Visitors to the city of Boise, Idaho, can choose from a variety of fun and interesting attractions. Whether you're interested in art and culture, outdoor recreation, food and drink, or history, you'll find something to enjoy. Here are my recommendations for the best attractions for Boise visitors.
Did you know that Boise has long been a favorite location for immigrants from Spain's Basque Region to congregate? The influence of Basque culture can be seen all around Boise; an entire downtown district is known as "the Basque Block". The Basque Museum & Cultural Center is the place to learn more about Basque traditions, with exhibits covering diverse topics like art, sports, and sheepherding. The Center also offers classes in Euskara (the Basque language) and in Basque cooking and hosts special cultural events.
Tour Idaho's State Capitol building and grounds and learn more about the architecture, history, and functions of the lovely old structure. You can join a guided group tour, or explore on your own using a self-guided tour booklet. There are items of interest both inside and out. As you wander the capitol grounds you'll see one of Ezra Meeker's old Oregon Trail markers as well as other monuments and statues.
First opened in 1872, the Old Idaho Penitentiary served as a state prison for over 100 years. It is now open to visitors, where you can explore both the grounds and the indoor spaces, including regular cells, solitary confinement, and the gallows. Exhibits include interesting prison artifacts that include guard weapons and gear and items confiscated from prisoners. The prison complex includes a number of striking stone buildings, some in ruins, as well as a rose garden and other outdoor facilities.
Birds of prey are among the Earth's most majestic creatures. The Peregrine Fund World Center for Birds of Prey gives you an inside look at the works being done to save endangered species of hawks, eagles, falcons, and tropical birds of prey. The Velma Morrison Interpretive Center is a modern facility where you can explore the world of raptors through interactive displays, multi-media shows, and close-up views of birds of prey, including the California Condor.
You'll see all sorts of creatures at Zoo Boise, not only from the local region but from around the world. Snow leopards, red pandas, giraffes, and wallabies are among the international highlights. Special events, volunteer and educational programs, a cafe, and a gift shop round out this Idaho zoo's offerings.
Boise Art Museum's collection focuses on 20th-century American art with an emphasis on artists of the Pacific Northwest, American Realism, and ceramics. In addition to viewing items from the permanent collection, museum visitors have the chance to take in an ever-changing variety of special exhibitions featuring artists from America and around the world.
The Museum's collection covers the full range of Idaho's history, from prehistoric times through the fur trade, the gold rush, pioneer settlement, and up to the present. Exhibits about the state's Native American, Chinese, and Basque populations are also presented. Located in Julia Davis Park, the Idaho Historical Museum is the state's largest and most popular museum.
This hands-on museum is a place where kids of all ages can enjoy learning about science and nature. Medicine, electricity, sound, and astronomy are just some of the topics covered in the Center's over 150 interactive exhibits.
Idaho isn't known as the "Gem State" for nothing - the state is home to a whole lot of cool rocks and minerals. Museum visitors will see examples of the garnet, quartz, jasper, agate, and opal found in Idaho, and will learn about the geologic forces that created the state's many gemstones. Other minerals and fossils are on display. You'll also get a chance to learn about the region's rich mining history.