Best Things To Do in Boise
As the capital and most populous city in Idaho, Boise contains a host of things to do, ranging from outdoor attractions, such as the Boise River Greenbelt, the Kathryn Albertson Park and the Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area. But its downtown area is a great place to explore as well, and several unique attractions, such as the Old Idaho Penitentiary and the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, are worth including on your itinerary.
Updated November 28, 2017
- #1View all Photos#1 in BoiseParks and Gardens, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
The Boise River Greenbelt stretches 25 miles along the Boise River and offers runners, joggers, walkers and cyclists a beautiful place to get some exercise. Since it travels through the heart of downtown Boise, some commuters even use it as a route for reaching their workplaces. The tree-lined trail also winds past several of the city's most popular parks, including Kathryn Albertson Park and Julia Davis Park. What's more, the city created a scavenger hunt with a map and clues on its website that prompts visitors to explore the trail and learn more about the city's history along the way.
"Peaceful" and "relaxing" are two words travelers commonly used to describe their experience walking their dogs or riding their bikes on the trail. Other travelers appreciated that the Boise Greenbelt isn't very crowded, but it still feels safe with lights illuminating the trail in most places.
- #2View all Photos#2 in BoiseParks and Gardens, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
The 41-acre Kathryn Albertson Park is filled with broad footpaths and peppered with gazebos, which are ideal for the main attraction here: wildlife watching. Along with various waterfowl, herons and owls, this park contains salamanders, turtles, bullfrogs, beavers and rabbits, among other wildlife. In fact, the park prohibits dogs between March 1 and June 30 because birds nest during this time. The park was named for Kathryn Albertson, a Boise native and a major donor to the city.
Recent visitors praised Kathryn Albertson Park, saying it's Boise's best and recommending that travelers visit in the fall, when the park is drenched in vibrant hued foliage.
- #3View all Photos#3 in BoiseParks and Gardens, Sightseeing, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDParks and Gardens, Sightseeing, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
The Idaho Botanical Garden occupies more than 30 acres of what used to be the grounds of the Old Idaho Penitentiary, but now those acres are filled with gardens ranging in theme from succulents to roses to native Idaho plants. There are also vegetable, herb and meditation gardens, and a lineup of workshops and events, such as the "Winter Garden aGlow," in which the garden lights up with hundreds of thousands of holiday lights. Although you can take a self-guided tour at your own leisure, the Idaho Botanical Garden also offers guided tours for groups at no additional charge, though you'll need to schedule these ahead of time by calling the attraction.
Locals say there's no bad time to visit the Idaho Botanical Garden, thanks to the staff's ability to keep the grounds filled with seasonal plants. Other reviewers remarked on the diverse visitors that this attraction appeals to – from children to singles to even someone about to propose marriage or have their wedding.
- #4View all Photos#4 in BoiseMonuments and Memorials, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDMonuments and Memorials, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDRead More
Occupying less than an acre of space, the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial is a park "inspired by Anne Frank's faith in humanity," according to the City of Boise. Designed by Idaho Falls architect Kurt Karst, the educational park employs natural elements, such as water, stone and native flora, to extend a message of hope and spread information about human rights issues. A 180-foot quote wall, with words from humanitarians, and a bronze sculpture of Anne Frank as if she's pulling open the curtain from her attic hideaway, are two of the park's highlights. Visitors may be surprised to learn this is the only Anne Frank memorial in the United States.
"Thought-provoking," "inspiring," "enchanting" and "beautiful" are a few of the words recent visitors used to describe the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial. Others say it's a moving tribute to one of the most famous Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
- #5View all PhotosfreeDowntown Boise#5 in BoiseShopping, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDShopping, Sightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Downtown Boise – or Boise's central business district – sits north of the Boise River and welcomes visitors with its local restaurants, shops and attractions. Here you'll find the Idaho State Capitol Building and the nearby Zoo Boise and Albertsons Stadium, home to the Boise State Broncos football team. Two markets operate from the spring to the fall and winter, and a collection of popular events, such as Restaurant Week, fill downtown Boise's calendar.
Recent visitors highly recommend spending time in downtown Boise, also suggesting that travelers check out the district's ever-changing lineup of events on downtownboise.org to take advantage of the vibrant activities. Others highlight the high-caliber dining establishments and nightlife venues.
- #6View all Photos#6 in BoiseHiking, Recreation, SkiingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDHiking, Recreation, SkiingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Less than a 20-mile drive north of downtown Boise, the Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area attracts visitors to its ski and snowboard slopes in the winter and its hiking trails in the summer. Bogus Basin also provides skiing and snowboarding lessons – and a lodge to relax and enjoy a bite and a drink after being out on the slopes.
Recent visitors can't say enough about the beauty of Bogus Basin's 360-degree Treasure Valley views and its variety of ski runs. But even without powder on the slopes, reviewers rave about Bogus Basin, citing hiking and mountain biking opportunities.
- #7View all Photos#7 in BoiseSightseeing, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
The Old Idaho Penitentiary started receiving criminals to its cell blocks, solitary confinement and even gallows back in 1872 – and closed in 1973, after a prison riot. Over the 101-year timespan, Old Pen – as it's sometimes called – housed more than 13,000 inmates. Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the prison is open to visitors who wish to learn more about some of its notorious inmates and the harsh prison conditions on a tour.
Recent visitors recommend watching the short video on the history of the penitentiary on-site, as it gives great context to the rest of the tour. Other travelers warn against bringing young children, as some of the descriptions of the inmates' crimes and executions might be too graphic.
- #8View all Photos#8 in BoiseTours, Wineries/BreweriesTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDTours, Wineries/BreweriesTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDRead More
In the last few decades, Idaho's wine industry has experienced remarkable growth. According to Visit Idaho, the state contains upward of 50 wineries and more than 1,200 acres of vineyards – including a handful or so within striking distance to Boise.
Don't be turned off by Cinder Wines' warehouse exterior: Inside you'll find a large, tastefully decorated tasting room. The winery, which has won awards for its syrah and off-dry riesling, among others, is located less than 3 miles from downtown Boise in Garden City. Recent visitors praised the tasty wines and friendly and knowledgeable staff at Cinder. Split Rail Winery is another nearby spot worth trying. Tucked inside a converted auto mechanic's shop in Garden City, Split Rail aims to sell "killer wines" that "defeat the pompous mantra of wine." You'll find wine by the can and growler, as well as by the bottle here, and recent patrons call the service and wine top-notch. Coiled is another Garden City spot, which specializes in syrah and riesling wines. Yet another is Syringa, which uses Italian and Spanish grapes to make its tempranillo and sangiovese, among others.
- #9 in BoiseMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
To learn about the Basque history and heritage, the Basque Museum & Cultural Center is a must-do. Established in 1985, the museum is the only Basque museum in the United States and its mission is to educate visitors on Basque history in Idaho and worldwide. The exhibits tell a narrative of the Basque history in northern Spain and shine a light on the Basque community that settled in Boise as sheepherders.
Recent visitors highlight the museum's small bar, where you can order Basque specialties like Kalimotxo, which is a mixture of Coke, red wine and ice. Others said it was fascinating learning about the unique culture both abroad and in Idaho, adding that the exhibits were interesting and informative.
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