In need of some small-town charm? Well, besides an adorable downtown, McCall, Idaho offers a Golfweek‘s Top 100 golf course, all the wide-open spaces you could want, and, during the winter, plenty of Nordic skiing. Don’t be fooled by that, though—this is an all-year-round sort of destination, thanks to beautiful, temperate summers, warm springs, and colorful autumns.

Here’s what to do and where to stay in this surprising Idaho charmer.

Winter Carnival

This icy event dates all the way back to the 1920s, and takes place from January 29 to February 7. Today, local bands and DJs provide the tunes as you check out the 40 masterpieces competing in the Local Snow Sculpture competition. There’s also an annual hockey game, a figure-skating show, craft show, and a full-on Mardi Gras parade, among plenty of athletic competitions. All that action’s liable to make you hungry, so swing by the food carts or the beer garden in beer garden in Depot Park.

Ponderosa State Park

Besides the acres of gorgeous ponderosa forests implied by the name, this park near McCall has plenty to offer. You can perform the requisite hiking, biking, swimming and cross-country skiing throughout the park. Along the way, you’ll pass sagebrush flats, lakeside trails, wildflower fields, and marshes. If you pay attention and traverse carefully, you may also see osprey, bald eagles, moose, and bears.

Payette Lake

This may be McCall at its finest: A crystal-clear glacial lake gives way to sandy shores, lush forests, and finally mountains looming high in the distance. This unspoiled bit of nature offers some choice boating and fishing, so try to make it out on the water at least once. Plus, you may spot the local Loch Ness monster, Sharlie, who has been making appearances since 1920. Just can’t tear yourself away from the water? You can always opt for a scenic sunset cruise aboard the Idaho.

Brundage Mountain

Great skiing is only about a 20 minute’s drive from downtown McCall. Brundage Mountain is known for its fresh powder and wide groomed runs, but that doesn’t mean it’s a winter-only sort of place. During warmer months, ride the scenic chair lift to see as far as the Blue Mountains of Oregon. And adventurous souls can hike or bike back down the mountain, but this writer would suggest staying put and enjoying the chair lift’s spectacular views on the way down as well.

Spas

You know what pairs really, really well with a few days spent enjoying the great outdoors? The necessary, restorative spa trip that follows. Enter The Cove, a luxurious oasis of massages, facials, body scrubs, and, most importantly, salt-water emersion pools.

White-Water Rafting

Want to risk life and limb (kidding) and leave McCall with an experience you’ll never forget? Well, meet the Salmon River, the longest free-flowing river in the lower 48. It also offers North America’s second-deepest canyon gorge. Salmon Raft is tucked away in downtown McCall, and their expert rafting guides will provide transportation to and from the river. The only thing you have to decide is whether you want a single- or multi-day trip!

Horseback Riding

We’ve pretty well covered the hiking, biking, and skiing scenes in and around McCall. But what about other ways to get outdoors? Channel your westward-looking ancestors and hit the trails on a friendly, four-legged steed from Yahoo Corrals or Deadwood Outfitters. If you’re too sore from exploring those wide-open spaces on foot, you can also opt for a horsedrawn carriage ride.

Downtown McCall

Between all the quaint and downright interesting shops and galleries of this historic downtown, you’ll find something far more important: Food. Lots of it, for such a tiny place.

Get your morning fix at Fogglifter Cafe, and get your pizza fix at Toll Station Pizza. Stop by McCall Brewing Company to watch the game and knock back a few brews, or dig into some seriously comforting, old-fashioned burgers and shakes at My Father’s Place. A little ways from downtown you’ll find local favorite McCall Pancake House and Christmas Shop, a great place for…wait for it…pancakes, preserves canned onsite, and all the Christmas decorations you could ever dream of. After dinner, don’t skip the sweet treats at Stacey Cakes or Ice Cream Alley.

Where to Stay: 

Where you rest your head is just as important as what you’ll eat for dinner. Here are the best vacation rental homes in McCall, Idaho:

Big Pine Lodge vacation rental

Price: From $350 a night

The stats: 5 bedrooms; 3.5 bathrooms; sleeps 10

Situated on the edge of town, this vacation rental offers sizable decks and balconies for enjoying all that nature. Inside, you can warm up by the fireplace, or enjoy a meal with the whole fam in the formal dining room.

Still Point Lodge vacation rental

Price: From $1,000 a night

The stats: 5 bedrooms; 4.5 bathrooms; sleeps 16

This large, well-appointed home sits on the shores of beautiful Payette Lake. Behind the separate guest house, you’ll find a private dock, a propane bbq grill, and plenty of space for just hanging out outdoors.

Timber Green vacation rental

Price: From $195 a night

The stats: 2 bedrooms; 2 bathrooms; sleeps 10

Take in views of the McCall Golf Course from the sizable deck and the floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room. Other features include satellite TV, a jacuzzi soaking tub, and two fireplaces.

Check out all our McCall, Idaho vacation rental homes here!