Sun Valley Resort is perhaps the premier winter sports and ski resort in Idaho, but it's also full of fun outdoor and family-friendly activities if you're visiting Idaho in the summertime. The ski resort has a variety of blue, green, and black runs so everyone can have some fun on the slopes, regardless of level. I'd suggest taking the Challenger and Christmas lifts as they each offer a blue, green, and black options. The snowfall isn't the best in the United States but they supplement the ample natural snowfall with artificial snow so you're bound to have great conditions. Nordic and cross-country skiing are also especially popular in Sun Valley and they even have annual festivals to celebrate the sport.
In summer, travelers have a variety of hiking, fishing, ice skating, and golf options to choose from. Honestly, Sun Valley has done a wonderful job of tailoring their activities to a year-round crowd and there's always something to do no matter the time of year.The summer trails, especially those on Bald Mountain, make for superb hiking and mountain biking and the views are just spectacular. After you're done, head down the Sun Valley Club for a refreshing drink in the sunshine.
If you're a fan of skiing or great outdoors in general, I'd happily recommend giving Idaho's Sun Valley Resort a try. It's an especially appropriate place to go if you have kids or are traveling in a group where no everyone's an avid skier. Enjoy!
Lava Hot Springs is an amazing spa center and outdoor waterpark heated by geothermal mineral springs in the area. The pools range from 102ºF to 110ºF and the sensation of enjoying the massive hot pools during the spring of fall when the mountain air is cool and crisp is unbeatable. The park itself is divided into a couple of sections: first, you have the hot pools. These are natural jacuzzi-style pools featuring a variety of steamy water temperatures to help you relax. Then, there's an indoor part with a large swimming pool that's perfect for when the weather is less than optimal or you have small children. Finally, the most popular part of the complex: the water park. The water park has an Olympic-sized pool surrounded by grassy areas to layout and a few snack bars. There are also four large, fun water slides and a couple of diving platforms (including one that is really, really tall!). You need to sign a waiver to jump off the high dives, but otherwise you can relax at your leisure. They even allow you to bring your own chairs, umbrellas, and picnic goodies (no alcohol, though) so you can make an entire day out of it. The best part? The outdoor water park has a water temperature of around 90ºF so it's nice and warm without getting too hot. It's lovely. I'd recommend it 100%!!!
The Museum of Idaho in Idaho Falls is one of the most interesting museums around. it is undeniably a small-town museum with a modest collection and pleasant permanent exhibit, but what makes it so interesting is that it regularly draws world-class traveling exhibits like King Tut's treasures, European masters, and the famous Dead Sea Scrolls. Most of these exhibits only pass through big-city museums in New York, Washington, and San Francisco and it's such a feat that the Museum of Idaho has managed to bring them all to its exhibition galleries.
The museum's permanent collection is mainly based around the history of the state of Idaho and features some rather interesting and kid-friendly exhibits on the Lewis and Clark expedition and the founding of Idaho Falls. They even have a full-scale mock-up of an early Idaho frontier town that you can walk through and explore. The Children's Discovery Room is an especially nice addition and let's get learn about nature, animals, and history through fun little interactive displays.
As I said, the permanent collection is modest but you should have a look online to see what the temporary exhibit is during your visit. Who knows...you might be in town to catch one of the most famous exhibits on Earth! At $8 for adults and $6 for kids over 4, the admission prices are more than reasonable.
Lake Pend Orielle is a large, pristine mountain like in northern Idaho. The best part about Lake Pend Orielle is the sheer wildness of it. The majority of the lake shores are undeveloped and there are only a few towns scattered about. In fact, the majority of the area surrounding the lake is made up of national forests and state parks like Farragut State Park. If you want to boat, fish, hike, and camp far away from the noise and stress of civilization, then Lake Pend Orielle is the place!
As far as camping goes, there are plenty of options. The major parks surrounding the lake like Bayview, Farragut, and Lakeview all have boat launches and camping facilities, but my best in my opinion are Whiskey Rock and Maiden Rock. Both of these are more remote and uncrowded than the more popular ground and feature some incredible boulders that are fun to explore.
There are also plenty of trails circling the lake and hikers have a good chance of seeing native wildlife like eagles and ospreys or even mountain goats with a little luck. If it's your first time at Lake Pend Orielle, try crossing the Pedestrian Long Bridge, a massive elevated walkway that crosses the bridge and offers stunning panoramic views.
The Shoshone Indian Ice Caves are a truly unique natural phenomenon in Shoshone, Idaho that you absolutely can't miss if you're in the area. While it bears the name of "cave," it' not a cave in the traditional sense: rather, it's a quarter-mile-long volcanic tube craved out by ancient lava flows. Over the years, the cold current of air rushing through the cave has frozen the ground water and condensation into a beautiful, smooth floor of ice.
Access to the caves is restricted to guided tours. After paying your admission fee (a somewhat steep $10 for access and tour), you're invited to explore the visitors center and small geology museum until tour time. When the tour starts, a local guide will take you down through the caves exploring its history from a social and geological point of view. I'm usually not one for guided tours, but the guide was really knowledgeable and the info helped give the cave historical context and actually made the visit much more interesting. One tip: make sure to bring a light jacket of sweater if you get chilly easily. It hovers around freezing in the caves (even in summer) and since the tour lasts around 45min., you might get a bit cold. I will say that it's absolutely refreshing in the summertime!
Harriman State Park is one of the most spectacular and overlooked state parks in Idaho. It's located along the famous Henry's Fork branch of the Snake River and has an amazing bounty of plant and animal life that is often passed over due to the park's proximity to Yellowstone National Park. Even though it's not as well known as Yellowstone, I'd still recommend I visit to Harriman State Park if you want to experience some truly wild plant and animal life.
Harriman State Park is famous among locals for three main reasons: fishing, Mesa Falls, and cross-country skiing. The Snake River is famous throughout Idaho for its abundance of rainbow trout and if you're looking to strap on your waders and do some fly fishing in the great outdoors, then Harriman is the place to be. Also, don't miss a morning at Mesa Falls, a spectacular and massive waterfalls about an hour away from the park entrance. As you arrive, there are several viewing platforms to enjoy different angles of the falls. Finally, cross-country skiing. I myself have never personally gone cross-country skiing but I know that Harriman is a favorite among those that have.
Finally, there are horse outfitters near the park and a day riding along the trails is a great way to spot moose, elk, and the dozens and dozens of swans that use this park as a nesting ground.
Lake Redfish is a massive and clean mountain lake in Idaho's Challis National Forest and a great place to spend a summer weekend. Idaho is obviously a looong ways from the beach, so what's the local summertime solution when you need to cool off? Head to Lake Redish! While the water is a bit chilly even in August, the lake has several soft, sandy beaches where you can set up the deck chairs, break out the picnic cooler, and take a swim or simply relax in the shade.
There are two main bases of operation for those visiting Lake Redfish. The first is the Redfish Lake Lodge, a private restaurant/boat rental area which, while a bit pricey, is probably your best option if you're just visiting and don't have your own gear. They have reasonable rental prices on canoes and kayaks which will let you explore the lake and find your own little sandy corner away from the crowds that sometimes gather around the lodge. Other other main starting point is the state campgrounds, but it's more appropriate if you have your own camping gear, boats, fishing gear, etc.
There are rental cabins scattered around the lodge and they'r really state of the art! I'd even go as far to call it "glamping." I mean, everything was new, the floors were heated...just amazing. You can ask or call the lodge to find out about availability. If you're visiting in summertime, I'd suggest getting a cabin for a couple of days (better during the week to avoid crowds) and doing some swimming and fishing with the majestic Sawtooth Mountains in the background.
Balanced Rock is a unique natural phenomenon in southern Idaho and the surrounding park is one of the most fun and well set-up places to spend a summer day with the family. The park (called Balanced Rock Park) is located in the stunning Salmon Falls Creek Canyon which appears unexpectedly from the grassy farmlands surrounding Castelford, Idaho. Make sure to bring a GPS with you as if can be tricky to find the first time.
When you enter the canyon, you'll see spectacular cliff walls, a gently river, and plenty of playful little critters like marmots and squirrels. The welcome area of the park has barbecue grill set up and plenty of manicured lawns for a riverside picnic. If you walk a little ways down, you'll see the famous Balanced Rock. The rock is a massive boulder shaped (somewhat) like a boomerang that's perched precariously on its end on top of another massive boulder. It seems like it's only attached my a very, very small thread. In the end, it's just a rock...very similar to others like it throughout the Southwest. What's nice, though, is the park itself. There are plenty of fun rock formations and little hidden nooks and caves that you can explore to your hearts content. The kids will love playing mountain man and explorer in that kind of environment (to be honest, some adults might feel that way too!). If you're passing through southern Idaho, a day at Balanced Rock should definitely be on your to-do list.
The curiously-named Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness is one of the largest and most amazing wilderness areas in the continental United States. When I say it's large, I mean it's MASSIVE. It covers over 2.3 million acres of mountains, meadows, rivers, hot springs, and forests in central Idaho and one of the last remaining areas to see moose, bear, wolves, elk, and other spectacular large North American mammals in their natural habitat.
The Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness is probably most famous for rafting. In fact, the park gets its strange name from the Salmon Falls river's strong current which made it tough for boats to make it back up stream in the past. These days, you'll find plenty of outfitters in the area that'll take you on single of multi-day rafting adventures down the river.
One thing to remember when visiting the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness is that the area is truly WILD. There are vast stretches of open land where you won't see another soul. If you're planning on going camping in the wilderness, make sure you come prepared. If you'd rather take it a bit easier, there are several established campsites where you have some basic amenities.
Bear Lake is a large and spectacularly-blue lake located on the Idaho-Utah border. It enjoys the nickname "Caribbean of the Rockies" thanks to its turquoise color and the truth is that the color of the water is both beautiful and surprising. If you see and unmarked photo of a person swimming in Bear Lake, you'd swear it was taken from somewhere in the tropics. And, as you'd imagine, the lake is one of the most popular summertime destinations in the area. There are lots of little beaches, marinas, and campsites scattered around the shores of the lake but if it's your first time in the area and you're not sure where to begin, I'd suggest heading to North Beach State Park just on eastern shores of the lake. There, you'll find a fantastic sandy beach to set up shop and some campsite outfitted with electricity and running water.
Bear Lake is also a popular place among fishermen. There are several boat rental places (typically one per marina) in the vicinity of the lake where you can find a guide to take you to the best places. One interesting piece of trivia: the lake is home to several types of trout and whitefish that aren't found anywhere else on Earth!
The Boise Museum of Art (or BAM, as it's called locally) is a small but pleasant museum located near Julia Davis park in downtown Boise, Idaho. The museum's collection is definitely not one of the great collections of the American museum system, but it does make for a worthwhile place to explore and admire for a few hours during your trip to Boise. The permanent collection has a bit of everything but the focus on the paintings and ceramics by Northwestern artists is probably the most interesting part. The museum also regularly hosts traveling exhibits which bring something extra to the experience. To give you an example, the BAM has hosted everything from exhibits on embroidery to rock art to forward-thinking contemporary art over the past few years. Just have a look ahead of time at the museum's website to see what's on display when you're visiting. The admission price is $5 and it's worth it for the good service, clean space, and interesting exhibits.