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Boise

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Idaho : Southwestern Idaho : Boise
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Boise [1] is the capital of Idaho as well as the largest city in Idaho with a metro population of around 500,000. The city rests at the base of the foothills of the Rocky Mountains along the plain of the Boise River which winds through the city. A very outdoors oriented place with many activities available without even leaving the city. Although its economic growth has its roots in the Simplot potato industry, the city is now home to many high tech industries. Notable companies such as Albertsons and Micron are headquartered here.

Understand

Although the exact origin is disputed, the name "Boise" is unquestionably derived from the French "les bois," or "the trees." The name is a reference to the tree-lined Boise River which passes through the heart of the city. To this day the city takes its "City of Trees" moniker very seriously.

Boise started its life as Fort Boise, a U.S. Army installation located at a strategic junction on the Oregon Trail between what were then the major settlements in southern Idaho Territory, the mining camps of Silver City to the south and Idaho City to the northeast. A city grew quickly around the fort and by 1865 was the new capital of Idaho Territory (much to the chagrin of northern Idahoans). By the dawn of the 20th Century Boise was far and away the dominant city in the region, having long eclipsed the likes of Silver City and Idaho City.

Today Boise is sometimes seen as the eastern enclave of the Pacific Northwest, or the western enclave of the Rocky Mountains, or both, depending on who you ask. Downtown Boise and the North End neighborhood offer a PNW feel every bit as strong as anything in Portland or Seattle, while suburbs such as Meridian and Nampa steadfastly cling to the decidedly self-reliant ethos of the Intermountain West.

Boise is a sports town strongly supporting its local teams, including the NBA D-League Idaho Stampede, the ECHL Idaho Steelheads, and of course its emerging college football powerhouse at Boise State University - all with recent league and conference championships. Slowly but surely Boise is beginning to accept its role as a new major metropolitan area in the western United States, while at the same time embracing its small town past.

Get in

By air

Boise Airport (IATA: BOI) (ICAO: KBOI), 3201 Airport Way, [2] Also known as Gowen Field, the airport is serviced by several airlines, including Alaska, Allegiant, Delta, Southwest, United, and US Airways.

The airport offers free wireless internet to passengers.

By car

Boise can be accessed by car via Interstate 84.

Get around

Cars are pretty much mandatory to get around outside of the city center. There are buses downtown, but many destinations require your own car. Valleyride ([3]) operates the bus service in Ada and Canyon counties. Cars can be rented at the Boise Airport from many companies including Hertz, Avis, Thrifty, Dollar, and Budget.

The Boise Green Belt is a paved pedestrian and bike path that stretches nearly 15 miles from Lucky Peak Dam to the east of Boise, all the way through town. If you are in to riding your bike or walking, much of Boise can be accessed this way, depending on where you are staying.

See

Boise is the administrative and cultural hub of Idaho. Many of the attractions in the city center around its status as the state capital.

  • Idaho State Capitol Building, Capitol Blvd. & Jefferson in Downtown Boise off Interstate 84,[4]. If you are bold, you can ring the bell at the foot of the Capitol steps. The Capitol underwent extensive renovation and in early 2010 reopened amidst much fanfare after being completely closed (including to government officials) for the better part of two years.
  • Julia Davis Park - this Olmsted-esque urban park contains many of the downtown attractions in Boise. It sits across the Boise River from Boise State University. Located within its confines are Zoo Boise, the Rose Garden, Boise Art Museum and a scenic railroad. It also contains the Idaho Black History Museum, [5].
  • Boise State University [6]. The school's sports teams, the Boise State Broncos, [7] are a big deal here, especially the football team. Boise State football entered the national consciousness after a stunning upset of perennial power Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl - which arguably ranks as the single most iconic moment in Idaho sports history - and a triumphant return to the same venue three years later. The most famous landmark on campus is Bronco Stadium, best known for its unique blue artificial turf. Bronco Stadium is also home to the New Year's Eve college football classic, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
  • Barber Park. A local favorite. Barber Park is in Southeast Boise and is a refuge for various wildlife, including: deer, elk, bald eagles, hawks, various birds, salmon, trout, and many more. Barber Park is also the starting point for a summer tradition in Boise: floating down the Boise River.
  • Old Idaho State Penitentiary, Warm Springs Ave. A great sight to see. This gem is a museum set in the old state penitentiary where guests can sit in old prison cells, solitary confinement, and explore the inner workings of a once scary place to be.
  • Idaho Botanical Gardens. A truly serene place to visit. The gardens have been the site of many weddings and performances because of its beautiful setting of vibrant flowers and other vegetation. At no cost, it is a superb setting for a picnic. If you happen to be visiting in the month of December, you will find the gardens decked out in an impressive display of holiday lights.
  • Boise Art Museum, 670 Julia Davis Drive. A great contemporary art at a very reasonable price. This museum is planned out beautifully and much more than most would expect from a town the size of Boise. Great local pieces as well as other western art.
  • World Center for Birds of Prey, 5660 West Flying Hawk Lane. The name explains itself. A fascinating place to visit, many birds of all types constantly in your line of sight. My hawks, eagles, and other big birds of prey. Fun for the family at a very reasonable cost.
  • Basque Museum and Cultural Center, 611 Grove Street. The Boise area is home to one of the largest concentrations of Basque populations in the world outside the Basque Country itself. The museum, located in a part of downtown known as the "Basque Block," is a great place to visit whether or not you are of the Basque descent. Chocked full of enriched heritage and even a bar to hang out at. A must see if you are in the Boise area. And if Phil is at the bar, ask for his drink.

Do

Boise is the starting point for many outdoor activities in the surrounding mountains, including rock climbing, mountain biking, and kayaking. Other local activities include:

  • Inner tubing on the Boise River - this is something of a local tradition. The put-in site is at Barber Park. The five mile float takes around 3 hours, and ends at Ann Morrison Park. There you can take a shuttle bus back to your car at Barber Park.[8]
  • Idaho Shakespeare Festival, [9]. Of course, this is why you come to Boise. During summer, shows are performed at the theater at the base of the Boise foothills.
  • Boise Contemporary Theater, [10]. Since 1997, Boise Contemporary Theater has been Boise's premiere professional contemporary theater. Located in downtown Boise, BCT creates, produces, and presents vibrant and dynamic professional theater that illuminates enduring themes while exploring contemporary issues and ideas. BCT has had several world premieres, including Last of the Breed by Maria Dahvana Headley (Author of The Year of Yes) and No...You Shutup, a one-woman show starring former Daily Show Correspondent Lauren Weedman.
  • Les Bois Park Horse Races, [11]. Regional Horse Race Track running races all summer long, with restaurant & bar open year round. Races are Tuesday, Friday & Saturday each week from May through August, with Free Admission on Tuesday Night Ladies Night. Post Time is 6PM most of the summer.
  • Bogus Basin Ski Resort, [12]. From early November to early April, Bogus Basin entertains skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and cross-country skiing. With easy accessibility, Bogus Basin Road is in North Boise and takes only forty minutes to get there!
  • Hyde Park Fair. Held every august, the Hyde Park Fair is in the North End of Boise at Camel's Back Park. It houses various indie rock bands and various hippie cultured events, clothing, and accessories.
  • Lucky Peak. About 5 minutes out of Boise on Highway 21 you will come to lucky peak. A huge reservoir that residents love to wakeboard, water ski, tube, hang out, camp, and even cliff dive. A great day trip for the summer.
  • Boise River Greenbelt. A great place for a walk, rollerblading, biking, or just walking the dog. The greenbelt is a walkway follows the Boise River through beautiful trees, through golf courses, and brings you through downtown. It is one of the more popular and beautiful walks that Boise has to offer.
  • Whitewater on the Boise River, [13]. Boise River Park has a man-made wave very close to downtown. A great place to practice skills for all sorts of paddlesports.
  • Trails in the Foothills, [14]. An interconnected network of over 130 miles of roads and trails throughout the hills behind the city. They are open to hiking and biking and are considered a treasure by the community.
  • Hull's Gulch Nature Trail, [15]. End of Eighth St. A great opportunity to explore Idaho. Very good for hiking, biking,sightseeing, and taking the dogs.

Buy

Much of the souvenir industry in Boise is based on the potato-rich history of the city. You can find T-shirts with just about every potato-themed pun (e.g. Darth Tater - Spud Wars) you could imagine.

  • Boise Towne Square is the city's main mall. It is a fairly large mall, mostly due to its lack of competition from any other similarly sized shopping center in the city. Its anchor-stores include Dillard's and a particularly upscale Macys (formerly the Bon Marche). The mall also contains its own free-standing MAC makeup store.
  • Eighth Street Marketplace - located in the center of downtown Boise, the eighth street marketplace is a popular sight to go shopping, have a bite to eat, and go dancing at night. It's all three in one! This area has recently undergone significant revitalization and is often referred to as "BoDo," short for "Boise Downtown."
  • Other parts of "BoDo". Along with the Eighth Street Marketplace, you may want to just wander throughout the downtown core. The area of Broad St (between 9th and Capitol) and 8 St (between Front and Myrtle) is home to many fashionable retailers like Urban Outfitters. As well, the area of 9th St. between Idaho and Main, parts of Main Street, areas of Idaho St. around 8th St. are all good areas to walk around and spot a few good shops and restaurants.
  • Les Bois Park [16] If you get an owners license from the State Racing Commission, you can actually buy a race horse for $2,500, but expect to pay a trainer to keep him racing, otherwise you just bought an expensive pet with no place to keep it.

Eat

Most of the fancier restaurants are in the downtown area.

  • Lucky 13 - Pizza and beer in a patio setting snuggled into the Harris Ranch area of East Boise. A great place to go on a warm summer evening. Smoking is allowed on the patio.
  • Flying Pie Pizza - Possibly Boise's best pizza with two locations: 6508 Fairview - (208) 345-0000 and 4320 State St., Phone: 208-384-0000. They use fresh ingredients and have great staff. They have a great beer selection and will deliver it to your house or hotel room with your pizza. In August Flying Pie offers a habanero pizza which is definitely not for the timid.
  • Rockies Diner, 3900 W Overland Rd., Phone: 208-336-2878. Recently featured on the Travel Channel series "Man vs. Food," Rockies offers a eating challenge with an electric guitar as a prize for the intrepid, and great 50s-themed offerings for everyone else.
  • Big Juds, 1289 Protest Rd., Phone: 208-343-4439. Not to be outdone and with a national reputation in its own right, Big Juds offers quite possibly the biggest hamburgers in the state. They have one-pound burgers, and yeah, they do doubles. Although the burgers are big, the dining area at Big Juds is extremely small with a grand total of 10 tables and a capacity of maybe 25. There's no drive through either. If you go during peak meal times, expect to wait to get in.
  • Cottonwood Grille, 913 West River Street. An amazing place to eat. With its specialties in American and Caribbean foods, it is one of the most popular places to eat in Boise. You can't go wrong.
  • Cazba, 211 North Eighth Street. A local favorite. Cazba serves European, Middle Eastern & African foods and is known for very good service. Amazing place to eat that is highly recommended.
  • Asiago's, 1002 W. Main St., Phone: 208-336-5552. An intimate setting and very tasty Italian cuisine for a reasonable price.
  • Mai Thai, 750 W. Idaho St., Phone: 344-8424. A great selection of Thai cuisine. The lunch bento specials are a nice sampling of various dishes. Dinner runs on the pricier side.
  • Boise Fry Company, 111 Broadway. Home grown, cut and made fries, "with a burger on the side." Choose your type of potato, the cut, and size and the fry them TO ORDER. Get a Bison burger to go with it. Friendly staff and wifi! [17]
  • Pizzalchik, 7330 W. State St., Phone: 208-853-7757. Recently touted on the Food Network and stone's throw from Eagle on State Street, Pizzalchik offers some of the city's best roasted chicken and most distinctive pizzas.

If you are a sushi lover, the notable places are:

  • Sakura, intersection of Chinden Blvd. and Eagle Road. They have the best sushi in Boise.
  • Many believe Shige Japanese Cuisine located at the top of the escalator at 100 N. 8th between Main and Idaho, to be the best sushi joint in town.
  • Superb Sushi, located at 208 N. 8th Street in the basement of the historic Idaho Building in downtown is known for it's big maki rolls. They even have a eating challenge called the La Bomba Roll Challenge consisting of eating 4 one pound specialty rolls within 1 hour. The reward for completing this challenge is a t-shirt and your picture on the Wall of Fame.

Drink

Boise has a surprisingly well-rounded nightlife, all stereotypes to the contrary, but once again, the best places to drink are all downtown. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, throngs of young women in midriff-baring outfits (no matter the weather) and young men strutting their stuff cruise downtown bars.

  • Bittercreek Alehouse (Red Feather Lounge), 246 N. 8th (8th & Idaho downtown Boise), 208-345-1813, [18]. 11AM-late. Very busy local independent downtown hangout, rustic northwest food & beer. Focus on local organic products and 30 beers on tap from small batch regional brewers. The above standard "pub grub" fare is also vegetarian friendly. lunch dinnner.
  • Red Feather Lounge Sibling of next door's watering hole Bittercreek, these two bars/restaurants share a bathroom and a patio, but just about nothing else. Red Feather is a swanky, low-lit lounge with a amazing three story, award winning wine selection. Red Feather's menu emphasizes products that thrive in the southwest Idaho region. Both have freshly made cocktails and share an outdoor see-and-be-seen patio on the pedestrian friendly 8th street corridor.
  • Bardenay Restaurant and Distillery, [19]. Bardenay, the first restaurant in the nation to include a distillery, features hand crafted cocktails of the finest ingredients. Bardenay distills rum, vodka and gin and uses them all in their drinks. This bar has an outdoor patio and a cool, laid-back vibe.
  • Crescent 'No Lawyers' Bar & Grill, 5500 W. Franklin Road (Franklin Road west of Orchard Street Boise Bench neighborhood), 208-322-9856, [20]. varies. When the owners of a then-nondescript Boise Bench neighborhood watering hole were sued by a lawyer neighbor over a residential dispute in the 1980s, they turned the experience into some free publicity and a theme for their business. Known citywide for its excellent bar food (as well as for turning lawyer jokes into a veritable cottage industry), today Crescent No Lawyers is one of the city's largest sports bars.
  • Dirty Little Roddy's - Maybe a little what you might expect; Country music, sawhorse tables, peanuts and a mechanical bull that ladies can ride for free. You might not expect that this bar is popular with college kids and is nearly impossible to get into on a weekend night. It's in the basement, so be prepared to walk drunk up a narrow flight of stairs if you plan on spending any time here.
  • China Blue - Owned by the same man as DLR, China Blue is the resident dance club, playing hip-hop music and catering to college-goers. There's an obligatory VIP section, as well as a bed and a gong to alert patrons to the presence of a big tipper. There is usually a cover, and drinks are expensive, especially for Boise, but on the up-side, the ladies restroom has a private champagne bar and bartender, so any annoying boys with too much bling can wait outside while you drink in the bathroom.
  • Mulligans - A typical would-be Irish dive bar with a very distinctive, but not altogether unpleasant smell. There's pool, of course, but also airhockey and foosball. And $1 well shots sometimes. It's a great place to enjoy a drink on the patio and people-watch.
  • 10th Street Station - Located in the basement of the Idanha Hotel (now apartments) you can experience the relaxed crowd, friendly staff, and charm of a former speakeasy. As long as you don't ask for a 'pint' (only 10 oz glasses are served) you'll be welcome to stay the night. Note that they generally close early at 1:30AM.
  • Neurolux - The stiffest drinks in Boise, bartenders here use a five-count pour, instead of the standard three-count, so yes, that is a rum and coke, even though it is clear. Arguably the best jukebox in town, featuring Charlie Parker, George Jones, Beastie Boys, The Ramones, Wilco, and the Rolling Stones. And that's not even the best, just the ones you're most likely to know. The clientele are about as varied as their tastes in music, so nobody is judgmental of anyone else, just what's playing on the jukebox. This is the place for indie rock shows, if you couldn't tell. The biggest bands played here before they played the arenas. Beware, it is always dark at "The 'Lux," despite the big picture window letting in sunlight (they have black blinds for when it's too bright for Rock&Roll).
  • Grainey's and J.T. Toad's--Across the street from China Blue and Dirty Little Roddy's, these twin bars (on two levels of the same building) typically charge a cover but provide relatively cheap beverages once inside. In addition, there are often two live bands playing, one on each level. The basement band typically cajoles more bar-hoppers into dancing than its upstairs counterpart. While somewhat low on atmosphere, these bars can be a lively stop, particularly for the younger crowd. Note that Grainey's may be the oldest 'original' bar in boise - great charm for a happy-hour drink.
  • Reef'Worshiping the Tiki pioneers past and present... The Reef is Boise's Tiki outpost. Along with tasty Pupu's, a good menu and freshly made exotic drinks the Reef has plenty of live music. Terrific rooftop patio with full service outdoor bar.
  • Leku Ona, downtown on 6th, is a Basque restaurant with a good bar and home to a slightly older set than the rest of the downtown scene.
  • Pengilly's Saloon is also home to the slightly older crowd and smoke free. Most nights have live music, usually jazz or alt-country. There are pub quiz and open mic nights.
  • Montego Bay Located off State Street, on Lake Harbor Ln., you can't miss the billboards that show the way. Montego Bay is a bar and restaurant with a dock on the water, open from May until September-ish. The drinks and food are kind of expensive, but the ambiance is great, and if you're a non-smoker, the open air dock is a good way to escape the smelly smoke of the inside. There is a dance floor in the building, and patio furniture outside, with tableside service, and outdoor bars.
  • Les Bois Park Clubhouse & Turf Club [21]. Tuesday Night Ladies Night will usually have around 2,500 people, free admission and a wide variety of drinkers. Beer is cheaper than most other sports entertainment venues (definitely colder) and has a couple of bars and multiple areas to get around and not be stuck at a table or bar until you fall over. There are two restaurants with pay-for tables and a patio with the same. Expect a lot of very lightly dressed women and hope for a longshot to win one of the races so you can get $2 drafts for 20 minutes.
  • Mr. Lucky's, on Chinden, is a step above the dive bar. They have live bands on Friday and Saturday nights; sometimes good, sometimes not, but always loud. The drinks are affordable, and if you sit at the bar, the bartenders are usually friendly.
  • The Emerald Club, one of 3 Gay Bars in Boise. The others are The Balcony and The Lucky Dog 415 South 9th Street, 208-342-5446
  • The Balcony, the most well known gay bar in Boise, The Balcony is so named for its wrap around, open-air balcony, right above the pedestrian center of downtown (beautiful view). The dance floor is big and has two separate raised areas for dancing in the limelight, and the latest remix of the latest Gaga song is sure to play twice. The drinks are of average strength, but keep your eyes open for some drag queens you wouldn't believe were "packing" (and some you would).
  • 205 North 8th Street Boise, ID 83702 (208) 344-7783, (208) 344-7783. 24 hours. This place is great for late night college life. It has an old-school feel, with classic video games like Pacman at the tables.

Sleep

  • Cambria Suites Boise, 2970 West Elder St, +1 208 344-7444 (+1 208 344-7446) [22]. A completely non-smoking hotel for business travelers located near the Boise Airport and three miles away from Boise State University. Cambria Suites is now closed and is operating as a Holiday Inn Express.
  • The Grove Hotel, 245 S Capitol Blvd, [23]. A part of the Coast Hotels chain, it's probably the highest end hotel in Boise.
  • Homewood Suites by Hilton, 7957 West Spectrum Way, +1 208 375-8500, [24]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: 12PM. Free breakfast and light dinner. Free high-speed Internet.
  • Hotel 43, 981 Grove St, +1 208 342-4622 (+1 208 344-5751) [25]. A boutique hotel in downtown Boise. Formerly known as Statehouse Inn. Renovated and reopened in winter, 2006.
  • Idaho Heritage Inn Bed & Breakfast, 109 W Idaho, +1 208 342-8066, [26]. Built in 1904, former Governor's mansion, near downtown shops and dining, close to parks and historic district. Rooms $70-85, Suites $99-110. All have private baths and are furnished in turn of the century antiques. Free wifi. Free gourmet breakfast.
  • Modern Hotel and Bar, 1314 Grove St, +1 208 424-8244,[27]. Boutique hotel with tiled spa-like bathrooms, 32" flat screen HDTV, free wifi.
  • Idahostel, 280 N 8th St Ste 103 (at Bannock St), +1 208 286-6476, [28]. checkin: 3PM; checkout: 11AM. Boise's only hostel. Dorms $20+, privates $30+.

Get out

  • Les Bois Park Horse Races [29] Get out to see the horse races once in your life. If you're in town during the week, plan for Tuesday, admission is free and over the weekend, races are on Fridays and Saturdays during the summer. You can take your family and your kids won't be couped up in a particular seat with no room to move around. You can buy a table in the Turf Club, Clubhouse or Patio and eat restaurant quality food (each also has a bar) or you can hang out in the grandstands or underneath for more economical concessions food. You can visit the paddock area, the apron, the finish line and even the betting windows if you think you can pick a winner. There is a lot of room to move around and usually eight different races to watch. The ticket sellers are pretty good at helping you through your first bet, but buy a program, that's where the info is.
  • Table Rock Take a trip to Table Rock, located directly above downtown Boise, to see the spectacular view overlooking the city and the entire valley. You can see herds of deer and elk frolicking through the rolling hills. You can drive up the winding roads to the summit or climb up the relatively rounded hill, a short and low grade fifteen-minute hike.
Routes through Boise
The DallesNampa  W noframenoframe E  Mountain HomeTwin Falls
BendOntario  W noframe E  Mountain HomeCraters of the Moon
PrinevilleOntario  W noframe E  Mountain HomeCraters of the Moon




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