It’s summer. You have the day off. The open road calls you. But where to go? Spokane may be in the heart of the less populated portion of Washington, but that does not mean there are not plenty of places to go and things to see within a short drive. Here are a few of our favorite day trips.
1. Kootenay Lake, British Columbia
Kootenay Lake is one of the largest lakes in British Columbia, formed by the damming of the Kootenay River. It sits between the Purcell and Selkirk mountain ranges and offers a wide range of recreational activities. A number of provincial parks surround the water; if you’re visiting in late August/early September, stop by Kokanee Creek Provincial Park, located on the north side of the lake’s western arm, and watch the Kokanee spawn in the restored salmon beds. A free car ferry runs between Balfour on the west side of the lake, and Kootenay Bay on the east. Nelson is a natural stop, with a charming downtown that served as the filming location for the 1987 Steve Martin comedy “Roxanne.” Creston, just south east of the lake, is the region’s agricultural hub, and fruit stands offer plenty of local produce. Just make sure you eat what you buy before coming back through U.S. Customs. Crawford Bay on the east side offers a couple charming restaurants and a public beach. And don’t forget a trip to the Glass House, on the east shore. In 1952, David H. Brown began construction of his home, a small castle-like structure built out of 500,000 empty embalming fluid bottles. The charming grounds feature a wishing well and a bridge as well as a great view of the lake. It’s open for tours May through September. Because it’s in Canada, you’ll need a passport; check travel.state.gov for details.
2. Walla Walla
Walla Walla is one of the wine capitals of the West. For daytrippers though, doing a lot of wine tasting then getting back in the car for the drive home can be a bad, bad idea. So, unless you have a designated driver, grab a couple of bottles of wine to take home – L’Ecole No. 41, charmingly housed in a old schoolhouse, is always worth a visit – and enjoy some of the other things Walla Walla has to offer. There’s plenty of history on display. At Fort Walla Walla, explore early military history, exploration of the area and pioneer living. The Whitman Mission National Historic Site, run by the National Park Service in partnership with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, focuses on the mission work of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman among the Cayuse Nation, and the devastation that resulted. At the Kirkman House Museum, explore the grand 1880 home built in the Italianate style. Of course it’s as easy to eat well in Walla Walla as it is to drink well. The city’s restaurant scene is thriving. For dinner, Whitehouse Crawford, housed in former mill building, is quite popular. For breakfast and lunch, check out the Maple Counter Cafe.
3. Wallace, Idaho
The self-proclaimed center of the universe – it says so, on a plaque embedded in intersection at Bank and Sixth streets in downtown Wallace – is a historic mining town full of cool old buildings, funky antique shops and all kinds of charm. The heart of Idaho’s Silver Valley, Wallace is awash in mining history. Visit an actual silver mine on the 75-minute Sierra Silver Mine Tour – 509 Cedar St.; https://silverminetour.org/ – or check out the Wallace Mining Museum – 509 Bank St.; wallaceminingmuseum.com – which celebrates 130 years of gold, silver, lead and zinc mining in the area. For train buffs, there’s the Northern Pacific Railroad Museum and Gift Shop (219 6th St., http://www.npdepot.org/), housed in a former depot that in 1986 was moved across the Coeur d’Alene River to downtown to make room for construction of I-90. Then there’s the legendary Oasis Bordello Museum – 605 Cedar St.; https://www.facebook.com/oasisbordellomuseum/ – which is preserved exactly as it was the day in 1988 when the women who worked there, fearing an imminent FBI raid, left and never came back. Or, head up Placer Creek to the Pulaski Tunnel Trial. The two-mile hike traces part of the route that Forest Service ranger Ed Pulaski took when he lead his crew of fire fighters out of danger during the “Big Burn” of 1910. From Wallace, follow King Street as it curves to the left and turns into Forest Service Road 456/Moon Pass Road. Continue for about a mile to the parking area. For details, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/activity/ipnf/recreation/hiking and click on “Day Hiking.” It’s easy to get good grub in Wallace, too. Check out the Blackboard Cafe, 517 1/2 Bank St., Red Light Garage, 302 Fifth St., or City Limits Pub and Grill, 108 Nine Mile Road, also home of North Idaho Mountain Brew. Meanwhile in downtown Wallace, check out the award-winning brews at Wallace Brewing, 610 Bank St. On the way there or back, be sure to stop by the Cataldo Mission just east of Coeur d’Alene. Built between 1850 and 1853, it is the oldest standing building in Idaho. Now part of Coeur d’Alene’s Old Mission State Park, the building has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1966.
4. Republic, Washington
One of the least populous counties in Washington is Ferry County, which was home to 7,551 people in the 2010 census. Much of its 2,257 square miles are divided between two entities: The Colville National Forest on its northern end and the Colville Indian Reservation to the south. What’s this all mean? That for folks who love the outdoors, this is the place for you. Go fishing on Curlew Lake or bring tubes for a float on the Kettle River. Bring the bikes and take a ride on the Ferry County Rail Trail, a former rail line that runs 24 miles from Republic to Danville. Hike the Gibralter Trail from nearby Curlew Lake State Park or dig for fossils from May to November at Stonerose Interpretive Center & Eocene Fossil Site. Visit https://stonerosefossil.org/ for details. Use Republic, about 2 1/2 hours from Spokane, as base camp for a day of play in the area, and cap the evening with dinner at Pearl’s Smokehouse, 18 N. Clark St., and an award-winning beer at Republic Brewing, 26 N. Clark Ave.
5. The Doozy – Spokane to Sandpoint, via Montana
Yes, this is more than a 3-hour drive. But it if you want just that – a drive – you can’t go wrong with this one. Head east on I-90 from Spokane and drive two hours to St. Regis, Montana. Get out at the St. Regis Travel Center, gas up, stretch your legs, grab a snack and let the kids explore the free trout aquarium inside. From there, head north on Highway 135. Bring a swimsuit and stop by Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort outside Paradise for a soak in the natural mineral pools. Day passes are $11 weekdays and $13 weekends for a three-hour session. Call ahead – (406) 86-3150 – because walk-up slots can be limited. Continuing on, head west on Highway 200 to Plains, where you can get a bite to eat at Simple Simon’s Pizza (102 E Railroad Ave.) or dessert at Ripples Ice Cream Parlor (310 E Railroad Ave.). Continue west to Thompson Falls, where you can visit the monument to explorer and map-maker David Thompson, whom the town is named for. Stop by Goose Landing Park and dip your toes in the reservoir created on the Clark Fork River by the Thompson Falls Dam. The Old Jail Museum, 109 Madison St., is open daily from noon-4 p.m. and is housed in one of the oldest, continually used buildings in Sanders County. It’s located next to the Saleesh House, the trading post established by Thompson and James McMillan for the North West Company in 1809. From there, it’s another 90 minutes or so to Sandpoint, where, if the sun is still high, you can pull into to City Beach for a frolic in Lake Pend Oreille and a photo op at the Statue of Liberty. Have dinner downtown – MickDuff’s has fine pub grub and beer – then head home via Highway 95 south to Coeur d’Alene. Keep a sharp eye out, too. If the time of year is right, you just might see a moose just off the highway south of Sandpoint.
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