One Destination, Three Ways to Wow This Winter

While the rest of the nation slogs through the winter doldrums, Lava Hot Springs radiates with fun! This winter, you can choose your adventure — an eccentric and exhilarating festival, an activity-packed excursion through snowy scenery, or a soothing, stress-free getaway. 

Aside from the annual winterfest, which takes place over a weekend, you can time your visit for midweek. As a midweek visitor, you’ll enjoy lower rates at the hot springs, fewer crowds, and plenty of opportunities to fully recharge as you indulge in winter.

But whenever you visit, you’ll discover tons of wintry fun!

Fire & Ice Winterfest

Every first weekend in February, little Lava Hot Springs transforms into a rollicking playground. Fire & Ice Winterfest, a two-day celebration, is quirky, a bit wacky, and downright fun. The 2024 Fire & Ice Winterfest will run from Feb. 2-3, and lodging is already filling up — so make your reservations now!

USA Today has called Fire & Ice one of the 10 zaniest winter festivals in the world. With an event lineup like this, how could it not be?

Running of the Bulls. Don’t worry, you won’t find any beasts during this event … but you’ll need the stamina of one to complete it! Folks strip down to their swimsuits and line up at The Royal Hotel & Pizzeria before running down Main Street and jumping into Lava’s famous hot pools. 

Children’s Water Carnival. Kids 12 and under can hop into the Indoor Aquatic Center at Lava Hot Springs and play to their hearts’ content during this event. Plenty of fun games and prizes are on the schedule, as well!

Polar Bear Beer Garden. Fuel your festivities with a stop at the Polar Beer Garden, where you can purchase a stein emblazoned with the Fire & Ice festival logo (not to mention the beer to enjoy in it). 

Chili Cook-off and Tasting. Think you have the perfect take on this classic, comforting winter dish? Or maybe you just want to sample every contestant’s best effort? Either way, this cook-off will be worth your while. Check the Fire & Ice Winterfest event page for more details as the event date moves closer. 
Polar Bear Float and Costume Judging Party. It’s hard to choose the craziest event at Fire & Ice, but the Polar Bear Float is a strong contender. Participants line up before judges in their wildest costumes (wackiest outfit wins) before floating down the freezing Portneuf River. Is it freezing? Yes. Is it fun? Definitely. Can you just watch from the bank of the river, mug of hot chocolate in hand? You could — but why not live a little in 2024?

Quaffing Contest. If you have spent hours perfecting a picture-perfect beer slide down a smooth counter, it’s time to cash in on your party trick. During the quaffing contest, your mission is to catch a full mug of beer as it hurtles past the edge of a table. By the handle. Before it hits the ground. Think you’ve got what it takes? (It’s harder than it looks!)

Penguin Fundraiser. Every year, festival goers purchase cheerful plastic penguins and then release them into the Portneuf River off the 3rd Street East Bridge. The chilly penguins are then “rescued” by the community center — and if your penguin wins, you’ll earn a prize. 

Dusk: The Torch Light Ski. When dusk darkens the skies, look toward Mount Moh — the mountain with the giant “L” etched into its side — and watch daredevil skiers carrying torches as they make their tricky descent to the valley. 

Fire Dancers. Fire dancers put the “fire” in the Fire & Ice Winterfest. Dancers from all over the West congregate in Lava for the annual festival and delight crowds with flaming dances and acrobatic feats set to music. In the middle of a dark winter, these dancers are a source of wonder and delight for people of all ages. 

Fireworks. Turn your face toward the sky as the horizon lights up with an impressive fireworks display. 

For more information about Fire & Ice, plus a full schedule, visit the festival’s event page

Outdoor Action

Fresh snow, fresh air, and fresh ways to get your blood pumping: Winter offers endless adventure for outdoor enthusiasts. Here are just a few ways to add more excitement to your wintry excursion. 
Fire up the sled. The snowmobile trails around Lava promise stunning scenery, forests that look like they’re straight out of Narnia, and plenty of room to indulge your inner speed demon. Whether you prefer a groomed trail or to blaze your own way, you’ll find hundreds of miles of options. The folks at Southeast Idaho High Country have a great trail map you can use to plot your excursion. Don’t forget to check the avalanche forecast before you go!

Speed down Pebble Creek. Downhill skiers and snowboarders flock to this family-friendly ski area perched on Mount Bonneville. The chairlift cranks up in mid-December and keeps running all the way through late March thanks to roughly 225 inches of annual snowfall. Not only is Pebble Creek beautiful, with great views of the surrounding mountains and countryside, but it offers a great mix of runs for skiers of all abilities. For an extra thrill, zoom through powder under bright stars during one of Pebble Creek’s night sessions. Bonus: Beginning Jan. 8, anyone who buys an all-mountain lift ticket will get another ticket for free. Exceptions apply, so check your travel dates before buying — and then bring your buddy! 

Refuel at Lava’s newest hotspot. A cold beer and a hot slice does wonders after a long day of outdoor play, and Lava’s newest restaurant has plenty of both. Eruption Brewery & Bistro has more than 20 housemade beers on tap and 5,000 gallons brewing at any given time. And then there’s the food: Eruption’s woodfired pizza ovens crank out slice after slice of perfectly cooked pie made with unusual ingredients like elk steak or salmon. Or warm up with other classics like tender meatballs and sauce, fresh salads, and craft burgers. 

Zip up some fun. The Lava Zipline and Ropes Course Adventure doesn’t break for snow — you can zip above some of Lava’s prettiest scenery even during the depths of winter. It’s the perfect place to bring the family during their holiday stay, or to ring in the first weeks of the New Year with some major adrenaline. Anyone 11 or older can test their skills and soar to new heights during this 3.5-hour adventure, and groups are welcome (be sure to book in advance!). 

Maximum Relaxation

Whether you want to recharge after a busy holiday season, soothe your body during the coldest months of the year, or simply make a little time for yourself, you’ll find an escape at Lava. 
Soak stress away. Lava Hot Springs has been a wellness destination for centuries, beginning with the native peoples who came here to soak in natural hot pools. Today’s hot springs may be built up and easier to access, but they’re still flowing with the same low-odor, mineral-rich, 112°F waters that have made this little town so famous.

Photo Credit: Idaho Tourism

The Lava Hot Springs Hot Pools and Swimming Pools is a treat when temps plunge. Adults pay only $8 during the weekday and $12 during the weekend for a single pass that can be used all day. For fewer crowds, plan your stay for mid-week. 

Many hotels in Lava also feature private pools or ensuite bathrooms flowing with water sourced from the hot springs. Check out the Home Hotel, Lion’s Gate Manor, the Lava Hotel & Spa, the Lava Hot Springs Inn & Spa, and the Riverside Hot Springs Inn for great options. 

For even more hot springs action, visit Downata Hot Springs, located just 30 miles away from Lava. Downata’s pools are fed by the same waters as Lava’s in a laid-back atmosphere. Downata is closed Sunday-Tuesday during the winter months, so be sure to check availability and rates before making your reservation. For an extra bit of indulgence, book the “Steak & Soak” deal — you’ll be treated to a ribeye steak dinner at the resort’s restaurant and a soak afterward. You’ll need to book in advance to secure this deal, so be sure to visit Downata’s website before you arrive. 

Indulge in a spa day. Lava and nearby McCammon have an amazing number of spas and therapists to melt your muscles and refresh your body and spirit. Head to eLAVAtion Spa at the Lava Hotel for a knot-busting hot stone massage, the Harkness Hotel for a luxurious manicure, the Lava Hot Springs Inn & Spa for gentle and graceful aquatic bodywork, the Riverside Hot Springs Inn for a restorative Thai massage session, or Tranquil Existence Healing Studio for reiki energy work and craniosacral therapy. Some hotels offer spa packages that combine more than one service, so check their websites before visiting — why book just a massage when you can have a massage, facial, and manicure? 

Plan ahead for more wellness. Book your stay now for the first weekend in June, when healers, wellness experts, and health enthusiasts will converge on the town for the annual Spring Into Wellness Festival. More details about the event will be posted in April, but past events have included sound healing sessions, gyrokenesis group activities, informational sessions about the town’s healing waters, and energy healing and yoga instruction. 
For even more ideas on how to have a winter adventure in Lava, check out our trip itineraries page and book your lodging! Fire & Ice weekend fills up fast, and you don’t want to miss your chance to experience the action.