Boise is the capital of Idaho, as well as the most populous city within the state, with over 229,000 people calling it home. With a thriving downtown area filled with luxury apartments, as well as trendy cafes, restaurants, bars, and microbreweries, it isn’t hard to see why the city has been called “the best place for millennials to live in the US”.
Surprisingly, it’s not all hustle and bustle in this midsized city, as running through the heart of the region you’ll find Boise river, which is surrounded by a picturesque 25-mile stretch of tree-lined trails called the Greenbelt.
Even those who have lived in the city for a decade would agree they haven’t experienced all that Boise has to offer, while for those new to the region – well, they’ve got a lot to look forward to as well.
Ready to discover the best of Boise, Idaho? Let’s get started!
Why We Love to Travel
From meeting new people to experiencing new sights, sounds, and smells – is there anything more exciting or rejuvenating than a break from the day-to-day mundanity? Traveling is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a new culture, setting, or way-of-life, but the best part is this: you don’t have to venture far from home to enjoy what this world has to offer.
Whether your journey takes you across your own city, to an unexplored part of your state, or even to the other side of the world, there’s no doubt you will still learn a lot about your surroundings – and yourself – along the way.
Benefits of Traveling Locally
While the culture an hour away from your home might not be drastically different from what you’re used to, you can still gain a deepened sense of appreciation for where you’ve laid your roots. Plus, traveling locally has a lot of benefits:
- More cost-effective. Local travel is certainly a budget-friendly way to explore! Many activities and local parks are free or have a low cost of entry. For day trips, you can also pack your own meals to save.
- Eco-friendly way to travel. Travel is hard on the environment, but putzing around your area is more sustainable than air travel.
- Quick trips. Getting out locally means you can do it more often! Long weekend trips are a lot easier to take when the destination is a short drive away.
- Easy to plan. Preparing your itinerary for a local getaway will likely save you some time and stress.
- More convenient. Especially if you have little ones, sticking close to home may be much more convenient than far-off destinations. If you forget something, have an emergency, or need to cut the trip short, being close by definitely has its benefits.
Explore Local: Boise, Idaho
Whether you’ve lived in Boise your whole life, are a recently new transplant to the city, or are planning on visiting the region sometime in the near future, Boise offers an exciting new experience in almost any direction you look.
Read on to start your Boise, Idaho adventure!
*Note: Some of the suggestions may not be doable due to coronavirus closures, but keep this list handy for when things start opening back up more! Be sure to check individual pages for specific operation details.
State Parks in Boise
Remember how we mentioned that Boise wasn’t all hustle and bustle? There are also plenty of state parks and national parks both within and surrounding the area, all of which provide a tranquil escape for those looking to surround themselves by nature.
Lucky Peak State Park: You’ll find this state park located on and near Lucky Peak Lake, approximately ten miles east of Boise. It covers an area measuring 240 acres and is the perfect place for swimming, picnicking, fishing, boating, or biking. Lucky Peak State Park is comprised of three main areas: Discovery Park, Sandy Point beach, and Spring Shores.
Eagle Island State Park: Located on the southwest outskirts of the city of Eagle, just over 12 miles from Boise, is Eagle Island State Park, which is bordered by the Boise River. Here, you can enjoy fun recreational activities such as swimming, horseback riding, picnicking, hiking, and more. There’s even a waterslide and zip line for those feeling more adventurous!
Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area: Located just 35 miles south of Boise is this popular conservation area, which is most known for its large populations of nesting raptors, estimated to be the largest in the world. It’s a popular park among passionate birdwatchers and also offers educational programs and workshops to the public.
Bruneau Dunes State Park: Just over an hour’s drive from Boise is another popular state park, which is home to a large number of incredible sand dunes, including the largest single-structure sand dune in North America. Here, you can enjoy activities such as hiking, sand sledding, fishing, horseback riding, camping, and stargazing.
Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge: This important breeding area for mammals, birds, and other animals is located just 28.5 miles out of the city. It also offers year-round outdoor activities, including wildlife-watching, fishing, environmental education, boating, swimming, picnicking, and more.
Best Hiking Trails
Still need to get your nature fix? If you’re craving seeing even more of the beautiful scenery that surrounds Boise, then there are also plenty of hiking and walking trails for you and your family to enjoy.
Old Penitentiary Trailhead: The Old Idaho Penitentiary parking lot gives you access to popular trailheads within the Table Rock area, with each of these trails offer stunning views of Boise and the Treasure Valley. The most popular route is Table Rock Trail #15, as it takes hikers to the top of Table Rock.
Oregon Trail: Located in Oregon Trail Reserve, this easy 4.5 km track is good for all skill levels and provides a stunning dessert landscape with plenty of wildflowers. The beautiful scenery is well worth it, but be sure to avoid hiking in the heat, as there is no shade provided.
Dry Creek Trail: Located in the foothills of Boise, the Dry Creek Trail is a popular choice among locals and visitors, as it’s close to downtown Boise and takes walkers along Dry and Shingle Creeks. We recommend doing this hike in fall when the entire canyon is filled with shades of gold, orange, and red.
Best restaurants in Boise
Boise is home to a bustling and trendy dining scene, so there’s sure to be a restaurant, café, or diner to satisfy your cravings. If you’ve worked up an appetite after a long hike, or simply feel like treating yourself to a delicacy, then you’re in luck. Here are our top restaurant recommendations!
There’s a reason why Chandler’s Steakhouse is known as one of the premier fine dining restaurants in downtown Boise. You see, it serves the best steak, seafood, wines, and cocktails – all while bringing you live jazz entertainment. Locals rave about the scallops, as well as those cooked-to-perfection steaks.
Get ready to “stimulate your senses and elevate your mind.” At Barbacoa, their open-fire grilling process and menu offerings are a tribute to the ranchers and cowboys of the Pacific Northwest. Along with their “inventive Spanish-American fare”, you’re also sure to love the unique restaurant décor, including the work of talented local artists.
Bardenay Restaurant & Distillery
There are a few reasons why locals and tourists flock to this restaurant when in the Boise area. Firstly, Bardenay was the nation’s first restaurant distillery. Secondly, they offer an innovative menu featuring delicious Northwest cuisine. And thirdly? Well, who doesn’t love delicious, handcrafted cocktails? They also offer gluten-free options, as well as a kids menu.
Big Jud’s Custom Burgers
If you’ve just gone on an extra-long hike, or are feeling particularly ravenous, then Big Jud’s legendary one and two-pound burgers are waiting for you. According to the restaurant, they’re world-famous, and locals sure do get a kick from them. Other popular menu items include their bleu bacon burger, hot buff chicken, and bottomless sodas.
Locals love Fork, not only for their exquisite food but also for their commitment to sourcing many of their key ingredients from local Boise and Northwest producers. The owners have turned one of Boise’s oldest downtown landmarks into a comfortable, relaxed dining room to make everyone feel at home. We hear their Signature Warm Butter Cake is a winner.
Fun things to do in Boise
After feasting and enjoying all that the hiking trails and state parks have to offer, you may be wondering: “what next?” Well, when it comes to Boise’s attractions and activities, you’re only just getting started. Here are some of the most fun things on offer in and around the city!
For kids and families
Looking to entertain some little ones? Or perhaps you’ve got some teenagers in-tow who are starting to get a little bored? Either way, these attractions will entertain both children, teens, and adults alike!
Aquarium of Boise
Less than $12 per person will grant you access to the Aquarium of Boise, which is home to over 250 different species of animals and marine life. You’ll find numerous exhibitions to keep you entertained, offering a closer look into species such as sharks, stingrays, tortoise, reptiles, and so much more.
Discovery Center of Idaho
As Idaho’s only hands-on science center, the Discovery Center of Idaho is a popular local attraction, particularly among kids. It features over 150 hands-on exhibits and non-traditional educational programs and aims to inspire lifelong interest and learning in science, technology, engineering, and math – especially among younger generations.
On the cheap
What can you do in or around Boise that won’t cost anything more than a few dollars? The answer: plenty! Here are just two of our favorite attractions within the area that can be enjoyed on the cheap.
Old Idaho Penitentiary
Non-members can gain access to the Old Idaho Penitentiary for $5-$10 per person, a place which was once home to some of the West’s most desperate criminals. It first opened its doors in 1872, so you can just imagine the fascinating history and stories this place has to tell. The site features thirty historic buildings and special exhibits, while visitors can also take a look at Solitary Confinement, the cell blocks, and the Gallows.
Idaho Botanical Garden
For just $5-$8 admission, you can enjoy the beautiful sights and sounds of the Idaho Botanical Garden. This tranquil oasis is located along Old Penitentiary Road and you can explore it via a self-guided or group tour. There’s also a garden store on-sight offering a great selection of local products and a wide variety of botanical and garden-inspired gifts.
What should you do in Boise once the sun goes down? We’re glad you asked! Here are our suggested night-time attractions.
The hip and happening downtown district of Boise is home to lots of popular bars and nightclubs, all of which would serve as the perfect way to enjoy some of the nightlife that this city has to offer. Why not catch a local band or DJ at The Olympic, before sampling the wine menu at Ocho’s Wine Bar, then trying your hand at some Voicebox Karaoke? Now, that’s a night out!
Boise Classic Movies
The Egyptian Theatre is home to Boise’s classic movies, which is a unique concept that you’re sure to love. Here, locals and tourists suggest the movies they want to see, vote among the suggestions, and then once enough tickets to a particular showing are sold, it’s go-time! At BCM, people routinely cheer the heroes, boo the villains, dress up as characters, sing the songs, and more. It’s a fun movie experience like no other.
Free things to do in Boise
If you’re wondering what free things there are to do in Boise, then you’re in luck! We’ve listed some of our favorite attractions below, both of which won’t even cost you a cent in admission!
Idaho State Capitol Building
Fancy a tour of the Idaho State Capitol Building? Visitors are welcome to explore the Capitol at their leisure from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday – Friday. During the legislative session and other times, however, areas may be restricted due to government functions. The best part? Admission is free!
Capital City Public Market
From April through October, on Saturdays between 9:30am-1:30pm, you can peruse the Capital City Public Market and its wide offering of fresh produce and other delights from local artisans. The Market now consists of 130+ vendors a day during the peak season and fills Idaho Street and 8th Street with thousands of shoppers every week.
Spas in Boise
After you’ve been on your feet all day, you may even feel like some rest and relaxation to get you through the night. Luckily, there are plenty of highly-rated spas in Boise, offering services such as massages, facials, manicures, and so much more.
River Run Day Spa
At River Run Day Spa, their aim is to help your stress simply melt away. In this calming atmosphere, you can enjoy treatments such as massage therapy, facials, chemical peels, dermaplaning, and more. Prioritize self-care and take some time for yourself while wandering around Boise.
Located in the heart of Boise is Spa Urbana, a one-stop destination for beauty and relaxation. Treat yourself to a Spa Package or one of their luxurious body treatments, such as a chocolate truffle treatment or foot therapy. If you’re in a hurry to get back to some of Boise’s attractions, try a quick massage or facial.
Best Gyms and Yoga Studios
If you’re less about relaxation and more about sweating it out, then perhaps one of Boise’s top-rated gyms or yoga studios is for you?
Sage Yoga Boise
Looking to find peace, stillness, strength, and healing? You’ll find all of this and more at Sage Yoga Boise, which offers group or private yoga sessions, as well as workshops and events. You’ll also find some unique wellness services here, such as Jin Shin Jyutsu.
Jack City Fitness
As Boise’s only results-oriented fitness facility, Jack City Fitness is an extremely popular gym within the region. You can have a movement assessment or free fitness consultation before you get started, or dive straight into a class that focuses on HIIT, Kinstretch, movement, recovery, functionality, and more.
Day Trips Near Boise
Looking to fulfill your wanderlust by heading outside of the region for a day? You could spend decades within Boise without barely scratching the surface of all there is to do in this city, but consider these days trip next time you fancy a new adventure.
Idaho City Historical Area
Just under an hour’s drive from Boise is Idaho City, which is filled with ghost towns and historic locations. Its rustic downtown area is reminiscent of the Wild West, where you’ll find antique stores, unique dining, and even an old sarsaparilla shop. If you’re looking to unwind, the area is also home to a natural hot springs pool known as The Springs.
Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve
If you fancy venturing just over 3 hours’ drive from Boise, you’ll be in for a real treat. Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve is just one of four national parks in Idaho and can be described as a “volcanic wonderland”. You’ll feel as though you’re hiking on the moon with its unique landscape, plus it’s International Dark Sky Park, so if you find yourself there at night, you’re sure to see a spectacular showcase of stars.
As a final reminder, some of these activities may need to wait until businesses fully reopen from coronavirus closures. However, there is still much to see and experience in Boise that you can enjoy today! What are your favorite spots in Boise? Send them our way to [email protected] or by tagging us on Instagram @rvshare and using the hashtag #rvsharelocal.