Boise very quick stole my heart, with its small, friendly setting amid a mountainous backdrop, filled with a plethora of activities to fill the hearts of any traveler. Although there are plenty of great things to experience in Boise, it’s truly the people that make this city feel welcoming and alive.
Here are 15 free things to do in Boise, Idaho:
1. Idaho State Capitol
The Idaho State Capitol Building is a nice stop for first time visitors to the area. You are welcome to walk around on your own, or join a free, guided tour. The bottom floor has a gift shop with Idaho souvenirs. There are great views of the city and Capitol building from the Boise Depot.
2. Freak Alley
Located between 8th and 9th street and Bannock, just south of the Matador Restaurant, is the entrance to Freak Alley. Stroll down the alleyway and witness the creative and inspiring paintings of local artists. Many of the exhibits are changed on a rotating basis, so there’s always something new to see.
3. Boise Depot
The Boise Depot is a beautiful Spanish-style building, once used a railroad station. Today you can view an old steam locomotive, and stroll the the Platt Gardens, which offer amazing views overlooking the city and state capitol. Free tours of the Depot are offered monthly.
4. Boise River Greenbelt
Twenty-five miles of pathways bring you from one end of Boise to another, following along the Boise River. Bikers, walkers, joggers, bird watching and fishing enthusiasts adorn the greenbelt each day. The path crosses nature areas, through central Boise, and traverses the “Ribbon of Jewels“, a series of city parks scattered along the River. Spot nesting heron, eagles, and owls in the springtime. Each summer, a popular activity is the float the river on tubes and rafts.
5. Boise State University Blue Turf
Home to the famous “blue turf” football field, a visit to the Allen Noble Hall of Fame is a fun stop for sports enthusiasts. Free admittance allows you to peruse the Hall of Fame, and step out onto the deck for a close up look at the blue field.
6. Julia Davis Park & Museum Campus
One of the jewels of Boise is the Julia Davis Park, centrally located in the heart of the city. The old trees and the Rose Garden provide a gorgeous setting for picnics or walking. Adjacent to the park is Zoo Boise and the city’s museums – The Boise Art Museum, the Idaho State Museum, and the Idaho Black History Museum. The greenbelt runs right through the park, bringing you to a playground, tennis courts, a small pond with paddle boats. Often the giraffes can be seen peaking their heads out from the south side of the zoo.
7. MK Nature Center
The MK Nature Center is a small nature center located right along the Boise Greenbelt. Cross the bridges that overlook a variety of local fish, wander down the pathways to explore the habitats of Idaho wildlife. Climb inside an Eagle’s nest, and enjoy the Visitor’s Center. It’s a quick stop that the kids are sure to enjoy!
8. Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial
The Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial is the only permanent Anne Frank memorial in the United States. A bronze statue of Anne Frank is shown peering out of a window. The memorial has an outdoor classroom, water features, and stone walls filled with quotes from Anne Frank, and other human rights quotes and activists.
9. Camel’s Back Park
Camel’s Back Park is one of my favorite ways to awe my visitors, with a short climb that rewards you with amazing views of the city and foothills! There are two routes to the top. The “straight-up” route now leads to new steps near the summit. Or, take the more gradual path around either side of the hill. From the top you are greeted with a clear city view, and behind you lies numerous trails within the foothills.
10. Hike Table Rock Trail
For an even bigger view and climbing challenge, attempt the popular Table Rock Trail, a 3.7 mile out and back trail. Begin at the valley floor, and make your way up to a flattened rock scape bearing a 60 foot cross. Views of the entire valley and mountains are awesome, especially if you can manage a sunrise or sunset hike!
11. Visit Boise’s Parks
Boise has some amazing parks throughout the city, offering mountain views, old trees, fishing spots, playgrounds, fountains, picnicking, biking, walking, and even surfing. Some of my favorites include Julia Davis Park, referenced above and home to many museums and the zoo. Ann Morrison Park, a huge park along the Boise River, boasts a workout park, playground, ponds, a fountain, and is home to the annual Spirit of Boise Balloon Classic.
Esther Simplot Park, my personal favorite, has a unique playground, ponds for swimming, kayaking, and paddle boarding, and is connected to the Greenbelt and Whitewater Park. Here you can watch the surfers and kayakers battle the man-made waves on the Boise River. There are also some great river side restaurants across the red bridge! Kathryn Albertson Park is a bike free zone, that offers quiet nature walks and water features. Enjoy Camel’s Back Park, with its playground, tennis courts, climbing hill, and take one of the many trailheads into the foothills.
12. Oregon Trail Historic Reserve
The Oregon Trail Reserve is set along the rim of basalt cliffs overlooking Boise, to preserve remnants of the original Oregon Trail. Located here is the historic Kelton Ramp, which was used by overland travelers to drop down into the valley in their covered wagons, and cross the river at Beaver Dick’s Ferry, before climbing the mountains again into Idaho City.
13. Village at Meridian
A short drive from Boise is an outdoor mall that is worth a visit. The Village at Meridian offers several blocks of shops and restaurants, a movie theater, and an outdoor entertainment area with a stage, playground, and fireplace seating. At the top of each hour, the fountains come alive with a choreographed water show. In November, the plaza is transformed into a winter wonderland. A gigantic tree, an ice skating rink, and visits with Santa can’t help but get you into the holiday spirit.
14. Celebration Park
Celebration Park is Idaho’s only archeological park, is located along the Snake River. The Visitor Center provides free tours to see the petroglyphs. Ranging from 100 to 10,000 years old, these petroglyphs were carved into the basalt rock, which was deposited by the Bonneville Flood. Take a walk across the McGuffy Bridge, a former railroad used during Idaho’s early mining days, and snap a great picture of the Snake River.
15. Cleo’s Ferry Museum
For a unique and quirky walk near the Snake River in Melba, visit Cleo’s Ferry Museum. This one mile trail is full of interesting collections. You will see everything from birdhouses to trolls to sculptures of famous people. Keep a look out for the beautiful peacocks roaming the grounds as well.
So, there you have it. Fifteen fabulous things to do in Boise, Idaho. Look for more to come soon.