Over the past few years and months, Boise has become a popular gathering place for those looking for a new start—and it’s no surprise why either. Boise has a great job market, a well-adjusted economy, great weather, delicious food, and, of course, tons of fun things to do. Fun things like adventuring through the mountains, learning about local wildlife, or just enjoying the nice views from high above the city. If you are new to the area though, you probably don’t know all the fun things that there are to enjoy. The following is a list of great fun things to do in Boise to make your first few months here more enjoyable.
The View from the Top of Table Rock
If you want a breathtaking view of the valley, then you need to visit Table Rock. Table Rock is a large prominent outcropping that hangs over downtown Boise near the old penitentiary. It overlooks the whole valley with a spectacular view of the lights of Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Caldwell, Nampa, Kuna, and even into eastern Oregon and southwestern Idaho. It is a sobering place to visit where many people come every day for meditation, recreation, and exercise.
There are two routes up to the top of Table Rock. The first option is a bit more draining than the second, but it is still fun—it is a medium level hike up the front of the mountain that takes anywhere from 1½ to 3 hours to complete. The second is a lot simpler—a drive up the back side of the mountain. It takes only a half hour to complete, but also takes you most of the way up, so you don’t have to worry about a long arduous hike.
The hike up to table rock is popular among people who like to watch the sun rise or set. Since it is so high above the city, there is nothing to obstruct the view. However, there are other things to enjoy around Table Rock that are for the more adventurous. First off, there are several systems of caves to crawl through, these can be dangerous however, so caution should be used. However, for a much more peaceful activity, there are also dozens of trailheads that branch off from atop Table Rock.
Boise Historical District
In Boise, there are several areas that are designated as historical districts. These are areas where the appearance of the homes are preserved to look as they did when they were built. People can still live in these homes and can change the insides all they like, however, the outsides must stay the same. Most of these historic districts are located in the North End and downtown where most of Boise’s first construction took place.
These homes and neighborhoods allow you to walk into the past and enjoy the peaceful neighborhoods that once were. One of the most notable is Harrison Boulevard. It is not only a historical district, but it is also a beautiful part of the city that truly reflects the serenity of Boise while preserving its distinct heritage.
The Idaho Botanical Gardens
Located next to the old Idaho Penitentiary is the Idaho Botanical Gardens. This beautiful establishment brings the beauty and soothing nature of wild vegetation to your backyard. It is filled with all sorts of gardenlike attractions; for instance, there is a classic rose garden as well as a meditation garden for those looking for a place to think. But that isn’t all that is available, the Botanical Gardens offer a wide variety of educational programs for people who want to learn more about plants, horticulture, and gardening.
The Gardens began in the early ‘80s thanks to the work of a man named Christopher Davidson (Ph.D. of Botany). With the help of the first board of directors, Davidson was able to build the Botanical Gardens, allowing everyone to enjoy the beauty that he learned to love. The Idaho Botanical Gardens started out, and still is, a completely nonprofit organization that runs completely independent of any government funding.
The Classic Merritt’s Café
If you are looking for a good time and some good food, then you need to get yourself down to Merritt’s Café. This traditional Boise restaurant is a popular place for gatherings and good eating. Merritt’s has been in business since 1975 and has always been the best place for scones in the valley. However, they do offer more than just scones, in fact they also have a fantastic breakfast menu, as well as other delicious options so you can walk away satisfied no matter what you are in the mood for.
The Merritt’s Café isn’t all about food, though. The atmosphere of the restaurant is another big draw for returning customers. Though the outside of the restaurant looks old, and the additions that have been done to the interior of the building are a bit mismatched the Merritt’s café, with its jukebox, has the ambiance of the best of cafés. This ambiance is homey, welcoming, and relaxing, so anyone could walk through the door, and feel right at home.
The View the Zion’s Bank Building
The fantastic urban environment of downtown Boise is one that is hard to forget. It has places to eat, places to work, amazing walkability, and much more. However, Boise downtown does not have many skyscrapers, but the ones that do exist here are beautiful and iconic. This lack of vertical development is due to the western idea that, if you have space, which Boise does, why build up?
The tallest skyscraper in Boise is the Zion’s Bank building. It was completed in February of 2014 and stands at around 18 stories tall (including the parapet). The first few floors are home to an elegant dine in restaurant, a Zion’s Bank branch, and several other businesses. The upper floors house the Idaho headquarters for Zion’s Bank and several other businesses and finally, on the 17th floor, there are two rooms that can be rented for community events.
If you happen to have the pleasure of going up to the 17th floor, you will want to take it. As it is the tallest building in Boise, the highest floor offers an amazing view of the city and valley. The vantage point of the 17th floor is so stunning that almost any pictures, even by an amateur photographer, would look amazing.
Lucky Peak State Park
On the southeastern border of Boise lies the Lucky Peak State Park, Dam, and Reservoir. This large body of water is the last in a series of dams and reservoirs that dam the Boise River for power. The reservoir is large and is surrounded by picture perfect beaches for visitors to enjoy. There are also docks to launch boats, picnic areas, and amazing fishing opportunities. Many people from the valley come up to Lucky Peak for an afternoon or a day trip to enjoy the water almost every day during the warmer months, and, to top it all off, it is wheelchair accessible.
There are often events at Lucky Peak, at the State Park and at the Beach. Some of the events include concert series, bonfires, and other fun activities. One of the most memorable is the Great Polar Bear Challenge—an event that is held on the first day of the year where participants jump into the ice cold water. The challenge is to raise money for the Idaho Make-a-Wish Foundation—a nonprofit organization that helps kids with terminal diseases have a fun trip or adventure.
The Peregrine Fund and World Center for Birds of Prey
If you have ever gazed up at a passing eagle and wondered at its majesty, then you will definitely enjoy the World Center for Birds of Prey. It is located just 11 miles south of Boise and includes a bird breeding house, learning center, gift shop, and archives.
At the World Center for Birds of Prey visitors get a chance to see and learn about all sorts of birds: Eagles, Vultures, Falcons, and more. Some of the birds that call the center home are even rare or endangered and are kept there for research and study. The center offers its visitors interactive exhibits, demonstrations with the birds, and habitats so the birds can be observed in their natural state.
The center is also a place for higher education. On the center’s campus there is a facility that houses all sorts of records and research on birds for future generations to have and treasure. This library of sorts is a great place for students in Boise State’s Master program Raptor Biology.
The center, however, is not just an educational facility, they are also a rehabilitation center for injured birds, and a breeding habitat for endangered species. At the beginning of its life, the center was working on breeding Peregrine Falcons, and thanks to their efforts, they are no longer on the path to extinction. The center is now trying to do the same for the majestic California Condor. This massive bird is the largest bid in North America. It has a wingspan of over 9 feet and can weigh over 20 pounds. When the center took on the project of breeding the condor, there were somewhere around 40 left, no, after a few years of work, there are almost 400.
Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial
There is no substitute for a trip to a historical memorial; especially one for Anne Frank. There is something about it that is surreal and humbling, and that is just what the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial in downtown Boise is like.
Located just behind the downtown Library, the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial is a charming tribute to the brave Jewish girl and everyone else who suffered during that time in history. It is decorated with quotes, statues, and more to help evoke feelings of peace, love, and harmony. It is a great place to visit if you are looking for a cultural and historical activity.
Idaho State Capitol
The Capitol Building acts as the center of the state government. It is located at the end of Capitol Boulevard in the center of downtown Boise. It is a massive building that is made of granite and marble and has stood there for over a century. It has served as the center of government for the state for a long time and is a beautiful part of Idaho culture and heritage.
The capitol is also an educational destination as visitors can not only learn about the state government, but they can also learn about the people that run the state government. It isn’t rare to run into a senator or house member in the halls of the capitol, and the governor can also be found sometimes as well. Not to mention, if you visit during their annual session, you can watch a senate or house meeting from the balcony to see bills being made into law in real time.
Kathryn Albertson Park
Downtown Boise is no stranger to parks, in fact, they are almost a part of the Boise way of life. There are three massive parks in the heart of downtown, and Kathryn Albertsons is one of them. It is a large park (41 acres) and is designated as a special use park. The park is not like a normal park with playgrounds and attractions, instead it full of plant, wildlife, and water features. It is like a large garden that acts as a safe haven for local animals, and a place for quiet meditation (according to the city website).
Many people go there for pictures, to spend time outdoors, and to watch for exotic flora and fauna. However, it is important to note that geese love to nest there, and during their nesting season, no dogs are allowed—not to mention the geese will be aggressive.
The Old Penitentiary
Beneath Table Rock, at the edge of downtown Boise is the Old Idaho Penitentiary. This local wonder is a piece straight from the history books and it brings people there year after year to soak in the authenticity. The Penitentiary was open from 1873 to 1972 and during that almost century, it houses thousands of criminals from all over the west. However, with that large number of inmates, it isn’t uncommon to have riots, deaths, and abuse. On account of this negative past, there are many who also believe that the Old Penitentiary is . . . haunted. Whether it is or not, we will never know, but it still brings visitors year after year to many major events that are hosted by the Old Penitentiary staff.
On most days the Old Penitentiary acts as a typical museum where people can come in, take a look around, and learn about the prison of the past. However, there are some days, when the prison, is not normal in the slightest. Thanks to the old legends of the haunted prison, the Old Idaho Penitentiary hosts events several times a year to engage in ghastly activities. The usual events include a Halloween carnival (two days), several paranormal investigator tours, and much more. Not to mention the prison is open late on every Friday the 13th.
These places to see are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Boise. So, if these don’t perk your interest, there is much more where they came from. Boise is a great place to be, to learn more about Boise and what it has to offer, contact one of our local agents and they will be happy to help you.