My whole family and I went on a day trip to Silver City. It is an abandoned ghost town, but not any more its not. In the summer their family stays there in a building their relatives owned. It took 3 hours on the drive, on the drive you drive on the freeway and turn on to a dirt road.
There is a cute little store that sells diamonds, crystals,and real live gold. Also they sell rock candy that tastes so good . We also played in a creek and we found crystals in the creek.
They also have some awesome pie and sarsparilla I never had sarsparilla but I guess I don't like sarsparilla we got these at a cute little restaurant.
This spring we took the girls to Idaho Falls to visit their grandparents for a weekend. In addition to taking them to see Ramona Quimby, the play, at the local arts center, we also go to catch this wonderful exhibition on the history of carousels at the Museum of Idaho.
There was a real, working carousel as part of the show, which the girls got to ride indoors. Displays showing how the carousel animals are carved and painted, photos of historic carousels, and unusual lighting and hand-pedaling features were among the highlights. This show is only up through May 27, 2013, so if you're in or near Idaho Falls, I highly recommend it!
We did so many fun things as a family this summer, that I can't wait to share them with you. As you can tell, much of our time was spent away from the computer and out of doors, meaning a severe lack of posting. Anyhow, one of our little day trips included a visit to Boise State University's Vertebrate Museum in the Science Building.
The Science Building is right next to the Morrison Center on campus and houses biology, chemistry and nursing. They recently reinstalled the quirky collection throughout the halls on the second floor of the building, and they are open to the public.
That Sunday morning we headed out early to get breakfast at one of my favorite restaurants in the area, Hilltop Cafe Kodiak Grill. Unfortunately for us, we didn't make reservations in advance and apparently lots of other fans flocked to the joint before us. So, we headed into Idaho City and found a saloon serving an all you can eat buffet that, um, sucked, to say it nicely.
We didn't let our bad buffet deter us, however, and were excited to find out that lots of the local touristy venues had just reopened for the summer season, including the Boise Basin Museum. Like all other tiny Idaho historical museums that I love so much, this one was filled with local artifacts donated by families and business owners. There were great old maps, stunning glass bottles, the mail slots from the original post office, and an original James Castle drawing (Castle is Idaho's most famous outsider artist and grew up in a town near there). Of course, the place was run by a super sweet volunteer who tried to answer my questions about the architectural preservation efforts of the city and sold the girls 25cent old fashioned stick candy from their gift shop.
We stopped back at Miracle Hot Springs to go swimming on a more recent camping trip. I has just sprained my elbow in a silly bicycle accident and I tell you, it's no wonder those are called miracle waters. They are warm and soothing and not only a terrific and inexpensive place for families, but also an ideal spot for a romantic getaway for two. In fact, I'm already scheming a night there sans babies as I write.
Of course we had to go in. The Idaho Potato Museum is housed in the old railroad depot downtown Blackfoot, the proclaimed potato capitol of Idaho. It is also the headquarters for the Chamber of Commerce and has a sweet little gift shop, with stuff like potato lotion and postcards of Marilyn Monroe wearing the Idaho potato sack. Much to our surprise, we all got a package of freeze dried hashbrowns with our admission fee.
There was a large amount of potato paraphernalia in that place, including machinery, the world's largest potato chip, an outrageous collection of antique potato mashers. The kids had a great time, and I highly suggest stopping in if ever you're in that part of the state.
We all love Papa and Yaya's (our kids' names for Eric's parents) country home in Idaho Falls, and the first thing we did was check out the new baby chickens and rummaged their enormous garden for strawberries and sweet peas to munch on.
Lucky for us, Eric's conference hotel was paid for at a lovely new Hilton Hotel on a hill overlooking the city. It had a great pool and a stellar complimentary breakfast buffet that we not only ate at each morning, but also snagged some snacks like apples and bagels for treats later in the day. It also came with this beautiful view of foothills that truly rival the ones in Boise, especially at sunset.
Earlier in the summer we purchased a family zoo pass at Zoo Boise, which comes with complimentary admission to other zoos around the intermountain west, including the Pocatello Zoo. The tiny zoo features native Idaho wildlife and this lifesize replica of a teepee, which the girls loved.
We happened to make it there just in time for the Tuesday morning Zoo Tales storytime. The children's librarian from Portneuf District Library comes to read animal stories to the kids under this rustic little canvas structure. At the end they get to do a craft and this morning they made cute little lion hand puppets.
The festival site features several permanent structures, including a large covered arena, rodeo stadium and wooden booths for selling food and wares. The morning we went featured the princess contest and the Miss Sho-Ban dancing events. We were all impressed with the pride and beauty with which these young women wore their amazingly handcrafted costumes and expressed their native cultural traditions.
The next day we headed to Lava Hot Springs, a quaint little town about 30 minutes outside of Pocatello. Once land occupied by the Shoshone-Bannock people, the hot springs were "purchased" by the US government in a treaty agreement in the late 1800s and began being operated as a state park in 1902. We bought passes for the whole family to explore the various pools throughout the town all day long for a little over $30.
The hot pools are further into the city on the Portneuf River and are really well kept. The numerous pools have pebble bottoms and holy hell are THEY HOT. We had to take several breaks and were thrilled to find out that they sold all sorts of ice cream bars at the admissions desk to cool us down.
As we wandered downtown to grab a bite to eat, we saw slews of people making their way with bright colored tubes and rafts to float the rapids of the Portneuf River. It looked like loads of fun, and we are excited to go back when the girls are older to give it a try.
We spent the majority of our time at the olympic sized pool, where a bridge to two really long, steep waterslides acts as a welcoming archway into the city proper. The pool is also noted for their three levels of high platforms to dive off of, but, again, with tiny girls we spent our time on the smaller waterslides (of which there are four) and playing on the gigantic plastic water snake toy that bobs in the center of the pool.
It is always important to us to not only expose our girls in a fun way to history, but also cultural diversity when we travel. Especially, since at this point in her short life, Lucy's main knowledge of Native Americans comes from Disney's Pocahontas. We were thrilled to find out that we were going to be in the area on the weekend of the Shoshone-Bannock tribes annual Sho-Ban Festival at the Fort Hall Indian Reservation.
Several months ago I began researching a cheap overnight Idaho destination - an "Ida"vation - for Eric and I to celebrate our ninth wedding anniversary. The Boise Weekly had run this little story about renting this 1920s ranger cabin near Yellow Pine for just $50 a night and I knew it would be perfect.
I got on this website to find out more details and the spot looked perfect for us - a rustic getaway in the middle of nowhere with fishing nearby. I called and booked our night for July and got my mom to agree to stay with the girls - it was our first night ever away from Alice and I was a bit nervous, as there is no telephone service for miles. Also, it was FOUR HOURS AWAY. When I called the Cascade Ranger Station to ask about emergency contact info, they informed me my mom would have to call the Sheriff at home and he'd drive to the cabin and find us in the event something should happen.
We packed up our supplies, which included essential items like beer, playing cards, Reeces Pieces, fly fishing rods, this lovely, amazing book on CD from the Library! for our long hours on the road, and our binoculars. It has been years since we had just tossed some things in a bag and hit the road. This little luxury was monumental for us. No diapers! No coolers filled with formula and sippy cups and Goldfish crackers! No Polly Pockets! No Dora movies!
The cabin has one bedroom with two twin beds and two cots, not the most ideal sleeping arrangement for a lovers getaway, but we made due. The cabin could really accomodate quite a few others if you brought an air mattress or tent for the backyard.
We hit Boise's Greek Food Festival at Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church every year, and it keeps getting better and better. It's usually held the first weekend in June and is filled with yummy eats and Greek dancers. The lovely little church is open for tours, and the real highlight is the delicious trays of Greek cookies and baklava that you can buy in the church basement. They sell out fast, though, so it's imperative to go on Friday rather than Saturday.
Eagle Fun Days is also held in mid-June, and this was the first time we attended. While we didn't go to all the events offered (the Wet and Wild Parade does sound like a lot of fun), we did take advantage of the free family night at the rodeo. It was the preparatory "slack" event, sort of a practice run for the cowboys' and cowgirls' timed events. It was the first time Lucy had ever been to a rodeo, and while it wasn't as exciting or organized as a real rodeo performance, it was a fun, laid-back way to introduce her to the quintessential Idaho sport. The beer and sno-cones were cheap, and the girls got to hang on the fencing and see the animals up close and personal.
The highlight of our festival-going thus far this summer, however, was the National Oldtime Fiddlers' Contest in Weiser last weekend. I'm proud to say that I was born in Weiser, and it's always worth a staycation day, as it is less than 1.5 hours away from Boise. However, I highly recommend you go during Fiddle Week, which is always the third week in June. The history of the Fiddle Festival, which began in 1953, is a bit ambiguous and mythical, but I found a really compelling and nicely written little article about it's history here. The whole town gets a-hoppin', as there are carnival rides, bluegrass bands, local food booths, a parade, garage sales a-plenty, and a bike rodeo as well. The real magic, however, can be found as you wander around "the Institute" behind the high school, where the fiddlers make their camp and stage impromptu jam sessions all day and night. The official competitive rounds, featuring world-class fiddlers from around the world, are held at Weiser High School throughout the week. They culminate in the final round to award the Grand National Champion on Saturday night.
Eric and I were gifted stellar seats three rows from the stage (thanks, Aunt Terri!), and had a great view. In addition to the competitive round events, there were other wonderful musicians that entertained the sold-out audience that night, including these two, Mexican guitarist Miguel De Hoyos and fiddler Alex DePue, which absolutely knocked our socks off. I am not kidding you, people, these are amazing musicians. And, of course, watching the intensity and improvisation of the fiddling finalists, like this young fella from Corvallis, Oregon, was exciting. While the final competition lasted a little over four hours, we were completely enraptured by the live musical talent before us. (Plus, it was a real date! With no kids! And included a sushi dinner beforehand!)
We started out getting iced coffees to go (a rare treat for Eric and I) and loaded the kids and the stroller in our Jeep. We headed to Kathryn Albertson Park near downtown Boise off of Americana Blvd. The weather was cool and perfect and there were very few people in the park. Albertson Park is known as a beautiful outdoor wedding venue (in fact, I married my father and his wife at the Eyrie shelter a few years back), but it is often overlooked as a lovely place to walk.
There are two miles of paved paths that weave you through a nature trail. The fresh smell and chirping birds are therapeutic, and truly make you feel like you are miles from the city. Wildlife abounds, as there are often deer in the park in early mornings or evenings and tons of geese. Just a few weeks ago there were baby ducks waddling all around. This time, we were thrilled to catch a family of turtles basking in the sun on rocks and got to see their tiny babies up close. Unfortunately, I didn't take many pictures (the scenic shots I stole from here), but I did get this one of Alice taking in the gorgeous spread of pink water lilies.
Lucy really enjoyed collecting twigs, feathers, and pine cones for the fairy houses she builds in our backyard, and we enjoyed the leisurely walk with our family. Since there are no play structure and no bikes, rollerblades, or skateboards allowed in the park, the environment is more calm and natural than many of the other city parks.
After about 1.5 leisurely hours strolling the park, we were all hungry for some lunch. Since we'd never been there, we decided to make the journey out to Ben's Crow Inn.
Since it's WAY down Warm Springs Blvd. on your way to Lucky Peak, it makes for a great scenic drive for out of towners. You can either wind through downtown or around Boise State University and then lead them down the historic district of the biggest, loveliest homes in the city. You'll also pass the Old State Penitentiary, as well as the site of the Shakespeare Festival. Ben's Crow Inn is a great little dive bar to stop at after boating at Lucky Peak Reservoir, floating the Boise River at Barber Park, or biking along the Greenbelt (here's the entrance for bikers off the trail).
I'm sure the wood paneling, red retro Budweiser light fixtures, and jukebox may seem intimidating to parents, but rest assured this place is kid friendly, and they even have high chairs and a kids menu. The picnic tables out back and rolls of paper towels on the table also signified my kind of family dining. The place is known for their buckets of clams, so of course, we ordered the biggest one we could.
They served them in an old Jackpot, Nevada casino slot machine coin bucket (since I'm a fan, Barton's Club 93 to be exact), which made me even more excited. It was 3 1/2 lbs. of bliss. I've seriously never tasted clams so delicious before. $29.95 got us the clams, a side salad, and some french fries. In addition, we ordered some of their halibut fish and chips (also crispy and lovely) and, of course, a pitcher of beer. While the bill was a bit pricey for lunch, it was truly worth it. We're always up for exploring local hidden gems, so stay tuned for more mini staycation posts in the future.
We got to the pool around 1pm and paid the $19 for admission ($7 per adult, $5 per child, and babies swim free). The caretaker, who is a descendant of the Givens family, was very kind, and gave Lucy a quarter from the register and kept calling her "Two Bit." The poolhouse seems to be pretty much in its original 1950s condition (with a working telephone booth still out front, which was a pleasant surprise for me). The dressing rooms (complete with showers) and the pool were both clean and spacious. The pool water was warm and lovely, and there is a separate wading pool for little ones (you can see Eric, Lucy and Alice in it above). Fun floaty devices can be rented for minimal fees (we brought our own). There were only a few families with young children, so the atmosphere was pretty calm. After about 2 hours we decided to move on to our next adventure, and finished up our stay at Givens Hot Springs with 25cent Popsicles that we ate outside in their picnic area. A great time was had by all, and we felt like we were celebrating summer early!