Boise, ID: City Guide

Lately I have been feeling the urge to travel, or at least plan some trips for later in the year. I plan on going to Sacramento area in September for a friend’s wedding, but I’m not sure where else the family and I will be able to go this year.

One of my favorite places to go is Boise, Idaho. I have been to Boise three times and every time I leave I can’t wait to go back again some day. What really made it special for me every time was the people.

Relatives on my dad’s side of the family live there and I love them dearly. The itch to visit has come again, so I thought I would write about Boise and be transported back.

Boise reminds me of Pasadena in a way. It has a downtown, but it’s not as much of a downtown as Los Angeles. It’s not that big.

I have been shown around by locals and also wandered on my own. These are some places that stand out in my memory.

I have no recommendations on where to stay for this travel post (as in hotels), as I always stayed with family. I also haven’t been to many eateries in Boise because I would eat with family. But I’ve made up for that with an extra category of fun places you won’t see in your average Boise, Idaho travel guide.

Where to Eat

Boise Fry Company: I have never seen so many types of fries and so many ketchup options in one place. There are three locations in Boise and two in neighboring cities for you to choose from.

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers: This fast food joint was better than I expected. The burgers look really good, but I just had a custard sundae when I went because we had a family dinner later. Sundae was pretty amazing. Bill Oakley is a fan, if that means anything to you. This place is a chain with locations mostly in the Pacific North West.

Bodovino: 144 wines on tap! 600 wines by the bottle! You can load a card with money, then peruse the aisles of wine on tap. There is also a restaurant area with a small bites menu.

Calle 75 Street Tacos: These tacos are pricier than average but they’re more upscale. I ordered the Idaho Potato Taco because “when in Rome.”

Dutch Bros.: If you live in the Pacific Northwest, this probably doesn’t seem very exciting and it’s not Boise-specific. But I’m including it in this list because I was excited to visit this coffee chain as there aren’t any locations close by me in Southern California. One of my cousins on my mom’s side of the family works for the company.

Where to Wander

Boise River Greenbelt: I love the Boise River so much. If you ever get a chance to bike, run or walk around it, do so. For more of an adventure, you can travel down the river in a raft, tube, or paddle boat. Personally, I have done all of those except running or rafting (I floated in a tube).

Paddle boats are located on the north-central part of the park. The season runs from April to October.

Ribbon of Jewels: According to the City of Boise website, “The Boise River Greenbelt serves as the uniting ribbon that links these precious jewels-the properties given to the city in honor of some of Boise’s finest civic leaders. The parks are legacies of these remarkable women and their commitment to their community.” Most notably, at least for me, there is the Julia Davis Park and Kathryn Albertson Park.

Attractions at Julia Davis Park include the aforementioned paddle boats, the Boise Zoo, Idaho Historical Museum, the Rose Garden, and the Idaho Black History Museum.

at a park

Kathryn Albertson Park is a 41-acre special use park that houses a variety of animal life. It’s beautiful and calm. You may even spot a deer or two there. You will for sure see some geese or ducks. Just watch out for bird droppings.

Idaho Fish & Game MK Nature Center: I dont think this is on most Boise travel guides, but it is a regular spot for school groups. Tourists should go too. It is located along the Greenbelt but not obvious from the road. The Streamwalk and Visitor Center provides a glimpse of Idaho wildlife up close and personal. There are underwater viewing windows to give you a clear view of the fish.

Camel’s Back and Hulls Gulch Reserve: This is a somewhat steep hike, although not very long, resulting in a gorgeous view.

Boise Depot: This is where you go to get a clear view of the whole downtown and a postcard perfect picture of the capitol building. The depot is for a train that is no longer running.

Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial: The memorial is a .825 acre park located between Ann Morrison Park and Julia Davis Park. It is the only Anne Frank Memorial in the United States.

Idaho Botanical Garden
This beautiful 15-acre santuary is nesteled in the Boise Foothills in the Old Penitentry Historical District, according to the website. Strangely, I can’t remember if I ever went here or if I’m thinking of a different beautiful place.

Where to Shop

Freak Alley

While you’re shopping in downtown, you can search out the local street art.

The Record Exchange
If you’re like my husband Paul and need to go to the record store in every city you visit, then of course go in! There was a pretty good selection of new and used CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray discs and vinyl, including some rare items.

Rediscovered Bookshop:
This is one of the most fun bookshops to wander around that I have been to, right up there with The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles. I enjoy the setup.

Taters: In search of souvenirs? This gift shop in downtown has all you’re looking for and more in one spot, including specialty jams, candles, magnets and postcards. Of course, you could find some of these items at Fred Meyer, Walmart, or the airport, but I don’t think you would find it all.

For Fun Times

Big Al’s: So, this isn’t a tourist destination. Well, I suppose none of the places in this category are. But if you happen to be in Boise and want to play arcade games or go bowling, this is the place to go.

Liquid Laughs: The only time I have been to a comedy club (still? can’t believe this) was in Boise. My life is boring I guess and I have a cousin who made it more interesting. I would go back to to see Matt Braggs.

The Balcony Club: This place has been voted best dance club in Boise Weekly 10 consecutive years and best gay-friendly club more than 10 consecutive years. I can see why! It was fun when I was there years ago. Not to minimize what I just said about it being good and fun, but there probably aren’t a lot of other clubs in Boise. It’s not that big of a city.

Seasonal Events

Western Idaho State Fair: I have only been to two other fairs (LA County and Orange County), but this was more fun in comparison. For one thing, it wasn’t as crowded, but attendance may have risen. I loved going on the carnival rides and seeing the competitions, especially the culinary and 4H ones.

Other seasonal events that I haven’t been to (yet?):

Have you ever been to Boise, Idaho or are you a local? Tell me if I’m missing one of your favorite spots and what makes it great.

Some of my favorite memories ever take place in Boise. Of course, that’s because I was with wonderful company and not just spending time in a beautiful place.

It won’t ever be the same when I go back to Boise. I have been to Boise three times. The first time I traveled with my Aunt Peggy by plane, the second time we took a road trip to get there, and the third time I flew up to visit her with Paul. My mom also flew up separately for that trip. We didn’t know her cancer was back and then it was caught soon after that last visit. She died about a month later.

I know I’ll go back sometime because I have cousins and aunts and uncles there who means so much to me. It’s a beautiful place, but it’s the people who mean the most.

I would love to hear what you have to say. Leave me a comment and I'll try to write back soon.

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