The largest city in North Idaho has a perfect location on the north shore of a massive glacial lake encircled by dark wooded mountains.
No surprise then that Coeur d’Alene is a destination for outdoor fun. You can hike or cycle in beautiful landscapes, ride a zipline across the forest canopy, play a round of golf in rugged scenery like something out of a Western.
And while the great outdoors are always on your doorstep, this fast-growing city welcomes visitors with a vibrant downtown and attractions like a theme park, family amusement center, casino, water parks and museums all in striking distance.
1. Lake Coeur d’Alene
The city’s star attraction is this sparkling 30,000-acre lake formed during the last Ice Age and enclosed by forested mountains.
Lake Coeur d’Alene is sure to be part of your plans in some way, whether you’re taking a sightseeing cruise, hiking or cycling along the lakeshore, camping, boating, relaxing on a beach, fishing or golfing at one of the many waterfront golf courses.
In the winter there’s a marvellous natural spectacle when thousands of kokanee salmon migrate to the lake’s gravelly shores to spawn and then die.
At the start of this event, around November and December, bald eagles arrive in large numbers to feed on the kokanee. Mineral Ridge and Higgins Point are two superb vantage points for bald eagles, just east of the city.
2. Coeur d’Alene City Park
The soul of the Coeur d’Alene waterfront is this charming 17-acre park just west of downtown.
City Park is a fixture on the city’s bustling event calendar, screening free outdoor movies in July and August, the Fourth of July fireworks and a series of concerts at the bandshell throughout the season.
The tree-lined promenade fringing the lakefront is up there with the prettiest spots around the shore, with beautiful vistas of the steep, forested slopes bordering the lake.
There’s even a stretch of beach, which is remarkable given how close you are to downtown here. The boardwalk on the east side of City Park is the departure point for cruises from Coeur d’Alene as well as more intrepid activities like a parasailing trip around the lake.
Finally, a clapboard building in the park is the permanent home of the Coeur d’Alene Carousel, hand-carved in North Tonawanda, New York in 1922.
3. Silverwood Theme Park
The largest amusement park and water park in the American Northwest is a comfortable drive up the US 95 from Coeur d’Alene.
In more than 400 acres, Silverwood Theme Park has 70+ attractions, including classic amusement rides, water rides, roller coasters and lots of fun for smaller kids.
If white-knuckle rides are your thing, there’s a lineup of roller coasters, like the wooden Tremors and Timber Terror, the dizzying Stunt Pilot and Corkscrew, which was originally at Knott’s Berry Farm, where it became the first inverting roller coaster in the world.
A cute narrow-gauge railway runs through the park, and smaller children can choose from dozens of rides. Entrance to Boulder Beach Water Park is included with admission, with two wave pools, a lazy river, toddler play complex and slides catering to all ages.
4. Tubbs Hill
Within walking distance of downtown you’ll find a steep peninsula, pushing out from the north shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene, with water on three sides.
This is Tubbs Hill, with 165 acres of publicly-accessible nature, snaked by miles of trails. These carry you up through the coniferous forest to beautiful lookouts and down to hidden spots around the lakeshore, like the gorgeous Tubbs Beach on the peninsula’s southwest side.
If you’d like a pair of wheels to tackle the trails there are several bike rental stores close by, like Coeur d’Alene Bike Co. and Coeur d’Alene Adventures, both offering electric bicycles.
5. Kootenai County Farmers’ Markets
This North Idaho institution has been operating since 1986, providing Coeur d’Alene and Hayden with seasonal and locally-grown produce.
There’s a Saturday morning market in Hayden, while the market in Coeur d’Alene, at Sherman Ave. and Fifth Street, trades on Wednesday evenings, May through September.
As well as seasonal fruit, vegetables, herbs, plants and flowers straight from the growers you can shop for a constantly rotating choice of local products like cheese, jams, honey, meats, pastries, pies and bread.
There’s always a contingent of artisans and crafters if you’re hunting for a one-of-a-kind gift or souvenir.
6. Timberline Adventures
With a storefront close to the waterfront in Coeur d’Alene, this company will help you take flight among the forested mountainsides 12 miles east of downtown.
There you can zoom through the canopy on seven of the most scenic ziplines you’ll ever experience, as well as two exhilarating sky bridges and two auto-belays, all with bird’s eye views of Lake Coeur d’Alene.
You can take on all seven ziplines on a tour taking about 3.5 hours, or opt for a shorter, four-line experience if you only have 90 minutes to spare.
A great way to round off your adventure is with a Treehouse lunch, hoisted 30 feet above the forest floor.
7. North Idaho Centennial Trail
Paved for its entire 23 miles, this cherished trail runs from the Idaho/Washington state line in the west, along the Spokane River and lakefront to Higgins Point, six miles east of Coeur d’Alene.
In 2017, 30 years after the project was first set in motion, the route received a Recreational Trails Program Grant, allowing for a complete renovation.
On the lakefront the trail connects a series of picnic areas with gorgeous views across the water and its wooded shore, complemented by interpretive signs.
Over the border into Washington, you can continue for another 37 miles along the Spokane River Centennial Trail.
8. McEuen Park
One of a string of parks linked by the Centennial Trail is this 22.5-acre space just behind Tubbs Hill and recently a $20 million makeover.
What elevates McEuen Park far above an ordinary downtown park is its array of facilities. Coeur d’Alene’s largest playground can be found here, along with a colorful splash pad, attracting families in their droves in summer.
Added to that are facilities for basketball, tennis and a boating, a trailhead for Tubbs Hill, and a 4-acre grass space for outdoor events holding up to 5,000 people.
If you come to Coeur d’Alene with a four-legged friend, McEuen Park has an extensive off-leash dog park fitted with agility equipment.
9. Seven Stars Alpaca Ranch
On the idyllic slopes east of Coeur d’Alene there’s a working alpaca farm happy to welcome guests for guided and self-guided tours.
The ridge-top location, ensconced in coniferous forest, is part of the appeal of Seven Stars Alpaca Ranch, but this is also a charming and educational agritourism experience.
The ranch keeps a herd of Huacaya and Suri alpacas, in varying shades and bred for their high-quality wool.
These share the farm with llamas, goats, horses, chickens, rabbits, dogs, cats and adorable mini horses and mini-donkeys.
On a self-guided tour you’ll be able to enter the paddocks with the goats, mini donkeys, rabbits and chickens, and can view the rest of the animals through the fences.
Guided tours take place in spring and summer for compelling anecdotes, and a visit to the farm shop is essential for alpaca clothing and toys.
10. Triple Play Family Fun Park
Ten minutes along the US 95 in Hayden, the Triple Play Family Fun Park is mostly aimed at children and teenagers, but has an assortment of attractions to keep every family member entertained.
For a quick rundown you’ve got 14 lanes of bowling, 36 holes of mini golf (inside and outside), a ropes course, go-karts, laser tag, a laser maze, bumper boats, bumper cars, a dark ride and an interactive touch wall game.
If that’s not enough, the complex also contains the Raptor Reef Indoor Water Park, combining a lineup of slides for all ages with a wave pool and an aqua play area for younger children.
11. Museum of North Idaho
If you catch a rainy day or need a more contemplative activity you can trace the history of the region at the museum close to the lakeshore.
Backing onto City Park, the Museum of North Idaho touches on many fascinating topics like exploration, fur trading, the railroads, steamboats, agriculture, logging, sawmills, local Native Americans, Scandinavian settlement and the development of the Coeur d’Alene cityscape.
The permanent exhibits are suffused with artifacts, like steamboat equipment and beadwork and tools produced by the Native American Coeur d’Alene People.
Every year there’s a temporary exhibit dipping into a specific subject, from the stories of women in Coeur d’Alene’s past and the history of the North Idaho film industry.
One way to get out into Coeur d’Alene’s breathtaking nature is with a club in hand on one of the five golf courses nearby.
Making headlines is the Coeur d’Alene Resort, a 6,803 yard par 71 with a view of the lake on every hole. One extraordinary hole is the 14th, which has a green literally floating on the lake.
Other wonderful local options include Circling Raven Golf Club at the Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort, listed by Golf Magazine among the Reader’s Choice Top 50 Resort Courses and the fir-lined Coeur d’Alene Golf Club, a public course run by a non-profit organization.
Slightly further out is Prairie Falls Golf Club, with waterfalls and inspiring mountain views, while if you want to work on your approach play there’s the par-3 Ponderosa Springs Golf Course, right in Coeur d’Alene.
13. Coeur d’Alene Cellars
This boutique, family-owned winery vints award-winning wines from grapes grown in Washington’s Columbus Valley AVA.
Coeur d’Alene Cellars has earned a stellar reputation, especially for its Viogniers and Syrahs, both of which have won a slew of awards.
The tasting bar is downstairs in the atmospheric Barrel Room No. 6 where you can sip portfolio wines paired with light bites and perhaps some live music.
And to go with all this you’ll get expert insights from wine specialists and seasoned winemakers about the process that goes into every bottle.
14. Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center
In a hangar at Coeur d’Alene Airport is a museum dedicated to the themes of aviation and innovation in a broader sense.
This attraction, recently relocated from Sagle, Idaho, was founded in 2007 by the aviator and inventor Dr Forrest Bird (1921-2015).
His greatest contributions were in the fields of pulmonology and intensive care, developing the earliest reliable mass-produced mechanical ventilators for acute and chronic cardiopulmonary care.
Bird also acquired and restored a wealth of aircraft and cars, and these are on display at the museum. To name a handful there’s a 1968 Bell 47, a 1947 Republic RC-7 “Sea Bee” and a 1940 Boeing B75N1 Stearman.
One special exhibit is a WACO biplane from 1927, the same model in which Bird made his first solo flight at the tender age of 14.
You can also check out Bird’s pioneering medical inventions, as well as innovations in other fields, like Ruth Handler’s Barbie concept and the Apple II computer, mainly by Steve Wozniak.
15. Farragut State Park
If you want more stupendous natural scenery, this state park in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains is an easy drive north.
Here you’ll be at the southern shore of Lake Pend Oreille, the largest lake in the state, walled to the east by precipitous mountain slopes.
During WWII this was a naval training station, where close to 300,000 sailors received basic training. Farragut State Park covers 4,000 acres, space enough for activities like swimming, camping, horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, fishing, disc golf, archery, boating and water sports.
Begin your adventure by calling in at the visitor center at the western entrance, learning a little about the park’s ecosystems and military history.
There are more than 40 trails awaiting you in this wonderful landscape. One recommended route is the Highpoint Trail, a six-mile there and back, beckoning you up to an elevated viewpoint across the southern tip of the lake, which extends for more than 40 miles to the north.