A family trip to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho will have you wondering why you don’t plan small-town vacations more often
If you think small-town vacations can be a gamble, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho is here to prove you wrong. Nestled on the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene, the city has packed the feel of a big city—and the amenities that go along with it—into its downtown area. Everything you and the kids need is right at your fingertips—great restaurants, cute shops, outdoor activities, plus seasonal events that’ll keep you coming back for more. So ditch the car and put on your walking shoes, here are a few of our favorite things to do in Coeur d’Alene with kids.
Best Things to Do in Coeur d’Alene for Families
Check out some of the town’s highlights. Then find all the details about visiting this lakeside city below.
Cruise around Lake Coeur d’Alene
From the minute you drive into town, it’s clear that Lake Coeur d’Alene is the main attraction here. The third largest lake in Idaho, at 25 miles long and 10 miles wide, it snakes as far as the eye can see and then some, and has long been considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the country. In short, make getting out on the water a priority when you visit.
Scenic boat tours with Coeur d’Alene Cruises run year-round and are the perfect way for families to not only see the lake but learn about it too. Public cruises run for 90 minutes and board right next to City Beach, an easy walk from pretty much anywhere downtown. Take a seat in the open air or the covered dining area below, because this boat ride is narrated, and you won’t want to miss any of it. Learn all sorts of intriguing facts about the city’s history as you glide past remote hillside homes, historic resorts, golf courses, and secret beaches around the lake. When it’s all said and done, you and the kids will have a real feel for the city and its history.
Insider Tip: Don’t forget to check out the seasonal cruises. Winter is all about eagle-watching, holiday lights, and hot cocoa. It’s also an easy way to see the spectacular downtown Christmas light display that draws people from around the state.
Explore Tubbs Hill
Coeur d’Alene’s mix of outdoor access and urban convenience is what makes it so appealing to visitors. Just a block from the city’s many shops and eateries is Tubbs Hill, a 120-acre nature area. Loaded with hiking trails that lead to small beaches and stunning cliffs, the city feels miles away. Far from remote, it’s a popular spot with locals who are out on the trails from sunrise to sunset. For families it’s a simple outing that can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours, depending on what you’ve got planned for the day. Follow the 2.2-mile interpretive trail along the hill’s perimeter or hike up and see what you find. It’s hard to get lost here, and it’s easy to find secluded beaches where you can sit and enjoy the lake views while the kids dig and (if the weather’s good) dip their toes into the lake.
Insider Tip: Further engage your kids with their experience here when you have them complete the Junior Friends of Tubbs Hill Activity Book.
Coeur d’Alene’s Many Parks & Playgrounds
Having the freedom to take kids to a local playground, beach, or skate park when you’re on vacation is sometimes all it takes to keep them entertained. Another one of Coeur d’Alene’s perks is its many free, outdoor plays paces. Along the lake lies City Park with its sandy beach and scenic walkway—a must-do, no matter what the season. Warmer months see families swimming in the lake, splashing in the stream, and sitting on the steps watching the boats and seaplanes on the busy waterway. Just off the path, hidden in the trees, is Fort Sherman Park—a formidable wooden structure where kids of all ages can climb all afternoon and still want to play longer. The basketball court and nearby skate park round out the area, making it a total package for families.
Insider Tip: In the summer, the carousel near Fort Sherman Park is open for rides.
On the northeast side of Tubbs Hill is McEuen Park, a popular city park and sports haven for those looking to play pickleball on vacation. Kids can’t help but be drawn to the colorful play structure that includes equipment for both big and little kids. In the summertime, the marine-themed splash pad keeps kids cool on a hot day, and the grassy open spaces are an inviting place to picnic. In the wintertime, McEuen Park is home to a pop-up ice rink that’s open for public skate sessions starting in November and running through January.
Insider Tip: As you make your way around these city parks, keep your eyes peeled for Mudgy Moose, a hard-to-miss bronze sculpture. Each one has a few pages from the book Mudgy & Millie, written by local author, Susan Nipp. By the time you’ve finished exploring Coeur d’Alene, the kids will have finished the book. That’s a win-win.
Get to know Coeur d’Alene’s Downtown District
Restaurants in Coeur d’Alene
When hunger strikes, downtown beckons with eats to please any palate. Stick to something simple, but oh-so-good when you and the kids head to Fire Artisan Pizza for a simple wood-fired pie. It’s a popular spot, so get there early to avoid a wait, especially on the weekends. Another great place to grab a bite? Try Honey Eatery & Social Club. Comfort food with a modern twist graces their menu, with many gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options. Give the mushroom meatloaf a try, you won’t be disappointed, and as far as avocado toast goes, theirs is worthy. Crafted Tap House + Kitchen is another kid-friendly spot, with burgers and beer that always hit the spot, and plenty of outdoor seating.
Woops! Bakeshop has you covered for breakfast and lunch (don’t forget to pick up some macarons, too!), as does Bean & Pie. A savory handpie for breakfast never hurt anyone, right? Your kids will love it. Find them both just off the main drag. But when it comes to sweets, there’s one place in town that has everyone talking—Dockside in the Resort. Their Gooeys are a local tradition (that are also world-famous), and if you ask us, they are totally worth it. It’s like a super-charged sundae with its own theme. Kids will love The Gooey Monster that comes topped with a Cookie Monster cookie. Our suggestion? Split the individual size—they’re that big.
Insider Tip: If you head to Dockside for a Gooey, you can enjoy it at the dessert bar; no need to wait for seating in the dining room.
Shopping in Coeur d’Alene
Trendy shops and local boutiques line Sherman Avenue downtown. And while you’ll definitely find touristy must-haves, like t-shirts and water bottle stickers here, there are plenty of originals worth a look. For families, the first stop has to be at Figpickels Toy Emporium. It’s hard to miss—just look for the oversized LEGO Ferris Wheel in the window. Arguably one of the best toy stores we’ve been to in a long time, your kids will be wide-eyed (and probably begging for this, that, and oh, that over there) as you wander around the stocked shelves. Head to the back to find an interactive Zoltar and carousel just for the Littles.
There are more than a few gift shops that offer original decor for your home, like Mix It Up and Into the Woods. And plant lovers would be remiss if they didn’t stop into Fern. Just be warned, it’s hard to leave here empty-handed, green thumb or not. Plan to spend at least a few hours window shopping in the downtown district on your vacation.
Where to Stay in Coeur d’Alene
There’s a new way to stay in Coeur d’Alene—One Lakeside. The towering building was erected and opened during the pandemic, and it falls somewhere on the spectrum between a luxury hotel and an urban Airbnb. Located in the heart of downtown Coeur d’Alene, the mixed-use building (60% residents and 40% guests) has everything your family needs to be comfortable during your stay. Choose from one- to three-bedroom suites. All include full kitchens, washers/dryers, and some are even dog-friendly.
While you can’t order room service, and housekeeping doesn’t clean the room, the spacious units are fully equipped to make traveling with kids a cinch. No need to pack toiletries—they’ve got them stocked. And if you need to do a load of wash or iron a shirt straight out of the suitcase, the laundry room is in the unit. Chef-ready kitchens are an added bonus, and not just because they help you save on travel expenses. Head back to your cozy accommodations after a day of exploring to make dinner. Then retire to the dining area to enjoy your meal, or eat on the balcony in the warmer months, so you can take in the lake view. Psst… you can even order groceries ahead of time so the fridge will be stocked when you get there.
Whether you stay in a one-, two-, or three-bedroom suite, you’ll feel at home at One Lakeside. Every bedroom has a mounted TV, and the floor-to-ceiling windows that really shine during the daytime are dampened at night with thick drapes so everyone can get a good night’s sleep.
Like many urban highrises, One Lakeside has amenities that are open to guests as well as residents. Head to the rooftop terrace for unbelievable views and firepits with seating. Board games and comfy couches are in the nearby lounge. The Fourth Floor Terrace is made for play. Dogs can play in the dog run, and parents can use the gas grills, while the kids take up a game of cornhole.
How to Get to Coeur d’Alene
Although Coeur d’Alene may feel remote, getting there is easier than you think. From many cities across the country, families can fly directly into the Spokane International Airport, just a quick 30-minute drive outside of Coeur d’Alene. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, it’s a reasonable drive from many major cities—just over four hours from Seattle and around six from Portland. Both fall into the “definitely driveable with kids” category, especially with scenic stops along the way.
Editor’s note: This trip was paid for by One Lakeside but all the opinions belong to the writer.