Out & About in Boise, Idaho

You all know that we now live in Boise. It’s where I grew up, where my sons were born, and where we decided to make home after our big journey. I love it here, and am thrilled to call it home.

Periodically, I get emails from people passing through, wondering what there is to do here. It’s like most people feel it’s just a podunk little town with nothing of interest. Nothing could be farther from the truth. There is enough here to keep you busy for a week or more, depending on your interests.

Here are my favorite things to do in Boise.

Idaho Capitol building

Okay, okay… I know this probably doesn’t interest you like it does me, but the Idaho Capitol building is a really, really cool place. Maybe it’s because I gave tours of the statehouse during my Girl Scout days, but I find its history fascinating. The capitol building was recently completely renovated and they found some very cool stuff – like a hidden elevator that the Supreme Court judges used to use. Apparently, they felt it was too dangerous to have them walking around the building.

When you go, head down to the basement and join a free tour of the building. They’ll tell you all kinds of interesting tidbits – it’s really fascinating! Trust me!


Old Idaho Penitentiary

I realize I’m showing my age here, but dang! There were actually prisoners in this place when *I* was in school! In fact, there was a big riot and the prisoners burned down a large part of the jail when I was in high school. When you see this place, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

The Old Idaho Penitentiary is an amazing place, showing just how primitive prisoners of old lived. They certainly didn’t live in swanky, upscale lodgings, that’s for sure!


Idaho Natural History Museum

I’m not generally one for museums, but I really like this place. It’s not a great place to hang out for a whole day, but it’s one of those places where every time I go back, I find other stuff that I didn’t see before.

Lewis and Clark are big around here, so there is a large display about their expedition, including plenty of little fascinating facts about their journey. Upstairs, they have recreations of typical rooms from Victorian homes – pretty cool to see how people lived back then.

They have living history days here a couple times a year that are really fun. I’ve learned a LOT by chatting with the reenactors.

living history

Boise Art Museum

So – I am not a fan of this place, but I know that many people are art lovers. Even though I’m a bead artist, I don’t appreciate art like many seem to. The Boise Art Museum generally ranks pretty high among art museums, so if you’re into that sort of thing, then it’s a great place. I guess. ((shrug))

Boise Art Museum

Basque Museum

The Boise area has the largest Basque population in the world outside of the Basque region in Spain, and we have our very own museum about Basque culture. I wish the museum was more interactive, but it’s still interesting to read about how all those Basque sheepherders landed here.

If you have the time, and happen to be here at the right time, Boise State University offers some weekend courses on various aspects of Basque culture. I took one where we went out into the forests to take pictures and document tree carvings left by Basque sheepherders. Fascinating stuff!


Discovery Center

Got geeks? The Discovery Center is perfect. It’s one of those hands-on science museums that is great for all ages. They’ve got really simple stuff for tiny kids, and very advanced for adult scientists – and everything in between. They frequently bring in special displays, so you never know quite what you’ll find when you get there.


Feed the geese in Ann Morrison Park

When I was kid, Ann Morrison Park was filled with ducks, and we used to save all the heels of bread and then go feed them. Now the duck population has been largely replaced by geese (when did that happen, anyway?), but it’s just as much fun to go feed the geese. They will flock toward you as soon as they see the bread bag.


Anne Frank Memorial

Yes, Boise has its very own Anne Frank Memorial. Apparently, the woman who sheltered the Frank family had some sort of connection with Boise, hence the memorial. It’s a pretty simple place, but very well done. In addition to a nice statue of Anne looking out the window of their room (built to scale), there is a long wall, engraved with quotes about human rights issues around the world.

anne frank memorial boise

Watch a Boise State University football game

((cringe)) I am so not a football person, but I hear that many are. Apparently, BSU has a good team and they play on their bright blue Smurf Turf. If you’re into that sort of thing… well, I hear that tickets are available…



World Center for Birds of Prey

We’re very fortunate to have the World Center for Birds of Prey here in Boise. While I really wish I could get back into the area where they raise the young birds, I understand why that’s not realistic. They do, however, have a great educational program with live birds, and a wonderful little museum about birds of prey.

If you are in town during the spring, the young hatchlings will be learning to fly out at the Snake River about 30 miles from Boise south of Kuna. It’s really fun to stand on the rim of the canyon and watch.

Birds of Prey

Tube the Boise River

If you visit during the summer, don’t miss this one! The Boise River is cold, so you’ll want to go on a really hot day -it feels wonderful!

The whole thing will take maybe 3 or 4 hours, so it’s a perfect afternoon activity. Take the bus from Ann Morrison Park (after feeding the geese) – you’ll know where to go by seeing all the tubes and rafts around. The bus will drop you off at Barber Park where you can rent tubes or rafts. Take snacks and drinks for on the river and kick back until you get back to Ann Morrison. You won’t be alone on the river – I can guarantee you that! This is a VERY popular summer activity.


Ski Bogus Basin

If you come to Boise during the winter, we’ve got great skiing only 16 miles outside the city at Bogus Basin. It’s varied throughout the years, so be sure to check on current info, but there is frequently a bus heading up there on weekends. Hit the slopes and have a blast!


Go for a hike up in the Boise Foothills

There is an extensive trail system in the foothills just above Boise. As you climb up, you’ll have great views of the city, and wide open spaces. The trailheads are just behind Fort Boise, and continue as long as you want to hike.

boise foothills


I’ve been playing around with a new travel planning site – Wishbeen.com – and came up with this handy-dandy little map. You can plan your itinerary and add destinations to your map – including hotels and restaurants if you like to plan to that level of detail. I can see how this could be a fantastic tool for those spending time exploring a city. Here’s a map I created with things to do in Boise.

books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

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9 Responses to Out & About in Boise, Idaho

  1. David January 31, 2014 at 6:38 am #

    The hiking in the Boise foothills reminds me a bit of Calgary (I’m Canadian) … the whole Basque connection with Boise is fascinating as well!

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel February 1, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

      @David, We love Boise. I can’t think of any place I would rather live – and I’ve been around the block a time or two.

  2. Colleen Corrigan February 18, 2014 at 5:27 pm #

    Hey Nancy,

    I am attending BSU for a semester and am from upstate New York. While I was flying over to Idaho just about a month ago now I was talking with a photographer who was sitting next to me. She told me about you and your three year bike trip with your family! Her name slips my mind now but she said that she knew you. That is so inspiring to hear and makes me excited to go on many adventures! I am only going to be in Boise for a semester so I definitely want to get as much out of it as possible while I am here!
    I would love to meet up and grab some coffee/tea sometime and hear about your adventure and just find out what you think is a definite to check out! 🙂

    Thank you!

  3. Turbineguy May 2, 2014 at 1:38 am #

    You forgot…

    jetskiing on one of the lakes
    4-wheeling in the Owyhee’s
    Driving Boise Ridge Road
    Hiking Flat top

    I moved to Boise 3 years ago to be with my girlfriend (she owns Bad Boy Burgers on Vista), and love it.

    By the way, great story about your journey. I’m blessed to travel for a living. Currently in Korea, was in Brazil two weeks ago, who knows where I will be next week.

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel May 2, 2014 at 5:16 pm #

      @Turbineguy, Those are all great things to do! What I love about Boise is that there is a lot to do here – it’s a great place!

  4. Heidi May 31, 2014 at 6:38 am #

    Stumbled on your blog while searching for info on Addis Ababa. After 11 years of teaching at an international school in South Korea, my husband and I are heading to ICS Addis. The fun part is that our home base is in Nampa. 🙂 Small world…

    Will be looking over more of your Addis posts. Fun adventures!

  5. george baumgardber July 5, 2014 at 12:55 pm #

    My wife and I are thinking about doing part of the Idaho hot springs ride put together recently by the Adventure cycling folks and were wondering if you have any experience on these trails. We were thinking of going from Boise to Ketchum to Stanley on bikes and then do some hiking in the Sawtooth.
    Your stories are inspirational. We’ve done many 3 months long cycling trips, mostly Europe, some in Chile and ARgentina and Cuba. Consdering Burma and Bali this winter.

    • Nancy Sathre-Vogel July 6, 2014 at 7:24 pm #

      @george baumgardber, I have driven that route, but never cycled most of it – it is beautiful, though. Let me know what you think!

      I would recommend Burma over Bali any day – Burma is one of my favorite places on the planet.

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