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Pictures from Lake Coeur d’Alene

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Coeur D’Alene Hotels

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For 33 miles, a scenic byway hugs the eastern coast of Lake Coeur d’Alene. Given the bustle of the city, the road gets into some surprisingly remote territory: over the gorgeous Mineral Ridge, through the tiny town of Harrison, and into pristine forests. We visited during the autumn and were blown away by the beauty of the drive.

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October 26, 2012 at 12:51 am Comments (0)

Oh, To Be Rich in Coeur d’Alene

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Hotels In Coeur d’Alene

Coeur d’Alene is the largest city in the Idaho panhandle; a mix of remote nature, urban ease and ostentatious wealth. It’s well-known in the Pacific Northwest as a resort destination, with a prime location on the lovely lake which shares its name. We had been eagerly anticipating our short, two-day stay there, and found it to be just as memorable as advertised.

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On the banks of gorgeous Lake Coeur d’Alene, you might not see another person for hours. We drove up and down Highway 97, through the historic town of Harrison and right alongside the eastern coast of the lake. On an old dock sticking out into the water, we took a lunch break, with nothing but a cool breeze for company. The faraway sound of a boat motor eventually broke the spell; Coeur d’Alene is actually one of the most popular lakes in Idaho for water sports, especially among the rich weekenders who come in from Washington and California. (See more pictures of the scenic drive.)

No, Coeur d’Alene is no hidden gem. A stroll along the boardwalk of the Coeur d’Alene Resort should convince us of that. Hundreds of expensive speedboats, sailboats and cruisers anchor in hotel’s marina. It was hard not to feel inferior while passing by. Even the floating boardwalk is over the top: the world’s longest. We stood on the bridge for awhile, watching a sun-tanned gentleman and his young, unnaturally voluptuous wife (we’ll be kind, and assume “wife”) steer their yacht underneath us and into its parking spot. A parking spot which is probably more valuable than my life.

With the lakeside resort as its nucleus, downtown Coeur d’Alene extends to the west, where there’s a beach and park, and also to the north, where we found art galleries, upscale souvenir shops, slow traffic, a couple good bars and cafes, and … hipsters? Yes, Coeur d’Alene harbors a healthy population of trendy young hipsters, complete with tight-fitting jeans and thin mustaches. We spent a couple hours in Java on Sherman, sitting next to a couple fashionable young dudes who were playing chess and discussing Grizzly Bear’s new album (their verdict: it’s great). I almost felt like I was back in Savannah!

CDA, as the cool kids call the city, takes its name from the Coeur d’Alene people … who take their name from the French for Heart of an Awl. This strange name was bestowed upon the tribe by a French Canadian fur trader, who was impressed and frustrated by their unforgiving negotiating style. If there are any tribe members left in the city, they stay out of sight; like the rest of Northern Idaho, CDA is overwhelmingly white. 96%, in fact.

We stayed in Coeur d’Alene’s Best Western, just north of the city center along Highway 95 — it was a comfortable place to rest, with decent restaurants in walking distance. After a long day of sight-seeing, we had dinner at Tomato Street, where one portion was enough for a small family. I slept well that night, belly bursting with pasta, and dreamed that I was a rich playboy tooling around the lake in my new mini-yacht. Coeur d’Alene is the kind of town that inspires such dreams of grandeur when you’re asleep. And fits of jealousy, when awake.

Location of Coeur d’Alene on our Map

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October 25, 2012 at 11:22 pm Comments (4)

Silverwood Amusement Park

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Six Flag Parks

I’m from Ohio; not a fact I usually brag about, but it does come with some perks. For example, Ohio is home to the world’s greatest amusement park. Oh, shut your cheese-hole, Mickey. Disney World doesn’t hold a candle to Cedar Point, and you know it.

I only mention this, because growing up so close to Cedar Point has made me a little snobbish when it comes to theme parks. Before we even arrived at Silverwood, 30 minutes north of Coeur d’Alene, I was scoffing. “Will they have seventeen roller coasters? Heh. Doubt it.”

Idaho Aftershock

To be honest, Silverwood is no Cedar Point. But that’s alright; it’s still the largest amusement park in the Pacific Northwest, with enough rides and entertainment to easily occupy a day.

We visited at the end of the season, when the park was busy transforming itself into Scarywood for Halloween. Normally, Silverwood projects an “Old West” sort of charm, but was busy ratcheting up the fright-factor: cobwebs had been draped atop the old-time general stores, vampires and mummies peered out from windows, and creepy huts were selling inedible monster-food like Dots Ice Cream.

After walking around and taking in the atmosphere, we had to make some tough decisions. We had arrived late in the day, after spending the morning on Kellogg’s gondola, and there was only enough time for two rides. Our first pick was easy. The Aftershock was a crazy-looking coaster which lifts you vertically into the air and then drops with terrifying speed, before sending you into loops and twists, and eventually dirtying your diapers with another vertical climb… which now drops you backwards.

Our second choice, the Timber Terror, was even better. Rickety and wooden, this was one of those old coasters which you’re sure is going to fall apart as you’re hurtling down at Mach Four. Adding to the fun, its cars had been positioned backwards in preparation for Scarywood. This one had our stomachs up in our mouths the whole time. Plus, there was the added fun of torturing children; two young girls were sitting behind us and we never stopped pretending that we were about to vomit on them.

If you’ve had enough of Idaho’s scenic byways, hikes and peaceful landscapes, and could use a good jolt of roller-coaster adrenaline, Silverwood manages to pack quite a lot into its modest size. We had a good time.

Location on our Idaho Map

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October 23, 2012 at 11:35 pm Comments (2)

The Cataldo Mission – Idaho’s Oldest Building

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The oldest building in Idaho is also among its most impressive. The Jesuit mission at Cataldo, built between 1850 and 1853 for the Coeur d’Alene tribe, has survived the ages magnificently. After finishing the White Pine Scenic Byway, we toured both the church and its museum in the nearby visitor’s center.

Cataldo-Mission

The Jesuits were welcome guests in Idaho, invited by the Coeur d’Alene, who hoped to share in the white man’s powerful religion. Father Pierre-John De Smet headed up the delegation and had a church built on the banks of the Coeur d’Alene river, meant to evoke the grand cathedrals of Europe. With its wooden altars painted to look like marble and chandeliers made of tin cans, Europeans might have sneered at the makeshift quality, but the church was impressive enough to the Coeur d’Alene, who came to worship in droves.

The church was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1962. It’s been left mostly untouched since its inception, and its interior is creaky and beautiful. There are a couple small exhibits, demonstrating the methods used in the church’s construction, and an audio tape on loop which plays songs and prayers from the 1800s.

The accompanying museum is also worth visiting. With items on loan from the Smithsonian, it presents a fascinating tour through the shared history of the Catholics and the Coeur d’Alene. Pictures and anecdotes describe the historic meeting of the cultures. We learned, for example, that Father De Smet was wise enough to disregard the famous inflexibility of Catholic dogma, and incorporate the pagan beliefs of the Coeur d’Alene into his teachings.

The Cataldo Mission was an unexpected highlight during our tour through Idaho. Even for the most time-constrained tourist, the museum and church ought to be worth a couple hours.

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October 10, 2012 at 3:48 pm Comments (2)