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8 great Eastern Idaho destinations for the whole brood

Published in the June 2023 Issue Published online: Jun 06, 2023 Family Fun Guide
Viewed 942 time(s)


By Steve Smede

Ready to rack up some unforgettable memories this summer? Check out our hot list of the best family-friendly day trips around the region.

1. Yellowstone National Park

Let’s start off with the most obvious destination of all. Just 105 miles north of I.F., the West Entrance to YNP is your gateway to some of the park’s top features, including the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Norris Geyser Basin and Old Faithful. With over 2 million acres of wilderness, Yellowstone has something for everyone. Just remember to tell the kiddos it’s a natural wilderness park, not an amusement park.

On the way: Load up with groceries and a hot meal in West Yellowstone, which also has a plethora of museums and tourist shops to pique your interest.

2 Island Park

En route to Yellowstone, this recreation community 80 miles from I.F. is a living postcard of stunning natural beauty. There are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy, including fishing, boating, hiking and horseback riding at the historic Harriman State Park. You can also visit the Big Springs fish observation area or take a scenic byway drive into the high country to visit Mesa Falls and the nearby wonders of Warm River Spring.

On the way: Check out Yellowstone Bear World south of Rexburg, featuring a full lineup of bears and other wildlife that you can enjoy via shuttle or from the comfort of your own car. Also in Rexburg you’ll find Rexburg Rapids, a full-service aquatic amusement park with a variety of pools, slides, tubes and a lazy river.

3 Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a beautiful lake that straddles the border between Idaho and Utah. The lake is famous for its turquoise-blue water and sandy beaches–safe and accessible for kids of all ages. You can go swimming, boating or fishing, or take a scenic tour of the lake’s namesake bird and wildlife refuge. A perfect home base for your stay is Bear Lake State Park. Campsites for groups as large as 50 are available along with several serviced and standard sites.

On the way: Be sure to carve out a few hours to enjoy the geothermal pleasures of Lava Hot Springs. Just west of Soda Springs, these world famous natural hot springs range from 102 to 112 degrees. The resort features an outdoor olympic pool, diving platforms, water slides and an indoor pool with a diving board, climbing wall, hot pool and a “Portneuf Kiddie Cove” for the youngest members of your party.

4 Craters of the Moon National Monument

Craters of the Moon is a unique volcanic landscape that looks like something out of a science fiction movie. There are lava fields, cinder cones, and lava tubes to explore, as well as plenty of hiking trails and scenic drives. The paved trails are insanely accessible, and the wayfinding signage and visitor center provide plenty of fun educational opportunities.

On the way: Be sure to stop at the EBR-1 nuclear history site for a quick tour, followed by a unique burger at the famous Pickle’s Place restaurant just outside of Arco.

5 Teton Valley

Teton Valley is a small valley in eastern Idaho that's surrounded by beautiful mountains–including the signature peaks of the Tetons themselves. The valley below is home to several small towns and is a great place to enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and fishing. Be sure to check out the geotourism center in Driggs and check one of many neighboring family-friendly restaurants.

On the way: Whether you’re headed to Teton Valley or on to Jackson, Wyo., and Grand Teton National Park, don’t pass up a quick stop in Swan Valley for gas and square ice cream at the world-famous Rainey Creek Country Store. Flavors abound, but we suggest anything with huckleberries.

6 Salt Lake City

Utah’s populous capital is actually several destinations wrapped into one, including the historic LDS Temple Square–a 35-acre site featuring stunning gardens, historic buildings, and the famous temple itself. Salt Lake is also home to the state’s majestic capitol, the Natural History Museum of Utah, the 100-acre botanical Red Butte Garden and a vast network of hiking trails around the city.

On the way: By far, the best stopover for a day’s worth of family fun is the famous Lagoon amusement park in Farmington, about 15 miles north of the city. It features a wide range of rides, including roller coasters such as Cannibal, Wicked, and Colossus: The Fire Dragon. There are also several water rides, including Rattlesnake Rapids and the Bat, a suspended coaster that dips into a pool of water.

7 Sun Valley

This famous ski resort in central Idaho is also a great summer vacation destination. You can enjoy hiking, mountain biking, fishing or take a scenic gondola ride up the mountain for stunning views. Unique and trendy restaurants and novelty shops can be found around the resort and within the city of Ketchum. If you visit in mid-July, don’t miss the Ketchum Arts Festival. It’s free to attend and features a kid’s activity tent, live music and more than 100 arts and crafts from local artists.

On the way: Outside the quaint little town of Picabo, you’ll find the world-famous Silver Creek Preserve. This ecological Nirvana is popular with fly-fishing but also has some great family-friendly trails and educational opportunities about the local birds and other wildlife.

8 Ross Park

The “Ross Park Aquatic Complex” in Pocatello certainly won’t win any marketing awards for its name, but the city-managed attraction is actually a hoot of a good for families around the region. It features a main pool with lap lanes, an activity pool with all kinds of accessories, a lazy river, deck and turf areas, and a zero-depth pool with a playground.

Pocatello is also home to the Idaho Museum of Natural History and the Pocatello Zoo. These are a far cry from our home town’s Museum of Idaho and the Idaho Falls Zoo at Tautphaus Park, but they’ll make interesting and affordable side trips nonetheless.

On the way: Consider foregoing the freeway and take the state highway route through Blackfoot. Here you’ll find the Idaho Potato Museum. It’s a quirky roadside celebration of the venerable potato and how the state’s signature crop has helped shape Idaho’s economy and culture. Best of all, it’s surprisingly kid-friendly and interactive.

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