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.
During our fair weather seasons, we get to look forward to Boise Hawks Baseball. The Hawks are a minor league farm team for the Colorado Rockies, where newly-drafted players go for some seasoning. Going on 30-years in the Boise area, the Hawks have won six league titles and ten division titles.
By day, Neurolux is a hoppin place for music lovin’ hipsters, regardless of age! There’s an atmosphere full of energy, great drinks and food, and live performances at a low price. You’ll find the best local bands, as well as a constant stream of incredible indie shows outside of the mainstream fare.
The Boise Knitting Factory hits the sweet spot between a big-time concert production and the up-close-and-personal local concert house. They run a nice, clean operation with tight security. It’s not a huge place, and the main floor can get crowded, so we recommend the VIP tickets that get you a comfortable seat upstairs if you’re not much for crowds.
The Knitting Factory (or ‘Knit’) is home to concerts of all varieties and seasonal events.
College athletic pavilion by day, and entertainment venue by night. When a headliner comes to Boise proper, you’ll usually find them at Taco Bell Arena. Besides country stars like Brad Paisley or comedians like Jeff Dunham, you’ll find trade shows, graduations, and even the Power Rangers hosting their big event here.
Taco Bell Arena is host to a variety of events for adults, children, and families alike.
You couldn’t have found a better place for a new music venue in Boise than where The Olympic decided to call home, a 100-year-old hotel that’s been closed forever. Now it’s put to good to use with concerts, comedy, and parties. The hotel has been beautifully remodeled, but still retains the original flavor of the place. The Olympic is even host to the 2018 Treefort Music Festival!
Boise’s Liquid Laughs is the hub for comedians both local and nationally-recognized, both stand-up and improv.
Upcoming stars include Jay Mohr, Pauly Shore, and Quinn Dahle. The shows extend into regular events like “Boise’s Best Bad Poet”, “Boise’s Best Bad Dancer”, with the performances rounded out with live music. If you’re bold enough, you can even see if you have what it takes to make it on open mic night!
Liquid Laughs is for adults looking to have a fun night out on the town.
Photo Credit: Ambrose School
Nestled on the banks of the Boise River, the Morrison Center is Idaho’s most prestigious stage for the performing arts. It features a 10-story stagehouse and over 180,000 square feet, centered on a majestic stage built from the ground up for great acoustics and viewing of the performers. Despite seating over 2,000 guests, no seat is further than 131 feet from the stage, so even those in the “nosebleed” section can experience an intimate performance.
At the Morrison Center, you can experience orchestra’s, play’s, comedy and more!
Historic Sites, Cultural Centers, Science:
Since Southeast Boise covers a sprawling area, there are many notable historical buildings located here. This section will cover public historical buildings, but for a list of private buildings, you can visit this page at the Boise Architecture Project.
- Bown House – This house, located at 2121 E. Parkcenter Blvd, was built in 1879 by Joseph and Temperance Bown. It’s built of sandstone taken from a quarry near Table Rock Mesa and was considered quite decadent in its time. The house is currently used for educational purposes, and tours are available.
- Garfield Elementary – This school has roots from the early 1900s, but is still used as a functioning school building, to this day. Located at 1914 S Broadway Ave, its Colonial-style architecture separates it from most modern school buildings. This palace-like building is the source of many ghost stories.
- Pomerelle Studios – This house was once a private residence and judging by the barn on the property, was once part of a farm. It was built in 1920 and heavily remodeled in 1978, but it still retains many of its architectural features. Pomerelle Studios is located at 2408 S. Broadway.
If you are new to Southeast Boise, don’t panic if you see a military convoy go by or an assault formation of AH-64 Apache helicopters flying overhead. Just on the outside of town, our most dedicated citizens train at the Gowen Field Air National Guard Base, home to the 124th Fighter Wing. The base also houses joint forces with the Army National Guard, Army Reserves, Marine Reserves, and even Navy.
If you happen to drive by, you will not only see the aviation units, but tanks, armored personnel vehicles, and engineering rigs. You might not know it, but a few minutes further out into the desert is the Orchard Combat Training Center, which is a large range/Natural Reservation Area. Not only do our units train there, but soldiers come from across the country and we often host military from allied nations.
This international refuge is the home to endangered raptors from around the world. Boise is one of the few places where scholars can specialize in birds of prey, and visiting their headquarters allows you a chance to see them up close and personal. This facility regularly breeds and rehabilitates endangered raptors, releasing many of them back into the wild. Just be sure to time your visit during feeding time or a regularly scheduled presentation.
Zoo Boise is one of the top family attractions in the area. In addition to the 200+ animals within the park, they frequently host promotions and special events that are perfect for some family time. The zoo is within the heart of the beautiful Julia Davis Park, making it easy to transition into other activities once your visit is over.
The “Old Pen” worked as a proper prison for close to 100 years. This fantastic historical site allows you to walk through time as you see each addition and upgrade during the century-long operation. You can learn a lot via the information posted throughout the prison, but I’d recommend a guided tour the first time through. There is also an extensive weapons museum on site.
Whether you’re simply looking for a view or need a great location for an event, you’d be hardpressed to find a better place than the Boise Depot. You’ll not only get to see the beautiful mission style building itself, but trains, a lovely park, and a scenic view the Boise skyline. It’s best to go during their limited open hours, as you will see more and can even take an elevator to the top of the tower.
The only accredited fine art museum in Idaho, has long been a work in progress. What began in 1938 has finally achieved the problem of outgrowing their space. They feature not only permanent art displays, but a plethora of traveling exhibitions that rotate throughout the year, giving you good reason to visit frequently. The Boise Art Museum is a fine place for a relaxing afternoon of contemplation, and you’ll likely spend more time visiting than you intended.
Do you think pizza has been lacking in the creativity department? If you’re looking for a pizza with fresh ingredients and fresh ideas, look no further than Pizza Pie Cafe.
It’s definitely worth eating in. There’s a huge variety of options at the salad and pasta bar, and instead of committing to one or two safe choices for your pizza, you can be adventurous as you explore the all-you-can-eat options.
If you’re still unconvinced, just consider their wide array of dessert pizzas.
Maybe chains that heat up bags of frozen food are your thing, but if I’m going out, I prefer a higher standard. The bar is set at Luciano’s. Every item on the menu is made from scratch, and the atmosphere gives you an old-world, Tuscan feel.
How many times do you need to win “Best Local Breakfast” before it’s an established fact? Seventeen. That’s right, for seventeen years straight, voters have named Goldy’s as the best place in Boise to start your day. The seating is sparse and there are no reservations, so get there early and be ready to wait — it’s worth it.
Green means go. That’s the most important thing to remember when eating at Tucanos. Each table comes equipped with a two-sided “indicator”, one side red, the other, green. The green side of your table indicator tells the servers to continue bringing the never ending supply of delicious entrees to your table. Red lets them know you need a break before you burst!
Every meal is a feast at Tucanos, where you can pick and choose from their delicacies at your leisure.
At Barbacoa, you won’t get just a delicious steak; you’ll also partake in a delicious experience. It’s unique in atmosphere and diversity, and it is about as exciting as you’re able to get in Boise in regards to food. With 5-star offerings like pan-seared Idaho trout, Swordfish Pibil, and Coulotte steak topped with Cajun shrimp, I’d question the judgment of anyone who didn’t want to eat here.
P.S. Get the Guac!
You don’t have to leave the Gem State to get a fine dining experience. If you have an anniversary or a birthday dinner coming up, Chandlers is that special place to take that special someone. Featuring live jazz seven nights a week, Chandlers is all about that classy dining experience that Hollywood has made us dream about. Of the 636 restaurants in Boise, this steakhouse is rated by the community as number one. They really make you wonder what the upper limit is on just how good food can taste.
You’d think that after thousands of years of practice, we’d be pretty good at making bread. Most of the bread made here for mass production is far from extraordinary. For the good stuff, you have to go to Zeppole Baking Company. Boise Weekly calls Zeppole “near legendary”, and it’s been voted as the best bakery in Boise the last six years in a row.
It’s easy for folks to have been in Boise for years and still not know about High Note Cafe. It’s a small little gem tucked away on 5th street with great sandwiches. Everything is made from scratch every day, from the bread, to the pizza, to the tacos and soup.
As an added bonus, local artists frequent the High Note Cafe to perform their music, recite their poetry, and read their short stories to the delight of their audience (performances are free).
Feeling like you need to get away to somewhere exotic, but don’t have the time or money to take a weekend flight out of town? Try out the rooftop lounge and bar at the Reef in downtown Boise. Embrace that tiki-vibe and feel like you’re on a tropical island without leaving town!
The Reef is great, which in downtown Boise it’s often going to be busy, so expect to spend a few minutes there socializing. Try the Hula Hula chicken sandwich or the Ninja Noodles, and call ahead to reserve seating if you can!
The Reef is also host to occasional concerts, too, so catch a show while enjoying some incredible fare.
Don’t miss an opportunity for some great Cuban food at CasaBlanca! I’d never had this style of cuisine before, but after getting a little bored with Mexican and Chinese, I decided to give the comfort foods of “Mom’s Kitchen” (a nickname for CasaBlanca) a try. Cuban food can be delightfully simple, with lightly spiced meats with beans, rice, bananas, and potatoes.
The Cubano sandwich is always a winner for me!
There’s few solitary words that capture my attention so completely as “bacon”, and the so-named restaurant on Idaho St. has gone even further by capturing my heart. Chef John Berryhill’s Bacon restaurant features 5 kinds of bacon and brunch all day! The whimsical atmosphere and bacony goodness of this restaurant make it almost heaven in my heart.
BleuBird has been winning awards left and right as the “Best in Boise” for their service, value, and especially their sandwiches. Though the line is occasionally long, it is well worth the wait — just look at any of their reviews on TripAdvisor or Facebook.
Stop by for lunch (they aren’t open for dinner) and experience the greatest sandwich of your life!
We love our Boise Alavita restaurant because of the fantastic homemade pasta and locally-inspired Italian dishes. Fresh from surrounding farms, this sister restaurant to Fork excels in serving both ambiance and food. No frozen dinners and microwaves like other Italian restaurants, the food at Alavita is prepared fresh every day.
This powerhouse of the semiconductor industry was founded in Boise in 1978, attracting more tech, education, and professionals to the area. Micron is a pretty big deal for the industry and one of the few places in the U.S. that is able to compete with overseas manufacturing. While they have more than 30,000 employees, nationwide, more than 5,000 of those are in Boise, making them the largest private employer in Idaho.
You can go just about anywhere in the country (and many places in the world) and see people with Bodybuilding.com gear. What was formerly a niche for the musclebound, “BBcom” has become a global sensation, yet even many of the locals would be surprised to hear that not only was the organization founded in Boise in 1999 by Ryan Deluca, their headquarters is still here.
They have led the industry in delivering exceptional customer service and great content (for free), and making a big impact in the local community. No matter if you are signing up for Rake Up Boise, Dodgeball Tournaments, or Race for the Cure, you are sure to see a team of enthusiastic (and probably ripped) Bodybuilding.com employees leading the charge.
Their employees have repeatedly reported Bodybuilding.com as one of the best places to work in Idaho, with a fun work environment that has a philosophy of working hard and playing harder.
Unlike the others on this list, HP isn’t headquartered in Boise. However, this tech giant does have a large operation in tech support, engineering (printers and other hardware), and marketing.
This grocery company was founded in Idaho in 1939, and has continuously grown since its beginnings. There have been various sales and acquisitions in recent years, and in 2014 they merged with Safeway. The newly-merged brand has more than 2,200 stores and a quarter million employees, across the country.
Idaho is famous for its potatoes, thanks to J.R. Simplot. In 1929, the young J.R. Simplot began producing potatoes and onions and became one of the major suppliers for the military, beginning with World War II. However, it was when McDonald’s made Simplot their primary potato supplier for French Fries that Simplot began to make a name for itself. Currently, this company provides more than half of ALL french fries to the entire fast food chain.
Most entrepreneurs eventually sell out, cashing in their stake to someone else or going public once they are worth enough. Simplot never did and now is one of the largest privately-owned companies in the world.
Interesting note: The most notable home in Boise is likely the Simplot Mansion. The beautiful home sits atop the foothills like a crown, with a great view overlooking the city. It has been a popular location for sledding and ice-blocking in years passed. However, after the death of J.R. Simplot in 2008, it was donated to the local government to serve as the governor’s mansion. Due to cost of upkeep, it has since been demolished. The house may be gone, but the giant flag will forever remain!
Sometimes a pain in the neck is more than just a euphemism. Sometimes, it’s literally a pain in the neck. When that’s the case, I often recommend Dr. Watson and team at Active Health and Wellness. They are kind of like the Super Friends for your spine.
Dr. Watson is more than just a chiropractor. He approaches the body in a holistic fashion, because your body is more than just the sum of its parts. That’s why Active Health and Wellness will not just adjust your spine, but also offers soft tissue therapy, weight management techniques, and nutritional protocols.
Maybe you and your significant other need to escape for a weekend getaway. There’s no need to go to the same boring hotel that looks and feels just like nearly every other hotel within 3,000 miles. The Boise Guest House offers a unique experience with an artistic, historic lodge that is tucked right into the convenience of downtown Boise.
Boise is one of the greatest cycling communities in the country [link to news article]. There might be quite a few places that want to sell you a bike, but Eastside Cycles is so much more than just a bike shop. Whether you’re shopping for a new ride or servicing your old one, we’ve found that this team really knows their stuff, they are very knowledgeable, and they are also super helpful for those who may not know a lot about bikes.
Specialty shops are the bees knees, and it’s always fun to come across a new place and try out their creations. City Peanut Shop, located on Bannock near the Capitol Building, does peanuts, candy bars, and peanut brittle a million different ways from Sunday. From a Peanuts craft beer chocolate bar to pecan brittle, from sweet or salty to flaming hot, you can find many different treats here. We recommend the bacon cashews and the honey-roasted peanut butter!
One of our favorite sights in the Treasure Valley are the colorful balloons drifting through the morning sky. The belle of the balloon ball is the Boise Hot Air Company. Most people have a lot of questions about how a balloon ride works, and they’ve kindly provided answers to the most frequent ones on their site.
Bikes are the perfect speed for exploring Boise. Walking is too slow, and it’s hard to really take it all in from the windows of a car. Boise Bicycle Tours offers several tours on their provided cruising bikes at a comfortable speed, pausing frequently for a chance to rest while their guide explains the fascinating history of our city.
Boise is one of the most bike-friendly towns in the country, and the Boise Bicycle Project is doing its darnedest to help everyone that wants access to two-wheeled transportation to get it.
The BBP makes quality, refurbished bicycles and parts available to the community at affordable prices. They even provide an open shop space for members to use whenever they want and experienced mechanics to help folks learn how to keep their bikes in great shape.
Boise Annual Events:
Photo Credit: KTVB
Every summer, the Idaho Shakespeare Festival proves Boise’s commitment to arts and culture. The festival takes place at The Idaho Shakespeare Festival Amphitheater and Reserve, which is located at 5657 Warm Springs Avenue. The festival was founded in 1977 and continues to draw community support, critical acclaim, and impressive attendance.
Amphitheater: While the Idaho Shakespeare Amphitheater and Revere seats 770 people, it’s much more than a run-of-the mill theater venue.
From Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s website:
“… 770-seat, state-of-the-art facility that was built to feature the human voice, the Festival Amphitheater & Reserve is nestled in a unique habitat that is home to an astonishing variety of plant and animal species.”
Theater-goers are encouraged to bring blankets, food, and drinks. The weather can get chilly once the sun sets, but blankets and sweaters are sold at the venue. It also contains Cafe Shakespeare, which sells gourmet food and wine. Chair rentals are also available.
The reserve is full of native plants and wildlife, such as ducks, geese, deer, heron, and other waterfowl. There’s also an occasional fox sighting.
Plays: Plays are spaced throughout the summer months, but generally begin in late May and run through end of September. There are at least two Shakespeare plays performed every year (one tragedy and one comedy), and a variety of other classic and contemporary comedies, thrillers, and dramas. Every season, there’s something for everyone, performed by world-class actors and brought together by expert costumers, directors and stagehands. For a list of this season’s plays, click here.
Education: Education is a driving factor behind the Idaho Shakespeare festival.
From their website:
“The Idaho Shakespeare Festival provides theater arts programming integrated into the curricula of approximately 73% of the school districts in Idaho, as well as parts of Oregon, Wyoming and Nevada. Through its school tours, Shakespearience and Idaho Theater for Youth, the Festival annually reaches approximately 50,000 school-age children, including those in rural and underserved communities.”
They also offer apprenticeship opportunities, summer camps, workshops, and and their School of Theater.
You can buy tickets through the box office.
On the first Thursday of each month, downtown Boise comes alive with even more great art, music, and food than usual.
Downtown shops become art galleries, and art galleries become social gathering places for snacks, drinks, and laughter.
There are special events each month, and they all showcase Boise artists, musicians, food vendors, and local businesses.
You can find more info, including special events, here.
Alive After Five
Each Wednesday from June through August, downtown Boise gets a special treat in the form of Alive After Five. The event is free to the public, and includes live music, vendors, and cultural events. From 5-8pm, thousands of people gather on the Basque Block to hear local musicians, see renowned touring acts, and enjoy local food and beer.
Alive after Five has been a Boise institution for 30 years now, and it’s a free concert series that everyone can enjoy– Alive After Five is completely family friendly, and it’s a great time for any music lover.
Treefort Music Fest
Image credit – Christina Birkinbine on Flickr
It’s official– Treefort Music Fest is here to stay.
What started as a scrappy startup music festival in 2012 has become Boise’s Cultural Ambassador.
The festival boasts hundreds of musicians from around the world and around Boise, and takes over downtown for nearly a week every Spring. It’s a popular destination for fans of indie and underground music, but it offers more than just good tunes.
Treefort also includes:
- Storyfort – A celebration of the written and spoken word, featuring renowned poets, authors, and other storytellers.
- Kidfort – Kid-friendly entertainment that’s great for adults, too.
- Hackfort – Hackfort focuses on technology and innovation, and some of Boise’s best minds in the STEM fields lend their expertise to participants.
- Filmfort – Filmfort screens independent movies from around the world– the kind of films you might otherwise never see in a local theater.
- Yogafort – A place for fitness and mindfulness, taught by expert yoga instructors. A great way to exercise and relax during the busy, jubilant music festival.
- Foodfort – A chance to visit some of Boise’s best food vendors. There’s traditional comfort food, favorite meals from local restaurants, and exciting international fare.
If you live in Boise and have never attended Treefort, this might be your year.
Boise Music Festival
For the past few years, Boise Music Festival has become a summer tradition.
Over 60,000 music fans attended the festival in 2015, and packed the fairgrounds in Garden City.
The festival usually draws big name acts from the past and present, and has featured Nick Jonas, Rob Thomas, Train, Sir Mix-a-Lot, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, MC Hammer, Sugar Ray, LL Cool J, and many more.
This is a family friendly event, so there are plenty of activities for the kids, including face painting and bounce houses.
There are also traditional carnival rides and food vendors.
The days are typically hot and sunny during the Boise Music Festival, so pack plenty of sun block and sealed bottled water.
Kids Fun Fest
Each year in mid-Spring, Kids Fun Fest comes to Expo Idaho.
It’s a full eight hour day of family-friendly entertainment. Kids love the interactive fun zones, rock climbing walls, bounce houses, petting zoos, carnival games, and reptile exhibits.
Parents love chatting with local vendors and nonprofits who can help their families live happier, healthier lives.
It’s basically like a home and garden show that caters to kids. If your kids have boundless energy and a taste for adventure, Kids Fun Fest will keep them occupied all day. Plus, they just might learn a thing or two in the process.
Held at the Old Assay Office in downtown Boise, the annual Archaeology Fair focuses on interactive learning and education. Many Boise residents don’t know about Idaho Archaeology and Historic Preservation Month, which takes place every year– but the Archaeology Fair is a great way to get excited about it.
This all ages event welcomes anyone and everyone, and includes activities such as:
- A grinding station to use grinding stones to grind corn
- Creating stone tools
- Spear throwing
- Interactive archaeological site interpretation
- A rock art station, where participants can produce art resembling ancient pictographs
- Learning about archaeological surveys while searching for candy
- Artifakes – learning the difference between real artifacts and replicas
There’s also a full, hands-on archaeological excavation and a tour of the Assay Office.
Fans of nature and history won’t want to miss this one. Stay up-to-date with the Archaeological Society, here.
Treasure Valley Kite Festival
Each Spring, the Treasure Valley Kite Festival brings free, family-friendly fun to Julius M. Kleiner Memorial Park in Meridian.
The Festival provides free kites for kids, and plenty of space for them to play in. Your kids will learn the ropes of flying a kite, and be able to socialize with other kids in a safe and scenic environment.
There are also kite competitions, prizes, food, and live entertainment.
If you like the idea of spending a relaxing day outdoors with your family, this free event comes highly recommended.
International Food and Culture Festival
When summer is at its hottest, that means it’s time for the International Food and Culture Festival at Julia Davis Park.
Each year in August, Treasure Valley residents get together to celebrate one another’s cultures and food traditions.
Each year holds something different, but there’s always plenty of great food, educational workshops, live music, free entertainment, and activities for the kids.
Step out of your comfort zone and enjoy some international food you’ve never tried before, or just enjoy some old favorites. Either way, the International Food and Culture Festival is a foodie’s dream come true.
Fourth of July
For the Fourth of July in Boise, you can basically divide the festivities into three sections– the parade, the day-long celebration at Ann Morrison Park, and the fireworks.
Historically, the parade moves down Jefferson to 4th street to Bannock, so there are plenty of good spots for parade watching.
Then the fun picks up at Ann Morrison Park. There’s an all day Chalk Art Festival, sponsored by the Idaho Statesman. Anyone with artistic talent can participate. There’s also live music, food from local vendors, and work from local artists.
There are also numerous activities for kids and adults, including:
- Face painting
- Balloon art
- Capture the flag
- Bike parade
- Educational booths
The fireworks themselves begin after 10:00pm. Ann Morrison Park, Camel’s Back PArk, and the Boise foothills are always good places to view the fireworks. If you prefer, the top of a downtown parking garage or Simplot Hill also work nicely.
Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic
As the end of summer approaches in Boise, colorful hot air balloons fill the sky. From late August to early September, the Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic makes Boise a more whimsical and magical place.
You can see the hot air balloons all around Boise, but the real festivities take place at Ann Morrison Park. Many families gather early, with coffee, hot coco, and blankets, to watch the balloons launch early in the morning. The Spirit of Boise balloon inflation demonstrations are always popular, as well.
If that’s not enough, you can also buy food from local vendors and watch live music while you’re surrounded by hot air balloons.
It’s one of the best times of the year.
Boise is the biggest city in Idaho, so we have a diverse array of teachers, experts, and mentors who lead summer camps for our children. We’re also a hub of art, culture, science, and engineering. Plus, we’re surrounded by nature. All of these factors make Boise an ideal place for summer camps.
Here are a few of your options:
- Idaho Shakespeare Festival summer camps
- BSU’s summer sports camps
- Wings Center’s summer camps
- Discovery Center of Idaho’s summer camps
- Meridian Art Center’s summer camps
- BSU’s science and art summer camps
- City of Boise’s art, nature, science, and sports summer camps
- Boise Rock School summer camps
- Treasure Valley YMCA’s summer camps
If you’d like to add a camp to our list, you can contact us.
Tired of watching a prerecorded countdown from the other side of the country on New Year’s?
The Idaho Potato Drop began in 2013 as a way for Idaho to celebrate it’s own unique heritage as the year rolls over. Thousands flock to the state capitol grounds for music, food, and a family-friendly community party as the great Idaho potato drops with the countdown to the New Year.
If you want that upscale, big-city cultural experience, you need only venture to The Village at Meridian. You’ll find high-end apparel, specialty retail, and both fun and fancy eating (don’t miss the candy shop!). The Village is designed with European-style architecture, with the shops and luxury office spaces surrounding a park setting that features a playground and fountain. Complete with a gym, movie theater, great shopping, and amazing food, it’s so expansive you might decide you never need to leave The Village.
As far as malls go, ours is pretty typical. But considering the small-town feel that Idaho has, outsiders are often surprised by the size of our mall and how nice it is. With 186 businesses represented, the Boise Towne Square Mall is the top shopping center in the state.
The Capital City Public Market has become an icon of downtown Boise. It’s a great place for local vendors, craftsmen, and farmers to sell their goods directly to the customers. You’ll likely catch multiple performers working to entertain the crowds!
Though it spans several city blocks, each vendor will be unique, as the organizers take care to eliminate redundancy in the booths. Idaho’s greatest open-air market runs April through December. Be sure to show up early for easier parking access and to avoid the crowds.
Looking for something that’s a little bit different? Visit Boise Art Glass to try your hand at blowing glass. You’ll work right next to the furnace, forging your own artistic creation under the guidance of expert craftsmen. This is one of those really cool things you need to do at least once, aka a “bucket list” experience.
The Emporium is the stuff of legend. It honestly looks like a Godzilla-sized piñata sneezed in there. You’ll find candy and treats of every kind—even that special one that you haven’t seen in three decades has found its way to Cravin’s Candy Emporium. This is the closest you can ever come to a real-life Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Fun Activities, Games, and Movies:
Bown Crossing is a 35 acre residential and retail space in Southeast Boise. It includes 59,000 square feet of commercial and restaurant space, as well as 92 residential units. It’s designed with pedestrians in mind, so it’s a great place for a stroll or a shopping trip. The architecture alone makes it worth a visit.
Restaurants and Bars at Bown Crossing:
- Bier Thirty
- Boise Fry Company
- Flatbread Community Oven
- The Tavern at Bown Crossing
- Powell’s Sweet Shoppe
The area also hosts several spas, a nail salon, a hair salon, a sensory-integration center, a bicycle shop, and much more.
If you’re like us, you’re wondering, “How did I not know this was a thing?” At Boise Escape, your team of two to twelve players will be locked in a themed house. The objective is simple: use your wits and teamwork to defeat a series of puzzles, traps, and secret passages to escape before your hour runs out!
Oh, so this is like go-carts, right? Buckle up, because this is some man-sized kart racing and you will be going harder and faster than might be reasonable. Fast Lane Indoor Kart Racing is a great event for a party, or team building, or a night out with family. It’s real-life Days of Thunder.
A lot of folks aren’t even aware that Boise has an aquarium. While it’s not huge, they do manage to pack quite a bit into the space they have. Kids will love the interactive exhibits at the Aquarium of Boise. There are many feeding opportunities, and you can even pet live sharks and stingrays!
SCIENCE! The Discovery Center of Idaho is the place to introduce your family to the wonders of science and technology. The entire facility is packed full of fun, interactive exhibits that can keep children entertained and learning for hours. It’s worth making return trips, too, as the main exhibits rotate out twice per year. The current main attraction is Sue, an amazing T-Rex display that will inspire awe and wonder.
You might have noticed those mountains that are northeast of Boise. Up somewhere near the top is Bogus Basin, primarily known as a great ski area that is normally open from Thanksgiving through April 15. In addition to the fun winter sports, during warm weather it’s also a great area for hiking, mountain biking, and disc golf! (There is a full 18-hole course on site.)
The Boise Outlets are a popular shopping destination for Boise residents and out-of-towners, alike. This is a proper factory outlet mall with a wealth of stores and plenty of parking.
- Carter’s Childrenswear
- Eddie Bauer
- Famous Footwear Outlet
- Gymboree Outlet
- Hanes Bali Playtex
- Kitchen Collection
- Pendleton Outlet
- Rocky Mtn. Chocolate Factory
- Uniform Destination
- Van Heusen
- VF Outlet
- Vitamin World
For store hours, driving directions, sales, and events, you can visit Boise Outlet’s Facebook.
Did you know that before Pokemon Go was created, people used to play games with each other in real life? In fact, even now you can enjoy the unrivaled dynamic of sharing in a tabletop game with friends or family at Goliath Gaming.
It doesn’t matter if you’re looking to command an army of Chaos Warriors in a pitched battle, or you just want to spend a night with the family playing Settlers of Catan, Goliath should be your new gaming hub.
What we really like about Goliath Gaming is that it is more than a store; there is plenty of room to hang out and have fun. You can even try games out before you buy them, and there are frequent game nights and demos to introduce you to new games.
One such open game night occurs every Saturday at 6:00 pm at Goliath Gaming. Stop by to play some new games and meet new people! It’s a blast!
Image by Peter Lovera.
While giant retail chains give up and shut down for good, local specialty stores like Rediscovered Books are going strong. They’ve been voted as the Best Local Bookstore seven years in a row. It might be because they actually love books, with owners and staff that are bibliophiles themselves.
Rediscovered Books is the literary gem of the Treasure Valley, and it’s our favorite place to pick up new releases, meet authors, or to find great deals from their selective used books section. From book clubs, live music, or the wide selection of local authors, we hope they remain a fixture in our town for years to come.
You don’t have to break the bank to have a good time bowling with your friends and family! Emerald Lanes is an old-fashioned bowling alley offering the kind of bowling experience I remember as a kid (but a lot cleaner). Cosmic bowling, arcade games, and tasty fried food accentuated by the occasional crack of a ball striking the pins.
Though it has now serious competition, Roaring Springs is Idaho’s premier waterpark. Idaho can get hot, and when the heat wave hits, there’s no place you’d rather be than drifting along Roaring Spring’s lazy river. There are a lot of fun rides that vary in intensity, a wave pool, and a top-notch kiddie play area.
Clubs to Join:
Treasure Valley Gamers
Img credit: Chris, Treasure Valley Gamers, July 2016
The Treasure Valley Gamers want to help you find your game. From role-playing games, tactical war games, to a huge variety of card and board games, this group of over 600 members aims to help connect players with one another. The TVG regularly hosts game nights, conventions, and participates in charitable opportunities. Great for experienced gamers or those just looking for a casual group to play some Munchkin with, the TVG would love to see you at their next event.
Idaho Hiking Club
Img credit: Jerry W, Idaho Hiking Club, July 2011
The Gem State has a lot of beautiful country, and there is no better way to see it than with the Idaho Hiking Club. The IHC is led by a group of knowledgeable and experienced hikers that know Idaho, providing guidance for hiking, camping, backpacking, snowshoeing and more. With thousands of members and more than 200 events per year, there is almost certainly an outdoor event going on near Boise right now!
Img Credit: Steve L., Boise Cyclists, May 2015
Boise is one of the best places to live if you love to ride your bicycle, and the Boise Cyclists are one of the best groups to join if you want to ride with friends. This is a casual, friendly group, less focused on competitive racing and expensive hardware than other clubs in Boise are. The group features regular events around the treasure valley/nearby scenic areas.
Boise Camera Club
Technology has provided a lot more access to cameras, but not very many places for photographers to get together! The Boise Camera Club welcomes all skill levels and wants to help photographers expand their skills and have a good time. They meet nearly every Tuesday and have frequent events and competitions. Come take a field trip with the Boise Camera Club!
Boise Betties Women’s Running Club
Run like a girl!
Maybe you can’t get your significant other to run with you, or perhaps you’d like to take your running to the next level by training with a club. The Boise Betties are a little more regulated (they have official memberships and everything), and so are great for providing a little structure to your running program.
Boise Modern Quilt Guild
The Boise Modern Quilt Guild is an affiliate member of the Modern Quilt Guild. These folks have their act together, giving members a great interactive way to meet other quilters, swap ideas, and even get discounts at Jo-Ann’s! While membership does have some minimal annual dues, you can swing by as a guest a couple times to decide if the group is for you. The Boise Modern Quilt Guild is a very organized and active group, and they’d love to see you at their next event!
Idaho Capital City Kennel Club
Are you a dog person? For many of us, our dogs are more family than pets. The Idaho Capital City Kennel Club is THE place to learn about canine health and training. The ICCKC is full of experts on just about every breed, dog behavior, and nutrition. Their aim is to teach responsible dog ownership.
The ICCKC is a non-profit corporation that was founded in 1956! They sponsor AKC conformation shows, obedience, rally, agility, barn hunt, and scent work trials, as well as tracking and Canine Good Citizen tests. The ICCKC even offers education programs for exhibitors, breeders, and dog owners. They also sponsor the Treasure Valley Dog Shows at Expo Idaho, along with Lizard Butte Kennel Club of Canyon County. Can you believe in 2017 there were over 1,300 dogs registered to participate in the show?!
Regular membership meetings are help the fourth Tuesday of each month at 7:00 PM, with the exception of July and December, at Idaho Fish and Game – located at 600 S Walnut St. in Boise.
Most people think kennel clubs are for the fancy folk and their show dogs, but the ICCKC welcomes dog owners at any level. Anyone interested in dogs is more than welcome!
Boise Valley Riders
Let the Riding Season Begin!
While riding a motorcycle might seem like a great solo activity, many riders like to celebrate that independence and freedom provided by their bike by riding together! If you’re looking to find a casual, friendly group to roll with, see the Boise Valley Riders. You can join this friendly crew if you promise to take care of your fellow riders and have fun (safely). No dues, they don’t mind if you don’t show up to meetings, and there are no commitments! Just show up when you can and ride.