I had the absolute joy of spending an evening in Coeur d'Alene before continuing my drive to Washington State. I visited once briefly, years before, and the city was just as beautiful as I remembered it. Coeur d'Alene is nestled in the mountainous Idaho panhandle, just before the border with Washington, and (conveniently for me) right along Interstate 90. It sits at the top of Lake Coeur d'Alene, which spans 25 miles and has over 109 miles of shoreline. Descending into the valley from the National Forest, the views of the lake were spectacular, so I recommend road trippers approach it from the east as I did.
The lake really is the centerpiece of the city. The weather was perfect when I was there, and it seemed everyone was taking advantage and getting in the water. There were sailboats, small cruise ships probably offering dinner on the water, and even party boats for brides-to-be to get drunk and hopefully not seasick (see below!). There are also innumerable water sports to enjoy: kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, fishing, jet skiing, and more.
Tubbs Hill juts into the lake right next to the marina and has an improvised system of hiking trails that were very popular. There are a few little inlets that act as semi-private beaches and plenty of rocks for swimmers to jump from. I don't know that I'd personally recommend jumping into the rocky lake, but the locals seemed to have it under control.
Next to the lake is the large and beautifully developed McEuen Park. This too seemed a popular place to hang out, and the whole park smelled wonderfully of the many blooming flowers. There were kids playing in the water fountains, a dozen women taking a Backstreet Boys-themed dance class, and plenty of dogs getting their evening walk. I'm attaching a map of Coeur d'Alene's McEuen Park so you can how many great things it has to offer. There's a pavilion where they put on concerts every Wednesday of the summer, courts, a concessions stand, and some cool public art. It's a short walk around downtown and through the park, but there's plenty to see and do to stay occupied for a nice long weekend.
The downtown area has the vibe of any seaside destination catering to vacationers, with a bunch of highly-rated restaurants, bars, ice cream parlors, and fancy gift shops. It felt like a small New England coastal town picked up and dropped in the middle of an evergreen forest. Weather-wise, it was probably the best time of year for me to visit, so it's no wonder Coeur d'Alene will be staying on my list of favorite U.S. vacation destinations. Next time I visit, I will surely be changing into my bathing suit!