By Taylor Deer, Brown Eyed Flower Child
Boise is the capital of Idaho and worth visiting during a road trip. Here are the top things to do with one day in Boise during the winter.”
Boise is the capital of Idaho. It is considered a mid-sized city with over 4.7 million acres of land, which is larger than the USA’s three smallest states combined (Rhode Island, Delaware and Connecticut). I traveled to Idaho in February 2021 and spent one day in Boise at the end of my winter ski trip to Tamarack Resort.
During my one full day in Boise, I savored delicious food, learned a lot about Boise’s history and stayed at a beautiful urban boutique hotel called Hotel 43. Whether you are traveling around the state of Idaho or are doing a cross-country or mini road trip out in the American West, I definitely recommend exploring the city of Boise!
It is fairly easy to get to Boise from anywhere in the United States or the world. For my trip to Idaho, I took an affordable flight from Newark Airport in New Jersey to Boise Airport with a short layover at Chicago O’Hare.
Because the majority of my trip to Idaho were spent at Tamarack Resort, which is 2.5-hours north of Boise, I rented a car from the airport. Even if you are just sticking around the Boise area, I still recommend getting a car so that you could easily venture around.
Before you book your car, I definitely recommend checking the weather, especially in the winter, since it snows a lot in Idaho and conditions could be extreme. If snow is in the forecast, that will definitely determine which type of vehicle you end up renting, which should be an SUV or a car with all-wheel drive.
The capital also offers public transportation for both locals and visitors. ValleyRide is the city bus system that operates within Boise city limits and the greater Treasure Valley area.
Boise also has taxi services, Uber and Lyft. The city also has a program called SHIP that offers free rides to people living in the county with disabilities and for senior citizens who are 65 and older.
Staying at Hotel 43 in Boise:
During a trip to Idaho’s capital, Hotel 43 provides the most perfect boutique accommodation in the city as it offers urban chic charm, modern amenities and as well as convenience.
Located in the heart of Boise, Hotel 43 is steps away from the city’s award-winning restaurants and cafés, museums, capitol building and more. It also isn’t too far from the nearby mountains (I list great day trips from Boise below).
Hotel 43 hosted me in their Boutique King Room during my night there. This luxurious room is located on the sixth floor, which is the top level of the hotel and it features gorgeous views of Boise’s cityscape as well as the stunning local mountains.
I absolutely LOVED staying in this room because the actual king bed itself was extremely comfortable. I had an amazing night’s sleep there and I loved how it had a lot of cozy pillows.
In addition, I was welcomed with an adorable teddy bear and a bottle of local red wine. (I definitely enjoyed relaxing at night with the bear while sipping a glass of wine as I watched a movie.) The Boutique King Room also came with an en-suite bathroom, mini bar and modern furniture.
What was also special about my stay at Hotel 43 in Boise was that my room was also a PURE® Wellness Allergy-Friendly Room that is patented with a seven-step purification process. I have a skin allergy and unfortunately, I end up in hives with most hotel stays. Thankfully, Hotel 43 gets it!
All of the water is filtered to remove chlorine and reduce irritants, making my shower more enjoyable and the room also included an all-natural plant-based sanitation; a tea-tree oil cartridge in the air-handling unit; installation of hypo-allergenic pillows and mattress encasements as well as an air purification system!
The in-room filter in the wellness rooms at Hotel 43 removes up to 99.99% of pollutants and allergens, exceeding HEPA standards. Overall, Hotel 43 is Idaho’s ONLY Pure Wellness Hotel!
In addition to the room I stayed in at Hotel 43 in Boise, there are also a variety of suites that include a living area, a jetted tub as well as a step-out balcony.
There are also Boutique Double Queen Rooms that feature urban chic décor, and great amenities and conveniences for guests to unwind and recharge.
Hotel 43 also has ADA Accessible Boutique King and Boutique Double Queen Rooms, Open Spaces Accessible Suites and PURE Wellness Rooms that include a wheelchair accessible roll in shower and are compliant to ADA standards.
All of the rooms at Hotel 43 include Serta euro-top mattresses, plush linens, spa robes, a 50” LED HD TV with a premium viewing package, smart fridge, executive desk, multiple USB outlets, premium coffee with a Keurig maker, a safe, iron and ironing board, hairdryer and William Roam bath amenities.
In addition, Hotel 43 in Boise has pet friendly rooms so that you don’t have to leave your furry friend behind! When you book a pet friendly room, the hotel will organize all the essentials to make your dog feel at home. Hotel 43 includes premium plush beds for your pup along with a water and food dish, treats, doggie bags and a leash. You could have a maximum of two pets stay with you.
What is also cool is that Hotel 43 has doggie ambassadors cared for by the Idaho Humane Society. It is the largest and oldest animal welfare organization and veterinary charity in the state whose mission is to advocate for the welfare and care of animals.
Overall, staying at Hotel 43 is the absolute best during a trip to Boise! I loved the lobby area and there is also a restaurant attached to the hotel called Chandlers Steakhouse, which offers Boise’s finest seafood and steaks. The restaurant includes Idaho-sourced ingredients and also has an extensive beer, wine and cocktail selection. There is also live jazz music every night!
The hotel also has a café called Metro Café where you could enjoy a coffee with a selection of freshly baked pastries, house-made granola, fresh fruit and more. Hotel 43 also has a room service menu as well.
One Day in Boise:
Discover the top 10 things to do in Boise, Idaho in the winter!
Grab Donuts for Breakfast at Guru Donuts:
Located a few steps away from Hotel 43 is Guru Donuts. This adorable donut shop offers the tastiest donuts from scratch in a charming environment. All of Guru Donuts are made fresh every morning and include local fresh eggs, family farmed regional flour and expertly roasted coffee right from Boise.
Overall, Guru Donuts feature a variety of different donuts to suit all taste buds and diets. You could order yeast-raised, vegan donuts in different flavors; an Old Fashioned Donut; a vegan Vanilla Bean Cake Donut with seasonal glazes like strawberry, chocolate espresso and more; a gluten-free Idaho® Potato Donut that is offered with classic cinnamon sugar, rotating glazes and includes vanilla sprinkles, coffee or other chocolate, nutty or sweet flavors; an Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake Donut that is made with Dutch baking cocoa and is topped with Guru Glaze, chocolate sprinkles and rotating glazes like peppermint, white chocolate mocha and other seasonal flavors and a biscuit donut, which is only available on Sundays and is made with house-made honey butter glaze.
During my morning at Guru Donuts, I had the February seasonal Strawberry Bliss donut that is vegan and dipped in strawberry glaze, covered in rainbow sprinkles, topped with a butter cream swirl and included freeze dried strawberry crumbles.
Admire the Talented Artwork at Freak Alley:
Also located near Hotel 43 is Freak Alley which is the largest outdoor gallery in the Pacific Northwest. During your one day in Boise, take some time to walk through Freak Alley, which features talented and colorful murals, graffiti and public art within an alleyway in downtown Boise.
Freak Alley was established in 2002 by Colby Akers, Freak Alley Gallery. Every few years, older murals are painted over and replaced by brand new murals for locals and visitors alike to admire.
I’m so happy I took the opportunity to check out Freak Alley, I loved all of the artwork and found a lot of it to be very inspiring as well.
Visit the Idaho State Capitol:
Known as Idaho’s most-treasured building, the Capitol, should definitely be on your list of things to do and see during your one day in Boise. It is open every day for visitors to explore at their leisure, but please note that areas may be restricted due to government functions.
You can schedule a guided tour through a reservation made in advance and there are also virtual tours online. There is also a fun scavenger hunt for all ages that follows the virtual tour!
Enjoy Boutique Shopping in Downtown Boise:
Another great thing to do during your one day in Boise, Idaho during winter is to go shopping!
Located in the heart of downtown Boise are boutique shops, art galleries and studios, gift shops, home furnishing stores, food markets and sporting/outdoor stores for you to check out and either purchase something for yourself or a loved one.
From my experience, most of the best stores in Boise were on N. 8th Street, N. 9th Street, W. Idaho Street and W. Main Street.
Learn about Basque History in Boise:
Basque people are indigenous to Northeastern Spain and Southwestern France within the Pyrenees Mountains. The Basque culture is completely different than that of the Spanish and French since they have their own language.
In addition, the Basques are one of the oldest ethnic groups in Europe, they have their own festivals, rural sports and delicious cuisine!
Outside of Spain, Boise has the second largest population of Basque people. They came to Idaho because of a large interest in sheep herding!
During your one day in Boise, I recommend visiting Basque Block and checking out the Basque Museum & Culture Center that preserves, promotes and perpetuates Basque history and culture in America.
At the museum, you could explore Basque artifacts that represent their rich history and culture and learn more about Basques in Western America. You could also listen to stories of Basque people from their struggles and triumphs.
Across the street from the museum is The Basque Market where you could shop for specialty foods that are from the region, enjoy a nice lunch and take in-person or virtual cooking classes and wine tastings.
In addition to the museum and market, there are also numerous Basque restaurants, cafés and bars in the neighborhood for Boise locals and visitors to savor delicious paella, croquetas, patatas bravas, Basque bocadillos, soups, salads and more!
Hike the Old Penitentiary Trailhead to Table Rock:
During my one day in Boise, a lot of people recommended that I visit the Old Idaho Penitentiary, but before I go into my experience there, I thought I would let you all know that if you’re looking to get active in Boise, definitely hike Table Rock from the Old Penitentiary Trailhead that starts steps away from the prison.
Table Rock offers both easy and challenging hiking and biking trails that feature beautiful views of the capital city and the nearby Treasure Valley. It was a little snowy when I was in Boise, but on a sunny day, Table Rock makes for a great sunset spot in the city!
Walk through the Old Idaho Penitentiary:
I definitely recommend visiting the Old Idaho Penitentiary during your one day in Boise. This old prison is a 10-minute drive from Hotel 43 and it is a pretty thrilling experience.
Please note that you must pre-purchase your admission ticket for a self-guided tour online before you arrive. You will be given a time slot for when you can tour the penitentiary.
Overall, the Idaho State Penitentiary opened its doors in 1872 to some of Idaho’s most notorious criminals who were murderers, robbers and money launderers. There was a total of 10 men who were executed at the prison and female inmates started to arrive in 1905. (The prison boasted some of the most desperate female criminals.)
The Idaho State Penitentiary closed in December 1973 after 101 years of operation. The reason why it closed is because the prison became very outdated and the unsanitary conditions caused sickness and disease. There were a lot of riots due to the deplorable conditions and the non-existent heating and cooling systems made Boise’s extreme weather unbearable for prisoners.
There were over 500 escape attempts, which 90 of them were successful. Most escapees were found and taken back to the prison. The penitentiary also had 129 recorded deaths during its 101 years from executions, various diseases, suicides, murders and escape attempts.
There is also a prison cemetery located at the Idaho Botanical Garden on the same street as the Old Idaho Penitentiary. (I also recommend visiting the gardens if you have time!)
During a self-guided tour at the Old Idaho Penitentiary, you could walk through the cell blocks, solitary confinement unit, the Gallows, the women’s ward and more.
You could also tour the special J. Curtis Earl Memorial Exhibit, which boasts a collection of historic weaponry. It also allows you to learn American history and how certain events such as the Spanish Influenza (currently known as the flu) affected the prison in the early 1900s.
Overall, I found the Old Idaho Penitentiary to be eerie and haunting. My trip to Idaho was a solo trip, so I visited the penitentiary on my own and was spooked out when I was walking through the cells, the solitary confinement unit as well as the women’s ward.
Savor a Delicious Farm-to-Table Dinner at Fork:
For dinner during my one day in Boise, I went to an amazing farm-to-table restaurant called Fork.
I loved the vibe of this eclectic restaurant and for my meal, I had an amazing roasted Huli Huli organic chicken dish that was served over brown butter mashed Idaho potatoes, roasted baby carrots and Huli Huli sauce. It was delicious and I loved how juicy the chicken was! For dessert, I savored the gluten free brownie a la mode, which also didn’t disappoint.
Fork has a sister restaurant called Àlavita, which features Italian flare. Other great Boise restaurants that were recommended to me were Juniper, which is an urban American restaurant; The Wylder, for gourmet pizzas and The Hyde House, for additional farm-to-table options.
Bar Hop Around 6th Street:
If you’re looking for a fun time in Boise during your day there in the winter, I highly suggest bar hopping! There are numerous bars on this fun street with outdoor and heated seating. You could enjoy everything from wine bars to breweries as well as sports bars to Irish pubs!
Day Trips from Boise:
If you are staying in Boise for longer than one day, I highly recommend doing a day trip to either of the below spots to see more within the state of Idaho!
- Tamarack Resort (The amazing ski resort I stayed at before I spent a day in Boise.)
- Bruneau Dunes State Park (A geological preservation that features large sand dunes.)
- Kirkham Hot Springs (Idaho is known for its hot springs and I highly recommend visiting Kirkham if you’re looking for relaxation in nature that isn’t too far from the city.)
- Sun Valley (A renowned ski resort located in the heart of the state.)
- Twin Falls (A city in Southern Idaho that features beautiful nature and a great downtown.)
- Sunny Slope Wine Trail (A wine region known to have some of Idaho’s best wines that is also not far from the capital.)
- Thousand Springs State Park (A stunning state park with beautiful nature.)
- Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve (A breathtaking nature preserve worth checking out in Central Idaho.)