The Recipe for a Perfect Sun Valley Summer: Just Add Children

Think back to the summers of your childhood. Remember sunny hours just waiting to be filled with fun? No plans, just possibilities! Long school-less days probably included splashing in a pool, lake, or ocean, bike rides, adventuring, and exploring. There was time to daydream, time to try something new, time to simply be in the present and to be a kid. The days seemed endless and you wished summer would last forever.

An old-fashioned, authentic, imagination and activity-based summer still defines the season in Sun Valley for children.  With about 15 hours of sunlight during the high season, there is nothing but time to take advantage of all the ingredients to a fantastic vacation. Here is a recipe for memories that last:

Step one: hop on a bike. It’s one of the best ways to get around Sun Valley – and one of the most fun, especially for kids

Start with a good base of self-propelled transportation:
Children of all ages relish the freedom afforded by a bike, some pocket cash, and endless places to explore. When you arrive in Sun Valley, make Pete Lane’s Mountain Sports in the Sun Valley Village one of your first stops for bike rentals from tiny trikes, to top-of-the-line mountain bikes; bike trailers, to sleek road bikes. The selection is huge, the staff incredibly well informed, and the fun, just out the door! There are even guided tours to get you started on outdoor adventures.

Pete Lane’s Mountain Sports in the Sun Valley Village is HQ for bike rentals and outdoor family games of every kind

Once you have saddled up, endless and varied adventures await, no matter your child’s age. Sun Valley is considered two-wheeled nirvana for good reason. You can pedal almost anywhere and it’s all simply beautiful. For those with little children, options abound to fall in love with the area on a bike. You can rent a bike trailer to take the littlest ones along for the ride. Older children who aren’t ready for totally independent biking (usually 4 to 6 or 7-year-olds) will enjoy a trailer bike that is attached to your bike and allows the child to pedal without needing to steer or balance perfectly. Kids who are ready to pedal under their own steam can either head to the hills to try Sun Valley’s amazing single track (as well as some epic mountain biking on Bald Mountain), or the endless miles of rails-to-trails that link the Sun Valley Village to miles of fun north and south of Ketchum. Just biking around town is pretty fun, too, and many locals rarely get into their cars in the summer months, choosing to ride to the Tuesday Farmers’ Markets in Ketchum, the movies, concerts, and everywhere in between.

Drop in some old-fashioned fun:
Before you leave Pete Lane’s with your bikes, be sure to pop upstairs. The second floor of the retailer, dubbed Pete’s Outdoor Gifts and Games, specializes in things families can do together – from traditional outdoor games, to kites, slack lines, balance boards, ring toss, corn hole, Bocci ball, skateboards, and much, much more. Pick up something fun and take time out to play.  The great Toy Store in the Sun Valley Village is another place to pick up some fun active, or downtime, activities, too.

Just add water! The Sun Valley Lake provides splashing fun for children all summer long, including paddleboat rentals

Mix in water -- lots of it:
Summer is for splashing and there are lots of way to get wet and to cool off in Sun Valley. The Olympic size pool is the perfect place to start. With a huge deck, fountains and a wading pool for the little ones, and blue sky all around, it is the perfect place to relax. Later in the day when the sun dips down, the heated iconic round pools at both the Inn and the Lodge are the perfect place to unwind and decompress. In the Lodge, pop into the adjacent Poolside Café to enjoy a meal (their specialty cocktails are pretty amazing, too). Oh, and don’t forget paddle boats on the Sun Valley Lake – easy, close, fun, affordable!

Splashing the Big Wood River is also a can’t-miss summer opportunity. Check with the concierge or Pete Lane’s about great places to picnic and wade in the ice cold, crystal clear, rock-bottom waters. Older kids will love to discover in-town spots to also jump into the river from high rocks. These change a bit depending on the season and conditions so be sure to ask what’s safe and fun during your stay. Finally, get wet and go fish! The fishing in the Wood River Valley is considered the best in the country. Get your license (if you’re over 12), consider hiring a local guide from one of the area’s top outfitters, then start the kiddos out at Penny Lake and make your way into trout fishing on the Wood. No matter your age, you’ll be, well, hooked.

Keep summer sweet for the little ones with a treat from a la mode or the Chocolate Foundry

Throw in something sweet:
Summer is sweet and cravings for cold and special treats need to be indulged. Take a break from all the activity and stop by a la mode or the Chocolate Foundry in the Sun Valley Village and prepare to be delighted. Both are retro spots:  a la mode an authentic ice cream counter specializing in decadent sundaes and shakes, the Chocolate Foundry a real old-fashioned sweet shop with homemade chocolates and favorites of all varieties.

The amazing, caring pros at the Sun Valley Playskool and Adventure Camps keep long summer days full of fun, excitement, and friendship

Let someone else give it a stir:
Children love to make new friends and have new adventures and there’s no better place for them to do that than at one of Sun Valley’s Adventure Camps or Playskool programs: a.k.a Kid Central. Age and developmentally appropriate activities will keep children happy and busy all day long. Little Tots 18 to 36 months old enjoy activities like indoor/outdoor play, nature walks, picnics at the lake, hay rides, visits to the stables, and arts & crafts. Older children from 3 to 5 years old participate in numerous theme weeks including Mountain Adventures, Dive-in Fun, and even STEM week.  Activities are numerous and take advantage of everything the resort offers, from tennis, to putting golf, to ice skating, gondola rides, and paddle boating. To make your reservation, please call 208-622-2288. Your children will thank you!

Skating is a summer sport in Sun Valley and kids love to take to the ice under bluebird Idaho skies

Add a dash of ice:
Sun Valley is home to one of the most beautiful and historic ice rinks in the world. In fact, it is the largest year-round rink in America, and there is no better way for your child to channel his or her inner Olympic figure skater than by renting skates (helmets are available, too) and taking some turns on the ice. General sessions are available throughout the day and evening. If your budding Nathan Chen or Alina Zagitova is interested in lessons, those can also be arranged by checking in with the helpful staff at the skate house. And if your Sun Valley sojourn finds you here on a Saturday night, be sure to also catch Sun Valley on Ice, a jaw dropping ice show featuring the best in the sport. Contact the rink at 208-622-2194 for detailed information on all things ice.

And a pinch of the wild west:
No trip to the mountain west with kids is complete without a taste of the old west. The Sun Valley Stables and Western Horseman’s Center is the perfect spot to get your young cowboy or cowgirl in the saddle and onto a trail. Children age 8 and up can enjoy a beautiful trail ride on nearby Dollar Mountain sure to have them calling “giddy-up” and smiling from ear-to-ear. Private and group events are also available. Trail rides go out daily at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m., and 4 p.m. Great wagon rides are available Friday nights (or any night with a group of at least six) and are a thrill for all children, even the littlest ones. Please call 208-622-2887 for reservations and more information.

Get a taste of the wild west with a family horseback riding expedition. Giddy up!

Stir in an appreciation for the simple things:
Take a deep breath and enjoy quiet activities like feeding the swans and ducks in the Resort ponds, feeding the horses along Sun Valley Road, or taking a mellow hike, stopping for plenty of snacks, smelling the wildflowers, and appreciating every view. If you have questions about any local hikes or rides, you can email askanexpert@sunvalley.com for a personalized response.

Send it soaring:
The old adage says the higher you get, the higher you get, and seeing Sun Valley from altitude is a pretty amazing sight. The Gondola at River Run will help you get elevated and is appropriate for all ages, dropping your group at Roundhouse Restaurant about two-thirds up Bald Mountain. From there, grab the Christmas chairlift to the summit for some spectacular views or hike around from the gondola drop off point. No matter where you choose to end the journey, spend time exploring, checking out the jaw dropping vistas in every direction, huge fields of wildflowers, and even some interesting critters. Be sure to bring a warm layer as the higher you get, the cooler it gets, too, and water is always important at altitude. Also don’t forget sturdy walking shoes. Make time, too, to grab lunch on the deck of Roundhouse – a delicious meal with an unbelievable backdrop. Roundhouse opens for the season on June 23.

Back on the valley floor, another fun way to send it soaring for kids is with the popular Spider Jump. Trampolines and bungee harnesses will send kids of all ages flying, laughing all the way. Please check with concierge as the location of the Spider Jump during your visit.

Ready, set, jump! The Spider Jump is big fun for children and a great way to burn some energy!

Fold in Savings:
Finally, a great way to get a taste of a lot of what is super fun for kiddos (without a big commitment) is with the Summer Fun Pass. With the pass, you can enjoy six of eight activities at your own pace. Choices include a ½ day cruiser bike rental, ½ hour of bowling at the amazing retro alley (plus shoes), a gondola ride ticket, one ice skating session and skate rental, a scoop of ice cream at a la Mode, a one-hour rental at the Sun Valley Lake, one hour on the Sawtooth Putting Course, or one session on the Spider Jump, all for $65 per person (plus tax). They are available online or in the Sun Valley Village at the Recreation Center.

This is only a taste of the ingredients that make Sun Valley the best place for kids this summer. You will surely season it to create the recipe perfect for your family!

Add some heat and enjoy!

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