Did you know Boise was initially called Les Bois, which is French for woods, and you have plenty of those in the area? Boise is a wonderful place for nature lovers, although it does offer a lot of other things to do in the city.
The Boise River Greenbelt
This is the city’s best feature as far as attractions go. The Boise River Greenbelt stretches 25 miles along the Boise River and is a paradise for runners, joggers, cyclists, and walkers. The Greenbelt travels through the heart of downtown Boise and winds past several of the city’s most popular parks.
The Greenbelt provides scenic views, an incredible wildlife habitat and pedestrian access to many of the popular riverside parks. Bring your bikes down to the Greenbelt and cruise along the path, stopping at one of the many Idaho wineries along the way.
The Boise River Greenbelt serves as the uniting ribbon that links a string of amazing parks, which bear the names of some of the most remarkable women in Boise’s history and are meant to honor their commitment to the community.
Speaking of parks, you should take a detour and visit the Kathryn Albertson Park, peppered with elegant gazebos, just the perfect spot to relax and to indulge in a bit of wildlife watching. The kids will have a great time marveling at herons and owls, salamanders, turtles, bullfrogs, beavers, and cute rabbits.
Bernardine Quinn Riverside Park features a 22-acre pond, fishing docks and pleny of open space for jogging or for letting the kids run around.
The 1.6-mile section of pathway on the Boise River known as the Bethine Church River Trail is located in a 24-acre natural area, which includes valuable riparian vegetation, wildlife nesting spots and several small irrigation canals that have been transformed into streams inhabited by various species of fish.
Esther Simplot Park, an expansive 55-acre park encompassing approximately 23 acres of ponds, is suitable for fishing, wading and swimming. Amenities include trails, docks, wetlands, boardwalks, shelters, grassy open areas, playground, bridges and restrooms. Great to take your kids for a swim!
Julia Davis Park is famous for its Rose Garden, complete with two pavilions, duck pond, bocce courts, horseshoes and more. Hint – visit in summer when the roses are in full bloom.You’ll never believe how all the sweet scents and the various colors and shades mingle to create an incredible sensory experience
The Idaho Botanical Garden
You can spend a couple of relaxing hours visiting the Idaho Botanical Garden, which offers 30 acres filled with gardens ranging in theme from succulents to roses to native Idaho plants. If you’re looking for some peace and quiet, try the mediation gardens.
Opened all year round, the gardens have different seasonal events, such as the famous Winter Garden a Glow where they light up the whole place in Christmas lights, creating a magical atmosphere. That’s in winter. Starting in early summer through late autumn, the Botanical Gardens allow anyone to stop and smell the roses when in the beautiful city of Boise.
Since you’re there, do visit the Old Idaho Penitentiary built back in 1872. In fact, the Botanical Garden sits on what used to be penitentiary grounds.
The penitentiary housed many of the most violent and infamous criminals of the West. The guided tours take the visitors around the prisons and shows them how the inmates lived for the duration of the site’s 100 year history. You can learn the story of some of the prison’s infamous residents and their everyday schedule behind bars. You shouldn’t pay attention to the rumors that the place is haunted! Or should you?
Discovery Center of Idaho
Located on West Myrtle St, the Discovery Center is an interactive educational center that aims to inspire people to take an interest in engineering, math, science, and technology. There are about 200 exhibits in the center, of which we’ll mention just a few: the Bubble Wall, the Centripetal Wheel, and the Turbulent Orb. What’s the deal with them, there’s for you to discover!
The Center offers various classes on Saturdays during the school year as well as camps for children during the summer holiday. Don’t worry, this isn’t a place just for kids. Grown-ups are also welcome and the center offers a program called Adult Night with live music, drinks, and a fine variety of local food.
The Basque Museum & Cultural Center
This is the only Basque museum int the US and it was established in 1985. Why a Basque museum in Idaho? Aren’t the Basques supposed to live in northern Spain? Well, go visit the place and you will the discover the fascinating history of the Basque community that settled in Boise as sheepherders. The museum houses a variety of artifacts and photographs, a library, and a collection of records and tapes to preserve the oral history of this great community.
World Center for Birds of Prey
This place is perfect for family entertainment, as you get a chance to admire all sorts of birds of prey, eagles, owls, vultures, hawks, and falcons from around the world. It was built in 1984 by the Peregrine Fund which has been rescuing and rehabilitating endangered birds of prey since 1970. The center in Boise was established as the Fund’s headquarters for their mission and they have been collecting and preserving dozens of breeds of birds here ever since. One can either roam the grounds and see the birds in their natural habitat or visit the The Velma Morrison Center, which is an interactive educational center. The center also offers four live bird presentations per day.
Your kids will have a lot of fun in the Discovery Room, which offers hands-on exhibits, with eggs, feathers, puzzles, and costumes to play with.
There’s plenty of other things you can do in Boise, like visit the Art Museum which features a collection of contemporary artwork or the Aquarium of Boise with its interactive touch tanks, or indeed spend some time at the Capital City Public Market where you can buy fresh local produce, food, and a variety of unique items made by local artisans. You choose!