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12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Boise, ID

Written by Lana Law and Brad Lane
Nov 17, 2020

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Boise, capital city of Idaho, was established during the gold rush days of the 1800s. What was then a township located next to Fort Boise, has sprung to life over the past 180 years into the city you see today. While it's no longer gold attracting such an interest in the city, rich natural resources continue to make Boise a great place to live.

Natural attractions are hard to miss in Boise. The entire Boise National Forest abuts the city's northern edge, and organizations like Ridge to Rivers maintain hundreds of miles of trails. The national forest also includes nearby ski slopes. For in-town natural appeal, a variety of city parks line the Boise River Greenbelt.

Other cultural places to visit include the Old Idaho Penitentiary and the State Capitol. Make a trip to Idaho's capital city a memorable one with our list of the top things to do in Boise.

See also: Where to Stay in Boise

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Old Idaho Penitentiary State Historic Site

Old Idaho Penitentiary State Historic Site
Old Idaho Penitentiary State Historic Site

Built in 1870 of hand-cut sandstone, the Old Idaho Penitentiary housed inmates for more than a century before reverting its status to a museum and state historic site. The Old Idaho Penitentiary, or "Old Pen," includes 30 historical structures, some of which now feature educational exhibits.

Visitors can tour the facility to see jail cells, the Gallows, and the Solitary Confinement area. The Old Idaho Penitentiary also hosts events throughout the year, including paranormal investigations, cemetery tours, and a festive holiday event in October.

Within the Old Penitentiary Historic District, is the Idaho Botanical Garden. This non-profit plant space has a variety of gardens in bloom throughout much of the year.

Address: 2445 Old Penitentiary Road, Boise, Idaho

Official site: http://history.idaho.gov/old-idaho-penitentiary

2. State Capitol

State Capitol
State Capitol

Construction began on the Capitol Building in 1905 and was completed in 1920. The majority of the building was constructed of locally sourced sandstone with marble from Alaska, Georgia, Vermont, and Italy. The top of the dome has a five-foot-high statue of a golden eagle. In 2010, the building was rededicated following extensive restoration work.

The building features various displays and temporary exhibits. Visitors are encouraged to tour the Capitol at their leisure during operating hours, and guided tours can be scheduled for groups of five or more. The manicured grounds of the Capitol are perfect for leisurely strolls.

Address: 700 West Jefferson Street, Boise, Idaho

Official site: http://www.capitolcommission.idaho.gov/

3. Boise River Greenbelt

Boise River Greenbelt
Boise River Greenbelt

The Boise Greenbelt, located along the Boise River, runs through the city center and links 850 acres of natural area and parks. The 25-mile Greenbelt offers a variety of cycling and walking paths, as well as wildlife-viewing opportunities. This scenic corridor is often used for both non-motorized commuting and experiencing nature.

The urban pathway also connects to other culturally significant parts of the city. The Boise State University Campus and the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial are both along the path. Bikes, strollers, and in-line skates are welcomed on the Greenbelt, though pedestrians always have the right of way.

4. Julia Davis Park

Julia Davis Park
Julia Davis Park | Nan Palmero / photo modified

Accessible via the Boise River Greenbelt, Julia Davis Park has plenty of cultural attractions worth checking out. On the grounds, visitors can discover Zoo Boise, the Boise Art Museum, and the Idaho Historical Museum, as well as the Discovery Center of Idaho, and the Idaho Black History Museum.

Julia Davis also provides a scenic backdrop to all these cultural attractions. Lagoons, rose gardens, and a duck pond define the landscape, as does the regular influx of visitors who come to enjoy the scenic space.

Address: 700 S Capitol Boulevard, Boise, Idaho

Official site: http://parks.cityofboise.org/parks-locations/parks/julia-davis-park/

5. Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial

Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial
Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial | dave ungar / photo modified

The Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial is located in the Boise Cultural District, behind the Boise Public Library. The memorial contains more than 60 quotes from leaders and human rights figures throughout history. A bronze statue of Anne Frank is located in the "Attic" of the Memorial.

The garden of the Human Rights Memorial features trees and flowers from around the world. The memorial also has benches and stainless-steel statues of human rights leaders. Boise Parks and Recreation and the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights maintain the memorial with a cooperative agreement.

Address: 777 South 8th Street, Boise, Idaho

Official site: https://annefrankmemorial.org/

6. Camel's Back Park

Camel's Back Park
Camel's Back Park

Located on the north end of the city and at the edge of the Boise foothills, Camel's Back Park is a popular open space with a variety of things to do. Within the 11 acres of developed park, visitors can use tennis courts, playground equipment, and an outdoor gym. Picnic areas and open-play areas also are popular throughout the warmer months.

One of the real appeals of this city park, however, is its access to the foothills and sprawling Ridge to Rivers trail system. The two miles of this larger trail system within Camel's Back Park climbs up to a great view of the city. Several trails venture through the Boise Foothills from Camel's Back Park, including Lower Hulls Gulch Trail, one of the best hiking trails in Boise.

Address: 1200 Heron Street, Boise, Idaho

7. World Center for Birds of Prey

World Center for Birds of Prey
World Center for Birds of Prey

The World Center for Birds of Prey propagates birds of prey for release into the wild. Falcons, condors, eagles, and various other birds call the center home. They are kept on-site for breeding and observational research.

At the facility, the Velma Morrison Interpretive Center hosts visitors, giving them the chance to meet the feathered residents and learn about the different species. Some of the most popular things to do at the Interpretive Center include viewing the educational exhibits, live raptor presentations, and a quarter-mile nature trail primed for spotting wild raptors.

Address: 5668 West Flying Hawk Lane, Boise, Idaho

Official site: http://www.peregrinefund.org/world-center

8. Kathryn Albertson Park

Kathryn Albertson Park
Kathryn Albertson Park | Jason W. / photo modified

Kathryn Albertson Park is a 41-acre special-use park located southwest of downtown Boise. Most of the park is wetland habitat filled with wildlife, including a variety of birds. Established walking paths wind past scenic lagoons and a decorative fountain. "Conservation Stations" next to the paved walkways provide information on the surrounding flora and fauna.

The park also features two large gazebos that are available for rent, which can be extremely popular come wedding season in Boise.

Kathryn Albertson is one of many parks linked together by the Boise River Greenbelt. Other nearby city parks include the adjacent Ann Morrison Park and Julia Davis Park across the river.

Address: 1001 North Americana Boulevard, Boise, Idaho

9. Idaho Botanical Garden

Idaho Botanical Garden
Idaho Botanical Garden | Doug Kerr / photo modified

The Idaho Botanical Garden is located at what was once the #2 Yard of the Idaho State Penitentiary. Since the prison's closing, through a community effort and interest in horticulture, the Idaho Botanical Garden was established and has continued to grow since its inception in 1984.

The garden features 14 specialty gardens that vary from a contemporary English Garden to a Meditative Garden, with each landscaped space having a unique focus. The botanical garden also includes an heirloom Rose Garden, with more than 300 different roses in 107 varieties.

Special events at the Idaho Botanical Garden include a Summer Solstice celebration and a Scarecrow Stroll in autumn. Throughout December, the botanic space is illuminated by the Winter Garden aGlow event and over 500,000 holiday lights.

Address: 2355 Old Penitentiary Road, Boise, Idaho

Official site: http://idahobotanicalgarden.org/

10. Discovery Center of Idaho

Hands-on exhibits at the Discovery Center of Idaho help visitors learn about science and scientific wonders. Some of the topics displayed include electricity, sound, motion, perception, and hearing. The center is geared towards all ages, making it a good outing for children and families.

The Discovery Center hosts a wide variety of events and programming, including summer camps and a Young Discoverers club designed for children ages three to five. The museum also hosts four Adult Nights each year for those 21 years and older who want unbridled access to play space.

Address: 131 Myrtle Street, Boise, Idaho

Official site: http://www.dcidaho.org/

11. Basque Museum and Cultural Center

Basque Museum and Cultural Center
Basque Museum and Cultural Center | Nicolás Boullosa / photo modified

With a mission to preserve, promote, and perpetuate Basque heritage history, the Basque Museum and Cultural Center displays a vast collection of artifacts and exhibits from this region. Housed in one of the few remaining examples of a Basque boarding house, the historic Cyrus Jacobs-Uberuaga house, the permanent collection at the museum includes traditional music, a replica sheep wagon and numerous historical archives.

Self-guided tours are available for a low-cost admission. Guided tours can be scheduled ahead of time. The cultural center also houses an impressive amount of archives and genealogy resources for those interested in research. The museum is closed on Sunday and Monday.

Address: 611 Grove Street, Boise, Idaho

Official site: http://www.basquemuseum.com/

12. Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area

Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area
Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area

Located less than 20 miles from downtown Boise, Bogus Basin is a great year-round recreation area. In the winter, the hill is a non-profit ski area that is popular with locals. Seven chairlifts and four conveyor lifts access 2,600 acres of skiable terrain. The mountain also provides groomed Nordic tracks and an 800-foot tubing chute.

During the summer months, Bogus Basin becomes a wonderful area for hiking and downhill mountain biking, with a comprehensive trail system. The popular Around-the-Mountain Trail offers a beautiful view of the landscape. Yurts are available to rent, and live music can be found on the mountain every weekend in the summer.

Address: 2600 Bogus Basin Road, Boise, Idaho

Official site: http://bogusbasin.org/

Where to Stay in Boise for Sightseeing

Most of the major tourist attractions in Boise are in the city center, but many of the best hotel choices are within a 10-minute drive from this area. Below are some quality hotels in good locations, either in the city center or within a short drive:

  • Luxury Hotels: With an excellent location in the city center, the stylish boutique Hotel 43 is surrounded by shops, galleries, and museums, and is just a few blocks from the State Capitol.

    About a 10-minute drive from downtown, the well-appointed Oxford Suites offers extended stay options, family suites, and pet-friendly rooms. This hotel also has an indoor pool and hot tub and serves a complimentary hot breakfast and evening appetizers.

    The Hampton Inn & Suites is right in the heart of the action downtown, within walking distance to the zoo, several museums, the opera, the ballet, and numerous restaurants. The indoor saltwater swimming pool has a children's theme.
  • Budget Hotels: The Safari Inn Downtown is ideally located for sightseeing. This basic but comfortable hotel is within walking distance of the State Capitol, museums, restaurants, and the zoo.

    Out near the airport, a 10-minute drive from downtown, the Inn America A Budget Motel offers large, clean rooms at a reasonable price.

    About 15 minutes from downtown, the pet friendly Best Western Northwest Lodge offers spacious rooms, complimentary breakfast, and an indoor swimming pool.
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