I never dreamed of traveling to the capital of Idaho. Furthermore, I didn’t even realize that a visit to Boise can change my travel game tremendously.
Our first visit to Boise, Idaho, was unimpressive to say the least. We landed in the capital of Idaho late in the evening when everything was closed, and the city was hiding under thick, dark blanket. By the time we left Boise Airport, gusty October winds forced us to rush to our hotel, located just a 10-minute walk away.
Bundled up and with masks on our faces, we braved the chilly weather. But even during this short first visit, Boise delighted us. There was something about the capital of Idaho that intrigued and made you feel relaxed at the same time.
While we were walking fast to the hotel, our tired eyes observed almost empty streets. At some point, we stopped at a local shop to get some food. Despite the late hour, the place was still busy with customers and management team chatting outside. These encounters along with the short walk was enough to realize how walkable the capital of Idaho was. You could visit Boise and forget about renting a car altogether.
Although walking, biking, or using public transport is popular in Europe, most of the cities in the United States lost this privilege. Boise, though, still remains one of the most convenient state capitals to visit when traveling across the country.
Visit Boise, Idaho: Introduction
Boise is the capital and largest city in Idaho. The place sits on the Boise River and boasts enormous amount of green spaces such as parks and ragged land intermixed with urban architecture. In that respect, you can visit entire Idaho and don’t find any city as green as Boise. Locals lovingly refer to their home city as the “City of Trees”.
The place became the capital of Idaho in 1864. Today, Boise is America’s 17th highly populated state capital city and one of the best places to visit in the Gem State. Apart from the convenience of traveling to and around the city, Boise enhances your visit with its remarkable landmarks and impeccable food scene.
Why You Should Visit Boise, Idaho
The largest city in Idaho. The cultural and gastronomical capital of the state. One of the most affordable places in the United States… Indeed, there are more reason to visit Boise than staying away from it. Apart from it rich historical and cultural heritage, the capital of Idaho astounds with its impeccable urban vibes, authentic local food scene, and ever-increasing beer bars.
The abundance of the parks and trees further inspire you to visit Boise, Idaho. The irresistible mix of the city and outdoorsy lifestyles sets the area apart from the other large cities in the country. The locals enjoy diverse activities their adorable home has to offer. The travelers find it enticing and strive to visit Boise again and again.
The convenient location of the capital of Idaho has insured a steady flow of the visitors for centuries now. As part of the Oregon Trail, Boise inevitably welcomed pioneers, crossing the Snake River south of the city. While the early travelers could hardly enjoy the area, Boise established itself as one of the most important places to visit in the American Northwest even back then. The capital of Idaho is more entertaining and charming today, welcoming millions of the tourists yearly.
The Best Time to Visit Boise, Idaho
Sheltered by mountains to the north, Boise gets away from extremely cold weather that prevents many travelers from enjoying this part of the country. Yet, Boise might not be an ideal area to visit all year round. Summers are dry and hot. Winters are still cold despite the reliable protection from the mountains.
Shoulder months ensure the perfect temperatures to visit Boise and discover its green spaces brimming with scenic hiking and biking trails. The locals insists that March through May as well as September through November are the best times to enjoy the city. From our experience, though, we’d say that the end of fall feels cold. Thus, bring warm jackets, sweaters, and insulated layers if you plan to visit Boise at this time.
While the warmer temperatures inspire the majority of the travelers, winters in Idaho entice the most adventurous of them. Endless crowds visit Boise during the colder months to hit ski slopes at Tamarack Resort, located about two hours north of the city.
The temperatures linger in the 80s and 90s in summer, marking it the busiest time to visit Boise. With influx of the tourists, the city increases prices for accommodation and entertainment. Considering this, budget travelers might want to postpone their visit to Boise until fall.
Arriving in Boise, Idaho
Bustling Boise spares its visitors from any troubles that might arise when planning a trip. The convenient location and abundance of flights ensure easy access to the city. Driving is by far one of the most popular ways to visit Boise. Flying into the capital of Idaho is also in favor. The Boise Airport, located just five miles south of city center, greets the majority of the guests traveling from all corners of the world.
Getting Around Boise, Idaho
People who visit Boise on their way to Yellowstone National Park or other destinations in Idaho, ofter arrive by or rent a car. Exploring the city this way certainly has its advantages. You can see the place through and through and drive to the most isolated areas any time you want.
The visitors can have similar experiences when traveling around the city by public transportation. Time restrains and not always convenient bus routes, however, might be an issue when you want visit all corners and explore hidden gems of Boise. Taxi and ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft can solve this problem. Prices they charge, however, are higher compared to the rides on the public transport.
The cheapest way to explore the city is on foot or by bike. Downtown Boise features the majority of city’s attractions. Clustered next to each other, the famous landmarks of Boise inspire you to visit them while walking from one place to other. Not always favorable parking situation further encourages you to trade your car for a two-wheeled vehicle or simply walk around.
Where to Stay in Boise, Idaho
The capital of Idaho offers accommodations for all budgets and preferences. You can stay near the airport while saying money for all other attractions of the city. If having quick access to the major landmarks is at most importance, book a hotel room in downtown Boise from where you can visit city’s parks and museums in minutes. Here’re a few places you can stay at when in Boise:
Best Western Northwest Lodge ($)
Located just a short walk from the Boise Airport, Best Western Northwest Lodge is a place we chose to stay at. This budget hotel offers comfortable, clean rooms, free breakfast and Wi-Fi. And since it’s only five miles from the city center, you can even visit downtown Boise by walking all the way there.
Hampton Inn & Suites Boise-Downtown ($$)
Hampton Inn & Suites Boise-Downtown is a contemporary hotel in downtown Boise that suits best travelers that prefers to walk around. The place sits within walking distance of Zoo Boise, Julia Davis Park – home to city’s famous museums and the State Capitol Building, – and abundant stores and restaurants of the city. The hotel ensures a pleasant stay by offered fitness center and indoor pool. Thinking about skipping driving during your visit to Boise? Hampton Inn offers free shuttle rides to the airport as well as Albertsons Stadium.
Inn at 500 Capitol ($$$)
Luxurious stay and visit is guaranteed at Inn at 500 Capitol in downtown Boise. The number one hotel in the city, this boutique place offers modern rooms, suites, and penthouses. A chic restaurant and a 24-hour gym on top of complimentary local wine and beer further pamper and spoil you. The 3.5-star hotel nestles within walking distance of the major attractions and entices with panoramic views of the Boise skyline.
Where to Eat in Boise, Idaho
Boise gains the reputation as a new culinary darling along with such foodie’s paradises as Portland and Seattle. Focusing on locally-grown products, the capital of Idaho presents the best Northwestern cooking traditions while adding its unique style and taste to it. The abundance of restaurants, cafes, and bars in Boise doesn’t go unnoticed. Gourmands from all corners of the world visit Boise to explore its outstanding food scene. Often, it’s recommended to book a food tour during your first visit to Boise to learn about the famous and hidden culinary gems of the city.
Visit Culinary Gems of Boise
Whose who prefer to eat their way through Boise at their own pace, should start their excursion at Eighth Street in downtown Boise. The area houses the city’s best diners, bars, and cafes. For hearty lunch and dinner, swing by Fork, the veteran of local cuisine. Feeling like eating Italian? Head over to Alavita, famous for its fresh pasta and variety of seafood. Siblings-owners of BBQ4LIFE feed both vegan and meat-eaters.
If you visit Boise and can’t wait to try its delightfully rich desserts, Janjou Pâtisserie is the best place for you. Doughnuts lovers should pay a visit to Guru Donuts in downtown Boise. The place is modeled after VooDoo Doughnut in Portland and promises sweet pasties all day every day.
The best breakfasts await at Goldy’s Breakfast Bistro and Bacon. Vegan and vegetarian travelers might want to skip the latter as pork dishes dominate the menu here. Beer loving visitors of Boise flock to Bittercreek Alehouse, a place where the alcoholic drink comes in different flavors.
For a taste of Spain, visit The Basque Market in Boise. Adjusting southern European culinary traditions to local tastes, the area provides the best paella, bocadillos, and tapas in the city.
The Best Places to Visit in Boise, Idaho
You can be daring and adventurous at one moment and smitten by cultural heritage of the city an hour later. A visit to Boise opens a whole new world where the outdoors harmoniously coexists with urban vibrance and aesthetics. The Green City doesn’t joke when it promises unforgettable open-air pursuits crowned with the scenic views and wildlife viewings. From its remarkable parks to educational museums, Boise makes every visit special. Strolling around the city, you inevitably find your way to at least one of the following destinations. Frequent travelers, enchanted by the city, often visit the same highlights of Boise again and again.
Visit Boise River Greenbelt
No visit to Boise is complete without exploring the abundant green spaces of the Boise River Greenbelt. The 25-mile park sits along the banks of the Boise River and entices with its stunning vistas and plentiful wildlife. Popular with the outdoor enthusiasts, the area is used best for walking or hiking. A 10-mile self-directed bike route allows to visit the most remote areas of this part of Boise.
The biggest advantage of the Boise River Greenbelt is its close proximity to other landmarks of the city. You can visit one park after another while stopping at some of the largest museums of Boise in the most efficient manner. From nature to the city in a matter of a few minutes – the capital of Idaho surely knows how to keep its visitors entertained.
Visit Boise Art Museum
Located in downtown Boise, the Boise Art Museum presents a large collection of contemporary art pieces. The structure is part of a chain of cultural landmarks in Julia Davis Park. Established in 1937, the museum was originally known as the Boise Gallery of Art. Its earliest collections included works of local artists and traveling exhibitions that never ceased to inspire and dazzle the residents as well as the visitors of the city.
The art collection grew with time. The structure, however, deteriorated. A couple of major renovations took place in 1972 and again in 1988. After the latest restoration, the site change its name to the Boise Art Museum.
New name established new mission. Today people can visit the Boise Art Museum and admire its vast collections of contemporary realism and artworks of local creators including acclaimed Idaho’s outsider artist James Charles Castle.
Visit Capital City Public Market
The Capital City Public Market helps Saturday visitors stock up on food and further experience the lifestyle of the city. Located on West Bannock Street, the place employs more than 150 venders selling local produce, food, baked goods, fish, meat, and a large variety of artisan products. The biggest market in the city occupied four city blocks in downtown Boise. It’s open on Saturdays and occasionally hosts special events such as musical performances.
Visit Aquarium of Boise
The Aquarium of Boise is known for its many interactive touch tanks that allow its visitors to touch and hold marine creatures such as corals, crabs, rays, starfish, and baby sharks. The place opened to the public only in 2011 and has already spread over 10,000 square feet. The famous exhibits here are an octopus tank, a shark nursery, and a coral reef habitat.
Visit Idaho Botanic Garden, Boise
Don’t focus only on the animals and marine creatures when in Boise. The Idaho Botanic Garden opens its doors for you to explore its diverse gardens, including the famous Alpine Garden, the Cactus Garden, and the English Garden. The place came to life in 1984 on a parcel of land that was sitting vacant for 10 year prior. Today, the Idaho Botanic Garden occupies 50 acres of land that at some point was a farm and nursery of the Old Idaho State Penitentiary.
Kathryn Albertson Park
Kathryn Albertson Park is a small sibling of the Boise River Greenbelt. Located near downtown Boise, this 41-acre park connects to the largest park in the city and astounds with its wildlife, ponds, and a modest fountain. Paved footpaths as well as gazebos also promise a relaxing visit.
The park is open sunrise to sunset. Those who travel to Boise with intention to encounter its wild inhabitants should visit the area early in the morning or evening. With less crowds around, salamanders, painted and boxed turtles, raccoons, beavers, rabbits, and occasional red foxes leave their hideouts and roam in the park.
Visit Basque Museum and Cultural Center, Boise
Boise has a large population of Basques. From authentic dishes to a local market and museum, the capital of Idaho helps preserve unique culture and customs of the group. The Basque Museum and Cultural Center is the best place to visit in Boise and learn more about this vibrant European community. The museum features cultural exhibits that promote the Basque history and culture.
The place was created in 1985 as a small museum in the historical Cyrus Jacobs-Uberuaga House. Soon it enlarged its collection. Today, you can visit the Basque Museum and Cultural Center to look into the rich history of the Basques community and its new life in Boise, Idaho.
Entrance fee is nominal. Adult ticket costs $5. Seniors and students pay $4. Children under 5 visit the Basque Museum in downtown Boise free of charge.
Visit Julia Davis Park in Downtown Boise
Every visit to Boise starts or ends in Julia Davis Park. Located in the downtown area, the place encompasses several museums including the Boise Art Museum, the Idaho Historical Museum, and the Idaho Black History Museum. Zoo Boise and the Idaho Rose Society also nestle nearby. The outdoor enthusiasts visit this section of Boise to take advantage of a pond with paddle boat rentals and tennis court.
Julia Davis Park has a bitter-sweet story. In 1907, Thomas Jefferson Davis donated a parcel of land to the city as a memorial to his wife, Julia. The donation was highly appreciated, and the new park was named after Julia Davis.
Don’t feel like planning your own itinerary? Check out the following tours and explore Boise with a local.
Visit Boise on a Budget
Can you visit Boise on a budget? Absolutely! The city is known as one of the most affordable travel destinations in the Untied States. Using the following tips, you can save even more.
Visit Boise in September
Fall is the best time to visit Boise on a budget. Flights are cheap. Accommodations are affordable. The weather is pleasant: neither too hot nor too cold. What to not like here? Want to save even more? Then visit Boise in September, the slowest month of the year for tourism.
Stay in Downtown Boise, Idaho
On top of planning your visit in fall, aim at staying in downtown Boise from where you can walk to all major attractions of the city. No car or taxi is needed.
Rent a Bike
If you plan to visit some of the isolated area of Boise, rent a bike instead of a car. It’s definitely cheaper and healthier to say the least.
Visit Free or Almost Free Landmarks of Boise, Idaho
The parks in Boise are usually free to visit. The ample hiking trails inside and outside the city let you explore the area through and through without paying a dime. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes, though.
If you long for the cultural side of Boise, fell free to visit city’s museums. With the average admission fees ranging from $5 to $10, they won’t drain your budget.
Interesting Facts About Boise, Idaho
- Boise was named by the 19th-century French Canadian trappers (French word boisé means “wooded”). The tree-lined river near the city provided great support for the travelers crossing the Snake River plain.
- Boise has the second largest Basque population in the United States. The Basque culture is largely presented in the Basque Block neighborhood, the Basque Marketplace, and the Basque Museum and Cultural Center.
- Boise walks the walk when it come to being an eco-friendly city. The State Capitol Building is the only state capitol that is heated from underground hot springs. The energy is pumped from a source 3,000 feet underground.
READ MORE: 12 Irresistible Day Trips from Boise, Idaho
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Photo credit: Personal collection & pixabay.com