When looking for the perfect family destination, most families usually start with theme park vacations thinking it will be a blast and have plenty of fun moments for every member of the family. The reality, though, is usually very different from what you expect. Instead of feeling rested and recharged, everyone comes home completely drained (both physically and monetarily) and you almost need a vacation from your vacation. While theme parks have their place, they aren’t what ultimate family vacations are made of. If you are looking for a vacation that will not only recharge your family, but also strengthen relationships and bring you closer together this summer, you need to head to Idaho! The great outdoors are calling this summer, and you won’t find more beauty and adventure than what Idaho holds for you. There are a lot of amazing family summer destinations, but none quite like Idaho. Here are my five reasons Idaho should be added to your family’s travel bucket list this summer!
The Snake River runs through southern Idaho and is really an incredible sight to see! A trip to Idaho wouldn’t be complete without visiting this amazing river. Our family headed to Twin Falls and The Centennial Waterfront Park. Even if you don’t get in the water, this is a great spot for a spectacular view of the Perrine Bridge. Snake River Canyon is breathtaking and I was taken aback by how tall the cliffs were. If you are looking for family fun, this is a great spot to start! You can rent Kayaks and other water craft at the Centennial Waterfront Park. We were supplied with Kayaks from AWOL Adventure Sports and had a blast paddling around the river for the afternoon. I highly recommend grabbing a Kayak and heading on in.
Afterward, we had definitely worked up an appetite and decided to have a picnic lunch. Snake River made for a fantastic backdrop to our afternoon of family fun, which also turned into a great family strengthening exercise as we learned to paddle and work together to get the kayaks where we needed them.
Lava Hot Springs
I spent a lot of summers in Lava Hot Springs as a child and I have very fond memories that I couldn’t wait to share with my own kids. Nestled in between rolling valleys of green you will find this little bit of paradise that time seems to have left untouched. The name, of course, gives away a huge reason why travelers flock here, but Lava Hot Springs has a lot more to offer than just a warm soak. Our last trip included a huge swimming pool/water park, tubing down the Portneuf River, a chuck wagon dinner, and more! For what feels like a cute sleepy town, it’s packed full of fun and adventure.
The highlight for my seven year old daughter was definitely tubing down the Portneuf River. This isn’t your average slow float down the river experience. The Portneuf River in Lava Hot Springs is full of exciting rapids, big dips, and more fun than you could find in any water park! We got a four person tube and it was fantastic! If you want to feel like you are rafting down the river, I highly recommend the four person tube. Nothing like the whole family floating down together!
After the tubing, my daughter wasn’t quite done with the water and we decided to head to the Lava Hot Springs pool. This is a pool you could spend all day at and you should be prepared for the kids begging you to let them stay. It has water slides for every age, even the really little kids; it’s so cute watching the smile of a one year old as they slide down a slide like the big kids.
In all my summers at Lava Hot Springs, I missed out on what I know now to be a crucial Lava Hot Springs activity: The Chuck Wagon dinner! I am so glad to add it to my “must do” Lava list now, though. Not only was it a fantastic family activity and a super delicious meal, but it was the most relaxing experience I’ve had in a long time. Baker Ranch has been doing chuck wagon dinners for years and they have this wonderful experience down to an art. The wagon ride was amazing and the backdrop couldn’t have been more picturesque; rolling green hills with cute farms and even deer bouncing across the road in front of us.
After about a 30 minute ride, we arrived at a great cove area with our dinner waiting for us. While eating a fantastic dinner, they had someone singing for us and playing the guitar. I could have stayed in that moment forever! Great food, live music and beautiful mountains, what more could you need? The kids were even able to roast hot dogs over the roaring fire. My son is still talking about the wagon ride and keeps asking when we can go back. Lava Hot Springs is definitely something they will remember for a long time.
Shoshone Falls and Dierkes Lake
Snake River would be pretty great by itself, but when you throw in the fact that you can kayak right up to a magnificent waterfall, it puts the “cool factor” over the top. Even if you choose to keep your feet on dry land, you have to go see Shoshone Falls! Most are stunned to find out that these gorgeous falls are actually taller than Niagara and I personally find them to be much more breathtaking. The kids loved that there was a rainbow right before their eyes and I loved feeling the mist spray up and hit my face. If you are looking for an easy waterfall to see and one that’s quite impressive, you can’t go wrong with Shoshone Falls. Also, with your incredibly reasonable $3 entry fee, you can enjoy Dierkes Lake, which is right near the falls. The kids will love swimming in this cool lake and it’s a great area for the whole family to hang out for the afternoon. Shoshone Falls is definitely a must see while in Idaho and will really make the trip fantastic.
This is a destination you really have to see to believe. With blues almost deeper and more vibrant than those found in the Caribbean, this is a lake you can’t miss. Utahans know about this little secret and they come out to soak up the beauty on the weekends. Part of the lake is in Utah, but the part you will want to spend the day with your family at is the Idaho side. Here you will find a fantastic beach area that the kids can dig and play in and famous raspberry shakes that are to die for!
I highly recommend stopping at North Beach Burgers, picking up some raspberry shakes, and heading to the beach with them!
Bear Lake is perfect for just sitting and letting the kids play in the water, or for breaking out some fun on a watercraft. If you don’t have a watercraft with you, there are plenty of rental places right on the beach.
My daughter really loves this beach because she can find seashells! That’s right, a lake with seashells, a beach, and blue water! The lake has fresh water clams and snails that fill the beach area with cool shells for the kids. I had to keep reminding our kids that we weren’t at the ocean.
If you are still looking for something to do after you visit the lake, the surrounding area has many historical sites like the Butch Cassidy Museum, The National Oregon/California Trail Center, and many buildings built in the 1800’s. You’ll also find the Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge right next to the lake. The whole area near Bear Lake is really fascinating and will make for a huge highlight on your trip.
I could really make a list topping over 100 reasons why Idaho should be on your bucket list, but these five are definitely my favorites. Our family left Idaho feeling recharged and even closer than when we started our trip. We had so many great adventures that our kids will always be able to remember and they were able to get a better appreciation of nature. That is a priceless bonus to our great vacation.
It’s time for your family to start planning their trip to Idaho so you can create your own list of why you love Idaho! Think you already know Idaho? I can guarantee you this is a state that will surprise you! Head over here to check out all you’ve missed in Idaho and start planning your next Idaho adventure!
We received hosting to facilitate this review, all opinions and information are my own.