Note: This article was originally published in Prime Lifestyle Magazine.
Beautiful Coeur d’Alene, Idaho has outgrown its reputation as a sleepy snowbird haven and has matured into a community bustling with activity regardless of season. Dozens of locals, college students, newly relocated residents and tourists can be seen sipping coffee on Sherman and browsing shops even on the snowiest days of January. Although the hustle and bustle of the summer tourist crowd is absent, there has been a noticeable shift in off season activity.
North Idaho has been a well-established winter and early spring ski destination as it boasts several mountains within a two-hour drive, including two of the top ski areas in the country, Schweitzer and Silver Mountain. Just 45 minutes north of Coeur d’Alene and at the base of Schweitzer, Sandpoint Idaho has consistently attracted a very strong tourist crowd looking to enjoy the popular mountain along with the charming town.
Coeur d’Alene’s newfound off-season activity seems to be less dependent on whether or not the snow is good for outdoor activity and more due to a result of a strong economy, a collaborative spirit amongst the tightknit community and the result of a growing population of residents attracted to Coeur d’Alene’s growing tech and start-up scene. In addition, companies like Kootenai Health, North Idaho’s largest employer, are finding great success in recruiting quality doctors, nurses and administrators to the area as it is a desirable location to live year-round.
The Coeur d’Alene Downtown Association deserves much credit as it’s continued to rally the downtown community throughout the year with popular events such as the Wine Extravaganza, Mac and Cheese Festival and Oktoberfest. The Association has given the community yet another reason to explore the shops and restaurants of downtown Coeur d’Alene with these popular events and more, sometimes giving the small businesses a much-needed boost in a time of year that is generally a bit slower with foot traffic. Beth Rich Brown, owner of the popular home décor and gift shop, Mix It Up, says “I just had about 1,500 people in my store on January 19th for the Mac and Cheese Festival. Who thinks of that? Thanks to a hardworking and collaborative Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Association and Arts and Culture Alliance, there are events like this throughout the off season.”
The Coeur d’Alene Arts and Culture Alliance is also a strong driver of activity as the popular Artwalk, which is traditionally April through December, has been joined by equally loved winter Music Walk and fall Art from the Heart program. The art scene in downtown Coeur d’Alene has remained strong and the one of the newest additions to the gallery scene, Emerge, has had success drawing in large crowds from the community as it works to help budding artists creatively and professionally.
Buddy Le, owner of one of the oldest galleries in the area, Coeur d’Alene Galleries, said “There has been a noticeable increase in both the number of people walking through our gallery doors in the quieter seasons and the reason they are here. It used to be that if you had a busy day in February and asked the customers why they were in town, it was due to a convention, now I am finding many of them are employed at downtown businesses and have just come by to browse the shops and grab lunch.”
The downtown business scene has also been given a boost by the addition of two different parking structures (adding almost 800 parking spaces) and the renovation and promotion of the historic “Elks” building, which is now the Innovation Den. The massive building, which stood vacant for over 2 decades, houses 57 office spaces, a coffee shop, a barber shop and private club. The gorgeous building that was long forgotten by the community is now a hub of constant activity and has recently been joined by its little sister, The Innovation Den 2, directly across the street and home of Prime Real Estate Group – Coeur d’Alene.
Outside of the downtown CDA community there are many other areas of town experiencing growth, development and activity causing a vibrant year-round buzz. After struggling initially, Riverstone has become a community full of luxury condos, several boutique shops and restaurants and dozens of newly built apartments and homes. Midtown, which used to consist of only a few businesses and was largely seen as a road to get you from point A to point B, is now home to some of the most popular restaurants in Coeur d’Alene. The City of CDA is also currently completing its master plan for East Sherman, an area of town where locals and investors alike are beginning to scoop up available properties as they envision the plan coming into fruition. The anticipated growth of nearby Post Falls, Hayden and Rathdrum only add to the year-round growth and activity.
Those that do come to call Coeur d’Alene their home only for the summer as they fly south for the winter are still prevalent, however if you are considering making our beautiful city your year-round home, welcome, and enjoy all that our community has to offer!