Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast, an art lover, or a self-proclaimed foodie, Boise is brimming with exciting and unique attractions. From the snowy winter months to the scorching hot summer months, there’s always something fun going on in Idaho’s capital city, no matter what time of year you visit!
If you’re planning a trip in the summertime, you can attend the Summer Outdoor Concert Series at the Idaho Botanical Garden, kayak down the Boise River, or go on a scenic hike in Camel’s Back Park. During the winter, try skiing down the powder fresh slopes at Bogus Basin, go ice skating at one of the many downtown rinks, and get into the holiday spirit at the annual Winter Garden aGlow event.
You’ll definitely want to spend a day sampling paella at The Basque Block, shopping for local goods at the bustling Capital City Public Market, and going museum hopping in Julia Davis Park. No trip to the city is complete without ticking these popular attractions off your Boise bucket list!
Time your visit right, and you’ll be able to see street artists give the mural-filled Freak Alley a makeover during the annual Freak Alley painting event, catch a show at the annual Idaho Shakespeare Festival, or get a taste of local music and culture at the annual Treefort Music Fest.
With so many things to see and do, you might not know where to begin. So we’ve compiled our list of the absolute best things to do in Boise for you. Stick to these fun and unique Boise bucket list recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring this gorgeous corner of the world!
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15 Best Things to Do in Boise, Idaho
1. Go for a Scenic Bike Ride Along the Boise River Greenbelt
Boise is a blissfully bike-friendly city, so if you want to get outdoors during your trip, it’s well worth hopping on a bike and pedaling around town. Many Boise hotels actually provide guests with complimentary bikes. If not, you can easily rent quality mountain bikes right downtown at Idaho Mountain Touring.
While downtown is super bike-friendly, don’t skip over the Boise River Greenbelt. Set right along the Boise River, the Boise River Greenbelt is a 25-mile long bicycle and pedestrian pathway that links 850 acres of parks and natural areas along the river. Along the way, you can stop off at a wide range of popular Boise attractions, including the Boise State University campus, the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, and Julia Davis Park.
If you want to make a day of it, stop off for a swim or a picnic lunch at Quinn’s Pond in Esther Simplot Park, go wine tasting at Telaya Wine Co., or go kayaking or paddleboarding at the Boise Whitewater Park. The options are endless!
2. Get to Know Boise’s Basque Population at The Basque Block
Boise just happens to be home to around 16,000 Basque people, which is the largest concentration of Basques outside of Spain! If you want to learn more about the city’s Basque people, be sure to pay a visit to The Basque Block.
Start at the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, which is all about preserving and promoting Basque culture and history. As the only Basque museum in the United States, this is also the perfect place to learn all about the Basque migration to Idaho and the population’s herding heritage through tours, exhibitions, and events.
After that, you can stroll down to the Basque Market, where you can peruse the largest collection of Basque wine in Idaho and shop for ingredients and goods native to Basque Country. On Wednesdays and Fridays at noon, the market serves up massive amounts of paella on the sidewalk. Or, if you want to immerse yourself in Basque cuisine, Leku Ona serves up authentic Basque dishes and often has live Basque music.
If you time your visit right, you’ll definitely want to attend the San Inazio Festival, which is held on The Basque Block every June. Expect tons of food, history, culture, and dancing!
3. Hit the Slopes at Bogus Basin
If you’re visiting during the winter months, Bogus Basin offers all sorts of fun outdoor activities. Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area is located an easy 20-minute drive from downtown Boise and offers seven chairlifts, four conveyor lifts, and 2,600 acres of skiable terrain. There are also groomed Nordic tracks and an 800-foot tubing chute!
One of the coolest things about Bogus Basin is that it’s one of the only non-profit recreation areas in the US. So, 100% of the profits go back into equipment, facilities, education, and more. But Bogus Basin isn’t just a winter destination – there’s plenty to do in the summer months, too!
The recreation area boasts a comprehensive trail system where you can go hiking and mountain biking. If you’re looking for beautiful vistas, the Around-the-Mountain Trail is one of the most popular hikes at Bogus Basin. In the summer, the mountain also hosts live music events every weekend.
4. Check Out the Cultural Attractions in Julia Davis Park
Nestled right on the Boise River, right in the heart of downtown, Julia Davis Park is home to a handful of Boise’s most popular attractions. Art enthusiasts won’t want to miss out on the Boise Art Museum. The museum opened its doors in the 1930s and boasts 30,000 square feet of space and an impressive collection of modern artwork.
If you’re traveling with the kids, you can visit all of the giraffes, penguins, and zebras at Zoo Boise. The zoo also hosts all sorts of fun and educational events around the year. After that, stop off at The Discovery Center of Idaho, which is a fun interactive science museum for the little ones.
History buffs will love learning about the state’s past at the Idaho Black History Museum and the Idaho Historical Museum. Once you’ve had your fill of all of Julia Davis Park’s cultural attractions, you can have a picnic lunch in the rose garden, feed the ducks at the duck pond, or rent a paddleboat and cruise around the waterways. Julia Davis Park is also a popular jumping-off point for the Boise River Greenbelt.
5. Pick Up Picnic Supplies at Boise’s Farm Fresh Markets
If you want to get a taste of Boise’s farm-fresh goods, you’ll be spoiled for choice. The Capital City Public Market got its humble start in 1994 as the only farmers’ market of its kind in Boise. The outdoor market now attracts over 150 local vendors and thousands of shoppers every week.
On Saturdays from 9 am to 2 pm, the vendors gather across four square blocks at 10th and Idaho Street. From freshly baked goods to local fruits and vegetables to grass-fed steaks, this is the perfect place to shop for supplies for a riverside picnic or barbecue.
If you just can’t get enough, the Boise Farmers Market is also held every Saturday from 9 am to 1 pm (from April through October). This is a great place to pick up freshly prepared foods, including sweet and savory pies from Black Kettle Pies, meat and cheese stuffed tamales from Tamales Nelly, and homemade ravioli and pasta sauce from Ferranti Fresh Pasta.
If your hotel has a kitchen and you plan to self-cater, the Boise Farmers Market and Capital City Public Market are must-do Boise activities!
6. Surf “The Wave” on the Boise River
When you think of Boise, you may not think of surfing but the city is actually becoming a popular surf spot. From March to October, surfers flock to Boise River Park (formerly known as 36th Street Wave) to ride what is one of the first adjustable river waves in the world!
The Boise Whitewater Park originally opened to cater to kayakers who would ride the river’s more foamy wave, too. But it didn’t take long for surfers to start riding the wave. Depending on the day, the wave shapers will produce a more foamy wave for kayakers or a more glassy wave for surfers.
You can rent boards and wetsuits at the local surf shop, Corridor. If water sports aren’t your thing, the park is totally free to enter, and you can watch the surfers from the riverside boulders as you soak up the summer sun. After an adrenaline-filled afternoon, head over to the adjacent Payette Brewing Company for a local craft brew.
7. Marvel at the Colorful Murals in Freak Alley
If you want to tap into the city’s artsy side, visiting Freak Alley is one of the coolest things to do in Boise. Set right in the heart of town, Freak Alley is a collection of murals, graffiti, and public art that make up the largest outdoor gallery in the Northwest!
Freak Alley got its start in 2002 when artist Colby Akers of Freak Alley Gallery was asked to paint the doorway of Moon Kitchen Cafe. The trend caught on, and soon, the area’s businesses wanted artists to paint murals on the sides and facades of their buildings.
You can find Freak Alley at 8th and 9th street and Bannock and Idaho in downtown Boise. You never know what you’re going to find since artists add new works each and every year. If you’re visiting in the summer, you might even be able to attend the annual Freak Alley painting event and watch as artists transform this colorful corner of Boise.
8. Take a Guided Tour of the Idaho State Capitol Building
No trip to Boise is complete without paying a visit to its iconic Idaho State Capitol building. Construction was completed on the building in 1920 and it still stands proud as Idaho’s most treasured building.
Officially known as “A Capitol of Light,” you can book a guided tour of the building to learn all about its history and meticulous renovations. Or, you can opt to wander around and marvel at the sandstone walls, domed ceiling, and marble columns. It’s also well worth taking the time to stroll around the beautifully manicured grounds.
Explore the building, and you’ll find a series of displays and temporary exhibits. For those interested in politics, you’ll love spotting the state’s politicians walking down the halls and catching a glimpse of the debate chambers. When the legislature is in session, you can even view the sessions from the gallery.
9. Attend Seasonal Events at the Idaho Botanical Gardens
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city center, Idaho Botanical Garden is the perfect place to while away the hours. The gardens are set on 50 beautiful acres of land just off Old Penitentiary Road 50. The land was once the farm and nursery of the Old Idaho State Penitentiary!
This living museum is all about the advancement and appreciation of gardening and conservation. Explore the grounds, and you’ll find 14 impeccably manicured specialty gardens, including the Children’s Adventure Garden, the Meditative Garden, the Cactus Garden, and the English Garden. But this place is much more than just pretty gardens.
There are always fun and educational classes and workshops going on – from Winter Pruning 101 to Evergreen Wreath Workshops. No matter what time of year you visit, the Botanical Gardens hosts all sorts of fun events, live musical performances, educational walks, and garden parties. The Summer Solstice Celebration, Summer Outdoor Concert Series, Scarecrow Stroll, and Winter Garden aGlow events are all super popular Boise attractions.
10. Take an Eerie Tour of the Haunted Old Idaho Penitentiary
Located in East Boise, the Old Idaho Penitentiary is well worth a visit if you’re into true crime. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the site operated as a prison for 101 years from 1872 to 1973. During that time, the prison saw 13,000 inmates (216 of which were women) with a maximum population of 600.
The Old Idaho Penitentiary now consists of 30 historic buildings. Explore the grounds, and you’ll come across creepy solitary confinement cells, cell blocks, and gallows. There are plenty of informative exhibits throughout the penitentiary detailing the brutal conditions, notorious criminals, escape attempts, suicides, executions, and riots.
Raymond Allen Snowden, also known as “Idaho’s Jack the Ripper,” was the prison’s most notorious inmate, who was executed here in 1957. If paranormal activity is your thing, visit 5 House, which is where Snowden was executed.
Although there are reports of sightings and encounters throughout the complex, 5 House gets the most activity! The guided tours are well worth the $2 if you want to get the full experience.
11. Go Winery Hopping in Downtown Boise
Boise and the nearby Snake River Valley are home to some excellent wineries. And you’ll find plenty of trendy tasting rooms right in the heart of Boise, making downtown the perfect place to spend an afternoon sipping local reds, whites, and rosés. Plus, you can walk to most of downtown Boise’s best wineries if you don’t want to drive!
You can start your day off at Cinder, which is known for its excellent white wines. After that, head next door to Split Rail Winery, which prides itself on trying not to make the same wine twice.
With its riverside location, Telaya Wine Co is one of the most popular places in town. Try and snag a seat on the outdoor patio, where you can sip Chardonnay while taking in the river views. If you have the energy to keep going, tack on a visit to Coiled‘s chic downtown tasting room and then stop by Potter Wines for their spicy Jalapeño Wine!
12. Float Down the Beautiful Boise River
Tubing, rafting, and kayaking down the Boise River are three of the coolest things to do in Boise. In the steamy summer months, over 125,000 people take to the waters to escape the Idaho heat.
One of the most popular stretches of the Boise River for tubing is the six-mile stretch from Barber Park to Ann Morrison Park. Not only will you have the chance to admire the beautiful natural scenery but you’ll spot wild mink, deer, and maybe even a bald eagle along the way!
Start your journey in Barber Park, which is just 20 minutes from downtown. The river officially “opens” sometime in July, and there are shuttles that run to and from the starting point at Barber Park and the endpoint at Ann Morrison Park for $3. Don’t worry if you don’t have your own gear because you can rent or purchase everything you need at Barber Park and return it at Ann Morrison Park.
13. Go Hiking in Camel’s Back Park
It’s no secret that Boise is a mecca for hikers. Located just two miles from downtown Boise, Camel’s Back Park is home to some of the most popular hiking trails in town.
From Camel’s Back, it’s possible to explore the scenic Ridge to Rivers trail system in the Boise foothills. Or, if you want to follow one of the most popular trails in the park, head over to Lower Hulls Gulch Trail #29.
The boulder-studded 2.5-mile trail travels along the picturesque Hulls Creek. To enjoy sweeping views, hike up Kestrel and Crestline trails and head to the top of Lower Hulls Gulch.
This trail is also popular among mountain bikers in case you’d prefer to cruise around on two wheels. If you’d prefer an easier hike or are traveling with your little ones, you’ll find plenty of scenic trails in the park’s lower trail system.
If you don’t feel like hiking, Camel’s Back Park boasts tennis courts, a playground, beach volleyball courts, and an outdoor workout center. There are also plenty of picnic tables where you can enjoy a picnic lunch.
14. Sample Locally Sourced Fare at Fork
Boise is a foodie town, brimming with excellent farm-to-table eateries. But if you want to try the best of the bunch, a meal at Fork is a must on your Boise bucket list. The chefs at Fork are all about preparing their New American dishes using locally sourced ingredients from farmers, ranchers, bakers, distillers, brewers, and cheesemakers from Boise and the Northwest.
Located in downtown Boise, just down the road from the Idaho State Capitol, Fork is open daily for lunch and dinner and is an ultra-popular spot for Sunday brunch. Plus, it’s the perfect place to stop and rest your feet after a long day of sightseeing.
For sharable plates, you can choose from dishes like Cast Iron Seared Lamb Lollipops, Northwest Mushroom Panfry, and Crisped Brussels Sprouts. Or, for something more substantial, try the Spring Pea & Mascarpone Ravioli, Tomato Basil Fondue & Grilled Cheese, or Slow-Smoked Brisket Sammy.
If you feel like imbibing, the restaurant also mixes up some seriously creative, locally inspired cocktails. Try the Fork Lemonade, which is infused with local Boise Revolution vodka, four types of locally grown berries, and fresh lemon juice.
15. Marvel at Sea Creatures at the Aquarium of Boise
Boise is chock full of family-friendly activities, but if you really want to thrill your little ones be sure to pay a visit to the Aquarium of Boise. Located a quick 10-minute drive from downtown, visiting this hands-on aquarium is one of the most fun things to do in Boise.
Explore the 10,000-square-foot aquarium, and you’ll have the chance to spot 250 different species of animals and marine life, as well as explore over 35 fun and educational exhibits. Kids and adults alike will love the interactive touch tanks and tide pools, where you can touch rays and sharks and hold starfish and crabs.
Other highlights include the Reptile exhibit, where you can marvel at red-tailed boas, bearded dragons, and poison dart frogs. Head over to the Bird Aviary, where you can feed playful Rainbow Lorikeets. After that, move on to the Shark Nursery to learn about the different developmental stages of sharks!