Whether you are visiting Boise for a weekend or are a current resident looking for some new activities, there is no shortage of fun and unique things to do in the Boise area. With a lively downtown area, nature surrounding, and running through the middle of town, as well as unique historical and cultural attractions, there is a little something for everyone in Idaho’s Capitol.
Explore the Boise River and Greenbelt
One of the best features of Boise is the Boise River flowing right through the downtown area. In the summer months, you can float the river for free (or rent a raft if you need one). Starting at Barber Park and ending at Anne Morrison Park, the float takes about 2-4 hours depending on the time of year. If staying dry is more your style, you can also bike along the Boise Greenbelt, a 25-mile long bike path that runs parallel to the river that has numerous parks along the way. Right next to the Greenbelt is the Boise Zoo which is great for children and adults alike.
Go on a hike
You’re never far from a good hike when you’re in Boise. The most popular of all the hikes is the famed Table Rock Trail. The trailhead starts at The Old Idaho Penitentiary Site (more on that later), and is a 3.7 mile out and back hike. The trail is fairly steep, so if you’re going in the summer months, try to go early to beat the heat or later in the day to enjoy a wonderful sunset overlooking the city. If you are wanting to take in the views without the strain of a steep hike, there is a road that leads up to the top of table rock, you can find directions here.
If you are wanting to hike with a little less foot traffic, Camel’s Back Park is another great option, although this one can still be fairly busy in the summertime. Military Reserve is a good easy option that features a dog park, bike park, and stream nearby. The 14 Tram Trail Trailhead is another gorgeous hike with numerous options branching off of it, this is heavily trafficked by mountain bikers so just be aware.
Explore some history
One of the underrated parts of Boise is its historical attractions. As mentioned earlier, The Old Idaho State Penitentiary Site is a wonderful historical tour experience. The penitentiary opened its doors in 1872 but is now used to educate people about the history of our prison system, notorious inmates, as well as an in-depth tour of the inner-workings of the old penitentiary.
The Basque Museum & Culture Center isn’t something you would expect to run into in downtown Boise. The Basque Center offers people to explore the history of the Basque people and their heritage. They offer guided tours, classes, and events on a regular basis. If you are wanting to just explore yourself you are more than welcome to, you can even get a literal taste at Ansots Basque Chorizo’s.
The Anne Frank Memorial is another must see for history buffs. The memorial includes a life-sized bronze statue of Anne Frank looking out a window, but there is much more to it. The memorial encourages people to think about issues our society has faced in the past and are still dealing with today, mostly about human rights. It puts on display some of man’s triumphs, as well as some of our darker times. Visiting the memorial will surely make you take a deeper look at life and come away with a different perspective.
Take a day trip
If you are in Boise for more than a day or two, it is well worth it to explore the surrounding areas. From sand dunes, to hot springs, to snowy mountains, there are plenty of exciting day trips within a couple hours drive of Boise.
The Bruneau Dunes State Park is about an hour drive southeast from Boise that offers unique views that you don’t typically find in the inland northwest. The main feature is the tallest single-structure sand dune in North America. At over 470-feet above the desert floor it is quite a sight, visitors are welcome to hike or ride a horse to the top, if you are feeling extra adventurous you can rent a sandboard and ride down the dune! If you are wanting to stay past sundown, the state park also offers an excellent observatory that lets you get a wonderful view of space.
There are numerous hot springs in the surrounding areas, ranging from large, easily accessible pools, to tiny pools that are off the beaten path. If you’re wanting a resort-style hot spring experience with man-made pools we recommend The Springs in Idaho City, Goldfork Hot Springs outside of Donnely, or Miracle Hot Springs down in Buhl. If you are wanting a little more nature with your hot springs check out Kirkham, Trail Creek, or Snively hot springs. If you want to explore more hot springs options follow this link.
Lastly, if you are wanting to get out of the city for a smaller town feel, McCall might be the place for you. A little over a two hour drive north, McCall puts you in a gorgeous mountain town that’s a popular destination for visitors and residents of Boise. In the winter you can find great skiing at nearby Tamarack and Brundage ski resorts. In the summertime the lake and milder temperatures offer a welcome retreat from the scorching summers that Boise usually experiences.
No matter what you choose to do while you’re in Boise, just make sure you get out to find what interests you. Boise offers so many things to do and such a wide variety of activities you can spend day after day exploring new parts of the city you never would’ve guessed were there.
If you are looking for more things to do in Boise or in nearby cities, check out other articles at cleverneighbor.com.