Boise, the capitol city of Idaho, is an up and coming city nestled in the heart of the Treasure Valley. Here you’ll find warm summers, cold winters, friendly folk, and lots to do. Sure you can google all the things and find every bit of information you’d ever wish to know about this great city. Or you can peruse our Ultimate Boise Travel Guide.
Even though Idaho is an outdoor adventurer’s dream, Boise (and the Treasure Valley) have a ton more to offer whether you’re into music, farmer’s markets, or biking.
Below you’ll find a collection of everything we know about our town. Our Ultimate Boise Travel Guide. As we go about exploring to find all the grand little adventures we can, we’ll update this guide to pass along the neat stuff we find so you, too, can explore Boise like a local (and if you’re already a local then you’ve got a head start!).
“The trees! The trees!” shouted a French furtrapper, a member of the famous Bonneville expedition, as he rounded a ridge and spied the lush Boise River. Of course, he spoke in French and not English, so it sounded more like, “Les Bois! Les Bois!”
Or so the legend goes. The Boise River became such a large trading hub in the 1820’s between Native Americans and Westerners. Eventually, a string of Oregon Trail massacres led the U.S. Army to set up another fort on July 4, 1863 despite the raging Civil War on the other side of the country. It was a strategic location intersecting the Oregon Trail and the two nearby mining areas, Idaho City and Silver City.
A year later after a controversial vote reducing the size of the Idaho Territory and creating the Montana Territory, Boise was named the capital and stayed as such until Idaho reached statehood in 1890. Since then the City of Trees has maintained the largest population of any Idaho city at 226,570 contributing to the total metropolitan area population at 709,845.
Depending on where you come from, this can seem like a lot of people or not very many. Boise continues to grow at a rapid pace, though. In 2017 Forbes listed the Treasure Valley metro area as growing the fastest of any other metro area in the country.
Tada! Boise, ladies and gents. This map shows all the places we’ve explored in the Treasure Valley and have written about as well as the major attractions to the area. As we try new places, they get put on this map and is constantly updating. So keep checking back to see what we’ve been up to and what you can be up to, as well!
You can click on each of the map points to bring up info on the attraction or click the square button on the upper right of the map to see it larger. Red points are on our bucket list and blue are already checked off.
Spring is absolutely lovely here! Some years it is short and jumps to warmer temperatures quickly, and we see the 80’s in April. While other years spring actually does last all the way from March/April until the summer solstice in late June.
2018 was like that and I LOVED IT! Of course, summer with three weeks of 100*F weather followed shortly thereafter… But, hey, spring was gorgeous!
With trees and flowers blooming everywhere, Boise is as beautiful to explore as it is horrible for seasonal allergy sufferers. If you have the misfortune of seasonal allergies, my deepest sympathies. Try to focus on the great weather in between sneezes.
The Treasure Valley boasts 206 days of sunshine each year. And I believe it. This place is sunny. Blue skies seem to go on forever. It’s also dry, a huge bonus during the summer (and winter)!
I’ll take a step aside to point out that if you do go out exploring anywhere that looks dry to please be cautious of starting wildfires. Fireworks, hot car engines, and ill-kept campfires have started massive fires in the foothills and surrounding brushland. So please practice extra precautions when dealing with anything that could potentially start a fire.
And now back to our previously scheduled broadcasting.
Temperatures often stay in the 90’s with expeditions into the 100’s, but rarely does it feel like a wall of heat as it often does in, say, Arizona. This is thanks to the low humidity which keeps it bearable. That and air conditioning. I have no clue how anyone lived anywhere hot before the invention of air conditioning. Kudos to them.
Summer, in our opinion, is when Boise really comes alive. The beautiful sunny skies and warm temperatures just yell SUMMER!! Outdoor activities in particular really shine during this season.
Parks, river floating, swimming, water parks, biking, hiking, outdoor markets, picnics, the Greenbelt, outdoor movies, boating, and so much more are perfect for summers here in Boise. As summer gets closer, I’ll write up a huge article on all the great things to do during our summers. You won’t want to miss it.
I love spending fall in the City of Trees. Flashes of color are everywhere, especially in the downtown Boise parks and on the drive up to Idaho City. But even throughout the rest of the city, fall colors abound! It’s a great time to visit parks, corn mazes, and pumpkin patches.
Fall is also one of the best times to get senior and family portraits done. The varicolored backgrounds look spectacular in portraits! Caleb and I over at Caleb Patrick Photography love doing photo shoots this time of year. Mention this post and you’ll get $25 off when booking a senior or family portrait package!
The weather is extremely pleasant with moderate days and cool nights, perfect for warm boots and hot coffee. While fall can start in September, it typically is in full swing by October and ends right around Thanksgiving time. As the temperatures cool, we see a few more cloudy days, but to me that just adds to the charm of fall.
Winter. It is my enemy. Okay, maybe that’s a little harsh. But anything under 30*F is too cold for me, and that is the majority of the Idaho winters. Some rare years we’ve had lows under 0*F and highs only in the teens for weeks at a time.
But like I said, the humidity is low keeping the chill from seeping through your jacket as quickly. Another effect of low humidity is low precipitation. This means hardly any snow so a plus or minus depending on how you look at it.
We’ll get a few good dumps of snow throughout the winter which I think is great because this is the only time snow happens. So might as well enjoy it. But it rarely stays longer than a few days.
Unless you talk to someone who was there during the Snowpocoplyse of 2016. That season was naaaasty! A huge dumping of snow was immediately followed by a strong inversion lasting several weeks and keeping the temps (and the snow) in the teens. But this was a big deal because it never happens.
Inversions are something we get kind of a lot here, especially during the winter. Something about the shape of the Treasure Valley attracts certain systems to hang out for a couple weeks at a time. They often bring clear skies (meaning no insulation meaning low temps) and a perpetual smog-ish haze along the horizon.
But winter isn’t all bad. The abundance of locally owned and operated coffee shops in the area help keep you nice and warm.
There’s also Bogus Basin, the mountain slopes just north of downtown Boise, which provide excellent outdoor winter activities from skiing to snowshoeing to inner tubing. McCall area about two hours north of downtown is a veritable winter wonderland all throughout the winter months. And less than 45 minutes north you’ll find horse-drawn sleigh rides in Garden Valley.
We also have local activities if you’re not in the mood to drive far. Head on over to our Top 10 Things to Do in Boise during the Winter to beat away some wintery blues.
Guide on How to Travel Around Boise
Driving around Boise is a relatively easy task. Traffic can be wearisome in places during normal commute and lunch hours but that is to be expected of any metropolitan area with just over 700,000 residents.
For the most part, the Treasure Valley as a whole is laid out in 1-mile grid sections with the exception of the older neighborhoods like Downtown Boise and North End. Also, the vast majority of streets are two-way with the exception of Downtown Boise. Many of the streets in this neighborhood are one-way which can be disorienting. We always prefer to use a GPS or Google Maps if we are not familiar with an area and often scope out ahead of time how to get to where we want to go.
As for parking, generally speaking there is always parking available throughout the city. Downtown Boise does have many garages as well as some street parking. But since it is a popular place to explore, aim to arrive early if you want the cheaper street parking.
Boise covers a large 82 square miles so walking from one end to the other will take a while. We don’t recommend walking as your main mode of transportation while exploring the City of Trees as a whole.
Walking around Downtown Boise, however, is very doable. With small block lengths and a high density of attractions, you can walk pretty much anywhere in this area to get a lot of bang for your buck. Or stride. Or whatever you want to call it.
Other methods of transportation include biking, buses, taxis, and Uber/Lyft services. A new way to get around downtown Boise that has sprung up just within this past year is e-scooters. You’ll see scooters randomly standing around on street corners that charge by the minute used. We haven’t personally used them yet since we’re waiting to explore downtown Boise without a toddler and stroller.
“Get on the highway and at the flying Y take the connector to get to downtown.”
While Idahoans don’t have crazy nicknames for basically everything in this town, there are a few phrases to know to guide you as you travel Boise.
- Flying Y = where Highway 184 connects to Interstate 84. It looks like a sideways Y. Where the flying part came in, I have no clue. And I don’t think anyone else does. I personally think it’s there just to make it sound more recognizable.
- Connector = Highway 184. It connects downtown Boise to the interstate. This phrase I understand.
- Boise = pronounced “Boy-See” and not “Boy-Zee.” I don’t know if this is as big a thing as it was a decade ago when my family first moved here, especially since the Treasure Valley area has so drastically increased in population, but we got (nicely) railed for saying it wrong. People might not care anymore or as much as they used to. I did enough statistics in college to not go out and figure out the exact stats on I’ll go with my basic generalizations.
- North End = a neighborhood to the north end of downtown Boise. (See what I did there?? Bah-dum-tss!) It’s chocked full of historic houses, buildings, and high-end housing. Makes for fun a place to drive around and see.
- The Bench = it’s not actually a bench. Crazy, right? It’s the section of Boise between the arms of the Flying Y (I-84 and 184) all the way to downtown.
The funny thing to me about the Boise neighborhoods is most of them are really large. Idaho-sized, you could say. And most are heavily residential with a select few areas holding a large number of attractions.
Another odd thing to me about these neighborhoods is the lack of boundaries. They are more like generalizations of basic regions than neighborhoods.
But neither of those things make them less fun to explore and get to know. If you’re visiting from out of town, then concentrating on seeing attractions rather than exploring a specific neighborhood would probably be the better option for you.
If you are a local, though, and tired of the some of the more popular attractions, then exploring the neighborhoods individually can add a fun twist. It gives you direction in where to explore next as well as a guide to help you travel and explore Boise.
Our aim is to have posts dedicated to each of these nine neighborhoods and include the best places to visit and eat. Comment below to let us know which neighborhood you’d like us to detail next!
Historic and charming, this neighborhood just north of downtown Boise will steal your heart. With houses dating back from the 1800’s to more recently built, the variation of architectural style is immense. You can find Hyde Park nestled in the heart of North End where beautiful buildings and yummy restaurants will excite your senses. While mostly residential, there is great access to parks and trails nearby to satisfy your outdoors need.
Expanding all the way from Boise State University near downtown Boise to about seven miles upstream, Southeast Boise has a little bit of everything. With several miles of the Greenbelt, access to floating down the Boise River at Barber Park, and lovely shopping centers, there’s always something to do. Plus convenient access to both downtown Boise and the highway makes exploring other areas extremely easy.
Just to the left of Southeast Boise lies the Boise Bench stretching from downtown Boise to the Boise Airport. Top attractions include the historic Boise Train Depot, Ann Morrison Park, and the Aquarium of Boise. Drive along Crescent Rim Drive to snag great vistas of downtown Boise and the foothills and front row seating for the annual Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic, a grand hot air balloon festival held every September.
The central hub of Boise, downtown Boise, affectionally named “BoDo,” is home to amazing historic architecture, iconic restaurants, and many attractions. The top of which include the Idaho State Capitol, Zoo Boise and Idaho State Museum both in Julia Davis Park, and the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial. That’s not even mentioning the continuing meander of the tree-lined Greenbelt.
Between downtown Boise and Eagle, ID runs the arterial road, State Street. Nearly any type of store, restaurant, and architectural style can be found here. To the north is the foothills fun of winding trails just waiting to be hiked or biked.
This is one of my favorite neighborhoods to tour on a casual Sunday afternoon drive. Along Warm Springs Avenue you’ll find a long row of historic houses nestled among grand shade trees, a perfect place for a bike ride. Further down is the Old Idaho Penitentiary, Idaho Botanical Gardens, and access to the Table Rock trail. Up in the foothills live gorgeous homes with amazing views of the valley. And down by the Boise River is the iconic Greenbelt ripe for walking, biking, or roller blading.
Spanning along the south side of the main highway, South Boise is home to Idaho Ice World, the Boise Airport, many miles of shopping, and cozy residential areas. If you’re looking for name brand apparel at discounted prices, look no further than the Boise Factory Outlet Mall, home to many outlet stores like Edie Bauer and Gymboree. Quick highway access from pretty much anywhere in this neighborhood means quick access of any location within the Boise metropolitan area.
Consisting mainly of residential areas, many of which with large lots, Southwest Boise is a quiet place to stay in the midst of a bustling metropolitan area. Deep within this neighborhood you’ll find the World Center for Birds of Prey, an educational center for all things birds of prey.
Located between downtown Boise and Meridian, West Boise really does have a little of everything. Two major shopping centers, the Boise Town Square Mall and the Village at Meridian, bookend this neighborhood while several parks are interspersed among the large residential area.
Free is always good. It’s a great way to explore without cleaning out your pocketbook. It’s also a great way to entertain kiddos without going to the zoo or aquarium every few weeks. Boise has got some great free stuff to do, so here’s a quick reference guide to get you travel to maybe some new free spots!
There’s lots of great parks in Boise most with playgrounds, sport courts/fields, and plenty of trees. Skip down a bit to see the “Parks” section or head over here to see our comprehensive guide to all the parks in Boise.
One of the jewels of Boise, the Greenbelt is a beautiful pathway along the Boise River running right through the heart of downtown Boise. Along its several miles you can find river access points for swimming, multiple picnic benches, and plenty of picture-worthy scenery.
Idaho State Capitol Building
A historic site for both Boise and Idaho, the Capitol building is full of history and architecture. You can sit in on house and senate meetings, explore the marble-lined hallways, and admire the art and sculptures throughout.
Boise Train Depot
Once a hub of the passenger train transportation of Boise (which is no longer active, something I am very sad about), the Boise Train Depot provides a beautiful look back into the past. It is open to the public on Sundays and Mondays, and the volunteers can take you up into the bell tower to see some great city views! Other days of the week the Depot itself is closed, but the area surrounding it is still cool to check out.
Freak Alley Gallery
Filled with murals from local artists, Freak Alley is the largest outdoor gallery in the Pacific Northwest and changes annually. Since it’s outside between 8th and 9th Streets and Bannock and Idaho Streets, you can go any time of the day. There’s also an indoor gallery open the first Thursday of every month which further highlights local art and artists.
Even though free is great, sometimes spending some cash on admission leads to some awesome adventures. These are just the top 6 spots to check out in Boise and are no means the only ones worth seeing! But they’re a good place to start.
While not as large as say the Seattle or Portland zoos, Boise’s very own zoo can hold its own. Recent expansion of the zoo includes new African animals like giraffes and other renovations currently underway will drastically increase its size. Lions and tigers and bears (oh my!) along with a plethora of other animals give your little (and big!) explorers lots to see.
Idaho State Museum
Recent renovations completely transformed the Idaho State Museum to an updated look with new and expanded exhibitions. Showcases include Idaho history, landscapes, firsthand accounts, and hands-on exhibits for a truly in depth look at Idaho.
World Center for Birds of Prey
Located south of Boise, the World Center for Birds of Prey is dedicated to every hawk, falcon, eagle, and more that need care and protection. And to help spread the wonder of birds of prey, they have special areas open to the public to learn and explore all things birds of prey and their natural habitats.
Idaho Ice World
This large skating center hosts all sorts of ice sports as well as public ice skating. You’ll have to check their calendar for open skating times since they vary throughout the week, but intermixed are special weekly and monthly events for extra family fun.
Discovery Center of Idaho
Sharing STEM activities and learning opportunities is the main goal of the Discovery Center of Idaho. Filled with crazy inventions, puzzles, and natural wonders, this place will open your eyes to the beauty of science.
Old Idaho Penitentiary
Since it’s opening in 1872, this rickety old stone building housed some horrible criminals during its time. With 30 historic buildings and several neat events each month, this place is bursting with history.
Basque Museum and Cultural Center
In the heart of the Basque Block in downtown Boise, Idaho, the Basque Museum and Cultural Center serves as the learning hub for all things Basque. A thorough tour of the neighboring historical boarding house combined with an inspiring collection of pictures and stories throughout Basque history, this museum gives you a new appreciation and understanding of a culture you might not have ever heard of before.
Parks and Trails
Idaho as a whole is an outdoorsy state, and Boise is no exception. Known as the City of Trees, Boise is a little oasis of beautiful greenery in the midst of a dry valley. It earns this title because of its many tree-lined streets and multiple parks. A quick search will show just how many parks are available to the public.
But it’s hard to know where to start or what are the best parks and trails.
This guide lists the largest and most popular parks and trails in the city of Boise to travel to. I wrote up the comprehensive Boise parks list along with a handy dandy map that you can check out here if you’d like more local parks to check out!
Highlights: playground, outdoor gym, fountain, several fields, baseball diamonds, bocce courts, disc golf course, horseshoe pits, sand volleyball, soccer fields, sheltered picnic areas, shade trees, walking paths, raft pullout point (last possible place to end rafting the Boise River)
Address: 1000 S Americana Blvd, Boise, ID 83706
Highlights: walking paths, several ponds, fountain, reserveable pavilions, wildlife habitat (we’ve see all sorts of birds, deer, and bunnies!)
Address: 1001 N Americana Blvd, Boise, ID 83706
Highlights: playground, tons of biking/walking paths, several sport courts, old growth shade trees, rose garden, picnic areas
Attractions: Idaho State Museum, Boise Art Museum, Idaho Black History Museum, Abraham Lincoln statue (that dude is huge!), Boise Zoo, Discovery Center of Idaho, pond for Paddle Boats
Address: 700 S Capitol Blvd, Boise, ID 83702
Highlights: playground, picnic areas, outdoor gym, practice fields, tennis, volleyball, Camel’s Back Hill for hiking and great views
Address: 1200 Heron St, Boise, ID 83702
Highlights: ponds for fishing, swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding, etc.; sandy beaches; walking/biking paths; adjacent to Quinn’s Pond and Boise Whitewater Park (which has waves on the Boise River for surfing)
Address: 3206 W Pleasanton Ave, Boise, ID 83702
M.K. Nature Center
Highlights: walking paths, local plants and trees, beaver dam, fish hatchery and pond
Address: 600 S Walnut St, Boise, ID 83712
With the foothills so close to Boise, they offer a huge selection of trails to explore. Some are built for hikers, some for bikers. But all of them provide a beautiful taste of the great Idaho outdoors.
Most of the trails available to the public are maintained by Ridge to Rivers employees with over 70 years of combined experience. They have an interactive map of all the trails accessible from Boise that you can see here along with short descriptions and lengths of the specific trails.
Here are some of the more popular hikes near downtown Boise:
Highlights: classic hike up to the lighted cross, fabulous city views, cool boulders to explore at the top
Access: Turn onto Old Penitentiary Rd from E Warm Springs Ave and drive about 1000 feet until you can turn left onto E Old Penitentiary. Parking and trail access are at the end of that road. The trail is toward the right.
Highlights: short hike to a neat boulder resembling an elephant, short (.5 miles), nice city views, combine with the Cottonwood Creek trail (almost 1 mile) for a nice hike along a creek
Access: Park at the Cottonwood Creek Trailhead (911 Mountain Cove Rd, Boise, ID 83702) and walk about 500 ft up the road to see the trailhead to the left.
Castle Rock Loop
Highlights: hiking trails of variable difficulty, great views of the city, cool rocks for kids to climb on.
Access: 451 N Quarry View Pl, Boise, ID 83712 or the same access as Table Rock but this trail is toward the left.
There are, as you can imagine, a ton of radio stations around here. Bit this means there’s always something to listen to no matter what mood you’re in. Even if it’s country. (Just kidding!)
- 100.3 The X – active rock
- 103.5 Kiss FM – contemporary hits
- 96.1 Bob – variety hits
- 101.1 Wild 101.1 – rhythmic contemporary hits
- 107.9 Lite FM – adult contemporary
- 105.9 Mix 106 – Hot AC
- 97.9 The Bull – country
- 104.3 Wow – country
- 89.5 KTSY – Christian contemporary
- 88.7 Project 88.7 – Christian rock
- 98.7 Air1 – alternative Christian rock
- 99.5 KLOV – Christian contemporary
- 102.3 FM/1140 AM Salt & Light – Catholic radio
- 90.9 KGCL – Spanish Christian
- 1490 KCID – Spanish Christian
- 106.3 Latino
- 670 KBOI – talk
- 580 KIDO – talk
- 630 The Fan – sports radio
That’s It for Now!
Wow! You made it through our super long Ultimate Boise Travel Guide! (Or maybe you just skipped to the end. That works, too.) Through this whole guide, travel destinations, and exploration tips, we strive to show just how much can actually be done in Boise, Idaho.
As we explore the Treasure Valley finding some new and some old places to see, we’ll update this so you have as much information as we do. We want to learn to love Boise as much as we do and to never be bored.
So check back later for updates and poke around the rest of our blog to see some neat things to do in the beautiful Boise, Idaho!