Post Summary: Fun things to do in Wallace, Idaho that include adventure, history, nature, and delicious bites.
Wallace may be a small town tucked into the pocket of Idaho’s Silver Valley, but this sliver of a city is bursting with history, nature, and unique entertainment.
Famous for being one of Idaho’s most historic cities, the city is beginning to get national acclaim after being featured in Travel and Leisure and Smithsonian as one of the most beautiful small towns in the US.
As someone lucky to call Idaho home, we knew we needed to make it down to Wallace and the surrounding area to explore this reclusive area of Idaho and try out the best things to do in Wallace.
We were smitten with the outlaw charm of Wallace and all it has to offer.
Here’s our complete guide on where to stay, where to eat, and amazing Wallace, Idaho attractions you’ll definitely want to check out.
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Getting to Wallace, Idaho
Wallace is located in northern Idaho and is most accessible by car. Spokane International Airport (GEG) and Missoula Airport (MSO) are the nearest major airports to Wallace. Spokane is the most common airport since it offers the most flights, but you must rent a car to get to Wallace.
Here are some general distances and driving times to Wallace:
- Spokane Airport to Wallace, Idaho: (86 miles, 1.23-hour drive)
- Sandpoint, Idaho to Wallace, Idaho (93 miles, 1.40-hour drive)
- Coeur d’Alene, Idaho to Wallace, Idaho: (48 miles, 40-minute drive)
- Missoula Airport to Wallace, Idaho: (113 miles, 1.43-hour drive)
Where To Stay In Wallace, Idaho
For such a small town, there’s a surprising amount of lodging in wallace, Idaho. Here are our recommendationsf for the best places to stay in Wallace.
Wallace, Idaho Hotels
- The Stardust Motel: A cute motel located right in the center of town. It was recently renovated, and it has a fun throwback vibe that’s fitting to the area. We stayed there for a few days and enjoyed it. We loved how easy it was to walk to dinner.
- The Brooks Hotel: Another hotel located in downtown Wallace that has gone through a major renovation. Most of the rooms have been updated and you can’t beat the location.
- The Wallace Inn: This hotel is located just outside of the downtown area, so you will have to walk a slightly further distance than if you were right in the center of downtown. For instance, walking from the Wallace Inn to The Fainting Goat Restaurant would take 11 minutes. It’s a great choice if you have kids since they have an indoor pool.
- Silver Mountain Resort: Silver Mountain is located in Kellogg, the next town over, so you will have to do a 13-minute drive when you want to go to Wallace. The advantage of staying at Silver Mountain is your room gets you access to their indoor water park. Fantastic for kids! Only resort guests get to use the park. We stayed at the resort and loved it.
Wallace, Idaho Vacation Rentals
We love using VRBO to find affordable home rentals. Sometimes you can find a better deal on a VRBO than a hotel, especially if you factor in the cost of making your own meals. Because the town is historic, the rental homes are mainly old homes that are fun to stay in.
- Church House: This converted chapel from 1910 has two bedrooms and sleeps 6. Walking distance from everything in Wallace. Perfect for families.
- Linden Lofts: Hip, red brick lofts in the center of downtown. All of them are one bedroom and one bath making it perfect for a single traveler or couple.
- Great Catsby Home: A historic Queen Anne home that is bursting with character and walking distance from everything. Four bedroom home that sleeps 8 makes it a great choice for families.
For more options, check out VRBO for more cute homes in Wallace and the surrounding area.
Getting around Wallace, Idaho
Wallace is a small town and easy to navigate on foot. Most visitors will need a car to truly explore the best things to do in Wallace, like the Route of the Hiawatha and Silver Mountain. A rental car is highly recommended if you want to see more than just the downtown area of Wallace.
*If you need a rental, we recommend checking out rentalcars.com to help you find the best price.
Wallace, Idaho History
Wallace, sometimes referred to as “Lawless Wallace” has a colorful history that quite honestly deserves its own unique post.
From the famous working girls, catastrophic fires, billions of dollars of silver mining, a harrowing mine disaster, questionable characters, local heroes, and a highway expansion that forever changed the city, Wallace is BURSTING with fascinating stories.
Here a few tidbits to get you going:
- Wallace is proudly listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which effectively protects it from changing or expanding. Wallace famously ended up on the register when the government wanted to blast Highway 90 right through Downtown Wallace. Residents worked together and listed every building in the town as a historic site. They knew if it was a historic site, the federal government would be banned from expanding the highway.
- In 1910, Wallace experienced The Big Burn, the largest forest fire in known US history. The fire came through Wallace and destroyed a third of the town. The fires burned over 3 million acres in Idaho, Montana, and Washington.
- Wallace is part of the Silver Valley, an area of North Idaho renowned for producing over 1 billion ounces of silver since 1884. While it’s named the Silver Valley, the area has also produced 3 million tons of zinc and 8 million tons of lead. In today’s value, that’s estimated to be over 6 billion dollars worth. The area still has a prosperous active mine, Lucky Friday Mine.
- Famous movie actress, Lana Turner, grew up in Wallace, Idaho.
- Wallace has been the filming site for numerous movies, most notably Dantes Peak and Heaven’s Gate.
This is just a a tiny glimpse into Wallace’s wild west past. I highly suggest going to one of the museums and/or doing a historic tour to learn more about its rich history.
The Best Things To Do In Wallace, Idaho
1. Explore Downtown Wallace
The first thing on our list of the best things to do in Wallace is to put on your walking shoes and explore the cute downtown area of the city. Bite sized and picture perfect, you can roam around the blocks and see which quirky shops call your name.
Top on the list for odd but charming stores is the North Idaho Trading Company where you can find a mummified mermaid, an albino elk, and an antique jail cell. From gemstone shops, to museums, and more, a half day stroll through town is a must do.
For anyone looking to burn through their leg musles, head to any of the Wallace Stairs on the steep South Hill. The stairs are over a hundred years old and serves as a path for residents to get up and down the mountain to their homes. If you’re up for the 100 foot long climb, you’ll be treated with nice views of the city.
Seasons: All year
2. Visit the Center of the Universe
While walking through downtown Wallace, stopping by the quirky “Center of the Universe” is a fun and silly must-do in Wallace. The stop is nothing more than a manhole cover at the intersection of Bank and Sixth Street. Still, the history behind the proclamation makes it an interesting chapter in Wallace’s colorful history.
In 2004, the mayor, Ron Garitone, declared Wallace the center of the universe and had a manhole cover made as a cheeky response to the EPA. Due to its mining history, the EPA had been battling the residents of Wallace since 2002 over the soil safety in the region.
The residents argued that naturally occurring lead sulfide had been in the soil for thousands of years and was not posing a health risk, as residents didn’t seem to be suffering. The EPA argued people couldn’t prove the lead sulfide wasn’t dangerous, then it o be as dangerous as other forms of lead and must be removed.
The mayor responded with that logic by proclaiming Wallace was the center of the universe, and unless you can prove it’s not, it must be true.
And that’s how a maintenance hole cover became the most photographed spot in Wallace!
Seasons: All year
3. Museum Hopping
For such a little town, Wallace seems to pack in a lot of museums! That’s what happens when you’re a little town bursting with history. The three museums are the Wallace District Mining Museum, the Northern Pacific Railroad Museum, and the Barnard Stockbridge Museum.
The Wallace District Mining Museum is, as you can probably guess, all about mining. The museum teaches you about how they mine with exciting displays and replicas. The museum also goes into the area’s history and helps to give context to the Silver Valley.
The Northern Pacific Railroad Depot Museum is a train museum that goes into the history of railroading and the unique history of the depot.
The Barnard Stockbridge Museum is a photography exhibit of photos taken by Thomas Barnard and Nellie Stockbridge from 1893-1965. It’s a fantastic collection and includes a display of the infamous working girls of Wallace.
If you want to visit all three museums, you can get a museum pass for admission to all three for 24 hours. You can buy it at any of the museums and it is good for 24 hours. It’s $10 for individuals and $20 for families.
Be sure to check their websites to see what days they are open, as all the museums have sporadic hours and days.
Seasons: All year
4. Oasis Bordello Museum
For a slightly different museum, check out the Oasis Bordello Museum. Until the late 1980s, Wallace had a small red-light district with a handful of bordellos that helped keep the local economy thriving.
The bordellos did very well, and estimated they pulled in over one million a year! The bordellos contributed to local schools and “donated” money to the police department. The Oasis Bordello existed until 1988 when the FBI came sniffing around town looking to investigate the corrupt local sheriff, Frank Crnkovich.
The bordellos shut down, but the Oasis Bordello lasts as a museum and remains completely intact down to its original decor. Tours are given every half hour and are roughly 30 minutes. You’ll even see a list of clients from 1988 and a menu of the different “options” offered at the Bordello.
Sadly, we couldn’t visit the Bordello since I just didn’t know how I would explain it to my six-year-old. It did look interesting, though, and I would have checked it out sans my little one.
Seasons: All year.
5. Sierra Silver Mine Tour
If you’re going to spend time in the Silver Valley, one must spend some time learning about mining and its place in Wallace’s history. There’s no better place to learn than Sierra Silver Mining Tour.
This popular tour starts in Wallace, where an old-fashioned trolley will take you to an old silver mine located 10 minutes out of the central hub. Along the way, the guide will tell you about the area and the nefarious characters (including Wyatt Earp!) who made their way to Wallace.
Once at the Silver Mine, a retired miner will take you into the mine and walk you through how they mined back in the day and current mining practices. It’s a fascinating glimpse into one of the most dangerous and demanding jobs. Kids will enjoy it when they operate some of the heavy machinery.
The tour is about an hour and 15 minutes and takes off every half hour from town. If you’ve never been inside a mine, we highly recommend it. It’s wild to imagine them down there with no electricity and just a single candle flame! Afterward, you can treat yourself to delicious ice cream in the old-fashioned-looking ice cream parlor where the tour begins.
Seasons: May To October
6. Crystal Gold Mine Tour
For a different mine tour, check out Crystal Gold Mine Tour near Kellogg, Idaho. It’s a 12-minute drive from Wallace and a good stopover if you’re visiting Kellogg.
The Crystal Gold Mine was in operation in the late 1800s until the miners abandoned it at an unknown time. It was then rediscovered one hundred years later when the mine was exposed during the building of I-90.
The owner of the land sold it to Bill and Judy Lanek, who, while cleaning the mine, discovered gold. While the monetary amount has never been disclosed, in the tour, the guide said he was able to put all his grandchildren through college.
It’s a shorter tour, 20 minutes, but includes an hour of panning for gold in stocked troughs outside of the mine. We enjoyed the tour, particularly when the guide showed us the minerals and quart veins running along the mine. They even gave us a good look at fool’s gold (pyrite) vs real gold.
Because it’s a shorter tour and includes panning for gold, kids are more inclined to enjoy this tour over Sierra Silver Mine Tour.
Seasons: March to October
7. Sunshine Miner Memorial
Just three minutes from Crystal Gold Mine off Interstate 90 is the Sunshine Miner Memorial. This somber memorial from sculptor Ken Lonn commemorates the 91 miners who died in 1972 at Sunshine Mine in one of the worst mining disasters in the world. The memorial tells you about the tragic event and how it permanently changed the mining industry and safety practices.
Season: All year
8. Off Roading Adventures
If you’re really looking to channel your inner Idahoan, rent an off road vehicle from Mountain Meadow Adventure Rentals. We were really hoping to do this while were in Wallace, but the prices were a little out of our reach. They look super fun and it’s a great way to explore off the beaten path in Wallace. I would ask the people who work there for advice on where to go. They’ll know the best spots if you tell them what you’re looking for.
Seasons: Late all to spring
9. Sixth Street Melodrama and Theater
Wallace has a small local theatre, the Sixth Street Melodrama, housed in the only wood building that didn’t burn down from the fire in 1890. The theatre does standard plays but also does a form of melodrama where the acting is purposefully over the top, and crowd participation is highly encouraged, whether that’s booing or cheering. If you’re into the theater and want a unique thing to do in Wallace, check out what’s playing while visiting.
Seasons: All year
10. Pulaski Tunnel Trail
Located a quick five minute drive from Wallace is the Pulaski Tunnel Trail, a historic hiking trail perfect for anyone who wants to explore Wallace’s sublime nature but wants something nearby.
The four-mile round trip hike takes you along the babbling waterway of Placer Creek and to an eventual lookout to Pulaski Tunnel. This infamous spot is where Ed Pulaski led his team of firefighters to safety and saved 40 men from the Great Idaho Fire of 1910.
Along the way, plaques tell the story of this stoic and heroic man who also contributed greatly to firefighting, most notably the Pulaski Axe. We loved the hike and were in awe of the story and history of the area.
The hike is rated as moderate with a steady elevation gain of 780 feet. The hike should take 2-4 hours, depending on if you stop at every sign.
SEASONS: The trail is open all year, but the best time will be from late May to early October. Winter conditions will vary based on the amount of snow. Snowshoes or traction cleats might be necessary from winter to early spring.
11. Hiking Trails
The Pulaski Tunnel Trail is a great option in town, but there are plenty of of other hiking trails that might offer more solitude and grander views. Since we didn’t get out to too many of the surrounding hikes, we suggest checking out this post about hikes in the area.
A great hike that’s over an hour away is Revett Lake. It’s a good one with kids since it has a modest elevation gain of 718 feet, it’s 3.3 miles out and back, and you get the rewared of a beautiful alpine lake. A good choice if you want to go off the beaten path.
Seasons: Late spring to early fall are the best times for hiking in Wallace.
12. Route of the Hiawatha
One of our favorite things to do in Wallace, Idaho, is hands down, the Route of the Hiawatha. This popular bike path is considered the “crown jewel” of the Rails to Trails program. Is it touristy and crowded? Yes. Is it fun? Also, yes!
The trail is a 15-mile bike path with ten train tunnels (including a pitch-dark tunnel that’s 1.66 miles long!), seven train trestles, and the best part…it’s all downhill. At a 2% grade, the path is a breeze, making it a top family-friendly attraction in North Idaho.
You can bring your bikes or rent them from Lookout Pass. You’ll also need strong headlamps, warm clothes for the cold tunnels, and tickets to access the path. You can also purchase shuttle tickets that will take you back up to the parking lot.
You can learn more about the ins and out of the trail in our full blog post about biking the Route of the Hiawatha.
Seasons: May to September
13. Trail of the Coeur D’Alenes
For a different biking adventure, bike a portion of the 73-mile Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes. This primarily flat multi-use trail is an extraordinary path and showcases some of North Idaho’s most scenic areas.
The bike path starts in Mullan, ID, and ends in Plummer, ID. It’s great if you want a quieter experience than the Route of the Hiawatha since fewer people use the trail.
You can access the trail directly from Wallace, but it is not the prettiest section of the trail. You can rent e-bikes from Spokehouse (located in downtown Wallace) and head west to the Pinehurst Trailhead, where it starts to veer away from the highway and gets much prettier.
If you have a bike hitch you can bikes from Couer d’Alene Bike Co in Kellogg and head to the Cataldo Trailhead, where the bike path is gloriously beautiful.
Seasons: The path is open all year, but May to October are the best months. In the winter, you will need fat tire bikes if the snow has been partially cleared.
*If you need a bike hitch, both the Coeur d’Alene Bike Co in Kellogg and Spokehouse in Wallace offer bike hitch rentals.
14. Silver Mountain
Fifteen minutes from Wallace is Silver Mountain, North Idaho’s premier mountain bike park in the summer and a ski resort in the winter. In addition to having incredible terrain for skiing and biking, the resort has the longest gondola ride in North America. At 3.1 miles long, you’ll get incredible views of the mountains, whether they are awash in layers of white snow or a canopy of green firs. At the top, nonskiers or bikers can enjoy hiking the Kellogg Peak Lookout Trail or the kid-friendly Moose Knuckle Trail.
If visiting the area, a good tip is to book one night at the resort so you can get access to their indoor water park. Only guests at the resort can use the waterpark. You can read reviews and book a room here.
Seasons: Open in the winter and summer
15. Lookout Pass
Another great ski hill, just 16 minutes east of Wallace, is Lookout Pass. A smaller ski hill than Silver Mountain, it offers a relaxed uncrowded vibe that the two other big ski hills in North Idaho can’t offer. In the summer, you can mountain bike, hike, take a scenic chairlift, or forage for Idaho’s state fruit, the delicious huckleberry.
Seasons: Open in the winter and summer.
16. Silver Streak Zipline
Zipline 1000 feet over downtown Wallace at Silver Streak Zipline. With a line that spans 1800 feet, adventure junkies will be sure to enjoy this excursion. We didn’t personally try out the ziplines, but it seems like fun! Let us know if you like it.
Seasons: It doesn’t specify on their website, but it’s safe to assume it’s a summer activity that runs from roughly Memorial Day weekend to early Fall.
Where To Eat in Wallace, Idaho
While Wallace is a small town, it offers a decent amount of places to eat! Here are a few great places to eat and drink in Wallace. We’re only suggesting what we tried, so it’s not an exhaustive list. We would have liked to go to the Red Light Garage. It’s famous in Wallace, but it wasn’t open while we were visting. It seemed cute!
- Muchachos Tacos: You guessed it…tacos! This small restaurant is a popular spot, so get there early to grab a spot and scarf down on the tastiest tacos in Wallace.
- Fainting Goat Wine Bar + Restaurant: The prettiest spot in town, the Fainting Goat offers brick oven pizzas and a nice selection of beer and wine.
- Blackboard Cafe: A great choice for lunch or dinner, the Blackboard Cafe offers a slightly more elevated restaurant ambiance while staying true to Wallace’s laid-back charm.
- City Limits Pub and Grill: A local favorite, City Limits is exactly what you’d expect from a pub with an in-house brewery: delicious hamburgers and fantastic beer. The pub features beer from North Idaho Mountain Brew.
- Wallace Brewing: A brewery that proudly crafts its own beer inspired by the history and grit of Wallace, Idaho. The brewery only offers drinks, so grab a drink before or after your meal.
Day Trips near Wallace, Idaho
If you’re looking for more things to do in Wallace, we highly suggest you explore beyond Wallace and check out nearby Coeur d’Alene. It’s about a 50-minute drive and offers a wealth of fun activities. You can check out our articles on Coeur d’Alene below:
- 25+ Things to do in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
- The Best Things To Do in Coeur d’Alene with Kids
- Coeur d’Alene, Idaho In Winter: Adventures for the Winter Traveler
- 17 Restaurants in Coeur d’Alene You’ll Want to Visit
Lastly, if you’re looking for more fun activities in the Panhandle, check out our article on 25 Adventures To Go On in North Idaho.
Are you ready to explore Wallace? If we missed anything in our list of the best things to do in Wallace, Idaho, let us know in the comments below!
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