Best places to hike, get ski equipment, listen to live music or eat... you can tell a lot about a community from its Inlander Best Of categories, which this year more than ever reads like a time capsule (with a few new categories we probably all hope never to see again). Whether 2020 is a year to be feted or forgotten about, there is no debate that 2021 is a great year to spend some time in Sandpoint.
Instead of listing all the amazing places one might hike, bike, ski, swim or otherwise recreate in Sandpoint, we asked voters here to socially distance. CITY BEACH won out, and it's easy to see why. Walkable from downtown, City Beach is 22 acres of all-season recreational opportunities that shine brightest in warmer months. Boat, swim, picnic, paddleboard or pose for a selfie in front of the famed "Statue of Liberty" sculpture.
Interested in gearing up for your outdoor recreation opportunities? ALPINE SHOP has you covered with their one-stop shop, say owners Zach and Hannah Vollmer. "We carry an amazing assortment of products, from skis and snowboards to everything you need on the water for summer, along with tons of clothing," says Hannah. The shop, which has been getting customers out there since 1966, offers continual arrival of new products as well as great customer service from local experts who know their stuff.
This year's "pandemic hero" for area voters is Sandpoint Mayor SHELBY ROGNSTAD, who looks like he just stepped off the cover of an outdoor-oriented magazine. A fourth-generation Idahoan, Rognstad knows firsthand the importance of protecting personal liberty, yet his approach during the pandemic, he says, was to err "on the side of greater caution." Thus, he took the controversial yet in his mind empathetic approach of supporting mask requirements to protect everyone in the community equally, he says. And regardless of where the populace falls in terms of masking, says Rognstad, Sandpoint continues to undergo amazing changes for the better. One of the many joys of being mayor, says Rognstad, is being "surrounded by really excellent staff at all levels," as well as being able to work with so many in the community who care about making the city a better place.
Community and coffee go hand-in-hand in Sandpoint, which boasts numerous options. This year, voters again chose homegrown coffee roasters EVANS BROTHERS COFFEE, which also doubles as a vital community hub.
Is it a) a brewery that serves food, b) a restaurant that brews its own beer, c) a package goods vendor for great local beer, or d) a live event venue that allows you to bring your own food and listen to awesome music when they have it or just generally chill on their patio? When the subject is MICKDUFF'S BREWING, the answer is e) all of the above, depending on the time of year last year. Since December 2020, they're back up to two locations: the Beer Hall and the new, larger brewing company and restaurant. They're also doing double-duty as this year's pick for a pandemic "pivot" (the Brewing Company, which is where the restaurant is located) and best restaurant (the Beer Hall). Their pivot included offering beer to-go, while steadfastly focusing on finishing the remodel of the historic federal building that is home to their new restaurant and pilot brewing program. And while technically the Beer Hall isn't a restaurant — bring your own or grab something from one of the many rotating food trucks they host — it's likely voters meant the actual brewery/restaurant.
After all, 2020 was, to put it mildly, a confusing year. ♦
1st PLACE: MickDuff's Brewing Company Beer Hall
2nd PLACE: Second Avenue Pizza
3rd PLACE: Spud's Waterfront Grill
BEST COFFEE SHOP
1st PLACE: Evans Brothers Coffee
2nd PLACE: Panhandle Cone & Coffee
3rd PLACE: Monarch Mountain Coffee
BEST OUTDOOR SUPPLIES
1st PLACE: Alpine Shop
2nd PLACE: Outdoor Experience
3rd PLACE: The North 40 Outfitters, Ponderay
BEST PLACE TO SOCIALLY DISTANCE
1st PLACE: City Beach
2nd PLACE: Schweitzer Mountain
3rd PLACE: Lake Pend Oreille
BEST PANDEMIC HERO
1st PLACE: Mayor Shelby Rognstad
BEST PANDEMIC PIVOT
1st PLACE: MickDuff's