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Planning a vacation, or even a single afternoon, where the kids are entertained and the parents can kick back and relax can seem next to impossible. To find a solution to this dilemma, we turned to our experts – real, live kids! These local adventure gurus had plenty of options to delight the whole family.
It is hard to miss this large building in downtown McCall. The Manchester Ice and Event Center is a cornerstone in the community offering ice skating, hockey leagues, curling, stunning ice shows, and is home to the Idaho Junior Steelheads. All of these activities make the rink a gathering place for the whole family. “This rink is truly a special place,” John Barth, General Manager says. “It has been an unbelievable gift to our community.”
Hudson, age 6, loves playing hockey at the rink. “I run hot, so I am always really hot in the winter and I like the ice rink because it is cold inside and it cools me down.” Having started skating when he was just 2 years old, Hudson has had a lot of time on the ice. He says he first started skating with his parents, but wanted to try it on his own pretty quickly. “The first time I skated I fell down and cried,” he explains. “The second time I skated for about one minute and then I fell down and cried again. Then my mom and dad got me hockey pads.” And the rest, as they say, is history.
Hockey is a big deal in McCall. League and club play are active just about all year with drop-in and stick-and-puck games weekly. For beginners, the rink offers Hockey 101 and Hockey 102 classes. Plus, from September through March, the Manchester Ice Center is home to the Idaho Junior Steelheads. These fast-paced, hard-hitting hockey games are a great way to spend an evening in McCall cheering on the home-town team.
Along with hockey, ice skating is a huge sport at the rink. For those after the challenge of figure skating, the ice rink offers a wide range of instruction to get you started. Enroll in the official United States Figure Skating Association “Learn to Skate Basic Skills Program” or take a private or group lesson. Looking for a quick skate session without the instruction? Drop by during the daily Public Skate at the rink and glide along at your own pace. No matter what you do at the rink, it is always a good time. “I like hanging out with all of the kids at the rink,” says Hudson. “It is really fun.”
In addition to daily skating, the ice rink also produces the fabulous “McCall Starz on Ice” show. Lori Benton, World Professional Figure Skating Champion, choreographs this stunning show for the McCall Winter Carnival each year. McCall Starz on Ice brings world class skaters to McCall accompanied by the McCall Figure Skating Club which includes local skaters from the area. “I love doing one-foot glides,” says Gemma, age 4. But her favorite part about performing? “My pretty dress.”
Have you ever wanted to fly? The Activity Barn comes pretty darn close to giving you the sensation. “It is great when you get a good boost down the hill,” says Juliette, age 12. With a send-off from the staff at the top, speed down the snow packed chutes for an exhilarating experience like no other.
The Activity Barn is a perfect stop for any family. Pick out your tube at the bottom of the hill then jump on the new “magic carpet” type lift for a ride to the top. “Before the new lift was added you had to stand in line and hook your tube on,” says Benjamin, age 16. “Now you can just step on the conveyor.” His sister McKinley, age 14 agrees. “It is more efficient!” That means less time getting to the top and more time sliding down the hill. Any tuber age two or older is welcome on the lift. Kids under 6 years of age must be accompanied by an adult.
Once at the top, take in the views and stare down the massive 800 foot long chutes. Each season, up to 6 chutes are available for guests with varying degrees of slope and speed. The tubes are like big inflatable cushions for your ride down. The wonderful staff at the Activity Barn will help make sure you’re all set for the 85 foot drop. “Spinning is the best way to go down the hill,” says Benjamin. “Either spinning or linked together with your friends.”
As easy as snow tubing is, remember to dress for the weather! Waterproof clothing, winter boots, gloves and a hat will help keep the troops dry and warm. Conditions can change quickly, especially when the sun goes down. If you need a place to warm your toes, head to the yurt. There you can also pick up a quick snack or sip on some hot chocolate.
When the sun goes down, the fun doesn’t stop. The Activity Barn is lit for night tubing as late as 8 pm on Friday and Saturday evenings. There are also extended hours for holidays and Winter Carnival so you can get in some continuous downhill action.
The Little Ski Hill is an institution in McCall. The local ski area first opened in 1937 and encompasses 80 acres of skiable terrain with 405 vertical feet. Originally, the lift was a large toboggan sled that carried skiers uphill. Today, the toboggan has been replaced by a T-bar that is famous in these parts…loading onto the T-bar is a rite of passage for kids and adults alike! “It is easier with two people,” says Molly, age 8. Her sister Murphy, age 5, shares her advice for getting on the T-bar, “When the bar comes, you try to sit on it.” But even these seasoned experts sometimes lose their balance. “I still fall off sometimes,” laughs Molly.
Once at the top, kids have a ton of action-packed options to get to the bottom of the mountain. Groomed trails cover the face of the hill while a terrain park and tree skiing keep things interesting. “I like downhill skiing because you can go fast,” says Molly, “but I also like the jumps and the dropoff.” Will, age 10, agrees. “My favorite part is ‘the drop. It is like a powdered run and it is sort of hidden.” So how did Will get up the courage to ski “the drop?” “I do a lot of crazy things without really thinking about it which is probably bad ‘cause it will get me places I don’t want to be.” Luckily, this has yet to get Will into trouble on the ski hill. “Lately I have been coming off of [the drop] and doing front grabs and back grabs.”
These local ski demons all honed their skills by participating in the After School Program. This learn-to-ski and snowboard program runs for seven weeks in January and February. Students from McCall, Donnelly and New Meadows are bussed to the Little Ski Hill after school where they ski with high school instructors. On average, 140 students participate in the weekday program and 20 participate in the Saturday program.
After a bit of practice, the Little Ski Hill is a perfect place for kids to cut loose. While every child is required to ski or snowboard with a buddy, they don’t have to wait around for mom and dad. “I like being able to go and ski without my mom,” says Murphy. “But I usually beat her to the lodge because the cookies there are my favorite.”
Another unique aspect of the Little Ski Hill is night skiing. This is the only lit mountain in area and makes for a great after work or weekend excursion for the whole family. Pair all of these accessible ski and snowboard opportunities together and you get one dynamic recreational area. “We are really excited to see a revival of the Little Ski Hill since the early 2000s,” says Colby Nielson, General Manager. “The growing support is allowing us to make improvements to the facility and work on some new, big projects in the coming years.”
Even during the best family vacation, kids and parents can require some time away from one another. After a day on the slopes, PLAYLive is just the ticket. “We would rather play games here than at home ‘cause here we can all play together!” Triplets Jarom, Isaac, and Quentin, age 9, give PLAYLive high praise. Younger brother Caleb, age 5, agrees, but adds with a shrug, “I usually lose because I am the youngest, but it is still fun.”
PLAYLive is a social gaming lounge featuring the newest video games available to play on high-end consoles. Each station is linked so players can compete against friends or other gamers in the lounge. “Our favorite game is Rocket League,” says Quentin. “There is a tournament where you can play online against lots of people any time you want.” Along with online tournaments, PLAYLive also hosts in-store tournaments each month and will set up a mini-tournament for a walk-in group if desired.
For those new to the gaming scene, Isaac recommends Lego Dimensions. “It is really easy to play and you don’t get frustrated easily,” he says. “Instructions are on the TV so you can learn as you play.” This doesn’t mean, however, that the brothers have confidence in their parents’ video game skills. “We keep having to teach them because they one, two, three forget,” says Caleb, snapping on the count of three.
Perhaps that is the beauty of PLAYLive. The friendly staff is happy to entertain the kids while mom and dad enjoy a nice dinner out. “Kids would definitely rather spend an evening at PLAYLive than at a fancy restaurant,” Jennifer Campbell, PLAYLive owner says. “Typically, kids 11 or older can stay without a parent; however, we are definitely willing to work with you if you are after a date night!”
Along with video games, PLAYLive offers movies and television shows in the lounge. Pair gaming and movies for a unique birthday party – and even order pizza to the store! Once you purchase game time, it never expires.