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.
Travelers commonly described the area as relaxing and peaceful and enjoyed 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. 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 recommended 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 at no additional charge. Free tours are offered on select Thursdays and Saturdays, May through September.
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. However, a few reviewers were disappointed with the garden's small size.
- #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. It also boasts a sapling from the Anne Frank chestnut tree in Amsterdam.
Recent visitors described the memorial as a peaceful and beautiful place for contemplation. 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 farmers 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 PhotosfreeRidge to Rivers#6 in BoiseHiking, Recreation, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDHiking, Recreation, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
The Boise Foothills, always an ever-present and gorgeous backdrop to the city, offers more than an opportunity for a pretty picture. You can head out for an hour, or even a day, of adventure on the Ridge to Rivers system, an interconnected network of roads and trails running through the foothills. The190-mile trail system links neighborhoods with public lands with an almost unlimited amount of options for hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers. Landscapes run the gamut from grasslands to scrub slopes to tree-lined creeks leading to the Boise National Forest.
Both locals and visitors rave about the accessibility and the variety of trails. Reviewers were pleased with the well-marked trails and said it's easy to pick up a paper map from most stores around town. The website also details trails well-suited for families, mountain bike loops, trails for visitors with limited mobility, equestrian paths and trails for visitors with dogs.
- #7View all Photos#7 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 couldn'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. Other warm-weather activities include a scenic chair lift, an alpine coaster, a climbing wall and summer tubing.
- #8View all Photos#8 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 due to a rising prison population and outdated conditions. 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 recommended watching the short video on the history of the penitentiary on-site, as it gives important 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. Reviewers also praised the tour guides and suggested tagging along on a guided tour, especially since it does not cost extra.
- #9View all Photos#9 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. Below you'll find a few favorites from recent Boise visitors.
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 shiraz 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.
- #10 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-see. 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. The museum houses oral history archives, a library, a collection of records and tapes, manuscript materials, and a variety of artifacts and photographs.
Recent visitors said it was fascinating to learn about the unique culture both abroad and in Idaho, adding that the exhibits were interesting and informative. After visiting the museum, many reviewers suggested taking time to explore the whole block, which features other Basque attractions and landmarks.
- #11View all Photos#11 in BoiseMuseums, Zoos and AquariumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseums, Zoos and AquariumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
The World Center for Birds of Prey is an indoor-outdoor education center. Visitors get a chance to see all sorts of raptors, including eagles, owls, vultures, hawks, and falcons from around the world. Throughout the day, four live bird presentations are offered (at 10:30 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.). The 20-minute show highlights the physical and behavioral adaptations of the bird while handlers discuss its conservation status. Recent visitors praised the educational component and found the center impressive.
Meanwhile, families with younger children will enjoy the Discovery Room, which offers hands-on exhibits, with eggs, feathers, puzzles, and costumes to play with. An short outdoor walking trail where you can spot wild raptors and overlook Boise is another highlight. Other exhibits showcase raptor adaptations, diet, migration and breeding.
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