Guide to Boise
“Here We Have Idaho”– Garden of Paradise!
Whether you’ve lived here your entire life or just moved to the area, this guide has more than enough activities you’ll want to add to your bucket list! And with summer right around the corner, now’s the perfect time to make your plans. Whether you enjoy water sports, hiking, biking, or camping, this guide has you covered.
Entertainment (music, shows, etc):
Historic Sites, Cultural Centers, Science:
Boise Annual Events
Fun Activities, Games, and Movies
Clubs to Join
Floating the Boise River
Boise summers are often long days of intense heat. That’s why floating the Boise River is such a popular summer activity! Every year, over 100,000 people enjoy floating the river. Barber Park is the usual starting point for a river float in Southeast Boise, and you’ll get to enjoy a leisurely six mile journey to Ann Morrison Park.
There are four rest stops along the way:
- River Quarry is the first stop, located on the left-hand side of the river. There are restrooms and trash facilities. You’ll see River Quarry just before the Marden Bridge.
- Marden Bridge (also known as Baybrook Court Bridge) is close to River Quarry, located on your right as you float down the river. It has no restrooms, but it does offer trash facilities.
- Julia Davis Park is the next rest stop, located on the right side of the river. From the City of Boise Parks Department: “Trash facilities are located behind the site and restrooms are available across the road, near the bandshell.”
- Ann Morrison Park is your final stop. There, you’ll find shuttles to take you back to Barber Park. You can also park a vehicle there ahead of time and make arrangements from there.
Equipment Rental: You can rent rafts, tubes, and other flotation devices at Boise River Raft & Tube in Barber Park. Flotation devices are generally included with raft rentals, and can be rented separately upon request. Remember, life vests are required.
Parking and Shuttles: You can park in assigned spaces at either Barber Park or Ann Morrison Park. The city asks that you don’t take up residential parking spaces. Shuttles are available during most of the day to transfer between locations, and they cost around $3 per person. Pets are not allowed on shuttles. For a schedule, click here.
Alcohol and Smoking: Open containers of alcohol are not permitted on the river or within 250 feet of the river, as posted. You can consume alcohol outside of that radius, but drinking and floating the river do not go hand-in-hand. It’s important to remain aware and safe. Smoking is also not allowed on the river, or in the park, except within Ann Morrison and Julia David Park designated areas.
Finally, here’s a useful map for floating the river.
Simplot Sports Complex
The Simplot Sports Complex is a 161 acre special use area, located near Columbia Village in Southeast Boise. The complex features several little leagues and 20 soccer fields. It’s a great place to catch a game and relax. There are restrooms and trash facilities, as well as a playground for the kids. Neither smoking nor dogs are allowed at the Simplot Sports Complex. Check out a map of the complex for more details.
The Boise Greenbelt
The Boise River Greenbelt spans 25 miles and consists of a well-maintained pathway, lined with trees that follow the river through various parts of the city. It connects to many riverside parks, and is a great way for pedestrians and cyclists to get around town.
What was once a dumping ground for trash and industrial waste has become a beautiful trail through wildlife habitats and some of the city’s most beautiful scenery. Whether you’re going for a hike, a jog, a bike ride, a picnic at the park, or a trip to the zoo, Boise’s Greenbelt is essential.
The Greenbelt also focuses on safety. From the City of Boise’s Greenbelt webpage:
“In 2001, a new directional and site location system was put in place on the Greenbelt within Boise City limits to help Greenbelt users know exactly where they are in case they need to call for help. The Distance and Orientation Trail System (DOTS) is a series of 20-inch white spots painted onto the Greenbelt pavement every tenth of a mile. Inside the white spots are black numbers and letters that describe the user’s location on the Greenbelt.
The numbers represent how far that spot is from zero — the 8th Street pedestrian bridge. The letters inside the spot indicate what sector of the Greenbelt it is on, such as the northwest quadrant,or the southeast quadrant.”
Idaho Botanical Garden
The Idaho Botanical Garden was founded in 1984 by Dr. Christopher Davidson, a local botanist. The Garden spans 33 acres of land on what was once the Idaho State Penitentiary. The Garden is open all year and every season offers a wealth of delights for visitors. Educational opportunities are always available, as well.
Reviewers on TripAdvisor give the Idaho Botanical Garden consistently high-scoring reviews.
Events: The Garden offers more to visitors than the splendor of nature. They frequently host events, such as yoga sessions, gardening classes, wine tastings, and concerts.
There are seasonal events, too:
- Each summer, world-renowned musicians (such as The Violent Femmes, Brandi Carlile, Iron & Wine, The Decemberists, Gregg Allman, Modest Mouse, and more) play for a large audience at the Outlaw Field venue.
- Winter Garden aGlow takes place from November to January. It features a display of 300,00 lights, all artfully arranged throughout the entire garden.
- In the Fall, the Garden hosts the Scarecrow Stroll where dozens of designer scarecrows greet families as they walk through the facility. The Fall Harvest Festival provides guests with wagon rides, live music, a variety of wares from local artists, and kids’ activities.
- Every year, the Garden hosts a Spring plant sale, which offers unique and waterwise plants for private gardens. There’s wine and cheese, to boot.
Plants: The Idaho Botanical Garden describes itself as a “living museum.” Each plant is rigorously catalogued and plant identification signs list the scientific name, family name, common name, native range, flowering dates, growth habit and requirements, source, and quantity of each plant.
There are several native plant gardens, a meditation garden, an heirloom rose garden, a Children’s Adventure garden, and much more. You can view the entire list, along with stunning photos, here.
Education: Beyond its masterfully-crafted plant information sites, the Garden offers numerous educational opportunities for both kids and adults. There are over 40 adult classes per year, as well as camps, science programs, and tours for the kids. Find out more here.
Hiking and biking trails are plentiful in the Boise area, but Southeast Boise in particular, offers some true gems.
- Oregon Trail Loop (Boise Greenbelt) – This 17 mile loop is all about variety. It offers a challenge for most cyclists, but the diverse terrain and scenery makes it a perfect outing for experienced, adventurous recreation-seekers.
“This long loop takes you from the heart of the city to a very remote section of trail. Lucky Peak Dam and Reservoir at Barclay Bay, Discovery State Park, Sandy Point Beach, and Barber Park, all part of the Boise River system, are just a few of the major attractions on this ride. The southern rim of the Boise River Canyon has many hidden, shady spots, along the more urban parts of the river, that are waiting to be discovered. This ride is mostly flat and paved, but the middle section along the Oregon Trail and the climb out of Sandy Point offer a challenge.”
Trails.com has maps and detailed information. For historical context and more detailed regional information, visit Ridge to Rivers.
- Barber – Warm Springs Loop (Boise Greenbelt) – This trail includes the Boise River-Barber Flats Wildlife Management Area, so it’s great for animal lovers and birdwatchers. The scenery is great from start to finish and provides some particularly stunning geological viewing. This is a good, easy trail for an outing with friends or family, even if there’s not much shade along the way. For maps and more details, click here.
- Bethine Church Trail – You can access the Bethine Church River Trail from Bown Crossing, which is an excellent place to grab food before or after your hike.
From expert Idaho outdoorsman Steve Stuebner’s blog:
“One route starts and finishes in Bown Crossing, a very attractive place in SE Boise to visit for lunch or dinner. Bown Crossing happens to be located next to the Bethine Church Nature Trail along the Boise River. [This] route goes from Bown Crossing to the nature trail. Go west on the nature trail to a Greenbelt spur that takes you to ParkCenter Blvd. Cross ParkCenter at Gossamer Lane, and walk the sidewalks of Monterey and Portside to Victory Lane. Go right and walk several blocks to Law. Go left on Law, and left on Boise Avenue, and walk back to Bown Crossing. This route is about 2 miles or approximately 1 hour or less, depending on how fast you walk.”
Steve also includes a map in his blog post.
- Municipal Park to Barber Park Loop – Though there’s breathtaking scenery and well-kept trails along the way, this nearly 10-mile trail is best for distance runners, hikers who have most of a day to devote to a trail, or cyclists who operate in a pedestrian-friendly manner. Steve Stuebner has a map and details here.
The peak of Table Rock is less than three miles from downtown Boise. That makes it one of the best urban hiking destinations in the United States. Topping out at 3,652 feet, you can see the Owyhee Mountains from the peak on a clear day.
There are a multitude of trail options available and the going is rarely steep for longer than a quarter of a mile. It’s a leisurely, picturesque hike ripe with placards containing both historical and geographical information.
BoiseTheGreat.com lists Table Rock as “the best place to look down on B-Town.”
For more information on various trails, including maps, consult this article on Ridge to Rivers.
Lucky Peak State Park is located eight miles southeast of Boise. Lucky Peak’s natural beauty and proximity to Boise makes it a well-loved and popular destination for hiking, boating, biking, fishing, swimming, and picnicking. Most urban centers don’t have a nearby outdoor recreation location with so much to offer, so Lucky Peak is truly something special.
Lucky Peak consists of three main recreation areas:
- Discovery Park: Discovery Park is an easily-accessible roadside recreation area, which makes it ideal for family outing, company events, and general relaxation. It features three reservable shelters for parties and barbecues and it offers easy access to the Boise River, so it’s a popular fishing destination. Discovery Park is pet friendly.
- Sandy Point: Located at the base of Lucky Peak Dam, Sandy Point is popular for swimmers, sunbathers, and people who enjoy other beach activities. Sandy Point is named appropriately, as it features a sandy beach and clear water. Sandy Point does not allow pets.
- Spring Shores: Spring Shores is the go-to destination for boating enthusiasts. This lakeside recreational area provides boat ramps, a marina, plenty of parking, and watercraft rentals. The marina also features wifi access.
The Lucky Peak Dam, constructed in the 1950s, is a notable historical location.
Hiking and Biking: Lucky Peak State Park is a popular destination for both hikers and cyclists.
“Despite all the usage, this mountain still provides excellent, easily accessible, training opportunity in a peaceful environment. The rolling hills offer over 3500 feet of elevation gain from the valley floor in about 5.6 miles.”
To find the right bike or hiking trail for you, visit Lucky Peak’s SummitPost page.
For maps and more information, click here.
If you like both the outdoors AND camels, then this is the park for you! This sweet sensation nestled (see what I did there?) in the foothills can really be divided into two parts.
The back half contains a series of trails through the foothills and forested areas. They are a delight with beautiful terrain and good for varying ability levels, whether on foot or on mountain bike.
The front half is home to a traditional park under the towering hills. There is plenty of open space, play areas, and even an outdoor gym built and donated by Bodybuilding.com.
Entertainment (music, shows, etc):
The Egyptian is Boise’s most culturally significant theater. It hails back to the 20’s and its design is inspired by Egyptian temples. The Egyptian Theatre hosts many big events, performances, and private events. This historic theatre regularly shows your favorite classic movies that haven’t been seen on a big screen in years.
Technically called “Albertsons Stadium” since 2014, this facility is the famous home of the Boise State Broncos (and the “Smurf Turf”). Dedicated fans across the Treasure Valley can be seen watching games on every available flat-screen within 50 miles. There’s nothing like attending a live game, though, so find some seats and show up early!
Nowadays, most popular big screen movies are purely made to pull in money. If you prefer films with more of an artistic side, The Flicks features independent, foreign, and art films, as well as the occasional big-budget Hollywood film that passes muster. There’s a great cafe inside with comfortable seating, as well as fine wines, espresso, and imported brews to slake your thirst.
Have you ever driven through Boise and wished for a narrator? You’re in luck! Boise Trolley Tours offers an open-air bus made up like the old trolleys that Boise used to have. There is a regular tour, going by the historic sites of Boise, such as the capitol, the old state pen, and the train depot. You can also catch holiday tours in season around Halloween and Christmas.
Boise isn’t big enough to warrant much in the way of professional sports teams, but we do have hockey. The Idaho Steelheads are a minor league hockey team that feeds into the NHL’s Dallas Stars, as part of the ECHL (made up of 27 teams). Our Steelheads have won their national title twice and have never failed to make the playoffs. Even if you’re not historically a hockey fan, a Steelheads game at CenturyLink Arena is a great night out and a lot of fun.