Famous for its rugged mountain ranges, glittering lakes, native wildlife, and vast swathes of pristine wildness, Idaho has been attracting fans of the great outdoors for centuries. But it’s not all skiing, hiking, and fishing… with a smorgasbord of fascinating museums, high octane theme parks, world-class retail sites, and intriguing towns, the Gem State truly has a little something for everybody. If you’re planning your first visit, don’t miss squeezing at least a few from our countdown of the “20 Best Things To Do In Idaho” into your itinerary.
20. Idaho Potato Museum
If you thought all museums were cut from the same cloth, you clearly haven’t visited the Idaho Potato Museum. Unique, educational, and downright quirky, the museum tells the story of, you guessed it, the potato. After you’ve learned all there is to know about Idaho’s most famous tuber, don’t miss a visit to the onsite restaurant, where, wouldn’t you know, potatoes are cooked and served every which way to heaven.
19. Idaho State Capitol Building
If you’re visiting Idaho, a quick trip to Idaho State Capitol Building, the seat of the Idaho government, is practically obligatory. Designed by Charles Hummel and John E. Tourtellotte and built in the first decade of the 20th century, the building is an architectural wonder. Standing 208 feet high, covering an area of 201,720 square feet, and featuring over 50,000 square feet of carved marble, the Capital is one of the most majestic buildings in the state. A tour comes highly recommended, as does a quick pit stop at the very cute little gift shop on your way out.
18. Museum of Idaho
If you want to learn more about the history of Idaho, you’ll find few better places to do it than at the fascinating Museum of Idaho. Crammed with exhibits chronicling the rich history of the state, the museum is fun and educational in equal measure. Key exhibits to watch out for include the replica of the 1882 schoolhouse built in Eagle Rock in The History Room, which comes complete with a score of 19th-century school accruements (including a very novel pot-bellied stove), and the original bloodstained flag carried by Joseph Lawyer during the Civil War. Exhibits and programs do change on occasion, so be sure to check the website before you come so you can plan out your visit.
17. Seven Stars Alpaca Ranch
If you’re in Idaho with the kids, you’ll kick yourself if you miss visiting the Seven Stars Alpaca Ranch in Coeur D’Alene. Ranked by Trip Advisor as number one on the list of “Things to Do in Idaho with Kids”, the ranch promises a hugely fun adventure for the whole family. With amazing views, an incredibly hospitable welcome, the chance to interact with goats, chickens, donkeys, and, of course, alpacas, it’s an experience not to be missed. The ranch is open to visitor’s everyday bar Tuesdays May 1 through Oct 31.
16. The Wolf Centre
Located in the Nez Perce Tribal Wilderness, The Wolf Centre delivers an unforgettable experience to visitors. With mile upon mile of peaceful trails set over some of Idaho’s most majestic natural scenery, it’s the perfect opportunity to appreciate the many varieties of flora and fauna that call Idaho home… not least the native gray wolf, who serve as the face of the center’s research and educational programs.
15. Wallace District Mining Museum
If you’re in the vicinity of Idaho’s scenic Silver Valley, don’t miss a visit to the Wallace District Mining Museum in the small mining community of Wallace. Despite its diminutive size, Wallace gained a reputation as the “Silver Capital of the World” during the turn of the 20th century and has since pumped out over a billion ounces of the precious metal. Through a series of exhibits, photographs, models, artifacts, and artwork, the museum faithfully tells the story of the town’s history. For a truly authentic experience, don’t miss checking out the old timbered mine – although visitors with claustrophobia might want to sit that part out!
14. Coeur d’Alene Lake
If natural beauty floats your boat, you won’t be disappointed with the gorgeously serene Coeur d’Alene Lake. Spread over 30 acres, the pristine lake is one of the prettiest in the state, not to mention the perfect place to indulge in just about any and every type of water sport you can imagine. On a sunny day, you’ll struggle to find a more pleasant way to spend an afternoon than renting a boat and drifting your way around the shore.
13. Lava Hot Springs
The picturesque little resort of Lava Hot Springs is where Idaho residents who know a thing or two about deep relaxation go to de-stress and unwind. Famous for its bubbling springs, the town offers numerous opportunities for weary visitors to soothe away their troubles in a mineral-laden hot spring bath. Granted, it can get busy during tourist season, but where else can you enjoy a soak while enjoying views over the surrounding snow-capped hills?
12. Silver Mountain Resort
If you’re a fan of outdoor adventure, the Silver Mountain Resort should be right up your street. Located in Kellogg, it offers almost every type of outdoor sport you can imagine, from some of the best skiing, snow tubing, and snowboarding in the Northwest in the winter months to hiking, golfing, and mountain biking in the summer. If you want to appreciate the surrounding scenery without giving yourself a foot full of blisters in the process, there’s even a gondola to take you all the way to the summit.
11. The Springs
Venture around 45 minutes from downtown Boise and you’ll happen on The Springs, a luxurious day spa that’s guaranteed to relax and revive even the weariest. Surrounded by natural spring pools, virgin forest, pristine mountain air, and stunning vistas, you’ll struggle to find a more serene setting to enjoy a massage, a treatment, or a soak in one of the state-of-the-art hot tubs.
10. Museum of Clean
Creative, fun, and just the right side of quirky, the Museum of Clean might sound an odd addition to our list, but anyone who’s had the privilege of visiting this little gem will know exactly what we’re talking about. Built as a tribute to cleaning devices and products through the ages, the museum has a range of interactive exhibits and activities that will delight all ages. There’s even the chance to take a tour with the museum’s creator, Don Aslett, himself. While all the exhibits are worth a look, the star attraction has to be the one-of-a-kind vacuum cleaner display, home to the world’s very first vacuum cleaner.
9. Idaho Botanical Garden
If you want to escape the crowds, head to the Idaho Botanical Garden. Set in the former grounds of the State Penitentiary in Boise’s Old Penitentiary Historic District, the garden is a little slice of botanical heaven. With 15 acres of flora, a host of educational and entertainment programs, and regular community events, it’s fun for all the family. Of the 14 unique gardens, the ones deserving of a special mention include The Meditation Garden (we defy you to find a more tranquil spot) and the Lewis & Clark Native Plant Garden, which boasts around 145 native species collected by the two explorers over the course of their adventures.
8. Mesa Falls
If you’re in the vicinity of Ashton, don’t miss a trip to the stunning Mesa Falls. Huge, majestic, and easily accessible, the falls are a worthy destination whatever the season, but really come into their own in the winter, when ice mixes with the running water to create some truly spectacular designs. As the hike can be quite challenging, don’t forget to pack plenty of water.
7. Williamson Orchard & Vineyard
If all your sightseeing has given you a thirst, why not make the drive over to the family-owned Williamson Orchard & Vineyard? Set on the Sunnyslope Wine Trail within the Snake River Valley, the winery has been producing award-winning wine for generations, and today, offers visitors the chance to sample the produce and enjoy a warm welcome in the cozy tasting room. Although you’ll need to pay a $5 tasting fee, you can redeem it against any purchases you make to take home.
6. Sawtooth Wilderness Area
Like nature? Then you’re going to love Sawtooth Wilderness Area. Occupying some 217,000 acres within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, the park is as about as far from the maddening crowds as its possible to get. Beautiful, remote, and home to around 300 pristine lakes, 40 wilderness trails, and a forest of native trees, you could wander for days without seeing another soul. If you prefer a little company, various tour operators offer guided tours.
5. Warhawk Air Museum
Located in Nampa, Idaho, the Warhawk Air Museum is a military history museum that’s tasked itself to ‘teach and educate about the cost of freedom and honor those who paid its price’. And in that, it succeeds beautiful. Whether your 8 or 80, you can’t fail to be impressed by its exquisite collection of aircraft and artifacts, which includes several fascinating collections of personal memorabilia from the American experience of WWI, WWII, Vietnam, and Korea. Voted the 2019 Best Museum/ Attraction by Idaho Statesman, this is one museum that should be on every first-time visitor’s ‘must visit’ list.
4. World Centre for Birds of Prey
If you’ve ever wanted to look a bird of prey in the eye, a visit to the World Centre for Birds of Prey will give you the opportunity to do just that. The center is devoted to educating the masses on these majestic creatures, something it achieves wonderfully with its fascinating live bird demonstrations, hands-on exhibits, and falconry heritage tours. Entrance costs $10 to adults, $8 to seniors, and $5 to children aged 4- 16, but with all proceeds going to support conservation programs worldwide, it’s a price worth paying.
3. Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial
The Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial is in a small park that pays tribute to the theme of human rights. Featuring walls etched with excerpts from Anne Frank’s diary and quotations from various human rights activists, its sobering, thought-provoking, and an absolute must-visit.
2. Lake Coeur d’Alene
Idaho isn’t exactly short on lakes, but if you only have time to visit one, make it Lake Coeur d’Alene. Stretching over a length of 25 miles and with a width of 3 miles in places, the lake offers stunning views, superb relaxation, and more opportunities for fun and frolics than you can shake a stick at. Boating, kayaking, fishing, sailing, hiking, wildlife spotting, swimming, jogging, biking… whatever outdoor activity takes your fancy, you’ll find this the perfect spot to indulge it. While you’re in the area, don’t miss a quick visit to some of the lakeside communities dotted along the shore: the charming little town of Harrison with its quaint marina and score of excellent restaurants comes particularly recommended.
1. Silverwood Theme Park
If you’re in the mood for some high-octane fun, jump in the car and head to the Silverwood Theme Park. Since it opened in 1988, the park has grown from housing a few carnival rides to becoming the biggest theme and water park in the northwest. Featuring over 70 rides suitable for all ages and fear levels, a steam engine train, live entertainment, gardens, a water park, and plenty of restaurants and snack bars, it’s a fantastic day trip for the whole family.