Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

Grab the sunscreen — a ‘normal’ summer may be on its way

Good weather gave our neighborhood a different vibe last week. Kids buzzed around on scooters. Families walked dogs and pulled little ones in wagons.

Sixty degrees and sunny. Faint breeze. People were out.

So were my winter-white legs, which got some rays of their own. And my 10-year-old daughter might have winced as I dug around the house for my flip flops.

Who cares? Spring was in the air, summer is around the corner and for the first time in a few years, it feels oddly normal to many of us.

A Facebook friend snapped a photo with his wife and kids at the airport. Commercial airlines dumped their mask mandates. He packed the whole fam-damily up for a flight to warmer weather.

My wife, the super-planner, has our summer plans covered too, apparently:

  • Pocatello’s Ross Park Aquatic Center opens May 28 at noon. Our daughters are obsessed. And yeah, my wife knew opening day by heart.
  • We’ll spend half a week at a cabin in Island Park with her family in July. I’ll pack the fishing poles.
  • Then we’ll visit her sister in Wyoming — a perfect chance to take our kids through Yellowstone National Park, courtesy of our fourth-grader. News to me, courtesy of the super-planner: the federal Every Kid Outdoors initiative gives families with a fourth-grader a free pass to millions of acres of national parks, structures, cultural artifacts, forests, timber country, waterways and lakes. Go here to get yours and throw in a donation.
  • And there’s “got to be” some three-on-three basketball tournaments we can sign the kids up for, my wife added.

There’ll be the normal summer stuff: plenty of turkey legs and corn dogs to gnaw on at the state fair that comes through our hometown and a camping trip or two, if we can squeeze it in.

What about you? Send me your summer hotspots and things to do at [email protected].

And if COVID-19 and Idaho’s long winter have you in the dark, here are some ideas to start stretching those legs. Call it a starter pack for what’s looking more and more like a “normal” summer on the horizon, maybe:

The other-worldly: Craters of the Moon

What’s the best way to shake off the effects of a stubborn pandemic? Long walks through a preserved sea of lava fields and coffin-dark caves, duh.

Really? I dunno, but our kids loved it a few years ago.

And Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is (almost) smack in the middle of southern Idaho. So whether you’re from Boise, Twin Falls or Idaho Falls, it’s day-trip worthy, even with these fuel prices.

From the website: “Craters of the Moon is a vast ocean of lava flows with scattered islands of cinder cones and sagebrush.”

I’ll never forget the self-guiding, ADA-accessable Devil’s Orchard trail, an ominous walk through twisted limber pine trunks, nude of any foliage, that stretch high through lava fragments and cinder beds.

The gnarly place lives up to its name.

And Craters of the Moon is suitable for kids. We took ours — ages two, four and six at the time — and managed to see almost everything. No injuries reported, but watch your step in some places and take plenty of water and snacks.

A girl explores a cave at Craters of the Moon.

The topsy-turvy: Silverwood Theme Park

Wuuuut, North Idaho has a sprawling theme park in the pines?


Have you ever been?

No, but I know where I’m taking the fam if we ever end up in… Athol (population 978)?

We don’t make it to North Idaho often. OK, ever. Siri just clocked me at a seven-and-a-half hour’s drive from our East Idaho home. But Silverwood Theme Park would be a great way to break up a summer with the kids if we lived closer or ever land nearby.

The park’s website boasts 221 acres with four large rollercoasters, a water park with two wave pools and a 1915 steam engine ride through the woods.


Check out the list of rides here, and filter through them with a nifty height- and thrill level-guide.

The Silverwood steam engine takes park-goers through the pines.

The slammer: Idaho’s old penitentiary

An old prison? 

Yep. *Sound of steel doors slamming shut*

The Old Idaho Penitentiary off Old Penitentiary Road in Boise became a family fav for us a few years ago.

Traipsing the old holding cells is like stepping right into “The Shawshank Redemption.” Here’s what things could have been like had you chose that life of crime, Bucko.

The gallows room at Cell House 5 provides an upfront view of where death row inmates… you know. We saw where the noose once dangled above the trap door.

The airy prison yard provides fresh air between site visits inside four hulking walls. And it was a learning opportunity for our kids, who at the very least understand that there’s a whole penal system that can lock you up, or worse, for doing bad stuff.

Grab tickets here, and take a guided tour for two bucks extra.

More: KTVB featured the old prison on its 150th birthday last month. 

Idaho’s old penitentiary, Boise.
Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

Devin was formerly a senior reporter and editor for Idaho Education News and now works for INL in communications.

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