Bogus Basin ski area in Boise, Idaho

Best Things to Do in Boise

BY Fifty Grande Editors | September 25, 2020

Welcome to Fifty Grande’s Best of the U.S. Bucket List series. This is your one-stop travel guide to the best, most unique and quintessential experiences of a city, state or event. Want to know how to “do” Boise? We’ve got you covered. Curated by experts, vetted by in-the-know locals, this is all you need to have the best trip ever. If we’ve written a Bucket List, we recommend you go. If it’s on this list, it’s the best the city has to offer right now. Consider this your one-stop answer to “What are the best things to do in Boise?”

Idaho’s got gems, people. A lot of them are literal (the star garnet is found in two places: India and Idaho). But dig around and you’ll find others. Like Boise. In a Pacific Northwest region rife with trendy cities and hipster havens, Boise is among the coolest. Not the “put in a coffee shop with exposed brick and call it good” type of cool you see in other cities. Boise’s style runs deep. Exhibit A: The city makes waves on the Boise River so people can surf. Exhibit B: Its Treefort indie rock festival is climbing the ranks of U.S. music events. Exhibit C: Its population grew more by 18.2% from 2010 to 2018, largely millennials looking for the next big thing. You can pair a whole range of outdoor adventures with trendy restaurants and craft beer, but you’ve got to get it while the gettin’s good. Here are the best things to do in Boise right now.

You’re here for Basque food

Your “no way, you’re kidding” fact of the day: Boise has the world’s largest Basque population outside of Spain. Hit the Basque Block to immerse yourself in the culture. Then see the Basque Museum & Cultural Center for more. And for some of the best Basque cuisine this side of the Atlantic, go here.

The Basque Market in Boise
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The Basque Market in Boise. Via Shutterstock.

The Basque Market

608 W Grove St, Boise, Idaho, USA

Traditional pintxos (tapas) and paella in the heart of the Basque Block. Go on Wednesday or Friday afternoon to catch them cooking huge pans of paella right on the patio (and grab some for only ten bucks).

Bar Gernika in Boise
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Bar Gernika in Boise

Bar Gernika

202 S Capitol Blvd, Boise, Idaho, USA

More of a pub atmosphere, but they’ve got some killer Basque sandwiches and kabobs to go with your craft beer.

Leku Ona in Boise
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Leku Ona in Boise

Leku Ona

117 S 6th St, Boise, ID, USA

The name means “good place,” and they aren’t kidding. Owner Jose Maria Artiach is from the Basque country and created a menu full of traditional dishes and wines from the region.

Txikiteo in Boise
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Txikiteo in Boise

Txikiteo

175 N 14th St, Boise, Idaho, USA

A contemporary urban eatery with classic tapas and meat boards alongside Basque wines from their bottle shop.

So many fries!

Yeah, yeah, it’s cliché to label Idaho as potato country, but it’s also true. And great potatoes make even better fries. 

Boise Fry Company
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Boise Fry Company

Boise Fry Company

204 N Capitol Blvd, Boise, Idaho, USA

Their tagline is “burgers on the side,” which should tell you everything you need to know. Choose from six kinds of locally sourced potatoes (or Brussels sprouts) and five different cuts. Then pick the perfect in-house seasoning and/or dipping sauce. If you really want to go for it, get the Bourgeois: russet potatoes fried in duck fat and topped with truffle salt. 

Fork in Boise
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Fork in Boise

Fork

199 N 8th St, Boise, Idaho, USA

The rosemary-parmesan Idaho french fries are worth a visit on their own, but don’t let that distract you from the rest of the New American-style menu, because this is one of Boise’s absolute best lunch spots.

Surround yourself with street art

Boise is home to plenty of colorful graffitied walls and imaginative colorscapes. If you want to totally immerse yourself, start with Freak Alley Gallery. In 2002, local artist Colby Akers painted Moon Cafe’s back door, which drew the admiration and jealousy of other businesses. Throw in more local artists, a few years, and a whole lot of paint and you’ve got Freak Alley, the largest open-air gallery in the Northwest. It features work by renowned muralists and street artists, and it’s always changing, so you can visit multiple times and see new works.

Go hot spring hopping

We’re not talking about commercialized hot springs that look like jacuzzis. These are middle-of-nature rock pools heated from the depths.

Start with Rocky Canyon Hot Springs, a series of cascading natural pools along the Middle Fork of Payette River (1.5-ish hours from downtown Boise). And the water gets cooler as it cascades down, so you can choose the pool with the most relaxing temp for you.

Then, along the Payette River’s South Fork in Boise National Forest, you’ll find Kirkham Hot Springs. These are ten geothermal pools complete with tiny waterfalls (like a shower, courtesy of Mother Nature). 

Drink wine from the Snake River Valley

Don’t cry blasphemy on this, but Idaho might have better grapes than potatoes. The Snake River Valley is one of the United States’ up-and-coming AVAs. It doesn’t yet have the longstanding prestige of a Napa or Sonoma, but the winemakers there have boldness, imagination and fruit that rivals the vino powerhouses.  

Cinder Wines in Boise
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Cinder Wines in Boise

Cinder Wines

107 E 44th St, Garden City, Idaho, USA

They’ve got a cool urban tasting room in Garden City and some badass Chardonnays, Syrahs and Viogniers. 

Coiled
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Coiled

Coiled Wines

3408 W Chinden Blvd, Garden City, Idaho, USA

Make sure to try their big Syrah blends, Petite Verdot and dry Riesling at either their Garden City tasting room or Downtown wine bar.

Sawtooth Winery in Boise
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Sawtooth Winery in Boise

Sawtooth Winery

19348 Lowell Rd, Caldwell, Idaho, USA

This gorgeous estate vineyard is west of the city, but the scenery and award-winning wines are worth it.

Entertainment grab bag

These events are like the wild-card best friend in a romantic comedy — totally unexpected but always enjoyable. 

Performer at Story Story in Boise
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Performer at Story Story in Boise

Story Story Night

Jack's Urban Meeting Place, West Myrtle Street, Boise, ID, USA

At these events, you’ll hear local storytellers spinning true tales that range from heart-wrenching to hilarious, all without notes. The Story Story Night nonprofit plans themed story nights, spontaneous story slams and adults-only late-night events.

Alive After Five
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Alive After Five in Boise

Alive After Five

850 West Front Street, Boise, ID, USA

This is a pop-up concert series featuring live music at venues across the city. 

Where to stay

The Modern Hotel in Boise
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The Modern Hotel in Boise

The Modern Hotel

1314 W Grove St, Boise, Idaho, USA

During the Great Depression, the Modern opened as a waypoint where sheepherders lodged alongside traveling musicians and artists. And it’s still got that everyone-is-welcome spirit. Eat and drink on-site at trendy Txikiteo (see above), or venture out to nearby hot spots like Eighth St. and relaxing areas like Ann Morrison Park. 

For the outdoorsy

Boise’s location offers a whole bunch of different outdoor activities. It’s not a one-trick town. With some slick scheduling and a ton of energy, you could go skiing, climbing, biking and rafting all in the same weekend (most people pick one or two, but hey, do what you want). 

Black Cliffs in Boise
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Black Cliffs in Boise. Pic via Shutterstock.

Black Cliffs

Black Cliffs Rock Climbing, Boise, ID, USA

These towering walls of volcanic basalt are a climber’s paradise. If you’re not a climber, the sheer rock faces are still a sight to behold.

Table Rock in Boise
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Table Rock in Boise. Pic via Shutterstock.

Table Rock

Table Rock, Boise, ID, USA

A popular hiking and mountain-biking spot southeast of the city (next to the Old Idaho Penitentiary), and if you’re a romantic, the perfect place to catch a sunset over the city.  

Payette River in Boise
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Payette River in Boise. Pic via Shutterstock.

Payette River

Payette River, Idaho, USA

Whitewater rafting, anyone? The Payette River (north of Boise) is the place. For a more chill aquatic afternoon, rent tubes and take an afternoon float down the Boise River. 

Bogus Basin in Boise
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Bogus Basin in Boise. Pic via Shutterstock.

Bogus Basin

Bogus Basin, Idaho, USA

Some Idahoans will tell you that Boise’s ski resorts rival Salt Lake City’s (gasp!). But they’re not wrong, and Bogus Basin is one of the state’s premier mountain recreation areas.

Check out the local music scene

Boise might still be a music city under the radar in America’s collective imagination, but it’s a town that punches above its weight class.

Crowd at Olympic Theater in Boise.
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Crowd at Olympic Theater in Boise.

The Olympic

1009 W Main St, Boise, Idaho, USA

An intimate venue in Downtown Boise with a full bar and a diverse lineup of local and national bands.

StarCrawler-performs-on-the-Shredder-stage-during-the-Treefort-Music-Festival-2018.jpg
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StarCrawler at Shredder. Pic via Shutterstock.

The Shredder

430 S 10th St, Boise, Idaho, USA

The self-proclaimed “heaviest-hitting venue in Boise.” An energetic place for a rock show with a dive bar aesthetic. (Oh, and there’s a half-pipe in the back. Fuck yeah!)

Walk Eighth St. in Downtown

It’s got stylish bars (Juniper, The Matador), restaurants (Fork), craft beer (10 Barrel, Taphouse) and an assortment of boutique shops. Plus, Basque Block is right next door, so you can hit two iconic Boise nabes in one go.

8th Street in Boise. Pic courtesy of ccdcboise.com
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8th Street in Boise. Pic courtesy of ccdcboise.com

8th St. in Downtown

North 8th Street, Downtown, Boise, ID, USA

One more thing before you leave town

Boise State’s blue turf
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Boise State’s blue turf. Pic via Shutterstock.

Check out Boise State’s blue turf

1910 West University Drive, Boise, ID, USA

The pride and joy of the Broncos football program (aside from the team, of course) is the iconic blue turf of Albertsons Stadium. It’s so blue there’s a rumor that geese think it’s a lake. Even without players clashing on the field, it’s a cool thing to see.