There is so much to do when visiting Boise, Idaho for the first time. The capital of Idaho is full of history, outdoor activities, breweries, and more. Here are our favorite things to do in Boise, Idaho for a first-time visitor.
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The Boise Greenbelt is a gem in the middle of a big city. Growing up in Boise, I had no idea how special the greenbelt is — but very few other cities have similar paths throughout the city.
The Boise Greenbelt is a paved path that runs along the Boise River for miles, along both the Boise side and Garden City side. It also runs through the Boise State University campus and downtown, making it great for any students who want to commute by bicycle or on foot.
The Boise Greenbelt is a great place to visit in Boise to see nature, to enjoy the Boise River, or to get some exercise. Any time of year you will see plenty of walkers, joggers, and bicyclists along the greenbelt.
Table Rock in Boise is another special place you will find in few other cities. Table Rock is a rock formation overlooking the city of Boise that you can hike to or drive up (in a normal year – driving up is not possible in 2020). Table Rock includes a large cross that overlooks the city.
The Table Rock trailhead is located on the grounds of the Old Idaho Penitentiary, and is a steep yet quick hike to the top. If you want to drive, you can get to the top quickly as well. Depending on the time of year, you may have to hike a little ways up — even if you are driving.
From the City of Boise: “The Table Rock area is not accessible from sundown to sunup. A gate at the parking area closes at sundown with the help of a solar powered monitor. Hikers are also advised to not enter the viewing area after sundown as it poses risks to personal safety, fire safety, and wildlife.”
Boise State University is the pride of the city, and going to a game is one of the most Boise things you can do. Since Boise State became competitive on a national level in the mid-2000s, the games are sometimes packed — but you can generally get good tickets any time during the season, and you can get a good view of Boise State’s blue turf.
If you’re not in town during Boise State football season, you can still visit the Blue Turf any time.
Beer has become an important part of the Boise landscape in the last decade or so, and you will find plenty of breweries all around Boise. No matter what kind of beer you like, most restaurants will carry some kind of Boise beer, and there are nearly a dozen breweries just in the downtown Boise area.
You will also find plenty of Boise wineries and a few cider houses as well, if that is what you prefer.
While you are experiencing Boise beer, don’t forget about food in Boise too — the food scene in the area has become increasingly diverse and delicious. Whether you are downtown or in other areas of Boise, you will find plenty of great options for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
There are only a few cities in the country where you can float a river right in the middle of the city. The Boise River is only a few feet deep during the summer months, with a slow flowage during that time.
You will float the river from Barber Park to Ann Morrison Park, which can take a few hours — and makes for a relaxing summer day in Boise. You can rent a tube or raft (or bring your own) at the beginning of your float, and drop it off at the end.
Floating the Boise River is a fun family or solo activity and an inexpensive way to spend your day.
Skiing at Bogus Basin is something to be done in winter months in Boise, but is an easy drive directly up the mountain from downtown Boise. You can rent your gear at the bottom of the mountain or bring your own.
There are plenty of mountains to ski on in Idaho, but Bogus Basin is the best way to spend a day if you are staying in Boise.
If you have some more time, check out skiing at Tamarack Resort, Sun Valley, or Brundage Mountain.
Boise is home to an ECHL hockey team, the Idaho Steelheads. The ECHL is two levels below the NHL, which means the Idaho players get moved up and down all the time.
The Idaho Steelheads play at the CenturyLink Arena in downtown Boise, a 3,500-capacity arena attached to the Grove Hotel. A hockey game is a fun date night in downtown Boise — you can grab dinner at one of the many downtown Boise restaurants, see a hockey game, and take a walk after.
The Idaho Penitentiary is one of the coolest places to visit in Boise. Located just a few minutes outside of downtown Boise (probably too far to walk, but a short Uber ride), the penitentiary has been closed for decades — but you can take a tour and walk through the grounds.
The Old Idaho Penitentiary opened in 1872 and housed hundreds of convicts until it closed more than 100 years later. The penitentiary is managed by the Idaho State Historical Society, which means it’s not only a static museum but also has exhibits that change every few months or years.
The Basque population is Boise is a significant piece of the fabric of Boise. Home to the largest Basque population outside the Basque country (located in both France and Spain), the Boise Basque Block is home to the Basque Museum, Basque House (a former boarding house), the Basque Center, a Basque market, a handball court still in use, and a few different Basque restaurants.
Although the Basque Block is an amazing piece of culture to visit any time of year, visiting during one of the Basque festivals would be a once-in-a-lifetime trip for anyone.
The San Inazio Festival happens each year in July, and includes the Oinkari Basque Dancers, food, and other entertainment. Jaialdi happens every five years, and will take place in Boise in 2020.
Jaialdi is one of the largest Basque festivals in the world, and people from all over the world come to Boise to participate. There are dance exhibitions, a sports night, and other events — plus all the amazing food you can eat.
If you cannot visit Boise for a Basque festival, definitely make a point of visiting the Basque Block, because it’s an important piece of culture in Boise.