Post Summary: A guide to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho in winter including the best things to do and tips for your time there.
Coeur d’Alene in the summer may be abuzz with steamy temperatures and lake life adventures, but Coeur d’Alene in the winter is a powdery winter wonderland that brings snow lovers from all over the US.
If you’re new to the city and wondering about the best things to do in Coeur d’Alene in winter, we’ve got the complete list.
Couer d’Alene is just a short drive from where we live, and we make our way to it every winter as it offers the best all-around winter activities in North Idaho.
Our hometown, Sandpoint, may have the best ski hill, but Coeur d’Alene provides a little bit of something for every kind of traveler, whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures or cozy indoor pursuits.
Here’s our full list of the best things to do in Coeur d’Alene in winter.
INTERESTED IN MORE IDAHO ARTICLES? Read these posts about Idaho:
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COUER D’ALENE IN WINTER
Before we dive into the best things to do in Coeur d’Alene in the winter, here’s a short guide on the weather, what to wear, and where to stay when visiting Coeur d’Alene in winter.
COUER D’ALENE, IDAHO WINTER WEATHER
The winter weather in Coeur d’Alene is brisk and snowy, with the coldest months typically being December and January. The best way to enjoy a cold winter holiday in Coeur d’Alene is to be adequately prepared with proper winter gear. No ultra-thin cotton!
Check out our Idaho packing list article that includes what to wear to Idaho with a section on great winter gear that will keep you warm.
HOW TO GET TO COEUR D’ALENE
The Spokane Airport (GEG) in Spokane, Washington, is the closest airport to access Coeur d’Alene. It’s about a 40-minute drive to Coeur d’Alene. You can search for affordable flights through Skyscanner.
While the downtown area of CDA is walkable, you will need to rent a car to get around Coeur d’Alene and explore the areas outside of downtown CDA. Car rentals can be found at the Spokane Airport and in Coeur d’Alene.
You can search for the best car rental deals through Rental Cars.
WHERE TO STAY IN COEUR D’ALENE IN WINTER
We’ve stayed at all of the following hotels and have had a good experience at all of them. The hotels below range from budget to moderate high-end.
The Coeur d’Alene Resort: The CDA Resort is the nicest hotel in Coeur d’Alene and the closest thing you’ll get to a resort-type experience. They are located on the water, and if you can swing it, it’s worth the extra money for a lake-view room. They have great restaurants, a spa, an indoor pool and hot tub, and a fantastic location in downtown Coeur d’Alene. For families traveling with kids, their location next to McEuen Park makes it stellar for playground time.
Springhill Suites By Marriott: This is an excellent mid-tier hotel with a complimentary breakfast and an indoor pool and hot tub. It’s not walkable to the main attractions of CDA, but downtown is an easy five-minute drive away. It’s an all-suite hotel, and every room has a mini fridge and microwave. You can see prices for the Springhill Suites here.
Best Western: A budget-friendly choice, the Best Western has basic rooms with comfortable beds. They have an excellent free buffet breakfast that my five-year-old was delighted with. They also offer free dinners for kids with a paying adult. Best Western is located a seven-minute drive from downtown CDA. You can see prices for the Best Western here.
Luxury Executive Suite: This one-bedroom guesthouse is the perfect getaway for a couple or small family. Luxurious amenities like high-end appliances and a rain shower help elevate this chic rental. It’s also within walking distance from the lake, restaurants, and the Coeur d’Alene Resort. You can read reviews and see prices here.
Riverstone Village Rental Home: Another option is to rent a vacation home through VRBO. It’s an excellent option for groups or families since you can cut costs by cooking meals and pay a comparable price to a hotel but get your own home! This two-bedroom home sleeps five and comes with adult beach cruisers. It also has bunk beds and kids’ toys, making it a great home for traveling families. You can read reviews and see prices here.
You can also browse through VRBO here and put in your own filters to find the house that’s right for you.
15 FUN THINGS TO DO IN COEUR D’ALENE IN WINTER
JOURNEY TO THE NORTH POLE WINTER CRUISE
From mid-November to January 2, Lake Coeur d’Alene Cruises offers the Journey To The North Pole Winter Cruise. It’s a 40-minute boat ride that includes a dazzling light show and a visit to Santa’s waterfront toy workshop, complete with a small fireworks show. It’s a wonderful night out with family, and the ride is especially suited for kids. Our son was absolutely delighted when Santa read out his nice list and included his name. A nice surprise for the kiddos.
They also do special holiday cruises, including fireworks on New Year’s Eve and the day after Thanksgiving. It’s a popular event, so reserving your tickets ahead of time is highly suggested.
TIP: When we visited the show, we were traveling with someone unable to walk long distances. The walk to the boat has a few ramps that would be difficult for anyone with a disability. The CDA Resort will provide you with a wheelchair if you ask for one at the valet desk when you first enter the resort.
SCENIC HOT COCOA CRUISE
If you are visiting Coeur d’Alene in winter outside of the holidays, you can opt for a Scenic Hot Cocoa Cruise. Running from January to March on the weekends, the 90-minute cruise takes you around the lake while filling your belly with hot cocoa for the kiddos and spiked hot cocoa for the adults. Bundle up and enjoy the beauty of Lake Coeur d’Alene.
Tip: Don’t forget to look up to spot a few bald eagles flying overhead.
READ NEXT: The Essential List Of Fun Family Things To Do in Coeur d’Alene
ICE SKATING AT CDA ON ICE
From November to January, the popular McEuen Park in downtown CDA opens up an outdoor skating rink. Sold in 90-minute sessions, reserving a spot is ideal so you can glide to your heart’s content. At an extra price, you can reserve a heated dome that your friends and family can relax in with unlimited hot chocolate. You can learn more and book your tickets at CDA on Ice.
*For anyone feeling unstable or for kids who are first learning, they have walkers you can rent.
WALK THE FLOATING BOARDWALK
Located at the CDA Resort is the longest floating boardwalk in the world. Just under one mile, the boardwalk loops around the marina. Accessible to the public, the boardwalk is popular in the warm summer months, with benches to sit on and an ice cream shop for snacks. The advantage of doing it in the winter is it won’t be as crowded, and if you’re visiting during the winter holidays, the boardwalk is lit up with the holiday lights. My advice is to grab a warm drink and walk the boardwalk in the evening when the resort is lit up and festive.
The boardwalk is slim with no rails, so caution is needed with young kids.
EXPLORE DOWNTOWN CDA
Walk Sherman Avenue and explore all the fun, artsy shops in Downtown CDA. For kids, Figpickels Toy Emporium is a must-do. Filled with inventive and retro-style toys, your kids will have a blast exploring this one-of-a-kind toy shop. For anyone wanting to pick up clothing with CDA emblems, there’s no better place than the Coeur d’Alene Clothing Company. Lastly, CDA has a beautiful art scene, and you’ll find many art galleries in downtown CDA that feature artists from North Idaho and the inland NW. One of our favorites is the Art Spirit Gallery.
HOT WINTER NIGHTS AT COEUR D’ALENE RESORT
An outdoor hot tub infinity pool that overlooks Lake Coeur d’Alene? Sign me up.
Every year, the CDA Resort features the Hot Winter Nights experience, where guests can be shuttled over to their outdoor hot tub. If you’ve never been in a hot tub while it’s snowing outside, you might want to add that to your winter bucket list. While managing snowy weather is out of your control, the experience is heavenly, whether it’s snowing or not. They offer a family swim time typically from 4-6 PM, adults-only swim (21+) from 6:30-8:30 PM, and later adults-only hours from 9-11 PM on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
There are also heated igloos you can reserve at an extra cost. Highly recommended for those traveling with a group since there is a $100 food and drink minimum on top of the reservation cost.
You do have to be a guest of the hotel to do this experience, so book a room for a night and add on the Hot Winter Nights package.
TOUR NORTH IDAHO’S SKI RESORTS
Take to the mountains for a day of winter recreation at any of the three ski resorts near Coeur d’Alene. The closest ski resort is 36 miles away at Silver Mountain Resort in Kellogg, Idaho. It’s a great ski hill with fewer crowds and even an indoor waterpark perfect for nonskiers. The waterpark is primarily for overnight guests, but they offer a limited number of tickets for nonhotel guests.
Fifty-six miles from CDA is Schweitzer Mountain, the biggest ski resort in Idaho. Located in Sandpoint, Idaho, it’s a phenomenal ski resort with over 92 trails. Advanced skiers will love that over half of the trails are considered advanced or expert.
Lastly, 60 miles from CDA is Lookout Pass, a smaller ski hill great for families and beginners.
4TH OF JULY PASS
If you want some fun outdoor time in the winter but are looking for something a little more off the beaten path than a ski resort, check out the 4th of July Pass Recreation Area, where you can go downhill skiing, snowshoeing, and Nordic skiing. The area offers extensive groomed trails that vary from beginner to advanced. You can see a map of the trails here. The 4th of July pass is located 11 miles east of CDA at exit 28 off I-90. Before you go, you’ll need to buy a park and ski permit to park at the lot.
TIP: You can rent snowshoes and cross-country skis from Vertical Earth in downtown CDA.
WALK OR BIKE CDA’S BIKE TRAILS
The North Idaho Centennial Trail is a 23-mile trail that starts at the Idaho/Washington Border and ends at Higgens Point State Park on Lake Coeur d’Alene. The trail can be easily accessed from Downtown CDA, where you can hop on at McEuen Park. Here is a map of the trail.
You can also rent bikes from Coeur d’Alene Bike Company, conveniently located in downtown CDA.
CROSS COUNTRY SKIING
Fans of Nordic skiing can branch out into areas near Coeur d’Alene to glide along North Idaho’s pristine forest trails. The closest places to cross-country ski include the 4th of July Pass Recreation Area, Farragut State Park, Heyburn State Park, and the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes.
HIKE TUBBS HILL
Tubbs Hill is a beloved 120-acre park that looks over Lake Coeur d’Alene. The trails vary from easy to moderate, making it a great choice for families and visitors looking for a casual walk. Most people visit the park from late spring to fall, but you can still enjoy Tubbs Hill in the winter if conditions are right. We hiked Tubbs Hill in February and were able to navigate the trails just fine.
Common sense is your friend on whether the trail is acceptable to hike. If the trail is snowed over over muddy…don’t hike it.
If the trail is a little icy, I would suggest using a traction device like Yak-Trax. They slip onto the outside of your shoes and give you traction and stability in icy conditions.
Don’t forget to look up and see if you can spot eagles hunting for fish in the lake.
RENT A SNOWMOBILE
Rent a snowmobile and explore the hundreds of groomed trails surrounding Coeur d’Alene. Perfect for families, nature enthusiasts, and adrenaline junkies, snowmobiling is one of the best ways to get out and explore the splendor of Coeur d’Alene in the winter. Summer Snow Outfitters offers free delivery and pick up, or you can pick up a snowmobile at their warehouse and tow it to your ideal destination.
CONVOCATION OF EAGLES
North Idaho is blessed to have bald eagles year-round, but from late November to February, you can see upwards of a hundred migrating eagles flocking to Lake Coeur d’Alene to hunt and dine on spawning Kokanee Salmon. Higgens Point at the Coeur d’Alene Parkway State Park is a popular spot for watching the eagles. Bring layers, your zoom lens, and binoculars like these to see the beauty of these majestic creatures up close.
Another option for viewing the eagles is a guided eagle-watching cruise with CDA Cruises. The two-hour cruise takes you to Wolf Lodge Bay, where you can watch the eagles from the lake.
The window to see them is very small, but typically the best time is typically late December and early January. We went to Higgens Point in mid-January and just missed seeing the eagles in mass, but we were able to see five or six eagles perches high in the trees.
EAT IN A HEATED IGLOO
Still want to eat outside but are deterred by the freezing temperatures? Eat in a heated igloo! Local gastropub Crafted Tap House + Kitchen offers six heated igloos on their outside patio for the winter. With a fireplace and twinkling lights, it’s a fun night out with more than enough ambiance to spare.
We enjoyed our experience, but even though it’s heated with small electric heaters, it’s still much cooler than it is inside the restaurant. Dress warm! The chairs were quite cold from being outside, so I sat on my jacket so my bottom wouldn’t be freezing.
They do accept walk-ins at no charge, but there’s no guarantee you’ll get one, so if you’re looking to guarantee a table, you’ll want to make a reservation for the igloo.
You can also rent an igloo at Whisper Igloos at the Lake. This is a 21+ only igloo, so it’s a night out intended for adults rather than families. With fun cocktails and your own Bluetooth speakers, it’s a fun night out with friends.
READ NEXT: Check out more fantastic CDA restaurants in our post about 17 Must Try Coeur d’Alene Restaurants.
WARM WINTER BEVERAGE FROM CDA COFFEE COMPANY
The Coeur d’Alene Coffee Company is a locally owned and operated coffee shop that serves up house-roasted and hand-crafted coffee. The building is gorgeous, with big welcoming couches that are the perfect place to cozy up on a brisk Coeur d’Alene winter day. You can sip on a classic latte or cortado or try their seasonal drinks like a white chocolate mint mocha.
SEVEN STARS ALPACA RANCH
Not far from downtown CDA is Seven Stars Alpaca Ranch, a working ranch that features alpacas, mini horses, sheep, goats, rabbits, and more. We did the tour in the summertime, but the farm is open year-round, so if you have kids or are an animal lover and don’t mind the snow, we recommend this fun, family-friendly tour. The owner does a daily tour that includes how they came about running an alpaca farm, insight into the animals, and interaction with all the farm animals. You can see our Instagram reel about the tour here.
MAC AND CHEESE FESTIVAL
Every January, Coeur d’Alene has an annual Mac and Cheese Festival that pulls together local chefs from the area who compete to come up with a tasty variation of the perennial classic Mac and Cheese. You can do Mac and Cheese tastings or opt for the Mac and Beer combo for 4oz local beer tastings to wash down all that cheesy goodness. Tickets sell out every year, so get your tickets in advance!
We had a lot of fun doing this activity, and it’s a great way to see downtown CDA. There was everything from smoked gouda mac and cheese, garlic herb mac with cherry port duck, and even a cheesy gelato mac!
The day before the Mac and Cheese Festival, Coeur d’Alene Cruises has a Mac and Cheese Dinner Cruise that includes a build-your-own Mac and Cheese Bar with tasty options like bacon and pickled jalapenos. Get your tickets in advance to secure a spot.
Are you ready to experience the magic of Coeur d’Alene in winter? Share your favorite things to do in Coeur d’Alene in the winter in the comments below.
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