If you’ve never been to Idaho, you’re missing out. There are many adventures awaiting you.
We flew from SeaTac to Spokane via Alaska Airlines. I had some miles available and called to speak to an agent. Did you know there are still people who answer the phone and help you! The agent was fabulous and worked out three tickets for about $140 total. That was bonus number one. I then tried to find a reasonable car rental – that was not easy until a friend recommended hotwire.com. I found a 5 day car rental for $88. That was bonus number two.
Once on the plane, it was a barrage of questions: "Why are we shaking?" "Why are the lights off?" "What’s that smell?" "Why did they close our cabinet when there is nothing in it?" "Are we over the Cascades?" Mom to Jack: "What are the names of all the mountains?" Jack: "I don’t know what you are talking about." Katie over farmland: "Why is everything polka dots?"
After landing and a 90 minute drive to Sandpoint, Idaho, we arrived at our first destination – Dover Bay Bungalows. Dover Bay is a resort community next to Sandpoint. It is a well thought-out combination of homes, rental cabins and condos on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille. There are spectacular views, long walking trails, a dog park, boat rentals, pool, fitness facility, store, café and a marina where you can book a seaplane adventure. The community also has a donated fire station and an old barn for weddings. They also host free concerts in July on the lawn near the bungalows.
We stayed in Cabin #1 – Seas the Moment. The 2- bedroom 1-bath cabin was very charming. The "family lake cabin" had everything we needed. A kitchen, bunk beds for the kids, large deck with a grassy front lawn next to the lake. Even though I said no TV on this trip, we did chill on the couch a couple times and watch their nice flat screen. That was only after watching the sun and the moon set and pointing out various stars. Remember to pack swim suits, beach towels and sunscreen.
Day two we headed into downtown Sandpoint. The local farmers market was incredible – so many vendors, music and great energy in the heart of the town. In downtown Sandpoint, you will also find City Beach – an amazing sandy beach with ample parking and lifeguards. Lake Pend Oreille cruises depart from City Beach. The Shawnodese is a charter vessel which, with the help of Captain Ron, took us all around the north end of the lake and First Mate Linda gave us an amazing history lesson about Lake Pend Oreille and Sandpoint. They were incredibly kind to my kids and both kids had a chance to be "Captain of the Day" taking us back to the dock. Jack was hilarious when Linda said we have our own "Captain Jack" – he let out a lovely "Aye."
Later that night we attended an outdoor concert at Memorial Field. The Festival at Sandpoint is not to be missed. We had tickets to see Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. I definitely would come up with a new plan to take kids – mine wasn’t good. There are in/out privileges so take them to the playground when they get bored. We made it until dark, then Jack pulled out a loose tooth, bled everywhere and the kids told me they were done, we left the concert early. A second adult would have been nice that evening! Also note: bring cash, arrive early – I mean EARLY - for good seats.
Day three took us to Silverwood Theme Park. It was about a 30 minute drive in the morning. Here’s another get there early destination. Once the gates open, people run to get prime water park locations. We played in the water all day and did the rides at night. Silverwood is so much fun. The family-owned theme park is open July through Labor Day weekend and has added events , such as "Scarywood" in October.
I found out exactly how crazy my daughter is on this trip. Five years old and she wanted to go on every single ride – thankfully she was too short for most things upside down or "high intensity." Somehow she managed to be just over the 42" minimum for Tremors – it’s a wooden roller coaster which goes 60 mph and has a longest drop of 103 feet. Let’s just say the photo they took of us has mom screaming and kids laughing. Not good! Jack originally did not want to go and his sister, with attitude, said, "You can just sit by yourself at the bottom and wait then. We’re going." My favorite and I think the favorite of the kids was Avalanche Mountain in the water park. Prepare to wait in line for it – but it is worth the wait!
Plan for: paying to park, no outside food/drinks, renting lockers, change of clothes (no swim suits in theme park), look for discount tickets ahead of time. Also, dinner at Lindy’s inside the theme park was fabulous with great food and great service. Campgrounds are across the street and other accommodations are nearby.
We left Silverwood and I drove the very sleepy Katie and thankfully awake Jack to Schweitzer Mountain. It was an hour drive with 30 minutes of it very dark and winding roads. I wasn’t really sure what the accommodations were going to be so I had to battle Jack’s head and convince him we wouldn’t be sleeping in tents with bears. Once we arrived at the top of the mountain and saw the beautiful Selkirk Lodge, I heard, "OK, this is cool!" It’s a European-style hotel with small sink, microwave and refrigerator in some rooms and upgrades including jetted hot tub in others.
We had a wonderful dinner at Chimney Rock Grill in the lodge. My huckleberry-tini was grand and the homemade pretzels were addictive. I ordered the pork chop – I had to take a photo. It was a perfect pork chop. The wait staff was fun –helping me make the kids laugh. I really appreciated that on our last night out.
Summer activities on the mountain include: mountain biking, hiking, huckleberry picking, horseback riding, rock climbing, bungee trampoline, lift rides, spa, tennis, giant checkers and chess, dining and shopping. Oh and don’t forget the swimming pool and summer camps for kids! The drive back to Spokane airport from Schweitzer Mountain was about two hours. There really are four seasons of unlimited experiences available surrounding Sandpoint, Idaho. I look forward to planning a winter trip and more summer ones to this beautiful destination.