Post Summary: Learn about the best outdoorsy and adventurous things to do in Boise with kids…that you’ll actually enjoy too.
Whether you live in Boise, are here for an extended stay, or just checking it out for a few days, “the treasure valley” is jam-packed with fun activities and amazing things to do in Boise with kids. While there are plenty of fun kids activities in Boise that are indoors, our list is primarily focused on getting kids outdoors and enjoying the extraordinary landscape of Boise. Let’s dive right in…
25 Things To Do in Boise With Kids
1. Hiking Trails
Hiking is #1 on the list of great family activities in Boise. Whether you hike some of the less strenuous trails like Camel’s Back Park or Hull’s Gulch, or more moderate treks like Table Rock or Castle Rock, it is the iconic Boise activity. Boise is a beautiful city that prides itself on living a nature-filled life. The kids will love running free in the outdoors and you’ll appreciate the freedom to let them. Some of the hikes like Table Rock and Castle Rock can have dangerous drop-offs, so if you’re traveling with toddlers you may have to watch them closely or bring a toddler carrier. If you’re wanting a casual walk, you can always opt to walk on the Greenbelt along the Boise River, stopping to throw rocks or play in the many sandbanks that line the river.
Related: The Best Toddler Carriers for Travel and Hiking
2. JUMP (Jack’s Urban Meeting Place)
This is great local establishment in the heart of Downtown Boise, that captures the spirit and heart of Boise’s community-driven values. Occupying an entire city block, JUMP is owned by J.R. Simplot and his foundation and is entirely free to the public. This family-friendly place offers a wonderful climbing web for kids (and adults, I climbed to the top and loved it!), open spaces for running and relaxing, a small basketball court, and a three-story slide that opens in the spring and summer. Inside are rotating exhibits, events, and activities for kids of all ages. Definitely a must-see when in Boise. Now, every time we drive by, our son screams “JUMP” from his car seat in hopes that we will change course and stop to play. Gets me every time.
3. Bike Ride The Greenbelt
Boise is known for its glorious river, the Boise River, that meanders directly through the heart of town. It has become the lifeblood of the city and so much revolves around being near the river in this wonderful city. It’s one of the best Boise kids’ activities and you’ll see that everyone else agrees when you pass family after family biking the Greenbelt.
With 25 miles of greenbelt, you can start at a different place each day and bike for hours along this calming waterway. So much wildlife calls the Boise River home so don’t be surprised if you see bald eagles, red tail hawks, osprey, Canadian geese, ducks, wild mink, squirrels, and more.
You can access a map of the Greenbelt here. You can also download the Boise River Greenbelt App that has maps, restaurant locations, and other useful information to help you along the way.
Tip: There are plenty of places in Downtown Boise to rent kid-friendly bikes for day use or half-day use.
Fee: Free, unless you need to rent bikes.
4. Freak Alley
The outdoor art gallery, Freak Alley, is an open-air street art museum in downtown Boise. Artists have been commissioned to create their art on the walls of the alley between 8th and 9th streets. Each piece is original and creative, and kids tend to enjoy the colors and themes throughout. It’s a grittier art experience and offers an opportunity to expose children to different types of expression. Our son had a blast pointing out his favorites and running down the alley to find more art. Certainly a memorable experience and one that is fun for the whole family. A great add on when exploring Downtown Boise.
5. Discovery Center of Idaho
The Discovery Center of Idaho is a fun and interactive space that is both entertaining and educational. It’s a great option when you’re looking for indoor Boise activities for kids. Kids can learn and explore concepts like gravity, mechanics, natural history, and much more. There is also an incredible Lego exhibit that features huge and intricate lego designs that even us parents can admire. Exhibits are always changing, so be sure to check it out online before you go. When we went, there was an exhibit called Tinker the T-Rex, and kids were encouraged to touch and observe dinosaur bones. There’s also a fun paper airplane exhibit that everyone can have fun creating together.
Kids 2 and under are free. Check the website here for up to date prices and discounts.
6. Center for Birds of Prey
The Center for Birds of Prey is a great kid-friendly thing to do in Boise that’s centered around fostering love and respect for birds. This exciting rescue and sanctuary for birds of prey focuses on helping larger birds and offers up-close and personal interaction with several different birds. The center is known for its help with peregrine falcons but is also an advocate for rehabilitating and offering services to help California condors. You are able to get very up close to bald eagles, falcons, hawks, condors, and owls. The center also offers open-air bird flight exhibits during the summer and fall. We also enjoyed the nature walk located outside of the center.
Kids 4 and under are free. Check the website here for up to date prices and discounts.
7. The Boise Aquarium
The Boise Aquarium is a small and fun interactive experience. Located in a warehouse in the central Boise area, the aquarium offers many types and sizes of underwater animals, as well as lizards, snakes, and birds. Our son loved being able to touch the stingrays and watch the employees feed the larger fish and sharks. We also got a special personal feeding experience with the chameleons. Overall, a great toddler activity in Boise since the aquarium is quite small and might not interest older kids.
Kids 2 and under are free. Check the website here for up to date prices and discounts.
8. Visit a Hot Spring
With so many amazing natural wonders in the Boise area, (and Idaho in general) the hot springs are among the top on our list. Although the nearest hot spring is 45 minutes away, our favorite is Kirkham Hot Springs located about 2 hours Northeast of Boise, in Lowman, Idaho. This magically toasty natural waterway features several pools of 95 plus degree water that cascades out of the earth, down the rocky waterfalls, and collects in magnificent pools for all to enjoy. We visited in the winter when everything was covered in snow, and stayed for several hours, soaking in the calming waters. When it was time to leave, our son threw a fit because he wanted to stay… forever. He liked it so much. 100% worth the drive. Perhaps our favorite thing we’ve done in all of Idaho. No fee until April, when it costs $5 to park.
If you want something closer, The Springs at Idaho City is a communal pool in a retreat setting 45 minutes away from Boise. They even have a special family day where kids are free to act like kids.
Related: Read our in-depth post about visiting Kirkham Hot Springs and The Springs at Idaho City.
9. Zoo Boise
Also located in the heart of Boise, along the Boise River, the zoo is a great place to see animals of all stripes in a mostly open-air setting. Lions, giraffes, monkeys, hyenas, wild pigs, and so many more – kids will love it. Pro tip: The zoo often has free days as a way to say thank you to the community. Check their website to see when the next free day will be. We went on a free day, and it was PACKED! Pro-tip #2: From the outside of the zoo, on the greenbelt path, you can often see the giraffes poking their heads over the fence. You can also see the monkeys from the parking lot in the back.
If you want to double up on your fun, you can even visit the Idaho State museum located in the same area as the zoo. While a historical museum may not be the first choice for kids, they do make an effort to make it a family-friendly with interactive exhibits that kids can enjoy.
Kids 2 and under are free. Check the website here for up to date prices and discounts.
10. Day Trips From Boise
With so much nature in and around Boise, taking a day trip to a nearby destination is highly recommended. Idaho City, Bruneau Sand Dunes, and Jump Creek Canyon are just a few that we would recommend. Idaho City is a quaint city that offers nature, shopping, and dining – all with a bit of an old-world feel. Be sure to try the famous sasparilla! Bruneau Dunes is North America’s largest free-standing sand dune and state park. With several large dunes to play, run, and slide down your kids will love it for sure (and tire themselves out for a long nap on the drive home). Jump Creek canyon is a great option for a day trip to go canyon hiking and swim near a waterfall. This gorgeous natural waterfall has a small 5-foot deep swimming hole beneath the falls, perfect for all the day-trippers.
Related: 10 Amazing Day Trips You Have To Take From Boise.
11. Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
Boise is becoming a destination for great food and fine eats in the last several years. With so many wonderful places to grab some grub, your kids will think you are the best for introducing them to such sweet wonders as Guru Donut, STIL ice cream, or Goody’s Soda Fountain and Candy Shop. Maybe not the healthiest option on here, but sometimes you just gotta give in to sweet saccharine goodness.
Related: 5 Must-Try Dessert Places in Boise, Idaho
12. The Children’s Museum of Idaho
This interactive kids’ museum features learning through play exhibits that encourage young minds to be involved in their learning and understanding. Designed with kids in mind, these exhibits are meant for kids to explore with adult guidance. Perfect for a day out as a family.
Children 2 and under are free. Check the website here for up to date prices.
13. MK Nature Center
Located in the middle of Boise, near Boise State and near the Boise River is the MK Nature Center. An excellent half-day outing for young kids, this 4.6-acre site offers a stream walk and several viewing windows to catch a glimpse of some of Idaho’s underwater residents. Learn about Idaho’s wildlife and see several natural landscapes as represented throughout Idaho. Then, afterward, hop on the greenbelt and go for a stroll or head to the playground right next to the center.
14. Old Idaho Penitentiary
This is exactly what it sounds like – an old jail. But, hear me out, this old jail is a national historic site that has been frozen in time since it was last used in 1973. It operated as a state penitentiary for 101 years and offers an eerie look at how inmates lived on a daily basis. Bonus info: You can also learn about the prison’s resident cat that lived at the penitentiary for many years with the inmates and even has a gravestone where he was buried on site. I wasn’t sure my son would enjoy this, but he had a blast there. Located in the same parking area is a playground within walking distance and the famous Boise hiking trail to Castle Rock. If you want to burn a lot of youthful energy out, you can combine the penitentiary and the Castle Rock hike for a fun 1/2 day out with your kids.
Tip: If you’re visiting in October, they offer fun spooky Halloween themed tours.
Children 6 and under are free. Check the website here for up to date prices and discounts.
15. Tube Down the Boise River
Generally reserved for the warmer months, (but whatever suits your fancy) tubing the Boise River is a local favorite for kids activities in Boise. With so many places to hop in and hop out, tubing is one of the most popular family fun summer activities in Boise. You can even take a shuttle that picks you up at Whitewater Park and brings you back to downtown after you’ve floated the river. Do it once or rinse and repeat. You can’t go wrong with this summer activity. You can also rent tubes at a number of local spots, or bring your own. Any way you slice it, this is a laid back way to spend the day with your kiddos.
A popular place to start is at Barber Park ending at Ann Morison Park. At Barber Park, you can rent equipment like tubes or kayaks and also fill up your own tube with air. The float is six miles and takes 2-3 hours.
16. Bogus Basin
This local ski resort is the place to be in the winter months and has even become a go-to destination in the spring and summer too. With the only mountain coaster in the state of Idaho, called the Blade Runner, 4,330 feet of twisting thrills through trees and wilderness, your kids can’t help but love this. From beginner to expert ski and snowboard runs, to rock climbing walls and concerts, Bogus Basin has it all. A four-seasons fun zone, and to top it all off all profits from the resort go back into helping the city of Boise. Very cool if you ask me.
17. Military Park Reserve
This 734-acre reserve is home to miles and miles of nature trails and gradual hills rising up to 100 feet. This untouched natural reserve has several creeks running through the property and offers recreational sites for archery. Here you’ll also find an old military cemetery, and even see signs to watch out for live mines. You could easily spend an entire day hiking the trails and exploring this Boise wilderness located a short distance from Downtown Boise.
18. Kathryn Albertson Bike Park
A great place for kids, the Kathryn Albertson Bike Park near the military reserve park is an awesome thing to do in Boise with kids who crave physical adventure. Built in late 2019, the park features stunt ramps, hills, and jumps for all levels of expertise, from beginner to professional. In fact, the last time we were there I saw a 3-year-old boy speeding his way through the smaller of the 3 stunt courses on his pedal-less bike! Granted, his dad said he was a pro for his age and had a tiny motorcycle at home, it was still pretty impressive. Point being, this place is for kids of any age. Perfect for the adventure-loving family.
19. Esther Simplot Park
The Esther Simplot Park includes 55 acres of ponds, open play areas, walking paths, wetland areas, a kid’s playground, and ample picnic areas. This expansive park is perhaps our favorite park in Boise. You can opt to go swimming or fishing in the pond, throw rocks into the Boise River, go canoeing, paddle boating, or let your kids play in the unique playground area. There’s also a sandlot area where kids can play in the sand and wade in the shallow waters.
Nearby is the Whitewater Park where adventurers surf down the human-made waves. While this adventure, might be too advanced for young kids, teenagers will definitely enjoy the thrill of surfing in the Boise River.
20. Lucky Peak State Park
This state park is a popular summertime destination, with a vast swimming pond that leads to the Boise River. With a paved walking path along the river and many grassy areas with benches, this is a great place to spend the day. Kids can run and play in the grass, or swim in the water, while parents can kick back and enjoy some pleasant outdoor time and fresh air.
21. Parks and Playgrounds
I don’t know about you, but wherever we go in the world our son wants to go to every park that we pass by, and in Boise, that’s a lot! With so much public park space in Boise and pristine nature at a high priority, the city has more parks and playgrounds than most other cities we’ve been. We’ve already listed a few above, but quite honestly this post would be too long if we listed them all. From fan-favorite Camel’s Back Park to Whitewater Park, and so many others in between, you’d be hard-pressed not to find a great playground and park for your kiddos to play on in Boise.
Check out this site for a list of all the great parks in Boise.
22. Farmers Markets
With 2 local farmers’ markets in the Boise area, it’s always nice to get outside and stroll the produce from local farmers. Kids usually love the free samples while us “adults” enjoy picking only the finest fruits and veggies… also the free samples. There are usually kids activites and local music that help to make it a jovial and fun day out.
23. Boise Art Museum Kids Events
With a number of kids events happening throughout the year, the Boise Art Museum is a great place to bring your kids for an educational and art-filled afternoon. From Hands on Art Saturdays (the last Saturdays of every month) to Art in the Park, there is something for everyone at BAM.
Check their website here for an updated schedule on kid’s activities.
24. Idaho Botanical Garden
The Idaho Botanical Garden is a non-profit garden located on 50 acres of land next to the Old Penitentiary. What started out as a nursery and farm for the old jail is now a lovely floral garden for Boise residents. Pack a picnic and enjoy the spring blooms in this beautiful garden. Its small nature means it can be a simple 1-2 hour activity or combined with Castle Rock Hike, The Old Penitentiary, or the nearby playground.
Children 3 and under are free. Check the website here for up to date prices and discounts.
25. Roaring Springs Water Park
Lastly, if your kids are done with all the outdoor nature-based activities and the local history museum, there’s always Roaring Springs Water Park. Located in neighboring Meridian, this sprawling water park has everything a kid could want: water slides, lazy river, wave pool, and thrilling tube rides that everyone will enjoy. Sometimes you just have to go the theme park route..because let’s admit it… they’re super fun.
There are so many fun things to do with kids in Boise! It’s the ultimate family-friendly city. Anywhere else you love to go that we haven’t listed? Let us know in the comments below.
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