If you’re an Instagram user, it would be in your best interest to follow @visitidaho. The state’s official travel resource posts some amazing images of everything from its 50-mile Snake River Canyon to its powder-filled terrain. But in the event that “liking” a photo or two feels more like a tease, planning a trip to the 14th largest state in the union (with a population of 1.6 million) should be your next move.
During our most recent whirlwind tour, we visited the capital city of Boise and also spent some time in Central Idaho’s small town of McCall. Here are our top five must-do activities in the northwestern sector of the United States — don’t forget your iPhone.
Explore Hotel 43
Located in downtown Boise on Grove Street, the art-filled Forbes Travel Guide Recommended Hotel 43 is fresh off a major renovation. Upon arrival, you can’t help but to notice the beautiful silk chandelier blooms that hover from the atrium’s ceiling or photographs of the city’s monumental buildings from local artists (including middle school students) that line the boutique property’s walls. Other highlights include animal-inspired hallway carpeting (think zebra or cheetah prints), old-school moonbeam alarm clocks and comfy Euro-style mattresses.
While there, be sure to grab dinner at the hotel’s Chandlers Prime Steaks & Fine Seafood. Start your meal off at the Forbes Travel Guide Recommended restaurant with Pacific oysters (choose from Kumamoto and Shigoku) on the half shell before indulging in items like the surf and turf (Aussie tail and a petit filet mignon with asparagus hollandaise and pommes frites) or pan-seared Atlantic sea scallops served atop truffled potato cakes with shiitake mushrooms marinated in a buttery citrus sauce. Salivating yet?
With the hotel’s new look and delicious fare, it’s no wonder that whenever A-listers are in town, they love staying in the Grand Balcony Suite.
Unwind at The Cove
Treat yourself to a day at the only Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star spa in the state, The Cove. The six-treatment-room oasis at Shore Lodge offers massages, which are perfect after a long day of skiing in McCall. Our favorites include the relaxing Vintage McCall (with hints of citrus, and a mix of lemongrass and lavender) and the 90-minute Skipping Stones services (with warm stones and oils). From there, take a dip in one of the indoor or outdoor heated saltwater immersion pools, which are surrounded by massive granite boulders and shaped to look like rustic hot springs.
After unwinding, grab a bite at the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant, The Narrows. Executive chef Steve Topple (whose résumé includes a stint at Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Cloister) offers you selections such as the Alaskan king crab agnolotti with melted leek ragout as a starter and entrées like the porcini-dusted polenta Napoleon or Buffalo cowboy steak. Try these items with a side of cedar-plank-roasted mushrooms or smoked cheddar mac ’n’ cheese. You can thank us later.
Ski at Brundage Mountain
With 50 years under its snow-capped peaks, Brundage Mountain (about 10 miles from Shore Lodge) touts some of the best snow in Idaho. There are 1,500 acres to explore, and the family-friendly resort’s summit sits at 7,640 feet. Offering beginners lessons (ask for Scott Hurdy — the seasoned skier is very patient with his clients and will leave you yearning for your next session in no time) and a women’s ride club with McCall-based Olympic skier Patty Boydstun-Hovdey, the instructors are top-notch. And now, thanks to a half-million-dollar expansion, you can snag gear from the resort’s sizable rental shop and also relish exploring a one-mile snowshoe trail.
Stop By Stacey Cakes
If you have a major sweet tooth, visit Stacey Cakes in McCall (just two hours north of Boise). Should fluffy cream cheese filling and buttercream frosting make you happy, indulge in the bakery’s Twenty-Four Karat spiced carrot cake. Or order the Berries and Cream country buttermilk cake topped with seasonal berries. The tiny shop, which is owned by Stacey Kucy and her husband, Gary — a 2013 James Beard semifinalist in the “Best Chef: Northwest” category — is a staple in town. Locals pop in for everything from a slice of savory quiche to a cup of hot Adagio tea (try Masala chai or Foxtrot chamomile). What we love the most about this 4-year-old mom-and-pop shop — aside from its super-sweet gingersnaps, muffins and tarts, of course — is Stacey’s drive to make it a success. “I started with my own table at the farmers market,” she says. “From there, I created my own destiny.” A delicious one at that.
Say Yes To The Yurt
Add another dose of adventure to your McCall trip by snowshoeing (in 28-degree weather) about a mile through Ponderosa State Park to the Blue Moon Yurt. It is there that a four-course meal awaits you. As part of the Blue Moon Outfitters experience, you’ll follow a path lit by tiki torches to meet up with a group of likeminded adventurers for fellowship and fun at its best — all in a 24-foot yurt sitting alongside the gorgeous Payette Lake.
Here’s the catch: The yurt is without electricity and running water. All cuisine, such as sesame asparagus spears, smoked harissa-stuffed Brie, and Chinook salmon with black forbidden orange blossom rice, is prepared on either gas or charcoal grills by co-owners Lisa Whisnant, her husband, Bruce Rumbaugh, and their fellow yurties (also known as the staff). Expect to spend at least five hours socializing, drinking (it’s BYOB!) and making new friends.