Last year’s journey to the idyllic lake town of Coeur D’Alene began as a one-time trip to celebrate family birthdays that ended with a unanimous “Let’s do that again next year!” Those words came to fruition when we welcomed my husband’s parents back to begin our highly anticipated repeat trip.
DAY ONE: BOISE TO WALLA WALLA
Before departing from Boise, we grabbed drinks while taking in the alluring aroma of fresh roasted beans at Alchemist Coffee. We cranked up Billy Joel tunes and hit the road through the foothills into Oregon. We meandered along the Snake River, past trains, crop duster planes, and a lone elk just before reaching the ascent through Deadman’s Pass heading towards Washington.
Our first stop was a town we’d regretted not spending more time in before. Home to less than 40,000 people and 120 wineries, Walla Walla, Washington embraces its history, and creates the perfect ambiance for relaxing with a glass of vino or perusing the storefronts along Main Street. It feels like a living museum, with restored brick buildings and the 1902 Odd Fellows Temple, a sturdy stone structure which showcases the town’s diverse ethnic and cultural history through photographs. After gazing through these “Windows on the Past,” our gurgling stomachs soon led us across the street to enjoy a satisfying brunch at Bacon and Eggs, complete with a self-serve, multi-tiered hot sauce display.
At Reininger Winery, the first stop of a self-guided tour that we had carefully curated with reservations, fresh berry notes tickled our nose as our taste buds anticipated the crimson and velvety smooth wine, served in a glass designed specifically to enhance the aromatic flavors. This refined, but not stuffy establishment was the perfect relaxing atmosphere. Our experience was as much educational as it was a sensory experience, thanks to the knowledgeable and friendly wine steward.
We then returned to the acclaimed Long Shadows winery, greeted by sprawling grapevine views, a tasting room filled with brightly colored Chihuly glass, and luscious, internationally-inspired wine. Nearby, Waterbrook Winery had a more casual environment with food offerings and views from an expansive waterfront patio and courtyard that would be the perfect place for sharing a laugh with friends over a tipsy round of Bocce Ball.
Ready for a quick rest and refresh, we checked in to the modernly appointed Courtyard Marriott before hitting up Red Monkey’s for their monkey-branded burger and island warrior tacos - a tasty way to end our feast of a day.
DAY TWO: WALLA WALLA
We continued our wine adventure in two of the many tasting rooms downtown. I was convinced Joanna Gaines had been the inspiration for the ambiance at Seven Hills Winery. The bright, airy space welcomed us with views into the only working historic wine making facility in Walla Walla.
Unknowingly saving the best for last, we finished at Bledsoe Winery, where floor to ceiling windows encased the main tasting room, opposite a beautiful curved wall of basket-woven wine barrel staves. I was so impressed with childhood friends and winemaking geniuses Jeff Bledsoe and Josh McDaniels, that I became their newest wine club member! After a pleasant afternoon, we were spoiled with dinner at the Walla Walla Steak Co., located in a historic train depot and accessorized with a full-size train caboose. Inside, we found a warmly lit and inviting space with lofted ceilings, flavorful drinks, friendly service, and high-quality steaks.
DAY THREE: WALLA WALLA TO COEUR D’ALENE (CDA)
We left Walla Walla with a stomach full of delicious food from Maple Counter Cafe, and a sincere fondness for this little town with so much to offer. As we continued onward toward our final destination, fields of corn, wheat, and grape vines surrounded tiny historic towns like Colfax (est. 1879).The anticipation of that first glimpse of Lake Coeur D’Alene started to rise. Country roads turned into interstate after passing a “Welcome to Idaho” sign and grain silos became logging factories surrounded by towering pines.
Time slowed down as I finally reclined on the balcony of our room overlooking the pine-surrounded lake at the Coeur D’Alene Resort. The sun soaked into my skin and the breeze kissed my cheeks. I watched couples stroll along the world’s longest floating boardwalk nestled around the private vessels while boats came and went across the glassy blue water.
The day could have easily passed like this, but I was looking forward to another unforgettable wine experience awaiting us at Beverly's, which boasts the biggest wine selection in the Pacific Northwest. The sommelier led us down the circular wooden staircase on a small group tour of their cellars (complimentary to CDA Resort Guests and those with dining reservations) filled with 1400+ varietals from across the globe.
In addition to the knowledgeable and friendly sommeliers, the food we enjoyed at the restaurant later that evening was divine, and the service was as impeccable as the lakeside ambience was beautiful. A short elevator ride led me back to a luxurious suite we had no regrets splurging on, as it was completed with a fireplace and expansive lake view that we enjoyed while cozying beneath plush bedding.
DAY 4: COEUR D’ALENE
We got a refreshing start to a golf day the next morning aboard the free boat shuttle that was captained by the same friendly, dry-witted ex-navy seal as the year before. You could tell it was his dream retirement job and it uplifted me to see his sea-weathered, smiling face again.
After a delightful French toast breakfast, we were on our way to the ultimate golf experience on the world’s only floating green at the Coeur D'Alene Resort Golf Course. My ball may have wanted to go for a swim instead of seeking dry land on that glorious 14th hole, but taking the quick ferry ride to stand on this modern marvel was well worth it.
After a long, but beautiful day outside, we enjoyed the casual atmosphere at Capone’s Pub and Grill for dinner, a downtown spot fit for getting your bar-food fix. We ended our evening back at the resort, at Whisper’s lounge, where we sipped espresso martinis and reminisced about our day from comfy seating on the fire-lit patio.
DAY 5: COEUR D’ALENE
Rising early, I took a refreshing hike through the pine-scented forest dotted with a rainbow of wildflowers along the lakeside trails of Tubb’s Hill, located conveniently next to the resort. For breakfast, we hit Jimmy’s Down the Street, a 1950’s diner. Our return visit wouldn’t have been complete without their ginormous, Guy Fieri approved caramel-covered pecan roll.
After another fun afternoon of golf, we walked right into Fire Pizza, a recommended downtown joint with a wood-fired oven and a surprising, but incredible s’mores charcuterie board, which my husband cleverly suggested we should have as an appetizer. We devoured the roasted marshmallow covered chocolate, fruits, crackers and homemade chocolate chip cookies that melt in your mouth. The wood-fired pizza was tasty as well, but we’re definitely hoping the s’mores special makes it on the permanent menu!
DAY 6: COEUR D’ALENE TO BOISE
On our last morning, rain shattered our plans to bike the scenic Hiawatha Trail. Fortunately, reservations for spa treatments at the resort awaited us as a back-up plan. We slipped into heated sandals and soft robes, and soaked up views of the water as we lounged next to a beautiful stone fireplace. With each warming stroke of the smooth basalt across my skin, I gave into relaxation and let the sorrows melt away… but not before adding hot stone massage to my mental list of activities to revisit.
Refreshed and packed, we gathered for our last meal at the CDA Resort Dockside Restaurant, where they accommodated a special request for chocolate-chip pancakes. We made one last stop at Coeur D’Alene Coffee to refill the unique glass jars we saved from last year. The lofty industrial space with a substantial fireplace and ample seating made me wish I could stay to enjoy sips of my delectable oat latte spiced with maple cinnamon and fresh orange zest.
To complete the loop home, we took the Idaho 95, passing through the evergreens towards rolling hills, embellished with bright yellow canola blankets. My mouth was agape as we looked down over Lewiston, a city sprawled at the base of the foothills, where the Clearwater River and Snake River unite along the Idaho-Washington border. River Rock Café in Riggins, ID provided comfort-food nourishment for the rest of the ride through the quaint towns of McCall and Cascade.
While enjoying the beautiful scenery, I reminisced about the people who made this trip so memorable: the friendly golf caddy, knowledgeable sommeliers, accommodating wine stewards, amazing hotel customer service, the waiter who made a dessert extra special, and one of my favorite moments, a celebration over drinks and sunset with the eloped newlyweds that we met during our dinner at Beverly’s. The time spent laughing, exploring, and making new memories with family was priceless, and connecting with new and familiar faces also added a special spark to a journey that is definitely worth repeating!
Bacon and Eggs
Maple Counter Café
Walla Walla Steak Co.
Long Shadows Winery
Seven Hills Winery
For more wineries, visit: WallaWalla.org/wineries/
Marcus Whitman Hotel and Conference Center
Capone’s Pub and Grill
Jimmy’s Down the Street
Coeur D’Alene Coffee
The Cedars Floating Restaurant
The Floating Green Restaurant
Coeur D’Alene Resort
Coeur D’Alene Golf Resort
Circling Raven Casino and Golf Resort (Worley, ID)
The Idaho Club (Sandpoint, ID)
Galena Ridge Golf Course (Kellogg, ID)
Tubb’s Hill (CDA)
Route of the Hiawatha Scenic Biking Trail (1hr east of CDA)
Silverwood Theme Park (Athol, ID, 30 minutes north)