“The biggest small town there is…” someone said to us as we packed up our picnic after a thrilling show at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival. It’s true, with a population of just 200,000 people it sure does do a good job of creating a buzzing atmosphere of music, culture, and food! A few months ago, the Southwest Idaho Tourism Association (SWITA for short) contacted us, wondering if we’d like to come down and visit Boise. We had recently finished a road trip at Craters Of The Moon in Idaho, and had just seen Boise in passing. Rarely do we refuse an offer to explore a new city, so after a few months of correspondence, we were on our way!
We were excited for this trip because we realized Boise is surprisingly close to the Pacific Northwest. After flying for only 1.5 hours, we were in a new (but still near!) territory, with new mountains, rivers, and landscapes to explore. Boise is one of those underrated cities – the kind where the locals know it’s awesome, but are apprehensive to share it with the world because everyone will want to come! Well, sorry guys – we’re spilling the beans! Here are all the awesome things we did and why you should come and visit Boise too!
16 Epic Things To Do When You Visit Boise
Things To Do:
1. Bike The Greenbelt / Downtown
Honestly, we were blown away by how easy it is to get practically ANYWHERE via bike in Boise! You can rent bikes for the day, but we were lucky enough find out that our hotel came with complimentary bikes. We took them everywhere – we explored the Boise River and Ann Morrison Park, picked up some coffee, ate lunch, and rode all over Downtown! The sidewalks are wide and there are bike lanes everywhere. You don’t need a car here!
2. Stroll The Streets of Hyde Park Neighborhood
With rows of beautiful stately homes, mom & pop shops, and tree-lined streets, this place has something for everyone. This area of Boise has become a boutique attraction for North-enders and is very walk-able (and bike-able!) with many parks to explore. It’s a great place for an evening stroll for ice cream at Goody’s Goodies or brunch with friends at Java!
3. Take A Sunrise Hike To Table Rock
So a little back story first. When Berty and I last visited The Moon – I mean, Idaho – we met someone via Instagram whom we just barely missed meeting over and over again on our tour. Since that day, we kept up with each other via the social media platform. As we planned out our hike to Table Rock, we knew we wanted to finally meet him in person! BK (@BK_Koomler), an Idaho native and fellow adventure-lover, is a jack of all trades – videography, photography, and rock climbing to name only a few! Hiking Table Rock with BK was a great opportunity to get to know him and learn more about what he recommends for places to see and adventures to take in Idaho. BK got us excited to come back! There are so many hidden gems in this state that we would have never learned about had we not made such a cool friend. 🙂
Our Advice For Hiking Table Rock:
- Go early in the morning for sunrise or later for sunset (there is no shade so it’s very hot during the day!)
- Wear sturdy, broken-in hiking shoes. I got some pretty nasty blisters from ignoring this one!
- Bring a water bottle, sunscreen, and a hat
- Bring friends – the hike takes about 45 minutes to an hour, plenty of quality time to get to know someone!
4. Stay At The Inn at 500
Berty and I were extremely lucky to stay at this brand new hotel in Downtown Boise! The halls are filled with work by local artists and we spent some time visiting every floor and checking out the cool murals and art displayed there. Everything was included: free valet service for your car, complimentary bikes, and they even offered you a glass of beer or wine upon arrival! There is also a snack and drink bar open at all hours (which we definitely took advantage of when we went out exploring for the day!). The rooms were modern, comfortable, and tech savvy. Berty set up his own editing office right away and it was a great place to come and relax at the end of our busy days. Thank you for such a wonderful experience! Next time we visit Boise, we’re definitely coming here again.
5. Get An Adrenaline Rush At Cascade Raft & Kayak
This was honestly the highlight of our trip. Cascade Raft & Kayak is located just 45 minutes north of Boise, along the Payette River. Family run, professional, family-oriented – they have adventures for all skill levels and ages. During our trip, we went over a series of 17 white water rapids, all class 2 and 3. And boy, it was SO MUCH FUN! Our raft guide was so awesome and was telling jokes and made us laugh the whole time. The staff here is professional, friendly and very attuned to making sure you have the best time possible. We are absolutely going here again!
6. Attend The Idaho Shakespeare Festival
The Idaho Shakespeare Festival is an annual event that happens every summer in Boise. They put on high-quality shows for a thrilling night out in an intimate, one-of-a-kind outdoor theater. This year, some of the top shows are The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Wait Until Dark (that’s what we saw!) and Hamlet – to name only a few! We met some friendly people after the show and we learned a lot about the Boise acting community. Many successful actors and actresses come from Idaho (hellooo Aaron Paul!) and they have fabulous programs to develop performing arts for people of all ages.
Tips For Enjoying The Show:
- Bring a picnic! We stopped by Whole Foods and grabbed wine, cheese, crackers, and fresh fruit. Perfect for nibbling on throughout the show.
- Sit in the lawn. Not only are they the closest seats to the stage, but you can bring your own blanket or chairs to sit on and relax.
- Bring bug spray and a sweater. Especially early in the season, the temperature can drop quickly as soon as the sun goes down.
7. Explore Beyond Boise On Electric Bikes
Before heading out on our adventure for the day, we squeezed in a stop at Boise Electric Bikes. We were recommended to visit this place by some people we met at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival the night before! We had already experienced how easy it was to get around Boise via bikes, but this company takes it to the next level. They build everything from electric mountain bikes, road bikes, and custom-built ones for people with specific needs and desires! Berty was able to give one a spin on the nearby neighborhood streets and he was hooked!
Electric bikes can help you maintain speed and give you a little extra oomph – perfect for when you’re going up long, steep hills! Here, you can create your own custom build to suit any needs you have. Are you a commuter? Hauling lots of stuff? Mountain biker? You name it, they will build it for you. We were impressed even with our short visit!
8. Drink Your Way Through Wine Country
When we explain to people that we went to visit wineries in Idaho, their first reaction is “What? Idaho has a wine country?” And we swiftly answer “Yep, and it was beautiful.” Berty and I were lucky enough to spend a whole day here in the Snake River Valley and experience four spectacular wineries. This unique area in Idaho has perfect conditions for growing exceptional grapes. Cold nights and hot days balance out the sugars, proximity to the river allows growers to control water intake, and high elevation provides the grapes with complex flavors and unique tastes. Visit www.IdahoWines.org for more information!
Read More: An Enchanting Day in Idaho’s Wine Country
9. Join In The Action At Alive After 5
Every summer, Boise holds a FREE, outdoor Summer concert series in the middle of the Grove Plaza downtown. Here, you can get beer and wine, enjoy the restaurants nearby, do a little shopping and visit with the hundreds of people who come here every Wednesday night. The city really does comes alive! We came to check out the scene and stayed for the fun vibe, delicious food, and the chance to explore the city some more! Learn more about Alive after Five here!
Places To Eat:
10. The District Coffee House
Urban, Simple, Modern. With it’s hipster vibe and funky furniture, it was perfect for an Instagram post. 😉 We were surprised to find out that this coffee shop is not-for-profit. Their existence in Downtown Boise is to raise awareness for orphans in twelve different orphanages in India. With it’s clean and welcoming atmosphere, it’s a great space to bring friends and enjoy company. They also help provide jobs to recently resettled refugees in Boise, which is a cause very dear to my heart. Definitely check out their delicious coffee and freshly baked goods!
11. Fork (Dinner)
Boise has a street (8th street) that is filled on both sides with interesting restaurants, bars, and other eateries. Fork is one of those, and in our opinion is the most attractive from the outside! Their outdoor patio has beautifully strung lights that make for a great atmosphere, while at the same time enhancing the hipster vibe of the historic building it has acquired. Like many other Boise restaurants, Fork is “loyal to local” which means they provide delicious dishes with ingredients from local farmers and growers. Way to support the community!
12. Quick Burgers at Westside Drive-In
Hungry after rafting, Berty and I googled “Best Burgers in Boise” and Westside Drive-In came up as a top contender. Driving up in the parking lot, bubblegum pink walls surround the outside eating area and you are immediately sent back in time to lazy summer days and greasy comfort food. They had incredible milkshakes (could you expect anything less?) and it’s location on State St. made it perfect for stopping by on your way out to explore the rest of Boise.
13. Guru Donuts
This place was one of our first stops when we went to visit Boise. Located on 10th Street in the heart of downtown, this building has a historic charm about it – a perfect setting for some coffee and donuts with friends! Guru Donuts constantly have an assortment of creative combinations and interesting flavors, always baked from scratch every morning.
I really needed to wake up so I got a shot in the dark (drip coffee with an espresso shot), and Berty got a vanilla latte. We also ordered these classic donut favorites – maple bacon and braided cinnamon sugar. Just writing this makes me want to go back…
14. Basque Market Lunch
With 16,000+ community members, the Basque population in Idaho is one of the biggest outside of the Basque region of Spain! The unique history here is celebrated on the Basque Block of downtown Boise in the way of food, museums, and shops. We biked over here for lunch one afternoon and had a delicious meal at the Basque Market. We ordered wine and tapas, and spent the afternoon on their covered patio enjoying the flowers, scenery and eating delicious food.
This urban restaurant, located on the foodie-famous 8th street, has an impressive focus on local ingredients and supporting Idahoans who create for the community. After spending a full-day in Boise’s Wine Country, it was fun to look at the drink menu and say “Hey! That bottle is from Koenig Wineries!” They have signs on the walls explaining where their meat was sourced, where their fish were caught, and who grew their ingredients. We envision coming back here with our friends for some more delicious fries, local beer on tap, and the relaxed vibe.
16. Java Coffee (Downtown & Hyde Park)
With only five locations, we’ve successfully visited 3 out of 5 locations during our trips to Idaho (the first being this post). That should tell you a lot about the quality of drinks and food they make – we keep coming back for more! We were told to try their specialty drink, the Bowl of Soul (which is a shot of espresso with a Mexican Mocha I believe…) and it was INCREDIBLE. Next time you visit Boise, definitely stop in for your own Bowl of Soul! They also have some pretty impressive grab-and-go breakfast options too!
Have you ever been to visit Boise? What was your favorite part? Tell us in the comments below!
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