Looking for a great weekend getaway? There are plenty of fun things to do in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. It’s an outdoor paradise, and it’s a fantastic foodie destination as well.
Another weekend, another amazing time. It always makes me happy to explore yet one more part of this wonderful country. This weekend we decided last minute we needed a quick getaway, so we picked a place that we’ve driven past many times, Coeur d’Alene.
Living in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve taken I-90 a lot, but we are always headed somewhere, so when we crossed the Washington state line into Idaho, we were too focussed on our goal to stop in and take a look at Coeur d’Alene. This time, we just decided to go there. Of course, we drove. It took us about six hours since we had some traffic, but it was very doable from the Seattle-Tacoma area.
We arrived after dark at around 9:30, and we had planned to go to a tap house, called Crafted, downtown for a quick beer before hitting the hay. Unfortunately we were too road weary and opted for bed instead. We never did get there. We just drove by, because we got so busy doing other things and it was mega-busy on Saturday night.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- Where is Coeur d’Alene?
- How to Get There
- Best Time to Visit
- Things to do in Coeur d’Alene Map
- Coeur d’Alene 2 Day Itinerary
- Best Food in Coeur d’Alene
Where is Coeur d’Alene?
As I mentioned, Lake Coeur d’Alene, and the city, is located right off of I-90 in Idaho. It’s only a 30 minute drive from Spokane. It’s located in the part of Idaho called the panhandle, which is bordered by Washington, British Columbia, and Montana. (source) It’s the small part that sticks straight up, and it’s only about 108 miles wide (on I-90).
The area surrounding the city, North Idaho, has many lakes, of which Lake Coeur d’Alene is the 3rd largest overall, and 2nd largest natural lake. Idaho is one of the states that has fantastic outdoor opportunities both summer and winter. It’s a little over 2,000 feet above sea level and the area is known for its wildlife and outdoor sports.
How to Get There
Most people who visit Coeur d’Alene get there by driving. The nearest airport is Spokane, which is only 39 miles from Coeur d’Alene. So you must find a car to drive you to the city. If you need to fly, we suggest you rent, because Coeur d’Alene is pretty spread out, and there is so much to do within driving distance.
As we could drive it easily in a two day weekend from home, that’s what we did. Depending on where you are starting from, it’s well worth putting on a road trip itinerary of the northwest.
Coeur d’Alene is really not too close to the capital of the state, but there are plenty of fun things to do in Boise, Idaho if you decide to visit. We recommend it.
Here are some driving times and distances for other great places to visit:
|4 3/4 hours
|2 1/2 hours
|Glacier National Park, MT
|4 1/4 hours
|Kingsgate, BC (Canada)
|about 2 hours
|Yellowstone National Park
|6 1/2 hours
6 1/2 hours
Best time To Visit Coeur d’Alene
Since Coeur d’Alene is all about the outdoors, anytime of year is great. There are plenty of cross-country skiing trails, ATV trails, and ski slopes. Then, of course, there’s everything to do on the lake from jet-skis to the big lake cruise.
I was a bit surprised that we were there in April and there were so many people on the lake. It was great weather, and even though the water was a little cold, it didn’t stop too many from getting in the water.
What does Coeur d’Alene Mean?
Before there was a city in Coeur d’Alene the Schetsu’umsh people lived there. They would venture north to trade at Lake Pend O’Reille with the Northwest Fur Trading Company and quickly obtained a reputation as being fierce negotiators.
The French fur traders started calling them “Heart like an Awl” giving a nod to their sharp, unwavering resolve when it came to a price war. This carried down to become the Lake’s name, then finally the name of the city. (source)
Why Go to Coeur d’Alene?
Coeur d’Alene, or CdA for short, is in an ideal location for having a great weekend. Many people go for all of the outdoor opportunities, things like water sports and beach lazing, as well as biking and hiking in the area. It is great for all that, but the little city of about 44,000 people has its own charm as well. We loved the downtown area around Sherman Avenue and the many parks and green spaces to walk and people watch. The whole town has a laid back, friendly vibe, just my kind of town.
Things to do in Coeur d’Alene Map
Museum of North Idaho
The Museum of North Idaho has some fantastic exhibits telling the story of the area. From the native people to the railroad and road building. It won’t take you long to wander through the exhibits and get a taste of the history of the lake and city, and its surroundings.
Fort Sherman Chapel
Fort Sherman was an army outpost built in 1878. The chapel was built in 1880 and is the oldest church, school, library, and meeting hall in the city. It is open by appointment only, so call ahead (the Museum of North Idaho) if you want to see the interior.
Coeur d’Alene City Park
City Park is a wide green space with paths, playgrounds, and plenty of trees and benches to sit on and enjoy the mountain air.
One of the coolest things to do in Coeur d’Alene, the floating boardwalk right next to the resort is about 3/4 mile long. My favorite part is the arch where you can walk over the boats pulling in and out of the marina. The boardwalk, although a bit wobbly if you have balance issues, is tons of fun, and the best part is seeing all that is happening on the lake.
Tubbs Hill Park
Tubbs Hill is probably one of the best things to do in Coeur d’Alene. Park on 3rd Avenue, then head up the almost 3 mile trail. It’s hilly, but it has spectacular views of the lake and even has spots for jumping into the lake from huge boulders. Down by the water, you can find some great isolated beaches to stake out for a day as well.
This park is located behind the resort, and in between Tubbs Hill and City Park. There is a fantastic playground for kids and a dog park. Let your kids play away in this gorgeous green space.
Mudgy Moose Statues
A local author created a book series called Mudgy Moose and Millie (the Mouse). They are cute local characters that have not only played Hide n’ Seek in Coeur d’Alene, but also visited a few other countries. The city has erected five Mudgy statues around the town for the kids to find. (Our map shows all the locations for the adults helping them.)
Cheamkwet Park basically circumnavigates the North Idaho College campus and has a trail that follows the Spokane River. There are plenty of picnic tables and it’s a great place to watch the sun go down.
I’m not a golfer, but if I was one, I’d do it in Coeur d’Alene. The resort has a movable, floating golf green. Jim and I loved watching the golfers swinging at the green. It is super cool and I doubt there is anything like it anywhere. If you enjoy golf, we think you’d love this unique course.
If shopping is your jam, doing it in Coeur d’Alene is super easy. Most of the great shops, not all, are located in the downtown area, near the Resort, and on Sherman Avenue. You can get anything from souvenirs, books, toys, cigars, clothing, outdoor gear, and so much more. There are also plenty of art galleries featuring the works of local artists. Make sure to check them out.
Downtown Parking in Coeur d’Alene
Chances are you will need parking for your car while you wander the downtown area, and there are plenty of parking lots and on street parking. Most places are pay to park, but it’s pretty reasonable (from $1-$3 per hour). There are a couple of non-paid parking areas, but they will fill up very quickly. You can find them at the library and East McEuan (source).
A Fantastic Weekend 2 Day Itinerary for Coeur d’Alene
Arrival- Get snug into your cute boutique hotel. If you are feeling up to it, check out one of the brew pubs on Sherman Avenue for a nightcap.
Breakfast – Take in the breakfast that your hotel offers or head to The Garnet Café.
Morning – Start out getting the scoop at the Museum of North Idaho. Then wander around Sherman Avenue and downtown. Stop at one of the trendy pubs or cafés for lunch.
Afternoon – Reserve a ticket on the Lake Cruise, and enjoy the views of the town, beaches, and celebrity lakefront mansions as you ply the waters eating some popcorn and sipping a cocktail. Afterwards, take a swim from the beach or at the pool in your hotel, before you go out for dinner.
Dinner – There are plenty of restaurants to choose from to get anything that you might fancy, local or otherwise.
Breakfast at your hotel or one of the many places in Coeur d’Alene, and stop by a deli or supermarket and pick up fixings for a good picnic, because you are not going to want to stop and eat in the midst of all your fun. Then get ready for a day of bike riding, adventuring, short road-tripping, or boating or basking in the sun on the lake.
Bike riding – Do a part of the Centennial Trail that wends its way from Spokane to Wallace. You can rent bikes in a number of places, but call ahead to reserve.
Adventuring – There are some ATV tours as well as rafting tours that you can take out of town. Beware, they start pretty early.
Short road tripping – Head to Wallace and enjoy the small western feel of the town. There’s plenty of places for lunch there as well if you don’t want to picnic.
Boating – Boat rentals from jet-skis to pontoon boats are no problem. Rent them for an hour to a day and really get to know the lake right.
Want to take it easy and save some money? Hike Tubbs Hill, and take your swimmies, there’s plenty of walking and swimming to do from there.
Evening – After a full day of being outside and enjoying the sun, take it easy. Head over to The Relic Smokehouse and Pub for a good beer and some delicious BBQ.
Departure – Like any good weekend, Coeur d’Alene will stick with you and you’ll definitely think of plenty of things to do…next time.
Best Food in Coeur d’Alene
I would say that if food is part of the way you travel, you’ll really enjoy how much there is in Coeur d’Alene. Along with the pubs, breweries, and unique cafés and restaurants, you won’t run out of choices. There’s everything from burgers and pizzas, to BBQ and local specialties. Then there’s a whole slough of ethnic choices as well. I’m sure we gained at least a couple of pounds on this trip. Now I know why everyone is on the lake all the time. They have to be to cut those calories.
Note about food: We try a lot of places when we visit, but we only mention the ones that we would gladly return to. If the food is just okay, it doesn’t make the list.
The Garnet Café – This quirky little eatery gets full pretty quick. They’re known for their fresh chicken and duck eggs, as well as meat from their own farm. The menu has a few items I hadn’t seen before like eggs with duck confit, but the meals we chose showed us just how good and fresh everything was.
Meltz Extreme Grilled Cheese – This was a huge surprise of a sandwich shop. The menu sports a bunch of special grilled cheese sandwiches. like the Poutine or Potsticker, which is what we tried, but you can also build your own. They serve great soups and salads as well. The only thing is you need a car to get to this location. It’s not in the downtown area at all. However, Jim and I loved this place so much it’s now on our list of places to go as we’re passing by.
The Relic Smokehouse and Pub – With their own smoke pit in the back, they make all their own ribs, chicken, and even corn hens. They’ve got great local (ish) beers and a great vibe. I tried the prime rib, which was pretty awesome, but Jim’s brisket really stole the show.
Where to Stay in Coeur d’Alene
River Cove Elegant Waterfront Bed & Breakfast – Not exactly in Coeur d’Alene, this B&B is well worth the 7 mile drive. This waterfront property is luxury at its best.
Greenbriar Inn – This small boutique hotel listed as a Historical Landmark, is just the place to relax. The furnishings are divine, and the breakfast is fantastic.
Hampton Inn and Suites – I love these hotels because they have an indoor pool. It keeps the kids and adults happy. They also serve a pretty good breakfast.
Things to Do Nearby
When traveling in the western US, there’s a different mindset as to what’s close by. Driving a couple of hundred miles to get anywhere is pretty normal. If you are used to other parts of the States, this can take a bit of getting used to. That’s for sure.
One of the prettiest buildings in the state, the Cataldo Mission house is only about a half hour drive west on I-90. Along with the mission house, you can learn the story of the Jesuit missionaries coming to the native land.
As you drive into this western town, you read the words, “the whole town is on the National Historic register.” The entire town uses the old buildings, railroad depot, even jail. There’s also a great exhibit for the kids (and dads) about mining right off the highway. To get to Wallace, just drive west on I-90 for about 48 miles. It’s well worth the stop.
We’ve already mentioned that if you are flying in, you’ll have to go to Spokane. Why not stay awhile and check it out? It’s a pretty cool western city.
Missoula, a few hours from Coeur d’Alene, has a vibrant brew pub scene and feels young and fun. Stop there for a couple of days.
Yellowstone National Park
America’s first national park never dissapoints. Go to enjoy the wildlife and the geysers. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.
Coeur d’Alene is definitely worth the trip! Even in spring, we were outside most of the time. The weather was perfect, and a day on the lake was a great antidote for our cabin fever. What a great place to spend a weekend!
Author Bio – Corinne is an avid camper and traveler. She’s been to all 50 of the US states and has four more Canadian provinces to visit. However, she’s not stopping yet. There’s always more to see of this great continent! Corinne loves local foods, getting outdoors, landscape photography, and road trips.