Where the People Are Nice and the Fun Is Endless
Selecting the perfect spot for your family vacation is generally based on what there is to do and see — not whether the people are nice or mean. But it deserves to be said that people in Twin Falls are awfully nice. And that makes all the fun stuff, well, even more fun.
Like fishing. We showed up in Twin Falls with brand new fishing poles not yet extricated from their pesky packaging. The nice front desk clerk at the Twin Falls Hampton Inn proffered a hardy pair of scissors. A firefighter watching us struggle offered to help, spending the next 10 minutes freeing the poles with his own knife and scissors. “Wow, people here are sure nice,” we said to each other.
Once at Oster Lakes, we unsuccessfully tried to assemble the pole, fishing line and casting mechanism. In desperation, we prevailed on a nearby fishman who cheerfully set aside his pole and attempted to undo our mess. We thanked him and returned to our fishing spot. Later, back in the car, my grandson said, “That guy was really nice.”
Following is a list of fun things to do in Twin Falls, along with accounts of the nice people who made the trip one of the year’s most memorable.
BASE Jumping Thrills and Chills
Watching BASE jumpers plunge 486 feet from atop the Snake River’s Perrine Bridge is awe-inspiring and terrifying — especially when standing alongside them on the bridge. The first one we saw took his time opening his chute, performing a flip first. Don’t watch if you have a weak heart. The fear and adrenaline are as intense as if it were you on the other side of the barrier poised to jump.
“You either love it or you hate it,” says a friend of the flipping BASE jumper, who prefers being on the safe side of the railing. BASE jumping is parachuting or wingsuit flying for short distances, which increases the risk.
“Twin Falls has embraced BASE jumping,” a local told us. “They (BASE jumpers) come here from all over the world because it’s one of only two places in the U.S. where jumping is legal. They’re all just a little off though; adrenaline junkies. I know a woman who’s 65 and still jumping.” The local hotels offer BASE jumping rates, and some of the jumpers stay four to six weeks.
We returned to the bridge often for another adrenaline fix. Sometimes we watched the jumpers from the bottom of the canyon or just under the bridge. But the most exciting vantage point was from the bridge. On our last day, two female jumpers strode onto the bridge — the first we’d seen. They were very friendly and happy to let us watch. My heart beat wildly as they prepared their gear, then dove. “Girl power!” we marveled.
Twin Falls Visitors Center
A stop at the beautiful Twin Falls Visitors Center is a must. The spacious building is glass on three sides and displays large interpretive panels of many activities available in the vicinity. Step outside for incredible views of Snake River Gorge and Perrine Bridge. Off in the distance you can see the Evil Knievel jump site.
Just down the road is Elevation 486 located on the cliff’s edge 486 feet above the Snake River. Dine inside or out while gazing at the views. We ordered crostini with bruschetta and feta, Senegalese chicken curry with jasmine rice and Idaho ruby red trout. Hot homemade rolls with huckleberry honey butter appeared at our table.
Centennial Waterfront Park
The zipline at Centennial Waterfront Park, less than 2 miles from the Twin Falls Visitor Center, is an “amazing thrill,” says AWOL Adventure Sports owner Paul Melni. The company operates a four-line zip course in the Snake River Canyon. The longest line is 1,750 feet and reaches speeds of 45 miles per hour.
“People really love that one,” he says. “It’s actually longer than the bridge with beautiful views of the canyon, bridge and Perrine Coulee Waterfall.” The coolest and least-crowded times to go in the summer are 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.
If ziplining doesn’t float your boat, rent one instead and kayak up the Snake River or picnic, fish or hike. The hiking trail to the waterfall is short and sure to get you drenched — a welcome relief during the hot months. The peaceful park sits alongside the Snake River.
Shoshone Falls Park
Dubbed the Niagara Falls of the West, Shoshone Falls deserves all the superlatives it gets. Think breathtaking, awe-inspiring, beautiful, spectacular and even peaceful, because it rarely feels crowded. Strategically placed benches and viewing areas offer a variety of opportunities for sitting, reflecting and taking photos. The $5 vehicle fee includes access to playgrounds, hiking trails, picnic areas, boat ramp and swimming area.
Shoshone Falls is 212 feet high — 45 feet higher than Niagara Falls — and flows over a rim nearly 1,000 feet wide. Check on the flow of the falls before you go. At certain times of the year the water is minimal because of the reservoir upstream and irrigation needs of the valley. The park is open until dark so if you want a real treat, visit near sunset. It’s located just 15 minutes from the Twin Falls Visitors Center.
Downtown Twin Falls
During the warmer months, the wide sidewalks on Twin Falls’ Main Street are dotted with patio tables and colorful sun umbrellas. The area is a mix of old and new with the Orpheum Theatre and other historic buildings next to new restaurants like Slice, Yellow Brick and Koto Brewing. If you’re a fan of macaroni and cheese, BLu is a five-minute drive from downtown by car. Dine on a simple white mac and cheese or try one of the restaurant’s more unique offerings.
Stop on Main Street for a scoop of locally made Cloverleaf Creamery ice cream or bottled chocolate milk at The Lucky Scoop, tucked inside a tiny section of shops. You can visit the actual Cloverleaf Creamery in Buhl, 16 miles from downtown for “the best ice cream in the whole wide world and chocolate milk that tastes like a milkshake,” says Melissa Barry, executive director of Southern Idaho Tourism. Browse the little shops in Buhl and on your way back to Twin Falls, stop at Kelley’s Canyon Orchard to pick your own peaches in the fall.
Get the Wiggles Out
About four blocks off Twin Falls’ Main Street is Gemstone Climbing Center, the city’s first climbing gym — perfect for kids to get the wiggles out. Actually, the climbing and bouldering walls are fun for all ages. Gemstone also has an American Ninja Warrior course, hot yoga, a slide and is accessible to those with disabilities. After two hours, the kids still didn’t want to leave.
Twin Falls Hampton Inn
Its location just minutes from the Twin Falls Visitors Center and surrounding activities make the Twin Falls Hampton Inn a convenient place to stay. Rooms are spacious, beds comfortable and the breakfast buffet offers an extensive array of options like omelets, potatoes, sausage, fruit, bread, waffles, English muffins, juice, coffee, hot chocolate, yogurt and more.
Side Trips Around Twin Falls
Ritter Island State Park. Ever seen a gravestone for a cow? There’s one at historic Ritter Island State Park with the inscription, “Herd Mother.” It marks the burial site of the pregnant guernsey cow Minnie Miller imported from the Isle of Guernsey in the early 1900s to start her successful dairy farm.
Located 30 miles west of Twin Falls, the state park is one of five units of the Thousand Springs State Park system. The grounds are peaceful, beautiful and full of history. Visitors can walk the 2-mile perimeter of the island, explore the old barn full of milking equipment, picnic and take a short hike to Minnie Miller Springs.
Hagerman Fish Hatchery. The Hagerman Fish Hatchery is close to a variety of fishing areas like Oster Lakes and Anderson Ponds. Depending on the time of year, the hatcheries may be swimming with fish or fairly empty. We were fascinated by the six-foot sturgeon — a prehistoric fish dating back 120 million years.
Snake River Grill. If you want to do more than just look at the sturgeon, head to the Snake River Grill in Hagerman and eat one. “Sturgeon is a very dense white fish that’s similar to halibut and has a mild flavor,” said our waitress, a big fan of the prehistoric fish. The restaurant also serves alligator, frog legs and a burger the size of your head.
The Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument includes a visitors center located in the town of Hagerman and overlooks of the fossil beds where more than 225 species were discovered.
Malad Gorge. Stretch your legs at Malad Gorge State Park just off Interstate 84, where you can view the canyon and walk along its rim. Views of the gorge are best from the bridge crossing the canyon. There’s also a short hike to see the fingers of the gorge where clear springs produce ponds and streams.
Miracle and Banbury Hot Springs. Idaho has one of the nation’s greatest concentrations of hot springs with two nice ones located about 40 minutes from Twin Falls. The private pools at Miracle and Banbury Hot Springs make for a popular date night activity, especially followed by a massage. There are also a variety of outdoor pools of all temperatures.
Our Twin Falls vacation came to an end at the Centennial Waterfront Park where the kids were watching a local fisherman named Buddy on one of the docks. He’d caught a handful of perch and was patiently showing them to the kids. They told him about their now-mangled fishing poles sitting idle in our trunk. He offered to fix them, but time had run out. “He's a really friendly guy,” observed 5-year-old Ray as we left Twin Falls and its nice people behind.