Finding Summer Romance in Coeur d’Alene

If I had starting keeping track of how many times I’ve been asked this question, Why Idaho?, I would have started a scrapbook of go-to answers: My fiancé’s family has been going there every year…for fifteen years. It’s got what I wanted (water) and what Ryan wanted (mountains). It’s affordable. It’s kind of destination, but not too far that nobody will come. The people are so nice up there. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

I realize, now, that I’ve spit out many of these stock answers to the question about why I’m getting married in Idaho in order to mask the truth of the question: I didn’t really know what I was doing at first either. As an aspiring beach dweller /foreign culture fanatic, I initially imagined the cliché destination wedding: bare feet, sandy wind in my hair, a tropical private beach, a language I couldn’t speak, my immediate family. What ended up happening, though, is a much bigger wedding on a lake in northern Idaho with about 100 of our favorite family members in a very not-private place. So, original expectations aside, when we decided to book our wedding in Coeur d’Alene, I was a little unsure of what I’d gotten myself into.

So this summer, we went up there for what would be my second time. While at first the trip felt a little like a second date—simultaneously exhilarating and apprehensive—after spending a few days at the Coeur d’Alene Resort and at the cabin with my fiancé’s family, I discovered that not only am I a content bride-to-be, I’m thrilled to be exchanging my vows on the shores of Idaho’s waters at the Coeur d’Alene Resort next summer.  And since the resort has just undergone its multi-million dollar renovation efforts, there’s no better place in the Inland Northwest.

Many people, it seems, mistakenly believe that Idaho is a motley combination of potatoes, rolling farmland, and off-the-beaten-path fishing spots. This misconception is entirely the work of a long-standing reputation of Idaho being the state in-between the hipness of Washington and the mountainous glory of Montana. Canada, to the north, offers its own mystique and beauty and “foreignness” to American travelers. Idaho, surrounded as it is on all four sides my more heavily-propagated marketed places, often gets left out as a traveler’s destination. And yet, while the famous carbohydrates and fish do exist, the town of Coeur d’Alene is about as far from potatoes and countryside as it gets.

Coeur d’Alene is a colorful little alpine town just a half-hour over the border from Spokane, Washington. Like a scene taken from Twin Peaks, this cozy northwestern town feels, well, simultaneously quirky and sophisticated. The streets are lined with balls of fresh flowers on lampposts, the restaurants range from indie coffee shops to Italian fine dining to interesting microbreweries, stores range from designer handbag boutiques to locally-owned bookstores, and the resort, situated on the shores of the lake, is an unusual combination of postmodern architecture and old-world wooden boardwalks (longest-running wooden boardwalk in the nation, a fact of which the town is exceptionally proud).

Our trip, of course, had a somewhat unusual slant toward everything “party planning,” as we did everything from meeting with the sous chef (Jamie is amazing!), to tasting local wines and meeting with florists and photographers. We had sandwiches and tea at the Dockside Restaurant, visited the Spa, sat on the brand-new glass terrace overlooking the lake in the late afternoons, had an evening cocktail at the recently modernized Whispers Bar, listened to a local guitarist play outside under the stars, and said goodnight to the schools of koi swimming around in the sleek new tanks lining the lobby on our way to the elevator. We didn’t make it to Beverly’s, the resort’s sophisticated restaurant and wine boutique elegantly located on the 7th floor, but we decided we needed to leave something special for next time. (We’ll certainly report back!).

I might have seen things just a little differently on this trip, as I’m scrutinizing every nook and cranny of the resort through the lens of my coming-fast event next summer, but I can’t help but admit that the Coeur d’Alene Resort is a perfect place for romance. By romance, of course, I don’t mean simply the kind that blossoms between two people—I mean the kind that happens when you realize you’re falling in love with a place, with a vista you just can’t shake, with a setting you know you’ll revisit again, again, and again.

After our stay at the resort, I can only hope that in eleven months, our friends and family will travel here, breathe in the clean, crisp air of the northwest, and leave for home with a deeper appreciation for all the intricacy and detail of this unusual place overlooking fantastic lake at Coeur d’Alene—and for all the possibilities awaiting us in the oddly-shaped state of Idaho.

Special thanks to the Coeur d’Alene Resort for graciously hosting one night of my stay during this trip.

If you’re interested in booking a room (rates typically range between $179–$350 per night), start here.

Or you can check prices online at Preferred Hotel Group, Hotels.com or Priceline

Article and photographs by Kristin Mock.

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  1. Karen Shirley
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