The Fun Never Ends in Boise: The West’s Best-Kept Secret

Boise may be known for its famous potatoes, but there is so much more to this vibrant city. The food and art scene is thriving, with delicious restaurants fused with local art popping up all over town. The 25-mile, tree-lined Boise River Greenbelt runs through the city, offering stunning views of the Boise River and foothills. And outdoor enthusiasts will love exploring Boise's nearby mountains and lakes for endless outdoor adventures. There are so many incredible things to do in Boise.

Getaways to and from “The City of Trees” are easier than ever, with 26 direct flights from cities across the US and 200 days of sunshine. Over 1 million visitors are flocking to the city, eager for a getaway full of fresh air and adventure.

Top Picks for Things To Do in Boise

boise 1
Image Credit: Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau
  • Boise River Greenbelt
  • Boise Culinary Scene
  • Explore Art in Boise
  • Head Up to Bogus Basin
  • Enjoy Idaho Craft Breweries
  • Unique Idaho Accommodations
  • Sunnyslope Wine Trail
  • Experience Basque Culture
  • Watch a Broncos Game
  • Tour Old Idaho Penitentiary

1. Boise River Greenbelt

woman on bike on pathway
Image Credit: Savoteur

Boise is nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains and lakes, making it the perfect destination for outdoor adventures. The 25-mile Boise River Greenbelt is a scenic pathway that follows the north and south sides of the Boise River, providing access to many popular riverside parks in the city. The tree-lined route is a favorite among locals for its wildlife habitat, relaxing views, and easy pedestrian access. 

Many hotels offer complimentary bikes for touring around Boise, or you can pick up one of the many electric scooters parked throughout the city and safely explore in one of the many bike lanes.

2. Enjoy The Boise Culinary Scene

people sitting at bar at restaurant in boise
Image Credit: Savoteur

The food scene in Boise is surprisingly mouth-watering. You can find incredible flavors at trendy restaurants like Juniper or have a unique dining experience at Fork restaurant, where many of their key ingredients are sourced from local Boise and Northwest suppliers.

At KIN, art and food merge together for an unforgettable five-course prix fixe meal. Or head next door to KIN's bar, where the art of mixology is taken to a whole new level. It's the perfect location for a date night in this thriving city.

“This place is foodie heaven. The dishes were creative, unique, and delicious,” comments a visitor from Seattle

During summer, locally sourced food and drink are what to expect on any patio scene in Boise. While residents fill their days enjoying nature, they spend their evenings dining on locally sourced cuisine and sipping delicious cocktails.

For breakfast, get your steps in on your walk to Big City Coffee for a meal that will fill you up until dinner. The atmosphere is lively, the tables are always full, and the food is plentiful. This restaurant may just have the largest pastries you have ever seen.

Or, if you have a craving for bacon, you can go right to the source. BACON Boise covers all three B's: Brunch. Boise. Bacon. Need we say more?!!

3. Explore The Art Scene in Boise

freak alley outdoor gallery in boise
Image Credit: Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau

While many people think of Boise as a hidden gem in the Pacific Northwest, it is also home to a thriving arts and culture scene. Boise is growing and expanding in many ways, from music to modern dance to art. New collaborations are forming and taking root.

Freak Alley Gallery is an open-air mural gallery located in Downtown Boise between 8th and 9th streets and Bannock and Idaho. It is the largest such gallery in the northwest. 

The Boise Art Museum is a well-known and much-loved establishment in the city. It not only showcases different exhibits throughout the year but also organizes community experiences, art fundraisers, and educational events.

4. Take a Ride up To Bogus Basin

family on mountain roller coaster
Image Credit: Visit Idaho

Bogus Basin is a mountain biking hot spot in the summer and a wonderland for skiing and snowboarding in winter.

Bogus Basin’s highlight is a ride on the historic mountain roller coaster.

What’s a mountain roller coaster?

In short, it’s over 4000 feet of twisting, turning, and (let’s face it) screaming and adrenaline as you ride through the trees with stunning mountain scenery.

The mountain roller coaster is located just east of Simplot Lodge.

5. Check Out Idaho Craft Breweries

people drinking at craft brewery in idaho
Image Credit: Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau

Love craft beer? Then Idaho is the right place to be.

This state is the number one barley producer in the US and the second in hops. With over 55 craft breweries in Idaho, you will surely find a beer that will satisfy your taste buds.

Most breweries are in Boise, but you’ll also come across a few gems in other parts of Idaho. Some best places to enjoy a cold pint include Payette Brewery, White Dog Brewing Co and Lost Grove Brewing.

Take a beer-tasting tour in Boise to make the most of Idaho’s craft beer scene and discover your favorite local beer.

6. Unwind in Idaho Style

hotel room bed in idaho
Image Credit: Savoteur

The Inn at 500 Capitol, Boise's four-diamond boutique hotel, is ranked the #1 best hotel in Boise by Trip Adviser and offers guests stylish suites, uniquely themed rooms, and a clever butler's pantry. The themed rooms are dreamy and vary from a soothing Sun Valley theme to a vibrant Boise Art Museum theme and everything in between.

Boise is an exceedingly walkable city, and the Grove Hotel puts you just steps from the city's best shopping and restaurants, while the Hyatt Place offers business travelers some much-needed respite. 

“Boise has a lot to offer, even on a short weekend trip. There is a multitude of activities, accommodations, and food options to enjoy, and the best part is they come at a lower price point when compared with popular getaway spots,” says Jessica from BudgetSavvyBride.

7. Sunnyslope Wine Trail

woman overlooking vineyards is one of the best things to do in boise
Image Credit: Savoteur

The city of Caldwell is the gateway to Idaho's wine region, specifically the Snake River Valley AVA. Here you'll find a treasure trove of wineries along the Sunnyslope Wine Trail, a short drive from Boise.

This wine region is still in its infancy, but that is part of the appeal. Many wineries have a laidback and intimate atmosphere, allowing for conversation with the winemakers themselves.

Take your time to explore and taste wines at Ste. Chapelle, Williamson, Sawtooth, and Koenig Vineyards, where you can sample everything from Riesling to Syrah, and my personal Idaho favorite, Tempranillo.

“We are still this lovely coalescence of more of a neighbor mentality than competitors. There is so much friendliness and cooperativeness that you do not see in too many other regions,” says Beverly Williamson from Williamson Orchards and Vineyards.

For the perfect lunch stop on your winery tour, you must visit Peaceful Belly. It is a delightfully small seasonal restaurant with the most incredible plant-inspired menu options perfect for sharing. They specialize in ciders, but they also serve local wines from neighboring vineyards. 

8. Experience Basque Culture

man cooking paella
Image Credit: Savoteur

Boise has a large population of Basque Americans, and you can learn about the unique culture through food, events, and museums. Experience quintessential Basque cuisine at The Basque Market for lunch, where you can enjoy Paella on the patio or take it with you for an outdoor picnic.

Spend a few hours at the Basque Museum across the street from The Basque Market and visit the indoor fronton court used as a playing area for Basque pelota.

Jaialdi, a large Basque festival celebrated every five years, is a popular event that Boise's Basque community organizes. Coming from all corners of the globe, thousands gather in Idaho to dance, eat and listen to music while enjoying each other's company. The next Jaialdi will be held in Boise in 2025.

9. All About The Broncos

football game in boise idaho
Image Credit: Savoteur

Boise State University Broncos are the pride and joy of the city. So on game days, it's not uncommon to see people decked out in blue and orange, tailgating before heading to Albertsons Stadium. It is definitely one of the best things to do in Boise during a visit. 

BSU has a strong athletics program, and you would be remiss if you didn't catch a Broncos game when visiting Boise. The campus has beautiful architecture, and the nearby Boise River Greenbelt provides a perfect spot for pre or post-game picnics.

10. Old Idaho Penitentiary

woman walking on path at idaho penetentiary
Image Credit: Savoteur

The Old Idaho Penitentiary is a prison that saw its share of excitement during the 19th century, from scandals to escapes. Now you can experience it firsthand with a self-guided tour or by taking one of the fascinating guided tours.

The prison was operational for more than 100 years, but it has been turned into an interesting museum. It's now one of the best things to do when visiting Boise. The gallows are one of the most chilling pieces in this prison. You can see where executions took place and learn about some dark moments in Idaho's history that happened right here on these grounds.

“Siberia,” a building in which twelve 3'x8′ cells were constructed for bad behavior and solitude. Inmates could spend anywhere from days to weeks here without any contact with the outside world – it is hard to believe anyone survived it.

Other Fun and Unique Things To Do in Boise

family on bikes on bogus mountain boise idaho
Image Credit: Visit Idaho
  • Paddle boat in Julia Davis park
  • Admire Idaho State Capitol Building
  • Go Wildlife Watching at Morisson Knudsen Nature Center
  • Experience Boise Vibrant Farmers Markets
  • Take a Stroll Through Idaho Botanical Garden
  • See the Only Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial in the US
  • Enjoy a Pleasant Walk in Kathryn Albertson Park
  • Attend the Open-Air Idaho Shakespeare Festival
  • Learn Something New at the Discovery Center of Idaho
  • Surf or Kayak in Urban White Waterpark
  • Go Hiking or Mountain Biking in Camel's Back Park
  • Visit the Aquarium of Boise
  • Float Down the Boise River
  • Take a Guided Tour of the World Center for Birds of Prey
  • Try Ice Cream Potato at Westside Drive-In, Boise
  • Spend a Night at Giant Potato Airbnb

11. Paddle Boat in Julia Davis Park

pathway through trees
Image Credit: City of Boise

You can easily spend a day or more enjoying Julia Davis Park, the adjacent park of Greenbelt.

A series of pedestrian bridges connect the park across the Boise river.

As you walk through the park, you'll be surrounded by a cooling shade of mature trees.

You can also rent a paddle boat. Paddle boats are available for rent at the park every year from May to September. During the busy summer season, the rentals are open seven days a week from 11:00 am to 6:30 pm. 

The park is also home to Zoo Boise, a children's amusement park, the Boise Art Museum, and the Idaho Historical Museum. 

Idaho Historical Museum is an excellent spot if you wish to learn more about the lives of Boise's early inhabitants, from Indians and Chinese to first settlers.

12. Admire Idaho State Capitol Building

Idaho State Capitol Building
Image Credit: Deposit Photos

The centerpiece of downtown Boise is the Idaho State Capitol.

The building is designed in a neoclassical style with a striking marble interior.

There are numerous pillars, statues, and historical artifacts throughout the building. What's particularly impressive is the round ceiling.

If you're interested in history or architecture, you'll enjoy a guided tour where you can explore the history of the building, wander around, and marvel.

The atmosphere of the capitol is also interesting. You'll see state politicians walking down the halls and debating in the chambers.

13. Go Wildlife Watching at Morrison Knudsen Nature Center

kids looking at deer
Image Credit: IDFG/MKNC

Morrison Knudsen Nature Center is a fascinating interpretive center offering insight into Idaho's wildlife. It's educational yet fun.

You can view fish through underwater windows, see the rainbow trout life cycle from eggs to full-grown fish or get a close-up look at a beaver dam.

Kids love the Touch and Feel gallery, featuring animal skulls, hides, and a life-size bear den.

14. Experience Vibrant Boise Farmers Markets

farmers market in boise downtwon
Image Credit: Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau

Do you love farmers' markets? If so, you should take advantage of Capital City Public Market in downtown Boise. With over 100 vendors, you can find fresh produce from small local farmers and buy unique handmade crafts from many artisans. 

The market is open every Saturday of the summer between 9:30 am and 1:30 pm at Idaho St. 

The atmosphere is super fun. Moreover, it feels great to support small local businesses and eat what's in season.

You can find everything from Boise art glass and cider to delicious pastries and hand-crafted jewelry here. 

Pick up your picnic supplies here and head to the Botanical garden or one of Idaho's scenic parks.

You can also explore Boise Farmer's market if you just can't get enough local delicacies.

It takes place on Saturdays (9 am to 1 pm) from April to October.

Strolling the farmers' markets is one of the most popular summer Boise attractions.

15. Take a Stroll Through Idaho Botanical Garden

botanical garden entrance in boise
Image Credit: Idaho Botanical Garden

The spring and summer are perfect for seeing the Idaho botanical garden in full bloom.

You can immerse yourself in the fresh aroma of flowers and trees as you walk through many different themed gardens.

In winter, it becomes a magical Garden aGlow full of lights to awaken the Christmas spirit.

There are also many concerts and festivals that take place in the garden. Some of the most popular include the Summer Solstice Celebration, Summer Outdoor Concert Series, and Scarecrow Stroll.

16. See The Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial

anne frank memorial is one of the best things to do in boise
Image Credit: Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau

The Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial is a touching tribute to the young girl who faced such a tragedy in her short life. Located near the Boise Public Library, the memorial honors all victims of human rights violations.

The memorial's centerpiece is a life-size bronze sculpture of Anne Frank. In addition, there are profound and touching quotes of people who lived during this time in history engraved in the stone.

It's a powerful reminder of the importance of fighting for human rights and ensuring that atrocities like the Holocaust never happen again.

The memorial is open to the public and free to visit.

17. Enjoy a Pleasant Walk in Kathryn Albertson Park

person walking through park in boise with ponds
Image Credit: City of Boise

Another local gem is Kathryn Albertson park. The park is a beautiful oasis right in the heart of Boise.

You can go dog walking or jogging. The park has plenty of open space and shady trees to relax in. There are also several ponds and gardens to explore.

It's a fantastic place to recharge your batteries from the hustle and bustle of the city.

18. Attend Open-Air Idaho Shakespeare Festival

open-air idaho shakespeare play
Image Credit: Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau

In the summer, thousands of people flock to Idaho Shakespeare Festival at the Idaho Shakes Theatre.

This outdoor amphitheater hosts several shows each summer and draws crowds from all over the state, with performances spanning different genres, including drama, comedy, and romance.

The atmosphere is delightful. You can also bring a blanket and picnic to enjoy the show on the lawn seating. There are some snacks and drinks for purchase from Café Shakespeare too.

19. Learn Something New at The Discovery Center of Idaho

woman looking at clear globe at discovery center idaho
Image credit: Stoltz Group / Discovery Center of Idaho, 2021

Still trying to figure out what to do on a rainy day? Head to the Discovery Center of Idaho for a fun indoor activity with your family.

The Center offers many interactive, hands-on exhibitions about science and technology.

The most popular exhibit is SLIME. It's a green gooey substance that can stretch. The slim substance is fun to play with for all ages.

Many other exhibits explore different topics, from space to dinosaurs.

20. Surf or Kayak in Urban White Waterpark

surfer and kayaker on boise river
Image Credit: Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau

Believe it or not, you can go surfing on the Boise river! If this makes no sense to you, that's understandable. I was quite surprised too when I first discovered it.

You can rent boards and wetsuits at the local surf shop, Corridor, and ride a wave at Boise White Waterpark.

Riding the Boise wave might be a great introduction to surfing if that's something that you feel drawn to. Or you can keep it simple and rent a kayak instead.

Either way, you're sure to have a good time.

21. Go Hiking or Mountain Biking in Camel's Back Park

biker on trail in boise idaho
Image Credit: Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau

You should head to Camel's Back Park if you love the outdoors. This place is a hiking hot spot for locals, and it's located only two miles from downtown Boise.

The park has multiple hiking trails to choose from for any fitness level. One of the most popular trails in the park is Hulls Gulch Trail #29. It's a scenic trail that winds its way through the forested hills. To make it even more fun, you can ride through the biking trails on a mountain bike.

The terrain is fast yet somewhat technical. 

There are also several other trails in the park, including Kestrel, Crestline, and Red Fox trails.

If you're not a big fan of hiking, there are other outdoor activities that you can do. The park has tennis courts, a playground, beach volleyball courts, picnic tables, and an outdoor gym.

Some other popular hikes around Boise are Stack Rock, Ceravide Peak, Lucky Peak Reservoir, and Table Rock.

22. Visit The Aquarium of Boise

fish in aquarium
Image Credit: Deposit Photos

Boise is packed with family-friendly activities, and the Aquarium of Boise is one of them. Visiting the aquarium is a great way to spend a fun family afternoon with kids.

This aquarium is home to a wide variety of marine life.

The highlights of the aquarium are the shark & puffer tank, manta ray pool, and reptile exhibit. 

Keep your eyes peeled for red-tailed boas, bearded dragons, and poison dart frogs. 

Kids will love learning about the different developmental stages of sharks.

23. Float Down The Boise River

people floating down boise river
Image Credit: Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau

Tubing down the Boise river with kids and cool drinks is the perfect activity on a hot summer day.

The best spot for tubing is from Barber Park to Ann Morrison Park. 

Bring sunscreen, snacks, and hats, as the float takes about 2 to 3h. You can rent your gear for a reasonable price from Boise River raft. 

The cost of parking for the day is $7.

24. Take a Guided Tour of The World Center for Birds of Prey

swainson hawk flying while people taking photos
Image Credit: Muriel McClellan

The World Center for Birds of Prey is south of Boise.

You'll enjoy a panoramic view of the Boise River Valley from the Center's perch up in the hills above the Snake River.

A guided tour of the World Center includes an introductory video exploring birds of prey, demonstrations using live birds, and viewings of live falcons and some of the world's largest eagles.

The Center was established to rehabilitate injured birds of prey and educate the public about these birds and other endangered species.

25. Try Ice Cream Potato at Westside Drive-In, Boise

potato ice cream
Image Credit: Westside Drive In

Do you have a sweet tooth? If yes, then you'll love Ice Cream Potato.

It looks like a potato but don't let that fool you. It tastes even better than a classic potato.

This dessert is a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, molded to look like a baked potato and then covered in cocoa, whipped cream, peanuts, and cookie crumbles. Deliciousness guaranteed!

You can find this special Idaho treat at Westside Drive-In in Boise– a pink 1950s-style diner that's been around since 1957. It has a nice vintage look. Besides ice cream, they also serve delicious burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs, and soups.

The sweet potato fries are amazing – especially with the cinnamon dip! 

26. Spend The Night at a Giant Potato Airbnb

woman standing in front of potato hotel
Image Credit: Idaho Potato Commission

Attention, potato lovers! Boise has a super delicious ice cream potato and one-of-a-kind potato accommodation.

This place is pretty unique, so it can get booked up quickly. If you can't find available rooms, you could come to check out the giant 6-ton potato sitting right in the middle of nowhere. It's so massive that you can see it from afar.

The Airbnb interior is also equally as impressive. The rooms are modern and cozy. And the best part is the Big Idaho Potato Hotel comes with the sweetest jersey cow in the world, who will be your companion for the stay. 

27. Sip Your Way Through Late Night Happy Hour

man and woman drinking wine in boise
Image Credit: Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau

Happy hours are always fun but guess what's even better? Late-night happy hours. Check out Boise's local late-night happy hours to enjoy a night out with your favorite drinks and tasty snacks without breaking the bank.

Capitol Bar

Thursday – Saturday, 9 pm – 11 pm

Legends Pub and Grill

Daily 9:30 pm – 11 pm, ½ off all drinks

Old Chicago

11 pm – close

The Bar at The Grove Hotel

Monday-Thursday nights, 8 pm – 10 pm, Buy One, Get One FREE Idaho draft beers and Idaho wines by the glass, 50% off appetizers.

These are just a few spots to get your ball rolling, but many more places in town offer Late Night Happy Hour. Just double-check with the specific restaurants or bars in case anything changes.

Things To Do Near Boise, Idaho

people whitewater rafting
Image Credit: Visit Idaho

28. Try Epic Zip Line with Zip Idaho

29. Spend a Spa Day in the The Springs at Idaho City

30. Sandboard or Stargaze in Brunea Sand Dunes

31. Challenge Yourself and Rock climb the Black Cliffs

32. Fall in Love with military aviation in Warhawk Musuem 

33. Go on a Jet Boat Ride in Hell's Canyon

34. Whitewater raft or kayak in Cascade

Stuff To Do in Boise at Night

people at restaurants in boise idaho
Image Credit: Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau

Boise is fun both day and night. The streets are lined with bars, restaurants, and cafes.

To experience the best of Boise nightlife, you can:

  • dance all night at the Balcony Club and Fatty's
  • enjoy a craft brew in Barbarian Brewing, Payette Brewing Company, Boise Brewing, and Lost Grover Brewing
  • savor a glass of wine at Cinder Wines, Split Rail Winery, Telaya Wine Co., Coiled Wines…
  • find the best cocktails at The Mode, Press & Pony, Waterbear Bar and Red Feather Lounge
  • have fun with old-school video games and pinball machines at Spacebar Arcade filled with good drinks and classic arcade games
  • check out RamaPong – a ping-pong and ramen bar

Boise Is a City Full of New Energy

man cycling on path under bridge
Image Credit: Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau

Boise is a gateway to Idaho's forests, lakes, and rivers. There are plenty of exciting outdoor activities and lots of fun things to do here – from hiking and mountain biking to kayaking.

Not to mention an abundance of microbreweries, affordable craft cocktails, and farm-to-table dining.

Boise is becoming a new mecca for young folks fleeing the high-priced rents in San Francisco and Seattle. The city is right on track to remove Portland's crown as the city with the highest number of hipster cafes.

There are also countless things to see in Boise and places to go.

If you happen to be in Boise in March, visit the annual Treefort Music Festival.

It's safe to say that this state capital is a great place to visit and spend some time. Cool cities like Boise don't tend to stay below the radar for too long.

This article originally appeared on Savoteur.

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Casandra is the founder of Karpiak Caravan Adventure Family Travel and a mother to two adventurous young boys. Casandra is a family-focused, adventure travel advocate.

A Toronto native with Danish roots, she became an avid traveler after her first trip to Europe as a college student. Casandra's goal is to provide an educational experience for her family when she travels. When visiting historic sites like D-Day landing beaches in Normandy, or learning about ranch life at a dude ranch on horseback, it’s always a priority to provide an educational experience and to learn about the culture and history of each destination.

You can follow her adventures at karpiakcaravan or get in touch via her social media pages on Facebook and Instagram.