The Sandpoint, Idaho area is the perfect road trip for families from anywhere in the Northwest, and it’s a great mid-point destination on longer trips. In the far northern part of the state, the Sandpoint area is well known by local road tripping families, but escapes attention from families outside the immediate area. Before our Rockies or Bust tour, we’d never visited the area except as a quick drive-thru, but it’s now one of our top recommendations.
Budget-friendly with attractions for every member of the family and endless outdoor options any time of the year, planning a Sandpoint itinerary is easy. And the road trip options are world class. On the International Selkirk Loop All American Road, it’s one of the top 10 drives we’ve been driving on our Rockies or Bust tour.
If your family likes railroad history, this is one of the top destinations in the country. “The Funnel” is where the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, Montana Rail Link and Spokane International rail systems all converge. People come from all over the world to see more than 40 trains a day go through the crossroads. The train station is the only Amtrak stop in Idaho, and it’s worth a visit just to check out the original waiting room.
Lake Pend Oreille
The main attraction is Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho’s largest lake and the US’s fifth-deepest body of water. Summer trips to the lake include cruises, fishing and swimming galore. Or, rent a Sea Doo or kayak and spend some time enjoying the water. In the winter, enjoy fishing and skating. Road tripping in the area offers new lake views and different activities all around the lake. You could spend a month meandering the area and still have plenty of territory to cover.
Schweitzer Mountain Resort
Just a few miles out of downtown Sandpoint, Schweitzer Mountain Resort has offerings for families in both summer and winter seasons. The view from the top of the chairlift is spectacular. We took a picnic (Gourmandie, the on-location gourmet store, has meats, cheeses, etc.) and ate at one of the tables at the top of the mountain. The resort is famous for their festivals, especially the huckleberry festival! Plan to at least spend one night and enjoy the mountain and resort. The resort also has an in-house geocaching trail and you can rent a GPS to learn the sport if you want to try it for a day. The Bungee Jump Trampoline was a highlight for our ten year-old, who learned to do both a backwards and forwards flip with the help of the attendants.
Cedar Street Bridge Public Market
The only marketplace on a bridge in the US, the Cedar Street Bridge Public Market was originally built in the 1920’s to get to the train depot. After falling into disrepair, the bridge was rebuilt in the 1980’s after a similar bridge in Italy. It’s a fun place to spend a few hours browsing all the shops.
An excellent place to stay while in Sandpoint, Sleeps Cabins are very family friendly and only a few minutes walk from town. The vintage aesthetic with modern comforts, it’s the perfect mix of old-fashioned and relaxing. The cabins are waterfront and there are options for all sizes of families. There is a shallow beach for little children and a swimming hole with deeper water for stronger swimmers. The cabins were built over 70 years ago, and many of the furnishings are collectibles or originals. Having your own cooking and being able to get some space is vital on a long road trip and it’s also very budget-friendly.
Bike the Hiawatha Trail
One of the highlights of your trip to the area will be renting bikes and biking the Hiawatha Trail. Ride what is considered one of the most scenic rail routes in the country at your own pace. Very family friendly, the 16 mile route is all downhill. The whole family will enjoy the adventure as you ride through nine old tunnels and seven trestles — what kid (or dad) doesn’t want to go back to school and brag about that? The longest tunnel is about 1.6 miles — your kids will never forget it. (Don’t worry, the rental bikes come with headlights!) There is geocaching along the way and if you spot the place in the tunnel where you cross state lines you get bonus points. There are shuttle buses scheduled to take you back uphill. Plan to spend about 6 hours (or longer if your family bikes more slowly or takes more pit stops). More information, including a route map, is also available here.
Silverwood Theme Park
The Northwest’s largest theme park, Silverwood Theme Park is every kid’s dream. One of the most anticipated days on our journey through the Rockies, Silverwood lived up to all the reviews. With over 65 rides, shows and attractions, there’s something for every member of the family — no matter how old or how young. Built originally as a showcase for vintage trains, cars and airplanes, it evolved into a unique amusement park with an old-fashioned feel. Every bit as exciting and full-featured as corporate competitors, Silverwood still has that family-owned appeal that makes it special. Boulder Beach Water Park has water slides and lazy family rides both, and the Silverwood RV Park & Campground offers full hook ups. Plan to spend at least a full day here, kids will have no trouble spending two or three.
Triple Play & Raptor Reef
One of the only indoor water parks in the Northwest, Raptor Reef is co-located with Triple Play Family Fun Park at the Hayden Holiday Inn Express & Suites (the closest hotel to Silverwood). Be sure to research their packages that include park admission in your room rate. Raptor Reef is a two-story water park with three slides, wave pool, children’s lagoon and much more. Triple Play is everything you want to do as a kid and more. Mini golf, go-karts, bowling, laser tag, rock-climbing wall, tube crawl, food and bumper boats are the main attractions. Try to spend two-three nights here plus whatever time you want to spend at Silverwood.