McCALL — As an avid skier, McCall is one of my favorite winter destinations.
But on my most recent trip to the town nestled along Payette Lake, skiing was off the table. My right hand was in a cast after I tore a ligament in — you guessed it — a cross-country skiing accident.
My plan was to hole up in the hotel room and catch up on reading. Instead, something much better happened. It was a gorgeous sunny day, so I drove downtown and took what I planned to be a 30-minute walk. Eight hours later I returned to my hotel with a new appreciation of how much McCall has to offer.
Here are five ways to recreate in McCall in the winter without skiing:
Find a treasure
Like any tourist town, downtown McCall has plenty of stores that sell T-shirts, magnets and coffee cups. But it also has a number of specialty retailers that are easy to miss because they are hiding behind snowbanks in the winter. The Barn Owl Books and Gifts (616 N. Third St.), is an independent bookstore. Bella Kitchen, as its name suggests, has a deep inventory of kitchen gear, including Polish pottery (401 Railroad Ave.). Gallery Fifty-Five (311 E. Lake St.) is an artists’ cooperative with a number of prints of original works that are $10 or less. Keep Me in Stitches is a short walk away (136 E. Lake St.) Its website describes it as a yarn shop within a fiber gallery.
Hunt for a bargain
McCall has numerous thrift shops, each with a somewhat different vibe. Three left a particularly good impression on me. At Mc Paws Thrift Store (301 Lenora St.) you can adopt a pet. Dandy Lion Consignment (403 Railroad Ave.) specializes in women’s and children’s clothing. McCall Sports Exchange (802 N. Third St.) carries discount and gently-used outdoor clothing and gear.
Savor local cuisine
Pizza and beer dominate McCall’s culinary scene. But they aren’t the only options. Cafe 6 three 4 (1304 Roosevelt Ave.) serves breakfast and lunch. Its menu includes a savory potato waffle ($11) and a grilled cheese with melted brie ($9.50). I had the special, a sandwich with bacon and pastrami ($10). The meats were among the most delicious I have ever tasted and weren’t overwhelmingly salty. McCall KB’s (616 N. Third St.) is in the same complex as Barn Owl Books. It is part of an Idaho chain whose Ketchum location was noted in a New York Times piece headlined “36 Hours Sun Valley, Idaho.” It features hearty burritos (small $7.99). Bistro 45 (1101 N. Third St.) has a wine shop where customers are allowed to drink the bottled wine they buy on site for an extra $5 corking fee. Its menu includes soups, salads and grilled paninis.
Not far from McCall are developed hot springs open year-round, including the Nez Perce Tribe’s easily accessible Zims Hot Springs (2995 Zims Road, roughly five miles north of New Meadows). Admission is $8 for adults. Another is Gold Fork Hot Springs, 17 miles south of McCall, just past Donnelly on Highway 55. The hot springs are another eight miles on a maintained dirt road that’s plowed year-round. Cash-only admission is $8 for adults. If it’s your first time, consider going during daylight and allowing extra time for travel, depending on weather conditions.
Break a sweat
Skiing isn’t the only physical activity in McCall. Try ice skating at the Manchester Ice & Events Center (200 E. Lake St.) The $10 public skate admission cost for adults includes skate rental. If you can’t skate, on certain weeks they have ice bumper cars for $9 for adults for a nine-to-11 minute session. The McCall Activity Barn (141 Moonridge Drive) offers tube sledding for $18 for two-hour sessions. It’s operated by Brundage Mountain ski resort.
Helpful tips: Even if you plan to get around by car, bring warm boots with good traction. Many of the sidewalks and parking lots have snow and ice. If you are walking, use the crosswalks and flags. They will keep you safer and save time as you cross Highway 55, where logging truck drivers and motorists aren’t always watching out for pedestrians. A number of stores have prohibitions on bringing in food and beverages. If you absolutely need coffee, plan on browsing at less-busy times mid-week and offer to leave your coffee with the cashier so it doesn’t accidentally spill on the merchandise.