What is there to do and see in Boise?
Idaho is commonly known as the potato state, but apart from that I had little to no idea of what one could expect from it until last week when I visited for a wedding.
While the event was my primary reason for flying out there in the first place, I was fortunately able to explore for several hours.
I first turned to Google Maps for inspiration on where to go, as I often do when exploring a new area, and as much as I wanted to drive around everywhere and see absolutely everything, I faced a different circumstance than I’m normally used to when traveling: time was more limited than usual so I had to make the most of it.
I had the pleasure of meeting Aimee from Type A Trips a few weeks ago and was reminded that there is the option to explore on a strict itinerary. I’ve let go of that kind of planning for the most part because I’ve found that itineraries hardly go as planned for one or more reasons (ex: the weather ends up bad or I end up too tired halfway through the day). I prefer having a rough plan with places I’d like to see and things I’d like to do without my whereabouts every hour set in stone.
But with just about a day to peek around potato town, I decided to give strict planning a shot again.
The following sights and activities were spread out over two days. I did take note of the times I spent per place, though, and the total time came out to about 7.5 hours:
Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge (1 hour 15 minutes)
Diversion Dam & Lucky Peak State Recreation Area (1 hour 30 minutes)
Downtown Boise (3 hours 30 minutes)
- Capitol Building & Park
- Freak Alley
- Spacebar Arcade
Old Idaho Penitentiary (1 hour 15 minutes)
(Times noted include transportation to site from the previously listed destination. The first site includes time from Downtown Boise to Nampa, where the refuge is located.)
While I was slightly disappointed that I did not get to see more, it was definitely helpful to select a few activities and focus on those. Yes, there was the option to just spend 30 minutes per place, snap some photos and leave, but that wouldn’t have allowed me to immerse myself in the places I visited.
So, back to the question: What is there to do in Boise, exactly?
Apart from the items listed above, I had my eye on Idaho Falls and Twin Falls. (Okay, so I’m actually cheating by picking those two because they’re both outside of Boise. However, they are just a few hours away and driving is a mind-clearing experience in Idaho.)
As a big nature geek, I was ecstatic to see so much green grass in the city (especially since California is in a drought right now, it was nice to see and abundance of soft green grass), so many trees, and a wealth of activities for outdoorsy people. (A popular one is the Greenbelt for cyclists and runners.)
For those who prefer urban adventures, Boise offers that as well. There are many local eateries and businesses in the downtown area and beyond. (I also had my eye on 10 Barrel Brewing Boise but didn’t have time to try it out.)
The city lacks the hustle and bustle of bigger metropolitan areas, so it offers a calmer urban experience with a suburban feel.
It’s both fortunate and unfortunate that Boise is not as hyped up as a tourist destination as Los Angeles and New York are.
It’s a good thing because the low-key vibe is maintained with less visitors crowding the area, but it’s a sad thing because it doesn’t seem to receive enough credit for the unique atmosphere it offers, local businesses around, and nature options for outdoorsy folks.
If you’re looking for a less cliché American city to travel to, Boise is a worthwhile city in the gem state 😉
4 thoughts on “7.5 hours in Boise”
This is a great article and I’m glad to see travelers invest some time in Boise. I’ve lived all over the US and the world and I love calling Boise my home. Next time you have limited time – also look into a hike up Camel’s Back in the North End, and while you’re in the neighborhood, get some ice cream at Goodies in Hyde Park. If you have a couple more hours – start right there at the penitentiary you mentioned and hike to Table Rock – a steep affair, but with a great view of the entire valley (plus, if you don’t have the time or inclination to hike, you can drive around and get to the top by car!)
And while I love the Space Bar – you’ve got to head about 15 minutes west to Eagle for a stop at Grinker’s – the best vintage arcade in the valley. While you are out there, you can take hwy 55 north, and in 45 minutes, be in Garden Valley or Crouch – two small towns that are right on the southfork of the Payette River. Lots of hiking, fishing and sitting-in-cabins-while-sipping-whiskey moments to be had out there.
But back downtown, the park system and bike path system in town is just great and for a lot of Boiseans, is a destination unto itself. The greenbelt path runs all the way out to Lucky Peak, the spot you’ve pictured. So you can have a lovely stroll near downtown, or you can do serious interval training on bikes or running shoes. It’s a real asset to the town. Also on the path are several frisbee golf courses in our great parks, and during the summer, the Boise River is floatable by the most novice inner-tubers. Got four hours to kill on a 100-degree summer day? You can’t do better than the Boise River, which is always frigid due to being released from the base of the reservoir northeast of town.
There’s an easy-going manner to Boise residents, and they will help you find things to do and places to see. When you come back, contact us and we’ll show you some of the sights!
Thanks so much for all the suggestions! I do plan on visiting again sometime because it seems like there’s way more to do in Boise than is talked about. I’ll be writing down all the things you’ve mentioned on a list. It’s made me more excited about visiting again. Hopefully we can connect when I drop by! 🙂