Northwest travel: Start making plans for summer fun

There’s no shortage of fun stuff to do in the Northwest once the birds start chirping and the flowers bloom in a flourish of color. Most of us can’t wait to start planning our warm-weather getaways.

For those looking to get a jump on their summer fun, remember that many hotels and resorts around the region offer spring and early summer package deals — making excursions easy on the pocketbook.

Here’s a roundup of ideas for exciting trips around the Northwest.

Hit the Idaho links

It’s no secret that Idaho has some of the best golf resorts in the Northwest, and many of them offer stay-and-play deals this time of year.

From May 29-June 30, Shore Lodge in McCall will be offering a golf package deal that includes a one-night stay at the lodge and two rounds of golf on Whitetail Club’s scenic and challenging course. These off-peak season packages are offered midweek (Sunday-Thursday) and start at around $350 per night, double occupancy. This deal will be offered again from Sept. 7-Oct. 3. To make reservations, visit or call (800) 657-6464.

Also in McCall, Jug Mountain Ranch (owned by the same folks who own Hotel McCall) offers off-peak season golf packages from May through June 30, and then again from Sept. 14 through mid-October. These stay-and-play packages (midweek: $123 for one, $146 for two; weekend: $128 for one, $158 for two) include a one-night stay at the historic Hotel McCall and 18 holes of golf on Jug Mountain Ranch’s beautiful course near Lake Fork. This deal also includes a golf cart and range balls. To make reservations, go to or call (208) 634-8105.

Up in the Panhandle, Coeur d’Alene Resort is gearing up for a busy summer season by offering several stay-and-play golf deals.

One good pick is the Floating Green Spring Golf Package (starting at $119 per person per night, double occupancy), a deal that runs through the end of May.

This package offers linksters overnight accommodations in a lakeside room and 18 holes of golf on the resort’s iconic course, which includes the world-famous floating 14th hole. You will also receive a pre-round sports massage, caddie service and a shared golf cart.

Sun Valley Resort also offers exceptional golf package deals during the spring and early summer.

Check out the Early Birdie Golf Package ($124 per person per night, double occupancy), which runs through June 12. It includes one night lodging at the Sun Valley Inn and 18 holes on the resort’s beautiful golf course (cart included).

The Summer Swing Package ($193 per person per night, double occupancy) is another good value, and you get to stay in the newly renovated Sun Valley Lodge after playing 18 holes of golf. This deal runs from June 13-26.

For more information, go to or call (800) 786-8259.

Relax in

Sun Valley

Speaking of Sun Valley Resort, the historic Sun Valley Lodge will be reopening in early June after undergoing extensive renovations over the last nine months.

The construction of the lodge was completed in 1936 when the resort first opened. The recent renovations include makeovers to all the guest rooms, and some of the smaller rooms have been combined to make larger suites. Also expect to find a redesigned lobby area and a glitzy new 20,000-square-foot spa and salon near the main lodge swimming pool. The spa will boast steam and sauna rooms, relaxation lounges, a spacious yoga studio and a state-of-the-art fitness center.

The 18th annual Sun Valley Wellness Festival will take place at the resort on May 21-25. (That’s about a week shy of the lodge’s grand reopening. No worries, though, as the Sun Valley Inn and the other lodging options at the resort are equally as nice.)

This year’s festival, presented by the Sun Valley Wellness Institute, offers a gamut of events and workshops guaranteed to feed your mind, body and spirit. Author Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote the best-selling memoir “Eat, Pray, Love,” is slated to be the keynote speaker. For information, go to www.sunvalleywellness. org.

Tamarack Zipline Tours

Adventurers will find plenty of fun at Tamarack Resort, near Cascade and Donnelly off of Idaho 55. If you are interested in adrenaline-packed action, take a Zip Tamarack zipline tour. You can “fly” on several different ziplines through Tamarack’s rugged mountain terrain — all with bird’s-eye views of the area’s abundant scenery. Expert guides help you along. Tours start at $109. Learn more at and

Check out that Spitfire

Military history buffs will surely get a kick out of the stockpile of World War II aircraft at the Flying Heritage Collection ( at Paine Field in Everett, Wash.

This collection of meticulously restored fighter airplanes (expect to see everything from B-25s to Spitfires) is funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and these iconic flying machines are kept in a glitzy hanger for all to see. The collection also boasts a “Tank Arena” that houses restored military vehicles, including World War II-era tanks. The museum is open to the public daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.—Memorial Day through Labor Day.

The Flying Heritage Collection has two upcoming events where you can get up close and personal with a variety of war machines.

On May 25, the museum will be rolling out its best military vehicles for the fourth annual TankFest Northwest. Bring your family to this booming event, which will feature cannons galore, remote-control tanks, a 30-ton Sherman tank and more.

Later in the summer, on July 25, head to the second annual FHC Air and Ground Show, an all-day sky fair where you can watch an assortment of rare planes buzz around the skies above Paine Field. This family-friendly event will also include World War II re-enactors, more tanks, PC gaming and lots of fun activities for kids.

Beat the Yellowstone Rush

Yellowstone National Park starts to come to life in early May when the park’s interior roads begin to open for the season.

You won’t yet see tons of tourists clogging the park’s roads and facilities. As a matter of fact, large mammals probably outnumber humans this time of year. Early-bird visitors will be treated to an impressive wildlife show (don’t forget your camera). Mama and baby bison dot the steamy meadows, newborn elk attempt to stand on their gangly legs for the first time and you might even see female grizzlies roaming around with their fuzzy cubs in tow.

As the snow melts, the caldera-formed landscape explodes with beautiful wildflowers, and some of the hiking trails on the north side of the park open for season.

The town of West Yellowstone, Mont., at the park’s west entrance, starts to wake up as well. And some of the hotels and lodges offer special deals and packages during the early season.

Make a reservation for the Spring Wildlife Package ($215 per person, double occupancy), which includes two nights lodging at Three Bear Lodge, a one-day interpretive Yellowstone Loop tour, and breakfast and dinner in the lodge’s attractive dining room. This package usually costs $305 per person, so $90 off is quite the deal. For more information, visit or call (800) 221-1151.

Read Statesman reporter Rocky Barker’s Yellowstone travel advice and tips from last year’s Northwest Getaways magazine.

Follow the trail

Idaho and Oregon have a multitude of Oregon Trail interpretive centers where you can take in a little history this summer.

At Three Island Crossing State Park, in Glenns Ferry, evidence of this westward migration is everywhere you look. There are still visible ruts on the south side of the Snake River that wind down the hill to where the wagons forded the river.

The park’s Oregon Trail History and Education Center offers interpretive information about the trail along the Snake River Plain, and how the tired travelers found a much-needed respite at this scenic spot.

After getting your fill of history, head next door to Crossings Winery (, formerly Carmela Vineyards, for wine tasting and a meal in the winery’s full-service restaurant. The Sunday brunch (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) is especially good.

In eastern Oregon, about five miles east of Baker City on Highway 86, it’s hard to miss the Bureau of Land Management’s National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center perched high atop a wind-swept hill.

Here, you’ll find lots of educational exhibits, multi-media presentations, living history demonstrations and several interpretive trails that lead you around the sagebrush-covered terrain.

When you’re done, head to the nearby town of Halfway and call it a night at Pine Valley Lodge ( This Old West-inspired lodge (with a collection of rustic guest houses) is a history lesson within itself. Expect a big continental breakfast spread on weekends, and don’t be surprised to taste some cherries from the lodge’s orchard during the early summer months. Make reservations online or call (541) 742-2027.

Celebrate Idaho’s special places

• Idaho Tourism is once again ramping up its “18 Summers” vacation campaign, which celebrates the 18 summers that travelers around the state get with their children. The campaign, which runs through July 31, features “docu-memory” videos of families sharing their spring and summer vacation experiences.

Go to to watch the videos and to find package deals, trip ideas and the chance to win a fun Idaho getaway each month.

• Celebrate Idaho Parks and Recreation’s 50th anniversary by heading to one of Idaho’s 30 state parks, many of which will be hosting special events throughout the summer. For more information, visit


• Summer means amusement park fun at Silverwood Theme Park, located 22 miles north of Coeur d’Alene on Highway 95. The park boasts more than 70 rides for people of all ages. Go to

for discounted tickets.

Time for a getaway to Reno?

The Peppermill Resort in Reno recently started a flyaway package program for Boise residents looking for some Nevada excitement. The package (starting at $129 per person, double occupancy) includes round-trip airfare (chartered by Allegiant Airlines), three nights lodging at the Peppermill Tower and ground transportation to and from Reno-Tahoe International Airport.

The next trip is scheduled for June 12-15. To make a reservation, visit

James Patrick Kelly, a restaurant critic and writer for the Idaho Statesman’s Scene and Treasure magazines, is the author of the travel guidebook “Moon Idaho.” The seventh edition will hit the shelves later this year. He also teaches journalism at Boise State University.