Oh, To Be Rich 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.
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
This Post Has 6 Comments
Wow! Such a beautiful area! But, being a person of lots of color. your description of the people who live there doesn’t do a lot to make me want to visit. Sound like a stuffy, materialistically minded bunch. I have a friend moving to this area next year. Maybe I’ll get to see this gorgeous area then…with her as my bodyguard. 🙂 Carry on with your awesome pictures/blog. I’m loving it!Brenda N-B
Brenda,CDA does have it’s issues, but the natives are not stuffy or closed minded. Please, give it a shot! It’s a stunning place and I’m sure you’ll feel very welcome.
There is definitely a crowd that are ‘stuffy and materialistically minded” but those are the transplants to Coeur d’Alene. 🙂 As someone born and raised there, I have been continually in awe of its natural beauty and welcoming atmosphere. I’ve been living in England for the past 2 years (and Hawaii for 3 years before that) and these photos make me so incredibly homesick! Thank you for sharing!
My family moved to this city from nearby Spokane when I was a baby, so long ago, it was just a tiny little town. I learned how to swim in that gorgeous lake before the resort was even a gleam in the designer’s eye or mind. My father was somewhat of a VIP in the town, which I didn’t like because everyone knew who I was and I had to “behave” all the time. Lol. But besides my love of the lake once I was finally able to swim, I loved being able to walk all over this town, whether by myself or with friends, my dear friend from middle and high schools and i were both singers and we used to serenade the people in the summer time, singing our way from our homes on the north side to the hangout downtown and back home every night. we were told that the people who heard us enjoyed us. lol i hope they did! My best friend from grade school married the man who eventually helped to make a huge success of that beautiful resort, and none of the people responsible for that were “Obnoxiously rich” in any way. My mother lived there until she died in 1993. I used to go back there from Spokane frequently to spend time with her. My last time there was shortly before I moved to Texas where I am now. I was able to see old friends I had lost touch with over the years I was helping to raise my family in Spokane. I watched it grow into the city it has become. Part of me disliked it, but for all it’s growth it has not lost one bit of the small town beauty it always had, with people as well as locale. I’ve been in Texas for 14 years now, and while I love Texas and have never regretted coming here, some day I would love to go back to that beautiful lake just to see it one more time.
Growing up in Coeur d’ Alene was a real pleasure. We moved there a year after St Helens erupted and it has had my heart ever since. I moved away for nearly 20 years and moved back to the area seven years ago and have never been more happy. I love the entire inland Northwest. People are the best thing about our home here.
Wow. Reading about Java on Sherman really brought back memories. So much has changed in the last 7 years. Java on Sherman no longer exists and has been replaced for about 3 other decent coffee shops in the same vicinity. The coffee shop that replaced Java is called The Vault. Not a bad place, nor the other places I mentioned. Java was the perfect coffee shop atmosphere though. It had dirt. Great Food and Fantastic coffee. It was the hub of the downtown scene.
Coeur d’Alene has grown tremendously in the last 7 years since this article was written. Lots of people moving here. But it’s still a great place to live. Who could blame anyone for wanting their family to live in a beautiful place that is pretty family friendly. My wife and I run a small shop downtown on Sherman Avenue: https://cdaidaho.com. Next time you are in town, come say hi!