17 FANTASTIC THINGS TO DO IN BOISE, IDAHO

It doesn’t take much for visitors to realize that Boise, Idaho is an unexpected treasure of the United States. Set against the breathtaking backdrop of the Boise Mountains, this amazing city is waiting to welcome you.

There are always things to do in Boise, from jaw-dropping nature hikes to enriching museums and arts attractions.

Here are 17 things to do in Boise that are going to make you want to plan a visit here soon. 

COOLEST PLACES TO STAY IN BOISE

Best Budget Option. Holiday Inn Express Boise Downtown is an excellent accommodation for its downtown location and family-friendly vibe. The pool and free breakfast daily don’t hurt!

Best Luxury Option. Hotel 43 Boise features a great downtown location, luxury accommodations and an award winning steak and seafood house.

Best for Families. Home2 Suites By Hilton Boise Downtown has an indoor pool, and is a short walk from the zoo and art museum. Be sure to get a suite with kitchenette and microwave.

DOWNTOWN BOISE

THINGS TO DO IN BOISE, IDAHO

Downtown Boise is the heart of culture, cuisine, and shopping for the city. No wonder several of the items on the list, including the Basque Center and Boise Art Museum, reside in the downtown district. 

You don’t have to go far into downtown to find something to do. Start your day with a stop at one of the district’s delicious brunch stops like the Flying M Coffee house and Bacon, a restaurant boasting five different kinds of bacon on their menu! 

While downtown, you can spend your day touring art museums like Boise Art Glass or catch a Boise Broncos football game. Other options include visiting the historic Boise State Capitol or window shopping ‘til you drop!

If you’re a night owl, never fear Boise has a thrilling nightlife scene downtown. Dance the night away at the Balcony Club, where killer drinks and music make memories, or visit Space Bar Arcade, where the games and drinks are out of this world!

TABLE ROCK

TABLE ROCK

Table Rock has drawn visitors for thousands of years; the Northern Shoshone tribes hold the Table Rock mesa and its many caves as a sacred place. In the late 1950s, the Junior Chamber of Commerce built a massive white cross at the top of the mesa. Today, hiking up the plateau to see the six-stories-tall cross is a must for visitors to Table Rock.

Table Rock is part of the Ridge to River Trail System, one of the few full-time trail crews in the entire country. Visitors reap the benefits of the full-time crew, enjoying well-maintained and safe trails during their visit to the mesa. Ridge to Rivers has a dedicated list of routes for visitors to explore with paths that suit all skill levels.

The awe-inspiring mesa of Table Rock rises between Boise and the foothills, providing the perfect day trip for the outdoor enthusiast. While there is no car access to Table Rock, the bike, hike, or walk you take to get to the top is worth it; you can’t get a better view of the city anywhere else!

IDAHO BOTANICAL GARDEN

IDAHO BOTANICAL GARDEN
Courtesy of Idaho Botanical Garden

The Idaho Botanical Garden first opened its doors in 1984. Its grounds lie in the heart of the Old Penitentiary district. Among its offerings are 12 themed gardens, all of which promise plenty of botanical beauty for you to explore. The garden is an homage to over 35 years of horticulture, conservation, and gardening. 

Kids and adults alike will enjoy a guided tour through the winding paths of the Idaho Native Plant Garden or the Lewis and Clark Native Plant Garden, where indigenous Idahoan plant life thrives. For a calm, reflective afternoon, I recommend taking a stroll through the Rose or Meditation Garden, where tranquility and fragrant perfumes practically float through the air.

The Botanical Gardens also feature the local art of Boise along its many paths. Art exhibits of statutes and sculptures occur throughout the year. If you visit Boise in the summer, make sure to check out the garden’s Outlaw Field Summer Concert or the Great Garden Escape series, where local and international musicians take to the stage for a night of revelry.

BOISE RIVER GREENBELT

BOISE RIVER GREENBELT

The city of Boise features some of the most extensive and beloved parks in the U.S. The Boise River Greenbelt provides 25 miles of scenic parkways and trails for visitors and locals to enjoy.

Along the Boise River Greenbelt lies the beloved “Ribbon of Jewels,” a series of parks that dots the greenbelt. Each park honors a civic leader of Boise, and features different amenities, with standard features ranging from baseball fields, playgrounds, picnic areas, ponds, and streams for the public to enjoy.

Visitors to the Boise River Greenbelt can enjoy various activities outside of playgrounds and picnics. Wildlife viewing remains a popular pastime along the lush paths of the greenbelt. Additionally, many of the ponds and rivers stay stocked by the Idaho Fish and Game, and yes, you can fish in them! The best part? Most of the greenbelt amenities are free to enjoy.

BOGUS BASIN MOUNTAIN

BOGUS BASIN MOUNTAIN

Outdoor enthusiasts need to look no further than Boise’s Bogus Basin Mountain for an adventurous getaway. Beneath the fronds of its sweeping pine trees, you’ll discover a natural paradise begging for your exploration!

Come winter, the mountain turns into a powder dusted wonderland. Snowtubing, Nordic skiing, and a day spent sipping cocoa at the J.R. Simplot Lodge are popular cold-weather activities. In the summer, mining for gems and arrowheads, bungee jumping, and rock climbing take over the mountain’s slopes. 

Of course, while you’re visiting, you’ll want to make sure and swing by the Glade Runner, Idaho’s only mountain coaster, while you’re there. You’ll love the feel of the wind rushing through your hair as you speed down the mountainside on your personal coaster cart. 

FLOAT THE BOISE RIVER

FLOAT THE BOISE RIVER

Not many cities can claim to have a built-in lazy river going through their downtown, but Boise can. From the scenic eaves of Barber Park, over 125,000 people take to the river for a leisurely float through Downtown Boise. 

“Floating the Boise” from Barber Park is only open during the summer months. The park offers shuttle services, inner tube rentals, and rafts for the public. While on your luxurious float down the river, you’ll discover the wildlife of Boise, perhaps even catching a glimpse of deer through the tree line!

Families looking to make the trip to Boise a bigger event can even rent the Barber Park Education and Event Center to complete their family-fun vacation. The center offers a warm fireplace, complete sound system, and catering accommodations; it’s a popular stop for weddings and family reunions!

BASQUE BLOCK

BASQUE BLOCK
Courtesy of Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau

A unique exploration of history awaits visitors to Boise’s Basque Block. The Basque region resides between the French and Spanish Pyrenees, but Boise has a deep connection to Basque immigrants commemorated in the revitalized Basque Block. 

As you walk through the streets of Basque Block, make sure to visit the Basque Museum Cultural Center. The Center strives to preserve the history of Basque immigrants and their culture throughout Boise and the American West. Artifacts, oral records and tapes, and photographs detailing Basque culture in Europe and the United States reside within its walls.

While at the square, you’ll want to try some Basque cuisine and activities. Swing by Bar Gernika for a traditional lunch of lamb stew and delicious flan. Afterward, enjoy a game of handball at the Anduiza house. If you visit during September, top off your visit with one of the city’s Scavenger Hunts that start in the Basque Block – winners get bragging rights and prizes, plus a fantastic night exploring the city! 

WORLD CENTER FOR BIRDS OF PREY

WORLD CENTER FOR BIRDS OF PREY
Courtesy of World Center for Birds of Prey

At the World Center for Birds of Prey, visitors get up close, nose-to-beak encounters with raptors from around the world! Since 1970, the World Center for Birds of Prey has fought to preserve the declining populations of raptors. 

The World Center for Birds of Prey began its preservation journey by saving the Peregin Falcon species native to Boise. Today, the center features raptors from North America to Asia. Their impressive efforts have helped over 100 raptor species. 

Try to plan your visit to the World Center in the Autumn if you can. During September through November, the center puts on their “Fall Flights” event, where the raptors that call the center their home take to the air for visitors in an educational, awe-inspiring program.

OLD IDAHO PENITENTIARY

OLD IDAHO PENITENTIARY

At the Old Idaho Penitentiary, you can take a walk through Idaho’s dark criminal past!  The prison turned museum first opened its doors in 1872, and during its tenure as the State Penitentiary, it housed some of the most infamous criminals in the West! 

For the most in-depth experience, take one of the museum’s guided tours, where volunteers will share the sinister stories that make up the prison’s past. You’ll wander through thirty historic buildings, including cell blocks the notorious Solitary Confinement cells, and visit the Gallows where many prisoners met their end.

Before you book your tickets, check out the Penitentiary’s website. The museum often hosts unique events for the public throughout the year. One of the most popular programs is the site’s Paranormal Investigations, Cemetary tours, and night visits, where the ghosts of the Penitentiary come to life. 

FREAK ALLEY GALLERY

FREAK ALLEY GALLERY
Courtesy of Freak Alley Gallery

The city of Boise features more than just delights for the outdoor adventurer; the city also boasts a thriving art scene. One of the best galleries in the city is the open-air Freak Alley Gallery, where multiple artists display their murals and work in downtown Boise.

The first mural to grace Freak Alley Gallery appeared in 2002. Crafted by artist Colby Aker, the mural still graces the back alley door of the Moon Cafe. Now, Boise’s Freak Alley hosts some of the best graffiti art in the nation.

Every year, new artwork crops up in the gallery. A large festival of creativity welcomes artists and community members to celebrate and create fresh art for the gallery during the summer. Visiting the gallery is free, and it’s a perfect way to start your exploration of all Downtown Boise has to offer!

IDAHO ANNE FRANK HUMAN RIGHTS MEMORIAL

IDAHO ANNE FRANK HUMAN RIGHTS MEMORIAL
Courtesy of the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial

Named a “Site of Conscious” by the  International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial seeks to educate visitors about human rights and social justice problems of history and the present. It is the only dedicated human rights memorial in the United States.

The site consists of an outdoor classroom and open-air exhibits featuring the words of Anne Frank and other notable and unknown poets, activists, and public speakers. In addition, you’ll see a sapling from the Anne Frank Tree and one of the only permanently displayed depictions of the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The memorial grounds are peaceful, and at sunset, the sandstone and bronze statues turn to liquid gold against the fading light. Two statues are emotionally powerful – at the amphitheater, you can see young Anne peering out from her family’s hideaway. Another sculpture details the spiral of injustice that leads to human tragedies like the Holocaust.

ZOO BOISE

ZOO BOISE
Courtesy of Zoo Boise

If you’re looking for a family-friendly event perfect for exploring the wild side of Boise, Zoo Boise is for you! Located in the heart of Boise’s Downtown District, Zoo Boise dedicates itself to conservation, education, and fun for all!

When visiting Zoo Boise, you’ll discover over 300 animals that represent over 100 species of Mother Earth! Fan-favorites like lions, penguins, and elephants reside in the zoo walls. In addition, you’ll see creatures from around the globe, including hyenas, capybaras, exotic frogs, and even butterflies.

To make your family visit extra-special, make time to feed a giraffe or sloth at one of the zoo’s “encounters.” Or book a conservation cruise and journey down the zoo’s lagoon, where you’ll see monkeys and vultures flit through the trees. 

LUCKY PEAK STATE PARK

LUCKY PEAK STATE PARK
Courtesy of Lucky Peak State Park

Exchange the hustle and bustle of the city for a day hiking on the trails, swimming, and picnicking while surrounded by the beauty of Idaho’s natural wonders at Lucky Peak State Park

Families and their furry friends can enjoy a leisurely picnic and afternoon of fetch or stroll at Discovery Park. Surrounded by the craggy canyons of Lucky Peak, Discovery Park and Sandy Point also feature an extensive walking trail, paved greenbelt, disc golf, horseshoes, and volleyball courts for visitors to use. 

Water lovers can dive into the crystal clear waters of Sandy Point beach or bring their water toys to the Spring Shores Marina for a day of boating and water skiing. Volleyball, concessions, and walking paths dot the beach areas of the park, too.

BOISE FARMERS MARKET

BOISE FARMERS MARKET
Courtesy of Boise Farmer’s Market

Boise has a thriving agricultural community that you can explore at the local farmer’s market. While many markets are only open in the Spring or Summer, Boise’s farmer’s market is also available during the Winter.

The Boise Farmer’s Market has adapted to the changing times. It now offers walk-thru and drive-thru options to allow guests to enjoy the market no matter their circumstances. Even a mobile market provides farm-fresh foods from market vendors around the city!

While visiting the market, you can expect fares from various vendors. Fresh pasta, locally roasted coffee, local meats and cheeses, and baked goods are just some of the offerings of local vendors found there. I recommend grabbing a delicious breakfast at the market before exploring Boise!

IDAHO SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL

IDAHO SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL
Courtesy of Idaho Shakespeare Festival

Experience the works of Shakespeare in a theatre unlike any other at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival! The festival occurs outdoors at the Festival Amphitheater & Reserve, where local wildlife cohabitates with the theatre. 

Shakespearean and contemporary plays come to life on the riverbank during the festival. In addition, guests can enjoy an evening of culture, mini-concerts, and delicious food from Cafe Shakespeare.

The young performer in your family can explore the art of theatre during one of the Idaho Shakespeare Festival’s summer camps. During camp, school-age youth and young adults will learn the ins and outs of theatre while enjoying outdoor activities and games that culminate in a performance for their parents.

BOISE ART MUSEUM

BOISE ART MUSEUM
Courtesy of Boise Art Museum

The Boise Art Museum, known by locals as BAM, maintains one of the best art collections in the Northwest. Its revolving collection of art includes murals, paintings, sculptures, and pottery.

The museum offers group and self-guided tours for art enthusiasts and newbies alike. In addition, kids can get in on the art by exploring the ARTexperience Gallery, where non-traditional and creative media captures their imagination.

Art enthusiasts should mark their calendar for Labor Day when the BAM hosts Art in the Park. During the festival, over 200 artists display and sell their work. In addition, visitors can wander the artwork while enjoying local food and hands-on activities for the kids.

VISIT A PARK

VISIT A PARK
Julia Davis Park

If you haven’t had enough of Boise’s nature scene during your trip, you can check out one of their many parks for additional outdoor fun. 

If you’re looking for a BBQ-worthy park, check out Camel’s Back Park. An outdoor gym, tennis court, and several playgrounds provide ample activities for the family to enjoy while they wait for the burgers to finish cooking!

For a classic stroll through rose-lined paths, take a walk through Julia Davis Park. It’s the oldest park in the city and spans over 43-acres. It has a tennis court, bocce, and horseshoe courts for the whole family to enjoy. 

Another option for a calmer afternoon of quiet contemplation is to visit Kathryn Albertson Park, where 41-acres of scenic walking paths provide a Zen-like atmosphere for visitors. The park follows a scenic water-way walk, where you can spot waterfowl, salamanders, and turtles.

MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO IDAHO

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WHERE TO STAY IN BOISE

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