There are few things that I look forward to more than McCall's annual Winter Carnival and it's finally here!

Winter Carnival will forever have a special place in my heart.  I'd spent many a Fourth of July beside Payette Lake, but I had never seen McCall in its winter splendor until the year that Nate and I started dating.  It was our first outing as an official couple.  Two years later he proposed to me underneath the fireworks over Payette Lake.  Winter Carnival's now the way we celebrate our anniversary every year!

It's so cool to see how the event has evolved over the last 54 years.  Winter Carnival as we know it started in the 1960s, but it's history dates back to the 1920s. Back then winter in McCall wasn't nearly as fun as it is now, so residents put together the Payette Lake Winter Games to alleviate the boredom and 248 people from the Treasure Valley jumped on a train to be part of it.  It evolved into the event we know and love today thanks to Olympic ski champion, Cory Engen, who was living and teaching skiing in McCall in the 60s. With the help of local volunteers, they started building ice sculptures and put together sled dog races.

If you're making your first trip this year, here are my five favorite things to do during Winter Carnival! If they're not your speed, there's tons of other things going on from parades and live music to ice shows and hockey games.  Check out the full details on all 10 days of Winter Carnival HERE!

  • Michelle Heart, Townsquare Media Boise

    Grab Breakfest at Fogglifter Cafe

    Almost everyone attending Winter Carnival will try to pack themselves into McCall's Famous Pancake House and wait times get ridiculous this time of year.  This summer, I went to McCall to squeeze a run down Warren Wagon in before having to jump on stage to introduce the artists at the Huckleberry Jam.  Since I was in town by myself, I decided that I didn't need a huge sit down breakfast at Pancake house.  I popped into Fogglifter to grab a drink instead.  To my surprise they serve hot cider (my favorite) all year! The next day, my friend and I stopped back through town to eat there.  They have some of the best Eggs Benedict I've ever tasted. If you want a more laid back breakfast atmosphere, you won't be disappointed at Fogglifter!

  • Michelle Heart, Townsquare Media Boise

    Check Out the Snow Sculptures

    No really. Get out of your car and walk up to them.  The things the artists can do with snow is absolutely incredible.  We never got up close and personal with them until the year of Snowpocalypse and there were so many cool ones you could actually walk through like a train, maze and mill.  This year are 31 different sculptures throughout McCall, Brundage Resort and Legacy Park.

  • Michelle Heart, Townsquare Media

    Have a Beer

    Even back in Boise, I find myself ordering a lot of McCall brewed beers.  McCall Brewing's Lemon Ginger Hef will always be one of my favorite beers.  They're got a great rooftop patio, so their brewpub is a favorite of mine in the summer.  During Winter Carnival, it's Salmon River Brewery for me. If you want to warm up inside, it can be hard to find a seat there but the brewery recently broke ground on a bigger location across the street from where they are now.  It won't be finished until October, so if you can't get a seat, you can warm up around the fire pit outside and grab a drink from the ice bar!

  • Michelle Heart, Townsquare Media

    Warm-Up at Anchor and Yacht Club

    Looking for night life in McCall? Look no further than Yacht Club! Between Fourth of July and Winter Carnival, I've spent some of the best nights I can remember (and probably a few that I can't remember at all) at that bar! Drinks are reasonably price and the music is always great!

    Not looking for the party life? Visit Anchor beneath Yacht Club.  It's McCall's best kept fine dining secret.  They change their menu seasonally and I always opt for which dish is heavily seafood based.  Those dishes have always been an amazingly delicious! Stop back for brunch before you head back to the Treasure Valley.  Anchor's home to the best Bloody Mary in McCall, killer build your own omelets and biscuits as big as your face. (Seriously, we ate brunch there on Super Bowl Sunday and by the time the game kicked off I still wasn't hungry yet.)

  • Michelle Heart, Townsquare Media

    Take a Dip at Gold Fork Hot Springs

    If the roads are passable, you've got to stop at Gold Fork Hot Springs.  With three different pools, these hot springs look like something you would find at a five star resort, but it's nestled in the mountains. It's beautiful in the summer but even more breathtaking while snow falls around the pools in the winter.  Just don't get lost on the way there like I did! Check out my guide to planning the best Gold Fork visit here!