Idaho’s capital city, Boise, was founded in the 1800s, at the height of the gold rush. 180 years have seen a transformation of what was once a township next to Fort Boise into a thriving cultural center with a bevy of tourist attractions. Rich natural resources still make Boise a great place to live even though gold isn’t what draws so much attention to the city anymore.
In Boise, it’s difficult to miss the natural attractions. The entire Boise National Forest borders the northern part of the city, and groups like Ridge to Rivers care for hundreds of miles of trails. There are ski slopes close by in the national forest.
Numerous city parks line the Boise River Greenbelt, adding to the city’s natural appeal. The State Capitol and the Old Idaho Penitentiary are two additional local attractions. Whole days of travel and sightseeing are available at these family-friendly attractions.
Best Places to Visit in Boise Idaho
With our guide to the best things to do in Boise, you can make your visit to the state capital of Idaho one to remember.
1. Old Idaho Penitentiary State Historic Site
The Old Idaho Penitentiary, which was constructed in 1870 out of hand-cut sandstone, housed prisoners for more than a century before becoming a museum and state historic site. 30 historic buildings make up the Old Idaho Penitentiary, or “Old Pen,” some of which now house educational exhibits.
Visitors can take a tour of the building to see the Gallows, the Solitary Confinement area, and the jail cells. The Old Idaho Penitentiary also holds events all year long, such as ghost hunts, cemetery tours, and a joyous holiday gathering in October.
2. Boise River Greenbelt
The 850 acres of parks and natural area that make up the Boise Greenbelt are connected by the Boise River and run through the heart of the city.
A variety of cycling and walking paths, as well as opportunities to see wildlife, can be found along the 25-mile Greenbelt. This beautiful corridor is frequently used for both non-motorized transportation and getting outside.
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There are connections from the urban pathway to other culturally significant areas of the city. Along the way, you’ll pass by the campuses of Boise State University and the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial. On the Greenbelt, bikes, strollers, and inline skates are welcome, but pedestrians always have the right of way.
3. Julia Davis Park
The Boise River Greenbelt connects Julia Davis Park, which has a lot of interesting cultural attractions. Zoo Boise, the Boise Art Museum, the Idaho Historical Museum, the Discovery Center of Idaho, and the Idaho Black History Museum are all located on the property.
All of these cultural attractions have a beautiful backdrop thanks to Julia Davis. The landscape is characterized by lagoons, rose gardens, and a duck pond, as well as by the regular influx of tourists who come to enjoy the beautiful area.
4. Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Monument
In the Boise Cultural District, directly behind the Boise Public Library, is the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial. More than 60 quotes from historical figures who championed human rights and leadership can be found on the memorial. The “Attic” of the Memorial contains a bronze statue of Anne Frank.
The Human Rights Memorial’s garden contains plants and trees from different countries. Additionally, there are benches and stainless-steel statues of human rights pioneers at the memorial. The Wassmuth Center for Human Rights and Boise Parks and Recreation jointly maintain the memorial.
5. Camel’s Back Park
On the northern edge of the city, close to the Boise foothills, is Camel’s Back Park. It is a well-liked open area with a wide range of activities.
Visitors can use the tennis courts, play structures, and an outdoor gym within the 11 acres of the developed park. Open-air play areas and picnic areas are also well-liked during the warmer months.
6. International Birds of Prey Center
Birds of prey are raised at the World Center for Birds of Prey before being released into the wild. The center is a haven for falcons, condors, eagles, and various other birds. For breeding and observational research, they are kept on-site.
Visitors can meet the facility’s resident birds and learn about the various species at the Velma Morrison Interpretive Center, which welcomes guests. These sightseeing opportunities offer a look at the habitat of the birds and the recovery procedure.
7. Park Kathryn Albertson
Southwest of downtown Boise is where you’ll find the 41-acre special-use park known as Kathryn Albertson Park. The majority of the park is made up of wetlands, which are home to a variety of animals and birds. In order to get the best views of the local wildlife, think about bringing some binoculars or a telephoto lens.
A decorative fountain and picturesque lagoons are surrounded by well-maintained walking paths. Information on the local flora and fauna can be found at “Conservation Stations” next to the paved walkways. Two sizable gazebos in the park are also for rent, and during Boise’s wedding season, they can be very busy.
8. Idaho Botanical Garden
The former #2 Yard of the Idaho State Penitentiary is now home to the Idaho Botanical Garden. The Idaho Botanical Garden was founded in 1984 as a result of a community effort and enthusiasm for horticulture after the prison was shut down, and it has since expanded.
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The garden has 14 specialty gardens, each with a different theme and ranging from a modern English garden to a meditative garden. A rose garden with more than 300 different roses in 107 varieties is also part of the botanical garden.
9. Idaho Discovery Center
Visitors to the Discovery Center of Idaho can learn about science and its wonders through interactive exhibits. The subjects covered include sound, motion, perception, and hearing, among others. The facility caters to people of all ages, making it a fun outing for kids and families.
The Discovery Center offers a wide range of activities and programming, such as summer camps and a Young Discoverers club for kids between the ages of three and five. The museum also offers four Adult Nights annually for visitors older than 21 who want unrestricted access to the play area.
10. Basque Cultural and Museum Center
The Basque Museum and Cultural Center houses a sizable collection of artifacts and exhibits from this region with the goal of preserving, promoting, and perpetuating Basque heritage history.
The historical Cyrus Jacobs-Uberuaga house, one of the few remaining examples of a Basque boarding house, is where the museum’s permanent collection is kept. It consists of a replica sheep wagon, traditional music, and numerous historical records.
Boise, the capital of Idaho, is known as a hidden gem and is filled with lovely parks, fascinating museums, and noteworthy historic landmarks. Despite being the largest city in the state, it retains a charming small-town atmosphere thanks to the abundance of family-run businesses in the downtown.
It is situated on both banks of the Boise River, tucked away in the foothills of the Rockies. The lovely Greenbelt, which connects many of its parks and green areas, provides wonderful outdoor activities. Boise attractions include beautiful hiking, skiing, and mountain biking in the surrounding mountains and forests.