EXPLORE COEUR D'ALENE AND ITS PARKS
Walk, bike or ride to Coeur d'Alene. If biking, the North Idaho Centennial Trail is a straight shot to Riverstone, where you can gather your strength during Regal Cinemas' $1 summer movie series. After Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2 (July 1) or The Croods (Aug. 5), think about where you might want to eat, or stroll through the shops or around the man-made lake before heading down Northwest Boulevard to visit the real lake.
A gently sloping, mostly shaded trail along the Spokane River (or a quick car ride) brings you to North Idaho College's campus, where more shade and an opportunity to take a dip in the water await. Keep going through the park, stopping to play on the swings or to play a pick-up game of basketball. Teens might like people-watching at this popular hub for all ages.
Once in town, wander the boardwalk, window-shop, rent watercraft or meander over to the Museum of North Idaho ($3 adults, $1 kids, $7 families) for a little Lake City history. Check out twice-daily Pirate Cruises (adults $32.75; children ages 3-12, $22.75; 2 and under, free), 90 minutes of interactive, swashbuckling fun and great views of the lake.
Hungry? Grab a burger at Hudson's (if you're old enough to sit at the counter, you're old enough to try the hot sauce) and then pop across the street to Figpickels Toy Emporium. Or continue east on Sherman Avenue to Roger's Ice Cream and Burgers.
Finally, wrap it up at CdA's other park — McEuen — where you can play tennis, launch an expedition up Tubbs Hill, jump around in the water fountain or just find a shady spot to relax and enjoy another beautiful day in the city by the lake.
Parents: How about an affordable, family-friendly two-day convention where roughhousing and alcohol are prohibited, proper hygiene is encouraged and adult supervision is required for those 18 and under? Kids can bust out the quirky costumes, including weaponry, providing it adheres to strict "peacebonding" guidelines set forth by the KuroNekoCon's organizers.
What's KuroNekoCon? A 4-year-old annual celebration of anime, manga, gaming and Japanese culture with dancing, role-playing, karaoke and awesome artwork from Aug. 2-3 at Spokane Convention Center. Advance registration means cheaper tickets and is required to do things like perform on stage, sword-fight, or play chess on a life-size chessboard. Check out kuronekocon.com.
JUMP FOR JOY
When you're a little tyke, simple is good. For parents, clean and affordable is also good. That's what Jennifer Wenstrom likes about Coeur d'Alene's Jump for Joy.
"They make the kids and adults take off their shoes before you enter the bouncing area," says Wenstrom, "and they make everyone put on hand sanitizer before entering and after leaving the bouncing area." As a former chemist (and science teacher), Wenstrom knows a thing or two about germs. And as a mother of three, she likes the convenience of punch cards — $50 for 10 one-hour sessions, otherwise $6/hour for kids 10 and under — and the new climbing structure for toddlers.
What are parents doing while the kids navigate six jumping areas in Jump's 6,200-square-foot facility? Chilling on the couch, surfing the free Wi-Fi, remembering how fun it is to just jump for joy. In Spokane, check out Jump and Bounce at jumpandbounce.net.
If you want your teenagers to have more than sunburns and selfies to show for their summer, teach them money-management skills to go along with their newly discovered earning (and spending) potential. They can learn the value of a dollar (and cents) at free money camps sponsored by Spokane Teachers Credit Union. The next one is June 17 at Hayden Library. Visit stcuteens.org/events.
On any given day this summer, kids of all ages will be screaming their little heads off as they slide, whoosh and flop their way through gallons of good clean fun at area water parks. In Idaho, Silver Mountain's and Triple Play's indoor parks mean you can forget the sunscreen, while Silverwood offers acres of supervised water play. In Spokane, go to Splash Down or try the new Southside Aquatics Center, which make up in affordability — from $2-$4 daily — what they might lack in size, compared to the commercial parks.
SWIM AND A MOVIE
At 6 pm in the summer it's still plenty warm out, so parents can chill out about catching a chill from an evening soak, swim or splashing around at the Northside Aquatics Center. For just $2-$4, you get two hours in the pool and a spot screen-side for kid-friendly films like The Nut Job. Visit spokanecounty.org/parks.
CHILLIN' AT THE LIBRARY
When did libraries become the cool place to hang out? When they added magic shows, movies, crafting, Lego build sessions, board games, and a chance to win weekly prizes. A sampling: melted crayon art (June 26) or Summer Science Camp (Thursdays, 10:30-11:30) at the Coeur d'Alene Library (cdalibrary.org); Dr. Seuss Zentangle art project or Cecil the Magician at Spokane libraries (dates and times vary, spokanelibrary.org). All free! Oh, and they have lots of great stuff to read, too.
BUILD A TREEHOUSE
This is a summer project with a capital P. First there's the planning: Internet search, go to the library, check out Animal Planet's Treehouse Masters, do some doodling. Materials don't have to be expensive; try Craigslist, garage sales or Habitat for Humanity. Then there's the building, a family-bonding opportunity in the making. Once done, it will be something that lasts well beyond the long days of summer.
RIDE THE RAILS
There's something about train travel that soothes and excites us at the same time. On the scenic train rides run by the Lions Club, little kids can might find a whole new way to play "I Spy" while older kids crack a smile (and put down the cell phone) if "Ma Cutter" and her "gang" happen to board the train and "rob" passengers. All trips start and end in Ione, Washington, with summer schedules coinciding with local festivals (Down River Days, July 26-27; An Affair on Main Street, Aug. 30-31). Tickets cost $10 for children ages 2-12 and seniors 65 and older, $15 for adults. Children under 2 ride free. If you miss summer rides — spots fill fast — train rides continue through early fall. Visit lionstrainrides.com. ♦