Idaho’s capital Boise is often on many lists as being one of the best places to live in the US and is a burgeoning hub of arts and music while maintaining its quaint small-town charm and a laid-back pace of life.
We thought we’d take the chance to give you the lowdown on two breathtaking days in Boise, so that we can inspire you to spend a great weekend in this often underrated city.
Now that you’ve enjoyed your flight into town, caught some z’s, and freshened up to that bright Idaho sunshine, it’s time to take the Boise bull by the horns!
Get your day rolling with a hearty breakfast at local favorite Goldy’s Breakfast Bistro, where you can get your fill of breakfast classics like biscuits & gravy, corned-beef hash, and maple sausage. Don’t forget to ask for their Red Flannel Hash (think beets + bacon) – a real standout item on the menu. The diner gets packed soon so line up early if you want to fuel up in the morning.
Next, it’s time for a unique cultural experience that you can probably only taste in Boise – the “Basque Block”. This is an area downtown that comprises The Basque Market and The Basque Museum and Cultural Center.
Fun Fact: Idaho’s ethnic Basque community is one of the largest in the United States, on the order of nearly 7,000 people in 2000, many of whom live in Boise. It’s the largest such community in the United States and the fifth largest in the world outside Argentina, Chile and the Basque Country in Spain and France. (Wikipedia)
After you’ve appreciated Basque heritage and culture by walking through exhibits and collections on display, you can saunter down to the Basque Market for lunch. You can begin by sampling the many delicious pintxos (Basque for tapas) and sipping on a glass (or two) of wine. If you’re still hungry or want a snack to go, you can always grab some excellent paella from the market (seafood, chicken, and chorizo – served at noon and $8.99 a plate).
Is your sweet tooth aching for some sugar? Well Guru Donuts is another legendary Boise establishment that’s sure to satisfy your craving. Try the Hipsterberry and the salted caramel/coconut fusion of the Girl Scout ($2-3 a donut) – our faves!
Just a few minutes’ walk will take you to the famous Old Idaho Penitentiary State Historic Site, built in 1870. You can tour the facility to see cells, stick your neck out to take a peek at the Gallow, and wallow in the dank space the solitary confinement area, all for just $6.
Fun Fact: The penitentiary, which is also rumored to be haunted by the souls of dead inmates, sometimes holds special paranormal tours at night aimed at scaring the bejeezus out of ghost hunters and the supernaturally curious. Check their website for details and dates (generally $25-30 a ticket).
Stroll along to find yourself at the State Capitol, and take a pic of the 5-foor high golden eagle that’s perched atop its dome.
Keep your eyes wide open for Boise’s colorful traffic boxes! These urban artworks, commissioned by the Boise City Department of Arts & History, are great to take a photo of as a Boise memento.
If you want to take a breather, stop by the nearby Idaho Botanical Gardens, where you can also admire some its well-manicured fauna and flora.
As it’s still late afternoon, you have time to check out the Discovery Center of Idaho on Myrtle Street. This cool geek’s paradise showcases some informative and entertaining scientific exhibits for all ages. Trust us, you’ll think it’s just for kids but will have tons of fun and probably leave feeling as smart as Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory!
As darkness creeps in, head to the Bittercreek Alehouse and Red Feather Lounge for a dimly-lit (because they’re eco-friendly) atmosphere to explore a variety of beers on tap and choice cocktails. Try the Idaho smoked trout platter along with your poison of choice.
Head back to the Basque Block, where you can stumble along to Basque gastro-pub Bar Gernika. Try their great regional micro-beers, selection of wines, and Basque nibbles and close the night with a succulent Lamb Dip ($10).
Rolling your bleary-eyed self out of bed at a decent hour, you have time to freshen up and get ready for you second day in Boise.
Grab some coffee and grub at the Wild Root Café & Market. Their fresh veggies and eggs, bacon, and other brekkie staples are sure to kick-start your motor.
Omelette with chanterelle mushrooms, shallot, sweet potatoes, goat cheese, Ohana micro greens. Vegan option available. #wildrootcafe #boise #ohananotillfarm #sweetvalleyorganics #vegetarianfood #veganfood
A photo posted by Wild Root Café & Market (@wild.root.cafe) on
Download the “Boise GreenBike” app (an initiative run by the Valley Regional Transit) and get yourself a bike for just $4 an hour. Pedal yourself over to the iconic Boise River Greenbelt. Spend some time traversing the expansive biking trail and take in the beauty of the riverside and its greenery.
You can lock up your bike at the nearest GreenBike rack, or choose to cycle on, to the World Center for Birds of Prey, where you can find out everything you ever wanted to know about amazing raptors (including, falcons, condors, and eagles).
By now we’re sure all that cycling and info about hunting down a meal would have built up a ravenous appetite, so head on to N 10th Street and feast on the highly-rated housemade sandwiches and sodas at Bleubird ($11-20).
After all that food, you’re probably craving something sweet, so don’t forget to try out the famous “Baked Potato” at The Westside Drive-In. This famous dessert, coated in cocoa powder and cream, looks like a potato but actually is just all ice cream.
Fun Fact: One of Idaho’s state slogans, which appears on state license plates, is “Famous Potatoes.”
Walk along to the iconic Egyptian Theatre, one of the last few surviving cinemas from the movie palace era in Boise.
Fun Fact: Said by some to be haunted, the theater was featured on the Travel Channel show Ghost Stories in 2009. (Wikipedia)
Next, you can float on down to the Aquarium of Boise, where you can get hands-on with stingrays, sharks, and starfish.
After getting in touch with nature, it’s time to take things to the next level and head on down to the refreshingly retro Spacebar Arcade, where you can enjoy classic arcade games like Tron, Donkey Kong, and Marios Bros while sipping on one of their select draft brews.
After knocking back a few, move on to the legendary Pengillys Saloon, where you can sit at the age-old Brunswick bar, have a few drinks, and check out some of Boise’s most talented musicians.
If you’re still in need of more music and merry-making, walk on over to hipster bar/music venue Neurolux Lounge, which frequently features indie acts and offers some killer deals on drinks ($3 beers on select nights – can it get better than that?).
After all that imbibing, you’re probably looking for some late-night comfort food to fill your gut. You can round out the night by walking in a straight line to Solid, which is conveniently open till 2AM on Fridays and Saturdays. Go straight for their chicken & waffles ($12.99) and you’ll thank us for saving you the hangover the next morning!
After you’ve freshened up the next day, it’s going to be time to say bye-bye to Boise and jump on that plane back home. We’re sure you’ve had a ball in Boise, and if you haven’t been there yet, now you know how much fun you can have in this one-of-a-kind city.
Are there any Boise must-sees/experiences we may have missed? Let us know in the comments below!