Travel notes: Celebrate 50 years of Idaho’s Parks and Recreation Department

The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation is celebrating its 50 years of existence with a full slate of events at state parks across Idaho this summer.

“Our goal was to have an event in every state park,” says Jennifer Okerlund, the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation’s communications manager.

“It’s been an exciting year for drawing attention to our state parks.”

Celebratory events will be taking place from Castle Rocks State Park, in the southern reaches of the state, to postcard-perfect Priest Lake State Park near the Canadian border — and everywhere in between.

All 30 of Idaho’s state parks will be strutting their stuff throughout the summer, reminding people that “staycations” can be just as fun as out-of-state trips.

“It’s so great in Idaho that many of these wonderful places are just a few hours away, and each park has tried to reintroduce itself by offering events that celebrate their uniqueness,” Okerlund explains.

Some of the events are larger than others, but expect to find lots of adventure and interpretive tours at many of the parks.

To check out the calendar of events, visit

The Idaho State Parks Passport program makes it easy and affordable for state residents to visit Idaho’s 30 state parks. The Passport sticker quickly pays for itself. All you have to do is check a box and pay $10 next time you register a vehicle at the DMV, and you will receive an exemption sticker that waives the $5 entrance fee into each park for the next year (for $20, you can get a two-year pass).

Sun Valley Lodge

gets a makeover

The historic Sun Valley Lodge, the illustrious centerpiece of Sun Valley Resort, has been closed for the last nine months for major renovations.

The lodge, which was built in 1936 when the resort first debuted, is slated to reopen June 15.

Recent upgrades to the lodge include extensive makeovers to all the guest rooms, and some of the smaller rooms were combined to make larger suites. The lobby also received a major redesign.

The most noticeable change is the new 20,000-square-foot spa that was constructed near the main lodge swimming pool. Here, guests will find steam and sauna rooms, relaxation lounges, a state-of-the-art fitness center and a large yoga studio. (See Katherine Jones’ recent Idaho Statesman story and photos about the renovation here.)

Make reservations at

Need an excuse to go to Sun Valley? Book a room in the updated lodge and head to the 34th annual Sun Valley Center Wine Auction on July 23-25.

Considered by oenophiles to be one of Idaho’s premier wine events, this year’s festivities will feature winemaker dinners, tapas and wine tasting, and an extravagant “Vine and Dine” lawn party at Dollar Mountain Lodge. And let’s not forget the big wine auction gala itself, scheduled for July 24 from 5 to 10 p.m.

For tickets and registration, go to

It’s now Crossings Winery

It’s official. Carmela Vineyards in Glenns Ferry has changed its name to Crossings Winery.

After Roger Jones passed away in 2013, Douglas Jones, Roger’s son, took over the operations at the popular winery next to Three Island Crossing State Park.

Jones also has brought back former winemaker Neil Glancey, who did a stint at the now defunct Woodriver Cellars in Eagle, to once again manage the vineyard and produce wines.

Glancey tends 16 acres of vines on the winery grounds, as well as four acres of Merlot grapes on his own property in nearby King Hill.

“Being in control of the grapes has been nice for me. It’s important to put in the time doing the day-to-day work. That’s really important for having successful wines,” Glancey states.

Crossings Winery, as was the case at Carmela Vineyards, mostly grows Bleu Noir, Riesling, Semillon and Merlot grapes, which get turned into single varietal wines and red blends, such as its newly released Triumvino red table wine.

They also use grapes from other nearby vineyards to round out their lineup of wines.

Some folks seem to be baffled by the recent transformation at the winery, though, the biggest one being the name change.

“People have asked me at the farmers market if Crossings is near Carmela Vineyards. There’s still some confusion about the name,” Glancey says.

Stop by the tasting room at Crossings Winery (open daily) this summer and try the fruits of the labor.

Make a vacation of it. Crossings Winery has a full-service restaurant, a nine-hole golf course, an easy-access RV park and two cabins near the links. The winery also hosts several winemaker dinners throughout the year.

For more information and to make reservations, visit or call (208) 366-2313.

Check out McCall’s

mellow side

McCall’s biggest bash of the summer is undoubtedly its Fourth of July celebration on Payette Lake. Learn more about that big party at

But for those wanting a more mellow McCall experience, here are a few picks worthy of mention.

Check out Shore Lodge’s Dinner and a Movie held on Tuesday nights from 6 to 9:30 p.m. After enjoying a two-course dinner at Narrows Restaurant, diners will then retreat to the downstairs movie theater for a blockbuster flick. Reservations are recommended. Call (208) 634-2244.

Shore Lodge also features live music in Narrows Grill on Monday nights from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

To see the movie schedule and lineup of musical acts, go to

The McCall Farmers Market will be opening for the season on June 10 in the big lot on Pine Street next to Gravity Sports.

The market sets up on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Expect to see lots of farm-fresh produce, baked goods, artisan crafts, chef demonstrations, live music and more.

Travel Tidbits

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.

The Peppermill Resort in Reno recently started a flyaway package program for Boise residents looking for some gambling 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 at the Idaho Statesman, is the author of the travel guidebooks “Moon Idaho” and “Spotlight Boise.” He also teaches journalism at Boise State University.