If you’re visiting Boise, Idaho for the first time, you’re in for a treat. Museums, parks, galleries, restaurants, shops, monuments, gardens… whatever counts as your idea of fun, you’ll find plenty of it in Idaho’s capital. If you’re not quite sure where to get started, take some inspiration from our round-up of the 20 very best things to do in Boise, ID for first-timers.
20. Morrison-Knudsen Nature Center
Occupying 4.6 acres of land along the Boise River Greenbelt, the Morrison-Knudsen Nature Center offers kids and adults the chance to experience the wonders of nature through a series of live demonstrations and interactive activities.
19. Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area
If you’re visiting Boise in winter, why not take in a spot of skiing at the stunning Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area? Spread over 2,600 acres of forested land and featuring 23 miles of Nordic trails, it’s the ideal place for some cross-country practice.
18. Boise Farmers Market
If you want to stock up on fresh local produce, wine, and handicrafts, head to Boise Farmers Market on West Front Street. If you manage to come away empty-handed, you’ve clearly not been looking hard enough.
17. Barber Park
For outdoor lovers looking to indulge in some healthy outdoor pursuits, follow The Crazy Tourist’s advice and head to Barber Park – nestled along the banks of the Boise River, it’s the perfect destination for a spot of rafting or kayaking.
16. Boise Trolley Tours
For a whistle-stop tour of Boise’s key highlights, take a Boise Trolley Tour. The 75-minute narrated tour takes in the Basque Block, the Idaho State Capitol, Hyde Park, the mansions of Warm Springs, and a host of other first-rate sites. If you want to see as much as possible in as little time as possible, this is the way to do it.
15. Discovery Centre of Idaho
If you’re traveling with kids, be sure to corner off a few hours in your itinerary for the Discovery Centre of Idaho. Designed to get kids interested in engineering, math, science, and technology, the center offers a host of fascinating, hands-on exhibits that promise to do just that.
14. Zoo Boise
If your kids have ever fancied feeding a llama or making friends with a goat, pack them in the car and head to Zoo Boise on Julia Davis Drive. With a petting farm for hands-on fun and more animal species than David Attenborough could list off-hand, it’s the perfect combination of fun and learning.
13. Capital City Public Market
For fresh produce, unique souvenirs, local handicrafts, and a fabulous display of local entertainment, head straight to Capital City Public Market. With more than 150 vendors selling just about everything you could ever want or need, this isn’t the place to suddenly realize you left your wallet in the hotel.
12. Boise Art Museum
Like art? Then don’t miss the Boise Art Museum. Occupying over 34,800 square feet and housing some of the most impressive art pieces you’ll find anywhere in the state, it’s a must for art lovers.
11. Idaho State Capitol Building
What trip to Idaho’s capital would be complete without a visit to the Capitol Building itself? A wonder of sandstone, marble, and history, the majestic 208-foot-high building dominates the landscape… and with free entry and a quirky little gift shop to boot, it’s well worth an afternoon of anyone’s time.
10. Idaho State Museum
Fun, interactive, informative… whether you’re 8 or 80, you’re certain to come away from the fascinating Idaho State Museum having learned something new.
9. World Center for Birds of Prey
With live bird demonstrations, hands-on exhibits, and falconry heritage tours, the World Center for Birds of Prey is a must-visit for anyone who’d like to learn more about some of Idaho’s most majestic birds.
8. Basque Museum & Cultural Center
If an afternoon spent learning about Basque culture sounds your kind of thing, the Basque Museum & Cultural Center should be right up your street. Interesting and informative, the center sheds a light on some of Boise’s earliest settlers with a range of exhibits, artifacts, and photographs.
7. Aquarium of Boise
The Aquarium of Boise doesn’t just want you to sit back and look at the fish, it wants you to get involved. And thanks to its interactive touch tanks, that’s exactly what you do. If you’ve ever wanted to hold a crab, tickle a shark, or stoke a tortoise, this is the place to do it.
6. Idaho Botanical Garden
The Idaho Botanical Garden is a little oasis of calm in the heart of Boise's bustling Old Penitentiary Historic District. Fun for all ages, the garden consists of 14 unique gardens all based around a particular theme – all are worth checking out, but you’ll kick yourself if you miss the intriguing Lewis & Clark Native Plant Garden.
5. Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial
Dedicated to human rights and the people who’ve fought to protect them, the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial is a moving, thought-provoking sight that no visitor to Boise should miss.
4. The Old Idaho Penitentiary
The Old Idaho Penitentiary might be shut to criminals these days, but thankfully, it’s more than welcoming to tourists. Build in 1872, few sights in Boise offer quite such a glimpse into the gritty realities of life over the 1900s as this does. Just be warned that some of the exhibits are quite graphic, so it may not be the ideal destination for younger children.
3. Kathryn Albertson Park
If the crowds of downtown are wearing you down, a few hours at Kathryn Albertson Park should be enough to revive you. Recommended by US News as one of the best things to do in Boise, the 41-acre park is the ideal place to relax and get back to basics in nature. Just be sure to pack your binoculars – as home to dozens of waterfowl, herons, owls, salamanders, turtles, bullfrogs, beavers, rabbits, and a score of other native species, it’s great for wildlife spotting.
2. Hulls Gulch Reserve
If you like walking, Hulls Gulch Reserve has your name written all over it. Spread over 292-acres and easily accessible from downtown Boise, the reserve is home to a huge variety of flora and fauna. Whether you choose to hike it, ride it, bike it, or run it, just make sure you visit it.
1. Boise River Greenbelt
According to Vacation Idea, Boise River Greenbelt ranks as the #1 attraction in Boise. With its gorgeous treelined paths, numerous walking trails, scavenger hunts, and bountiful wildlife, we’re loathed to disagree.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn