Visiting Boise in the winter months offers a plethora of activities to choose from. Whether you are wanting to brave the frigid slopes of one of the nearby ski resorts or would rather stay warm in a gorgeous natural hot spring, Boise offers something for everyone.
Just a 45-minute drive from downtown Boise, Bogus Basin offers easy access to countless winter activities. The main attraction is the ski hill which offers 2,600 acres of terrain, 80 runs, and 10 lifts. If flying down a mountain is a little extreme for your taste, they also offer cross-country skiing, winter tubing, and snowshoeing. Bogus Basin is also home to Idaho’s only mountain coaster, where riders can fly down 4,330 feet weaving in and out of trees and experience the mountain like never before.
Winter Garden aGlow at the Idaho Botanical Garden
If you’re visiting during the month of December, the Winter Garden aGlow at the Idaho Botanical Garden is a can’t-miss event for the whole family. Every night during December that Idaho Botanical Garden lights up with over 550,000 lights across its 14 acres of land. Along with the amazing visual experience, there are food trucks, live music, and fun events and activities for the kids. Winter Garden aGlow is one of the botanical garden’s biggest fundraisers of the year, so not only will you receive a memorable experience, but you will also be helping the garden provide a wonderful service to the local community.
Sun Valley is an extremely popular ski-resort town about 3 hours northeast of Boise that offers skiing, fine dining, and an exciting nightlife. Bald Mountain is what brings most winter tourists up to the town. If you enjoy beautiful views, you’ll find plenty in Sun Valley, but the one you can’t miss is at the Seattle Ridge Day Lodge located at the top of Bald Mountain. At 8,800 feet you can see forever, and if you time it right you can see the mountains turn from white to a combination of a breathtaking pink and blue at sunset, just make sure you call ahead because you do need a reservation.
Along with the mountain, Sun Valley has a laundry list of other winter activities such as ice skating, sleigh rides, and ice sculptures. Once you have gotten your fair share of outdoor time, you’ll need to warm up inside with a hearty meal and a drink of your choice. There’s plenty of options to choose from, but some of our favorites include Sawtooth Brewery, Lefty’s Bar & Grill, and The Roundhouse.
It’s difficult to find yourself anywhere in Idaho without being close to a hot spring. There are dozens of springs within a couple of hours of Boise, here’s a great guide that lists most of the ones available to the public.
If you’re looking for a hot spring experience that has a resort feel to it with built-out pools and some amenities such as bathrooms, food and drink, and on-site parking, we’d recommend Goldfork Hot Springs near McCall or The Springs at Idaho City. Both locations are easy to access while still getting all the benefits of a natural hot spring.
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous and want to experience a more “natural” hot spring experience you can’t go wrong with Kirkham Hot Springs or Trail Creek Hot Springs. Both require a small but relatively steep hike down to the pools, but the scenery and experience is well worth it if you can make the trek.
Another lovely mountain town about 2 ½ hours north of Boise is McCall. With many of the same characteristics as Sun Valley, McCall offers all the typical mountain activities in a beautiful city built right next to Payette Lake.
In late January to early February McCall hosts their annual Winter Carnival which is a favorite among locals and tourists. One of the main attractions is the ice sculpture contest, where amateurs and professionals compete for $1,000+ prizes for the best sculpture. There are upwards of 100 sculptures each year so just walking through town is an event in and of itself.
The supporting events are just as fun, with activities such as a dog sled challenge, chef collaborative dinner, mardi gras parade, and snowshoe golf.
Looking for more things to do while you are in Boise? Check out our other guides here.
Charles Knowles from Meridian Idaho, USA, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons