Traveling to our Coeur d’Alene winter getaway
We got in to the Spokane Airport from Denver on Thursday night for a four night Coeur d’Alene winter getaway for our anniversary weekend. I surprised Brendan with this trip over Christmas (well, semi-surprise, because he ultimately did guess it) and had previously purchased the tickets from DEN to GEG on United at a pretty good price ($300/pp) – it was assuredly off-season due to the Coeur d’Alene winter climate – wet, rainy, sleety, overcast. We did catch some sun for a few hours over the course of the long weekend, but not much more than that. That said, we had brought the right clothes, and the soggy weather did nothing to dampen our moods.
Brendan was feeling stressed out from work and Thursday had been a tough day, both of us trying to tie off loose ends before catching the 7PM flight out. I received an upgrade using my last vestiges of status (gone after January) on United, but felt so bad for Brendan’s sorry state that we swapped so he could enjoy first class. Now that’s love
Once at GEG airport, we easily found a Lyft in the passenger pickup area in between A and B terminals, and were on our way to Couer d-Alene, which was about a 45 minute drive east of the airport. Coeur d’Alene did have an airport, but it was a tiny private one with no commercial flights. We hemmed and hawed about whether or not to rent a car, and ultimately decided against it, assuming we would be in town for most of the time, and if we needed to go outside town, we could figure it out. Our assumption proved accurate.
Arriving to the Blackwell Boutique Hotel around 930PM, we found our check-in instructions on the front door and proceeded to our room, #9, in the Carriage House. Easy peasy. We had booked a room in the main inn itself, but were upgraded to the Carriage House to make room for several weddings and a Bridal Boutique in the main hotel over the weekend. We were more than happy to oblige, and found the room incredibly spacious. Here are a few pictures of the hotel itself and our room.
Our first full day
Since we got in pretty late and had already eaten a nice Smashburger dinner at the Denver airport, we called it a night, getting up still somewhat early for a vacation since we both had some work we had to do on Friday. The hotel offered a lovely continental breakfast featuring a few hot items like egg frittatas and sausage, as well as waffles that were made a la minute. The built-in breakfast was a nice surprise that we did not expect, and saved us some money over the course of the stay.
Coeur d’Alene winter getaway weather was definitely afoot, but we caught a break in the late afternoon and decided to venture out once our work was done. We took a long walk to the lake and then beyond, all the way to North Idaho college at the edge of the beach across town. The college was on prime real-estate, right near the high-end beach villas along the water’s edge.
As we strolled through town, we took a few pictures. The main town was beautifully decorated with wintery deliciousness and fairy lights, like in Denver’s Larimer Street. Most of the shops were open, and while there were not many people on the streets, it did seem like Coeur d’Alene winters were expected and the city did a good job shoveling and making walkways accessible.
One of the restaurants nearest the Blackwell Hotel even had little igloos outside for people to have a beer in and stay warm. We could only imagine how lively the city got in summer, but had a good idea about the vibe and whether we’d like it – we did!
We also enjoyed the “moose spottings” – sculptures scattered throughout town – that Couer d’Alene was known for, including the art popping up in random and fun places throughout the city.
We were able to catch a gorgeous sunset over the lake as well.
We continued our walk around the North Idaho College campus around the corner, and then decided to take a detour back via a Safeway that we never actually got to. Brendan needed to pick up some distilled water (literally the hardest thing to find in gas stations) for his sinus rinse routine, which we ultimately found at the corner store a few blocks from our hotel.
Once back, we showered, and ordered a Lyft for a reservation we had for dinner that night at a place called Cedar’s Floating Restaurant. It was a few miles away, but not walkable. We had worried about the availability of ride sharing during our Coeur d’Alene winter getaway, but there ended up being nothing to worry about. Cedar’s sat us right away in a table towards the back, but not near a window. We were a little disappointed, but not enough to make a fuss since you couldn’t see outside anyways – the marina was pretty dark.
The food, we thought, was OK. Not great, not good, OK. I had the filet mignon with their special marinade, and Brendan had the surf n’ turf. The filet mignon was tasty, but the sides of mashed potatoes and vegetables were bland. We did enjoy their ample salad bar, which was included in every meal. You can think of this place as an old mom and pop fancy restaurant – always good but felt a little dated as far as the concept goes. The best part was probably Brendan’s espresso ice cream tower dessert.
We easily grabbed a Lyft and headed back to the hotel to get some rest in advance of Saturday’s itinerary – and in-depth town shopping, galleries, and nooks n’ crannies day.
Shopping in Coeur d’Alene
Saturday started offer with another nice continental breakfast at The Blackwell Hotel, followed by our town exploration. On our way to shopping and galleries, we scoped out the Tubbs Hill trail entrance near the McEuen dog park. While there, we got to read about some of the history of the town – they had a regatta and bandstand – most of the activities revolved around the lake. General Sherman even put a fort on the lake where the college we had visited the day before now stood. There is also a rich mining history.
We continued our Coeur d’Alene winter getaway exploring along the waterfront and scoped out the Coeur d’Alene resort where we would be eating for dinner on Sunday night for our anniversary, at the best restaurant in town, Beverly’s. The hotel was certainly luxurious, but dated, 1970s luxury – dark, closed off, and somewhat Soviet Bloc architecture from the outside (although Brendan had heard that parts of the resort and the town itself were more Swiss in the architectural feel, we both ultimately decided against that perspective). The mountain town we visited in Morocco felt more Swiss than Coeur d’Alene
The 1970s luxury vibe was pervasive throughout the town, making it both more affordable and ripe for a revival. Real estate prices were reasonable, it has both mountains and lakes, and is has a favorable climate. The weather in Coeur d’Alene is pretty mild – average year round temperate in the high 40s. December and January are the coldest months, and it can snow as we saw. And of course it’s very wet since it’s the Pacific Northwest.
The downside of Coeur d’Alene is that it’s quite a homogenous Caucasian presence. Surprisingly the median age is 35 – and we did notice a lot of younger people while we were out and about, especially in the service industry.
We continued exploring the nooks and crannies of the town, and really enjoyed the old toy display in the mall across from the Coeur d’Alene resort – we learned about “trundling the hoop”, and the connection between the 16th/17th/18th century game and the expression (keep things moving forward while maintaining balance). As we walked around we also checked out all the restaurants, and ultimately decided on pizza at Fire – one of the more modern looking and newer restaurants in town.
Countless art galleries were open on Saturdays in off-season, fortunately for us. We learned a lot about the town and the art scene by talking with the gallery managers, especially since there were very few customers. Everyone was extremely friendly, in a small-town charm sort of way. We even went in to the Blackwell Gallery (part of the portfolio of businesses that our hotel also belonged to), which was one of our favorites. We had previously admired the art hanging throughout the Blackwell Hotel and seeing more of it was a welcomed experience.
The gallery manager also seemed well-connected to the hotel (maybe a manager?), and she explained the whole situation of the bridal expo happening the following day, how all the rooms in the main building would be open, and how vendors (caterers, florists, wedding planners, food trucks etc) would be on display to entice prospective couples to be do business with them as part of a hotel wedding package. We were certainly glad we were moved out of the main building to the carriage house after this explanation – all of that sounded exhausting!
We eventually hit up every gallery in town, but unfortunately did not purchase anything. There wasn’t anything we liked quite enough, even though the prices were better than in Santa Fe. That said, we did purchase Advil from the corner store (and the kind shopkeeper let us use change from the change jar since we didn’t have appropriate currency), as well as a Coeur d’Alene ornament from the Christmas Store. We vowed to return to the olive oil store on Sunday, hopeful of recreating our experience in Lake Placid.
Our final stop in town was to check out the area that recently burned down in mid January. It was sad to see – several local businesses would probably never rebound. On the flip side, we saw not one but two ice cream parlors that we noted for later.
Back at the hotel we rested for a while, indulged in HGTV while I did some yoga, and then got ready for dinner. We were able to get seated right away at Fire, an upscale pizza place a few blocks away. The service was great, the food was great, and prices were reasonable. We even shared a bottle of Washington State Naked Chardonnay – with Brendan’s sinuses now under control, he decided to give it another go (outcome afterwards was still bad, but he managed it through Mucinex-D).
We ordered a salad, some artichoke dip (which ultimately was heavier than we expected), and a personal pizza each. There is a secret menu you can ask for, and I ordered the “Dougie” off it. I did actually try to Dougie while I ordered the Dougie, in case anybody was wondering. Brendan ordered a pesto chicken pizza off of the main menu. Neither of us could finish, so we took it to go and ended up eating it for breakfast (a nice change from the hotel fare). We retraced our steps to the first of the ice cream parlors we found earlier (Abi’s), and each got two scoops to go. It started to hail lightly on the way back, and we were glad to be inside again watching HGTV. Funny how that was the station we tended to watch the most while traveling within the US.
A relaxing Sunday for our anniversary
Sunday was a pretty basic day. Leisurely morning, checked out the bridal boutique in the hotel, ate the rest of our pizza, and then set out for a hike around Tubbs Hill. We went the “back” way from our hotel, through the dog park, and then on to the main loop trail we had seen the previous day. While overcast, a little drizzly, and certainly dreary, it created an ethereal atmosphere looking out over the lake as we traipsed through the woods on Tubbs Hill.
There were very few other people around (but also not no one), which we quite enjoyed as well. The people we saw were locals, another benefit of coming in the off-season. The route we took was roughly 2 miles, and it was an easy trail that wasn’t too muddy or icy (no snowshoes required!). It was a circle route around Tubbs Hill, hugging the lake. Since Coeur d’Alene was situated towards the north-side of the lake, Tubbs Hill provided an excellent vantage point as it wrapped around to gain some visibility to the south. We ended up departing from the trail on the south side of Tubbs Hill to find the exit we originally meant to enter through, closest to our hotel. This area was in fact another harbor!
Our final stop of the day was back to the olive oil shop we had hoped to browse, but unfortunately it was closed, despite winter hours being clearly listed as open on Sunday. We were bummed, but not devastated. Our Lake Placid Saratoga Olive Oil experience would remain firmly in New York and not in Idaho.
After another rest and yoga in the room, and an exciting power outage due to the activity at the bridal boutique, we headed back out for our anniversary dinner (2 years!) at Beverly’s in the Coeur d’Alene Resort that we had checked out the previous day. We had reservations and were easily able to be seated by a window overlooking a lit up marina (here you should definitely get a window because there’s actually something to see at night with the lights, as opposed to Cedar’s). The service was amazing, as was the food. I ordered the huckleberry martini which the bartender was able to perfect to my non-sugar craving palette; Brendan ordered a margarita. For our food, I ordered a salad to start and Brendan ordered the French Onion soup (delish, especially on a cold night!).
For our entrees, we both ordered the special of the day – fish curry (halibut and prawns) over jasmine rice. It was outstanding – a really rich curry with a bit of heat and a ton a flavor. Too much for me to finish. While we decided not to do dessert, the waiter brought us complimentary blue raspberry cotton candy with ice cream, berries, and a chocolate decoration in celebration of our anniversary. It was the perfect light dessert to share, and was so whimsical – it definitely hit the spot. We would both highly recommend Beverly’s if you ever make a Coeur d’Alene winter getaway, and were quite pleased with our restaurant choice progression from good to better to best over the course of our visit.
Heading home from our Coeur d’Alene winter getaway
The next morning we packed up, had our last breakfast, settled our hotel bill (they ended up giving us an even further discount to what we were expecting), and grabbed a Lyft back to Spokane airport. We were both working intermittently just like we were on Friday, so were snapped back to reality. Our United direct flight was on time, security at GEG was a breeze, and we were back to Denver in no time in an upgraded first class experience (both of us this time).
All in all it was a really nice Coeur d’Alene winter getaway for our anniversary weekend. We were grateful to be able to experience the beauty and charm of Coeur d’Alene as the locals would without the crowds of the summer – but what we wouldn’t have given for some better weather and some time on the water.