What to do in Boise, Idaho
If you’re curious about what to do in Boise Idaho, just know that it is a vibrant and fast-growing city that has a bustling downtown area, great nightlife, and plenty of shops and restaurants. Even better, Boise also has plenty of nature where you can enjoy outdoor activities, making the list of things to do in Boise rather lengthy, no matter what kind of experience you’re looking for.
Psst: Looking for more Idaho guides? We have a few. Check out the most popular ones here:
Table of Contents
- When to Visit Boise Idaho
- How to get to Boise
- Where to Stay in Boise
- What to do in Boise, Idaho
- Day Trips from Boise
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Map of what to do in Boise, Idaho
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View from Table Rock hike
Though Boise is beautiful year-round, springtime (March-May) is typically considered the best time to visit since the temperatures are warm (but not too warm) and there’s plenty of greenery and flowers around.
The fall (September-November) is another good time to visit. Flights are typically cheaper, the weather is moderate, and the scenery is stunning.
Summer (June-August) can be ideal in some cases, like if you’re spending a lot of time on or near the water, but keep in mind that it can get very hot with desert-like conditions, and often reaches the 90s or even the triple digits!
First, figure out your list of what to do in Boise Idaho, and then figure out the time of year which fits best with those plans.
Getting to Boise is easy since Boise Airport (BOI) has 8 different airlines that offer direct flights to 28 major cities, and connecting flights to thousands of cities around the world. There are also plenty of shops and restaurants to keep you occupied and the airport is clean and simple with minimal security lines on most days.
Booking.com probably has the most variety of accommodations not only in the U.S., but in the world. In our experience, we have consistently found the most affordable rooms on Booking.com. We also love their easy-to-use interface, responsive customer service, and no-money-down policy. When looking for a hotel, we have always booked through them.
We spent a good bit of time walking and scootering around the city visiting wineries and breweries. We have picked these hotels based on the walkability of restaurants, wineries, and nightlife that is sure to please.
Splurge: Inn at 500 Capitol
A true luxury stay, this 4-diamond hotel offers spacious guest rooms with incredible skyline views and stylish rooms.
If you are yearning to experience the royal treatment, click here to check current prices or book your stay.
Mid-Range: Home2 Suites By Hilton Boise Downtown
In terms of excellent walkability, you won’t be sorry staying here. One block off the main boulevard, this hotel is right around the corner from Boise’s historic Basque block (Boise has one of the biggest Basque communities in the nation) and a short walk from the famed Freak Alley, a walkable street filled with street art, bars, restaurants, and shops.
When our parents visited, they stayed here and it was a great central location. We walked a lot (especially to get Chip Cookies).
To be in the middle of it all, click here to check current prices or book your stay.
Looking for other places to stay in Downtown Boise?
It should go without saying, but your list of what to do in Boise Idaho must include Downtown Boise as it is a must-see whether you’re with family, friends, or by yourself. There are tons of shops, bars, and restaurants, as well as music venues, activities for kids, and a vibrant art scene.
Named one of the coolest hipster neighborhoods in the US, the 8th Street district is a trendy neighborhood located in downtown Boise that’s popular among millennials, though anyone can enjoy their time there.
The 8th Street area is full of craft breweries, urban wineries, unique shops, and colorful murals. However, the best part about 8th Street is its restaurants, most of which are local. A few that are worth checking out are Juniper, which serves New American cuisine, Diablo & Sons Saloon, which specializes in tacos (and not just on Tuesdays), and The Matador, which serves Mexican food.
While we normally reserve our flights for beer, make sure you get a few different types of fries to create your own Fry Flight. And don’t forget all of the different seasonings and dipping sauces. Salivating!
If your “What to do in Boise Idaho” list doesn’t include eating some famous Idaho spuds, you just aren’t doing it right.
With rotating flavors like cinnamon roll chip, white chocolate snickerdoodle chip, butterfinger chip (and so many more), you best stock up because there is always a chance they won’t be there when you go again.
One of the most popular things to do in Boise is visit the beautiful parks in the area. We recommend Boise River Greenbelt, a 25-mile long park that links to the business district, surrounding neighborhoods, and over 850 acres of other parks in the area.
If you choose to bike or hike the trail, you’ll see plenty of scenic views and wildlife (ducks, songbirds, bald eagles, and more). Other popular activities at the park are bird-watching and fishing.
If you’re wondering what to do in Boise Idaho and you like art, check out the Freak Alley Gallery.
The gallery all started back in 2002 when a man named Colby Akers created a drawing on the backdoor of Moon’s Cafe. Now, artwork covers the entire alley.
The best part about Freak Alley Gallery is that all the artwork has been completely painted by various local artists, and new art is added every year. Be sure to bring your camera!
The Freak Alley Gallery is located right in the midst of all of the restaurants and bars on the walkable 8th Street, so this is an easy addition to your list of things to do in Boise.
Heading to the Boise Farmers Market (BFM) is one of the best things to do in Boise if you’re looking to purchase some fresh and local food. Boise Farmers Market is 95% food and agricultural products which includes things like coffee, pastries, honey, jams, and much more.
There are over 60 vendors at the market and all food is produced less than 100 miles away by the vendors themselves. You can also learn about where the food comes from and how it impacts our health, economy, and more.
Boise Farmers Market is open from April through October in the mornings, but there’s also an indoor market open during November and December.
When you see pictures of Boise, you’re likely to see the Idaho State Capitol somewhere in the photo. This beautiful building has an impressive architecture that includes sandstone walls, multi-colored marble, numerous statues, and a large dome. Inside, the capitol building is even more impressive.
Besides the fact that the interior is full of unique artwork and statues, the building has seen the passing of many laws and hundreds of discussions about important issues over the years.
Self-guided tours are available at the Idaho State Capitol. You can find the booklet at the visitor’s information desk or in the gift shop. You can also download the booklet from the Idaho Legislature website. Keep in mind that some areas of the capitol might be off-limits if government functions are happening at the time.
The Old Idaho Penitentiary was a prison from 1872 to 1973. During its 101 years, the prison had terrible living conditions, like freezing winters and sweltering summers, not to mention the diseases and violence running rampant. In 1973, huge riots broke out and the prison closed forever.
Now, the Old Idaho Penitentiary is a historical site that’s made up of 30 buildings where you can tour the cells, the gallows, solitary confinement, and more.
The penitentiary has six exhibits:
- “Faces of the Idaho State Penitentiary,” where you can learn about the various inmates at the prison and their backgrounds
- the “J. Curtis Earl Memorial Exhibit,” which displays various weapons and military equipment
- “Crafty Cons,” where you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at what activities inmates did in their free time
- “Idaho Crime, Boise Time,” where you’ll learn about the terrible conditions of the prison
- “Marked Men,” where you’ll learn about prison tattoos
- “The Women’s Ward,” which tells the stories of some of Idaho’s most notorious women
Definitely a great variety to keep you intrigued.
The Old Idaho Penitentiary hosts various events throughout the year like art shows, scavenger hunts, and more. Guided tours are also available at the penitentiary, but it’s recommended to call ahead to make sure that the tour is available and not at maximum capacity.
During working hours, you can do a self-guided tour whenever you’d like.
The Idaho Zoo is a must-see if you’re wondering what to do in Boise Idaho, especially if you’re an animal lover. The Idaho Zoo is located in downtown Boise and is quite popular, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. The zoo features over 300 animals, including mammals, reptiles, fish, birds, and more.
One of the best parts about the zoo is the giraffe and sloth bear encounters, where you can feed the animals for a small price. There’s also a zoo farm where you can feed sheep, llamas, and goats.
Other attractions at the zoo include “Butterflies in Bloom,” where you can see various butterflies and “Conversation Cruise,” where you’ll take a small boat ride around a lagoon and see things like patas monkeys along the way.
The Idaho Zoo also offers private animal experiences and numerous events throughout the year. You can buy tickets at the entrance of the zoo and also see what various animal encounters/experiences are available.
Keep in mind that these encounters may change sometimes due to weather or other animal-related reasons.
Photo Credit: Float the Boise River Facebook
If you’re wondering what to do in Boise Idaho during the hot summer, floating the Boise River is an absolutely perfect choice! You’ll start about 15 minutes southeast of downtown Boise at Barber Park and enjoy a slow and relaxing six-mile journey to Ann Morrison Park, right in the middle of downtown.
The float takes about six hours and you’ll see some amazing views along the way, like wildlife preserves and beaches.
Almost any floating device is allowed on the river, just be sure to check for holes beforehand. You can bring your own floating device or rent one from Barber Park. You can also rent life vests and other things that you may need for your floating experience.
The Boise River may seem simple, but you should still be careful and put safety first. The most important thing to keep in mind is that while the Boise River never officially closes, you should never attempt to float the river before the floating season officially starts.
We also recommend that you know how to swim (should have been fairly obvious) and use the buddy system.
If you want to drive to Barber Park yourself, it’s about a 15-minute drive from downtown. However, we’d recommend taking a shuttle bus which is available during the floating season and leaves from Ann Morrison Park frequently. The shuttle buses are quick, cheap ($3), and you don’t have to deal with parking or worrying about how to get back to your car at the end of the float.
The Basque Market is a Basque/Spanish restaurant that specializes in paella, bocadillos, and tapas. Salads, soups, desserts, and drinks are available as well.
A unique aspect of the Basque Market is “Paella on the Patio,” where a huge portion of various kinds of Paella is made right in front of you on the patio. Paella on the Patio happens every Wednesday and Friday at noon. The Basque Market also offers paella dinners, cooking classes, take-home paella, and much more.
Photo Credit: Chow Public Market and Eatery Facebook
Chow Public Market and Eatery is a one-of-a-kind market located in the Boise Spectrum Center. The market is a combination of shops and restaurants, and the best part is that they’re all locally-owned. The restaurants include all sorts of cuisines like American, Mexican, and more.
And because we’re us, you know there are plenty of drinking options as well.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the many local breweries and urban wineries just waiting for you in Boise. Purely for research, we tackled the Can’t Miss Breweries in Boise and were extremely “hoppy” with what we found. And because that wasn’t enough, we also had a “grape” time visiting all of the Boise Urban Wineries.
Photo Credit: Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area Facebook
Despite its name, we promise we aren’t making this up – the Bogus Basin Recreation Area is a non-profit ski area located in Treasure Valley, less than 45 minutes away from Boise. Just on the drive to the mountain, you’re sure to see some amazing views of evergreen trees, the Owyhee Mountains, and much more.
Once you arrive, you’ll find no shortage of things to do. Winter activities include skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and snowshoeing. There are plenty of summer activities as well, like mountain biking, the mountain coaster, rock climbing, chairlift rides, hiking, and more.
If you’re wondering what to do in Boise Idaho during the summer, hiking in the Bogus Basin Mountains is a great idea. Bogus Basin has plenty of trails to explore that all offer scenic views and vary in difficulty.
One great trail to check out is the Around the Mountain Trail. This trail is suitable for all skill levels and, get this…loops around the entire mountain, while offering great views the whole way.
Another popular trail is the Tempest Trail, which is steep and full of switchbacks, so we only recommend this trail for experienced hikers. However, the views are amazing as you head up to Shafer Butte.
Table Rock is a mountain pillar located in the Rocky Mountains, but it’s mostly known for the trail that lies within the foothills of the mountains. The Table Rock hike is one of the most popular trails in Boise since it’s close to Boise and offers views of the entire city. You might see some wildlife as well, like hawks, eagles, deer, and lizards.
While there are a few different ways to get to Table Rock, the most popular way is to start at the Old Penitentiary and make your way from there. The hike is 3.7 miles long, moderately difficult, and takes roughly two hours to complete. Dogs are welcome as well!
Hulls Gulch Trail / Camel’s Back Trail
Photo Credit: All Trails
The Hulls Gulch Trail and Camel’s Back Trail are connected trails that are located in the Hulls Gulch Reserve. This trail is quite popular since it’s only five minutes away from downtown Boise and offers great views of the hills and wildlife. There’s also the option to stay in the sun or hike under the shade.
To hike this trail, you’ll start at Heron Street, where you’ll find the Camel’s Back Trail. You’ll gradually climb uphill along the ridgeback and, about one-half mile in, you’ll start heading downhill. You’ll finish the hike on the Red-Winged Blackbird Trail.
The hike is fairly short and only moderately difficult, making it suitable for many different kinds of hikers. However, there are a few steep climbs that can make this hike challenging for some.
Photo Credit: Visit Idaho
Bruneau Dunes State Park is a recreation and preservation area located in Bruneau, about 70 miles from Boise. The park is known for having some of the tallest sand dunes in America, with one reaching 470 feet into the sky!
You can explore the dunes by sandboarding (you can rent a sandboard from the visitor center), hiking, or horseback riding. There are also a few small lakes at the bottom of the dunes where you can go fishing. Another unique part of Bruneau Dunes Park is the observatory, which is the only one in Idaho. Here, you can watch the night sky through a telescope.
Bruneau Dunes Park also offers camping for the outdoorsy types. There are three different campgrounds in the park and they can sell out quickly, so we recommend making reservations. Otherwise, they’re available on a first-come, first-serve basis. There are also plenty of cabins available for rental if you’d like.
Payette National Forest
Photo Credit: National Forest Foundation
Payette National Forest is located in McCall, about 2.5 hours away from Boise. The forest is made up of over two million acres of land which includes a combination of mountains, lakes, and canyons, creating a breathtaking scene.
One thing is for sure about Payette National Forest: you will never get bored since there are a ton of activities to enjoy all year long. In the winter, you can go hunting or snowmobiling. In the spring or summer, you can go biking, hiking, or horseback riding on one of the forest’s many trails. There are also plenty of lakes and rivers to go fishing, and camping is available year-round.
Sunnyslope Wine Region
The Sunnyslope Wine Region located in Caldwell (30 minutes from Boise), is the perfect place to explore if you’re a wine lover. Sunnyslope has 17 wineries and vineyards, all of which are family-owned.
Sunnyslope offers plenty of activities, whether it be wine tasting surrounded by gorgeous views, learning how the wine is made, attending one of the many events held by vineyards (like harvest), and much more.
Again, purely for the sake of research, we tasted our way through the Sunnyslope Wine Region and enjoyed all of the different Italian, Spanish, and French varietals we had.
Silver City Ghost Town
From the 1860s to the 1930s, Silver City was a booming mining city that had many streets, businesses, and homes, along with a population of about 2,500. It was even one of the first towns in the area to have a telegraph and a daily newspaper! However, by 1942, all the mines went out of business and Silver City became the ghost town we know today.
Silver City is now known as a historic district and tourist destination with only three businesses: one hotel and two stores. The city has remained largely untouched, so most things look the same as they did 100 years ago. Even the hotel is mostly the same, except for the addition of a few modern amenities.
During your time in Silver City, you can take a horseback ride around town led by Sinker Creek Outfitters, who will teach you about the town. You can also go shopping at Pat’s What Not Shop or Silver City Fire and Rescue Store to buy souvenirs, books, art, and more.
Sawtooth National Forest
Sawtooth National Forest is located in Stanley (about two hours east of Boise), and it covers over two million acres of land throughout Idaho and Utah. Sawtooth National Forest is one of the largest recreation areas in the US with four mountain ranges, 300 lakes, and tons of trails.
Camping is one of the most popular activities in the forest since there are 37 different campgrounds spread throughout the forest. Other summer activities include hiking, picnicking, or horseback riding through the mountains.
You can also go fishing, boating, or water-skiing on one of the forest’s many shimmering lakes. Winter activities include snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, sledding, ice skating, and more.
Overall – What to do in Boise, Idaho
Boise, Idaho is the perfect place to visit if you’re looking for many different experiences for all ages in one trip.
Downtown Boise offers plenty of shops and restaurants for when you want a more modern travel experience, and all the parks and trails in Boise are great for when you want to get in touch with nature. If you’d like to learn about art or history, you can check out the Freak Alley Gallery, the Old Idaho Penitentiary, and more.
And while your list of what to do in Boise Idaho is now chock full, you can also take a short day trip from Boise to other places throughout Idaho to explore different parks, forests, and historical sites before heading home!
For more info on Boise, click on the picture below:
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We are Samantha & Chris and we are Boozing Abroad (literally). Together, we've traveled to over 40 states and 20 countries drinking local beers, wines and spirits along the way.
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Samantha and Chris fell in love with traveling together back in 2015. They met, married, and lived together in Richmond, VA for 7 years before becoming full-time travelers in 2020.
Along the way, they’ve traveled to over 40 U.S. states and 20 countries while drinking local beers, wines, and spirits during their journeys.
Join them as they share travel resources, stories, and guides based on their personal experiences drinking locally when traveling globally.