Driving along Highway 95 in the panhandle of North Idaho, you don’t expect to find something like Silverwood.
Hey, it’s as good a place as any.
Twenty years ago, Silverwood opened with nothing more than a restaurant, a couple of faux Victorian buildings, and one very cool train ride through the woods. It didn’t take long for Gary Norton, the owner, to start adding carnival rides, then roller coasters, and finally, six years ago, a full-fledged water park called Boulder Beach.
Today, one admission gets you into both the theme park and the water park. Ideally, you’ll want to spend a couple of days at Silverwood. But it can be thoroughly enjoyed in just one day as well.
Silverwood’s biggest attractions are its roller coasters. Two classic wooden structures, Tremors and Timber Terror, that rank among the top rides in the nation. These massive, winding coasters are always a thrill for us, and my son’s been riding them for five years since he was tall enough to climb aboard.
Last year Silverwood added a huge new steel coaster, Aftershock, that sends you twisting backwards and forwards while your feet dangle in the air. It’s a huge step up from their other steel coaster, a little piece of amusement park history called Corkscrew. If you ever visited California’s Knott’s Berry Farm in the 70′s or 80′s, you probably rode Corkscrew, the first inverted steel coaster. In the late 80′s, Knott’s put it up for sale and it ended up in Idaho.
There are dozens of other rides, from a ferris wheel to bumper boats to a log ride. But my favorite is the oldest and slowest attraction in the park. The first ride installed at Silverwood was an authentic 1915 steam engine train that runs in a 30-minute loop through the nearby woods and around the perimeter of the park. It leaves the station every hour on the hour and is a relaxing, although bumpy, trip back through yesteryear, complete with a couple of bumbling train robbers.
If you’re looking for something else slow and easy, take a break from the rides with a surprisingly good magic show by Nick Norton (he may be the owner’s son, but he’s also highly practiced magician). Or head to the Ice Palace for a colorful and energetic ice show by pro skaters from around the world.
What makes Silverwood such an attractive destination these days, and especially in the heat of late summer, is their waterpark, Boulder Beach. It’s quite extensive, with two large wave pools, a lengthy lazy river, six fast water slides, two large children’s play areas, and a new family raft ride that sends six people barreling down a tall hill through dizzying river rapids.
If you’re only here for one day, you can easily visit the ride side of Silverwood in the morning, and then head over to Boulder Beach in the afternoon. But it will be a bit hurried and hectic, and you will miss things. To really relax and enjoy the entire park, I recommend you make a two-day trip out of it.
There are any number of hotels in nearby Coeur d’Alene and Hayden, most of which offer package deals with Silverwood admission. If you want to stay right next to the park, they offer a beautiful wooded RV park and campground that allows you come and go from the main gate with ease.
Admission to Silverwood is $40.99, $21.99 for kids aged 3 to 7. Two-day passes are discounted by 20%. The park is open most days until 9pm, even later on summer weekends. Boulder Beach closes at 7pm. The ”ride side” is open from early May until late October, while the waterpark is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
All photos by Phil Corless