BOISE | Boise is a city that a lot of people have heard of, but don’t really know a lot about. The capital and largest city in Idaho, Boise is a city that’s experience a lot of growth and change in recent years. It’s a compact, clean, friendly city, with a lot to offer visitors.
If you’re looking for things to do in Boise, my guide will help you make the most of your time in town, even if you only have a few days. From museums to nature, a diverse dining scene and great street art, there are a lot of things to see and do in Boise.
Discover Boise’s Street Art Scene
Boise has a vibrant street art scene, with murals painted by local artists, and artists visiting from other cities. There’s Downtown’s famed ‘Freak Alley’, the city’s painted traffic signal boxes, and more. Beyond downtown, there’s neighbourhoods like Garden City and Depot Bench, that offer plenty of interesting, beautiful, and topical murals.
Check out my Boise Street Art Guide for more information on where to find the best street art in Boise.
Eat Global Cuisine
Idaho is known for its potatoes, and you should definitely eat potatoes cooked in a variety of ways while in town. What’s less known about Boise’s food scene is just how global it is.
The city is home to large immigrant communities from places like Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Mexico, China, Iraq, Ukraine, India, and the Philippines. These groups have enriched the food scene in Boise, and as a visitor you can eat your way around the world here.
A few places worth checking out are Sunshine Café (Afghan), Alyonka (Kazakh/Russian), Wepa Café (Puerto Rican), and Kibrom’s (Ethiopian & Eritrean). For good pub fare, check out Bittercreek Alehouse.
Explore The Great Outdoors
Boise is a very green city, with no shortage of parks (the Military Reserve and Ann Morrison Park are great) and green spaces to relax in. What I’m talking about in this section, however, is the great outdoors that’s so easily accessible just outside of the city.
Boise National Forest is just a half hour drive from Downtown, and provides countless opportunities to explore the great outdoors. Whether it’s a scenic drive and easy walk you want, hikes and fishing, or adventure activities, there’s something for everyone in Boise National Forest.
I’ve put together an article, Exploring Boise National Forest, to help you plan a visit there. Being so close to the city makes it well worth a visit, even if just for a half-day over a quick two-day visit.
Go To Garden City
Located just a short walk from Downtown, Garden City is a neighbourhood (technically a separate city) that’s seen a lot of changes in its time. Its name derives from the market gardens that were run by Chinese immigrants who once lived in the area. Over time, the area became quite industrial, and in recent years it’s become a haven for artists.
Walking through the Garden City, you’ll find evidences of its past everywhere, and a real contrast between old and new. There’s artist studios and boutiques, fantastic breweries, wineries, and distilleries, and several places to enjoy great food. Garden City also has a thriving street art scene.
Pop Into A Museum
Boise is home to several fantastic museums. I highly recommend visiting the Basque Museum & Cultural Center. Boise has one of the largest Basque communities outside of Spain, and this museum is a great way to learn about their history, culture, and stories.
Other museums worth visiting are the Boise Art Museum, which focuses on modern art; and the Idaho State Museum, where you can learn about the state’s history.
Relax Along The Boise River Greenbelt
The Boise River Greenbelt is a 40 kilometre (25 mile) tree-lined pathway that follows the north and south sides of the Boise River through the heart of the city. It’s a great way to relax and move from one part of town to another, and provides scenic views, wildlife habitat and pedestrian access to many of Boise’s popular riverside parks.
Shop At A Local Market
Capital City Public Market has been operating on Saturdays in Downtown’s Grove Plaza since 1994. From mid-April to mid-December, visit the market to meet and shop from over 150 local producers, farmers, and artisans. The market has a real community vibe, and is a great way to support local small business, and chat with some of the people who help make this city what it is.
Stop By The State Capitol
The Idaho State Capitol is an impressive building, completed in 1920 and inspired by Classical European architecture. Restored in 2010, the capitol’s beautiful exterior and interior can be enjoyed by visitors for free as a self-guided tour.
Visit The Library!
I’m including this in the list because I think it’s hilarious. The kind of quirky thing that you only seem to find in the United States. What makes the Boise Public Library unique is the sign out the front. A massive sign that reads “LIBRARY!”. Yes, there’s an exclamation point and that’s the official branding of the library.
Why? Basically because a local business owner, Howard Olivier, thought the library was great and that the sign should reflect this. He offered to pay for it if the library agreed, which they did. The sign went up in 1995 and has been there ever sine.
Watch A Football Game At Albertsons Stadium
Boise State University is worth visiting to simply walk around the beautiful campus and take in the architecture and natural surrounds. It’s also worth visiting for it’s famed stadium.
Albertsons Stadium, with its unique blue field, is home to the university’s college football team, Boise State Broncos of the Mountain West Conference. If you can catch a college football game, the atmosphere and experience is great.