Travel Guide: Summer Vacation in Sun Valley, Idaho

  • Written By:Lila Claghorn
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There are secret gems that most New Yorkers or anyone – for that matter – hesitate to share, because their location is too special, too awe inspiring and just too perfect. Sun Valley, Idaho is that place. A lot of East Coasters travel to the worlds of Vail, Aspen, Deer Valley and more, but nestled just two hours from Boise and Red Fish Lake (hello day trip!), is a little village where make-up, fur and that New York state of mind are simply not required. You land there and you breathe, as the weight of the world lifts away from your shoulders.

Sure, a lot of people spend their winters and spring breaks in Sun Valley – skiing Warm Springs and grabbing a hot dog at the base of the mountain or sitting in the natural hot springs with snowfall all around, drinking Hot Buttered Rum at the Duchin Lounge while listening to the musical styles of jazz pianist Brooks Hartell. But here’s the secret — don’t tell anyone — summer in Sun Valley is even better. Here is an inside look from a gal who has been going to Sun Valley for over twenty years and still can’t get enough.

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First order of business upon arriving in Sun Valley is to go right to Cristina’s for a meal that you’d be hard pressed to find in Los Angeles or New York. Owner and head chef, Cristina says her goal for the restaurant is “[to] recreate the Italian sense of fun and camaraderie.” After reading her hand written, ever-changing menu (yes, she does this every morning), you can essentially close your eyes, point, order, and have one of the best meals of your life. (Pair it with one hell of a glass of wine, of course, you’re on vacation after all.)

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There are a couple of large hotels throughout Sun Valley (Sun Valley Lodge & the Limelight), but the boutique sense of home and relaxation, you’ve been dreaming of after a long school year, can be found at the Knob Hill Inn, which also has a perfect place to relax in their garden after a day of hiking, biking or general adventure seeking.

Let’s face it, these mountains provide a never-ending to-do list that you’ve definitely been craving. A favorite activity is to hike or bike up to the middle of Baldy and enjoy some deliciously famous Roundhouse fondue, before taking the gondola down and enjoying the views of Sun Valley proper. From yoga at the base of Baldy, fishing in the Salmon River (head over to Silver Creek for some guidance and supplies), to wine tastings and spa treatments, your summer activities are covered.

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We dare not forget the mind-blowing ice shows at the Sun Valley Lodge, featuring Olympians doing backflips – that’s not a typo. You can find anything you and your family may want to do on your luxurious vacation by hopping over to the Sun Valley Lodge events calendar.

If you’re a golfer, head over to the Sun Valley Golf Club for 18 and finish up with some dinner and an unparalleled view as the sun sets over the course. If you are looking for a smaller (9 hole) course, head on over to the Bigwood Golf Course. It is mandatory that you end your day, or pop by for lunch, at the family owned Bigwood Bar & Grill, with an insane view of Warm Springs, Baldy, Adam’s Gulch, the Boulders and Boulder Peak. You’re going to need to try the ahi salad, with sesame seared ahi tuna over a salad with island mango vinaigrette and wasabi aioli. And you thought you’d only hear about potatoes! Okay, let’s just make sure we cover that, because a trip to Sun Valley without stopping at the Pioneer (‘Pio’ to the locals) for a steak and baked potato with blue cheese butter, is not a trip to Sun Valley.

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About a mile away from the resort, you can head to the Trail Creek Cabin, built in 1937, so you can really dive right into that rustic, early-Western atmosphere. For lunch, swing by Bigwood Bread, Gretchen’s, or Rasberrys. Grab some mouth-watering chocolate chip cookies at Perry’s or sit on the rooftop of Warfield Distillery with a cocktail in hand. The Smokey Bone BBQ, Vittles, and the Village Market, are just a few new places that are worth checking out in the summer.

And lest we forget the shopping – you’ll need to swing by local favorites like Panache, Maude’s Coffee & Clothes, Pete Lanes and the Goldmine. Might I suggest brunching at the Kneadery first? There is also always incredible music to be heard at Whiskey Jacques or the Limelight Hotel and you can end your night like a true local at the Cellar Pub.

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One huge draw each summer and the most special event (in this writer's humble opinion) of the year - next to the Sun Valley Film Festival - is the Sun Valley Music Festival. In years past, they have delighted on-goers with artists like Kristin Chenoweth, The New York Pops, Audra McDonald. Grab the kids, pack a picnic and listen to Richard Strauss, a night of Gershwin, or Beethoven and Shostakovich Quartets.

When I am on vacation, I want my body and skin to feel they’re on vacation too. So being in a place where healthy choices are literally all around you is so refreshing. Sure, grabbing that famous burger at Grumpy’s or Lefty’s with the locals is key, but afterwards, why not hike Adams Gulch or get a spa treatment at Zenergy or back at the Sun Valley Lodge.

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