THE PERFECT WEEKEND IN BOISE
Post Summary: Three different ways to spend a weekend in Boise, whether you’re looking for a foodie tour, a nature getaway, or a history and culture trip.
Curious about “the city of trees” and why it’s on everyone’s top ten list? How would I describe Boise? Boise is like the cool cousin of Boulder and Portland…without the pretension.
Boise has become like a second home to us, so much so that we thought about moving to Boise. With development booming and the rest of the US catching on to how cool it is, it’s only time till Boise locks itself in as a must-visit city in the PNW.
For our latest trip to Boise, we teamed up with Visit Southwest Idaho to explore even more of this adventurous city.
We’ve come up with the quintessential Boise itinerary for how to spend a weekend in Boise, Idaho.
Because there’s so much to do in this mountain town, I’ve broken it into outdoor things to do in Boise for the adventurers, what to do if you’re a foodie, and what to do in Boise for the culture seekers. In the end, there’s a suggested Boise Itinerary if you want a day-by-day suggestion.
Here’s to a great two days in Boise!
BOISE FACTOID: Before you head out for your weekend in Boise, make sure you’re pronouncing the city correctly. Boy-see is how to sound like a local, boy-zee is how to sound like an out of towner.
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HOW TO GET TO BOISE, IDAHO
Boise has one airport, the Boise Airport (BOI), used by Allegiant, Alaska, American, Delta, Elite, Frontier, Jet Blue, Southwest, and United. The best thing about this airport…it’s 10 minutes away from Downtown Boise!
If there aren’t any good flight options out of Boise Airport, you could opt to fly into Salt Lake City and do a five hour road trip to Downtown Boise.
While Downtown Boise is walkable (and bike-friendly!), you will need transportation if you opt to do activities like a day trip to a hot spring or a drive through Idaho Wine Country.
*I suggest checking out rentalcars.com to find the best prices for rental cars.
Uber and Lyft are also readily available in the city if you choose to go without a rental car. There are also electric scooters you can hop on at any point if you find one parked on the sidewalk. They are available through Lime, Spin, and Bird.
Parking in Downtown Boise is available through meters and parking garages and, for the most part, not too hard to find. Hotels in Downtown Boise will offer parking for a fee, so you might want to shop around at the parking garages to find a better price. Check out this site for the most comprehensive rundown for parking in Boise.
WHERE TO STAY IN BOISE
Boise has no shortage of great places to stay, from budget to luxury accommodations. For a short weekend in Boise, it’s best to situate yourself in Downtown Boise so you can be in the center of everything. If you’re traveling with kids or want to feel like you’re living “like a local,” the North End is a charming, walkable area that has great access to Camel’s Back Park and Hyde Park, a small block of cute restaurants and shops.
WHERE TO STAY IN DOWNTOWN BOISE
We stayed at the Grove Hotel and loved it for its prime location in the heart of Downtown Boise. It offers free bikes, has a delicious restaurant (Trillium – try the crispy Brussel sprouts!!), a spa, a pool, and a free airport shuttle. It’s perfect for anyone who wants hotel amenities and walkability. We loved that there was a Trader Joes right across the street! TIP: Ask for a Mountain View room.
We’ve also stayed at the Inn at 500 Capitol. It’s a fantastic hotel! The Inn at 500 Capitol is a more old school luxury with a fireplace in all of the rooms, where the Grove Hotel has a more upscale contemporary feel. I personally prefer the Inn at 500 Capitol, but you can’t go wrong with either.
Since we travel with a toddler, we tend to book home rentals via VRBO. It’s a great choice if you’re looking to save money and need more than one room. We like it because you can often find stylish homes that feel like a luxurious getaway. Here are a few cute options we found:
Downtown Bungalow – Perfect for a solo traveler or couple who want walkability to Downtown Boise.
Luxury Home With Deck– Perfect for groups traveling together or a large family.
Craftsman Home in Hyde Park – Chic home in the North End that’s walking distance to Hyde Park.
There are so many chic rental homes in Boise. If those don’t suit you, browse through VRBO listings here to search and filter for a home that suits your needs, whether you need something pet friendly, child friendly, strong wifi, and more.
WHEN TO VISIT BOISE
Boise is a year-round destination and can be enjoyed all year. Boise is a high desert city with four solid seasons. The summer in Boise can get pretty hot, think 95+ degrees hot. For us, the most delightful time to visit Boise is in the early Summer when it’s warm enough to get in the water and not yet 100 degrees! Early Fall is also delightful, and the summer crowds will have diminished.
A WEEKEND IN BOISE EXPLORED
FUN THINGS TO DO IN BOISE, IDAHO FOR ADVENTURERS
Let’s get to the juicy part…what to do in Boise! For those that thrive in the outdoors, Boise is the ultimate playground. Here are some great things to do in Boise for nature lovers.
BIKE DOWNTOWN AND THE BOISE RIVER GREENBELT
This is the ICONIC Boise activity and the best way to tour the downtown area. The city is incredibly bike-friendly, and parts of Downtown Boise have dedicated bike lanes. From downtown, head toward the Boise River Greenbelt to experience the city’s heart and soul, The Boise River. This 25-mile paved pathway follows along the Boise River and takes you to numerous city parks, including our personal favorite, The Esther Simplot Park. You can easily spend an entire day biking the Greenbelt and stopping at places that interest you. For a map of the Greenbelt and points of interest along the way, check out this site here. There’s also a Boise Greenbelt app that gives directions and food recommendations.
TIP: We got free bikes through our hotel, but you can rent bikes from the locally-owned shop Idaho Mountain Touring. I like that they offer kids bikes and toddler trailers!
If biking sounds fun, but you’re looking for more thrills, then mountain biking one of Boise’s 150 trails is where you need to be. Check out this article from Visit Idaho on 5 great mountain biking trails in Boise.
J.A. AND KATHRYN ALBERTSON FAMILY FOUNDATION BIKE PARK
One more biking activity, and then I swear I’m done! One of our favorite places in Boise is the bike park at J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation Bike Park. Conveniently located near the Military Reserve Park, you can also add in a day of hiking. If you’re looking for things to do in Boise with kids, then this amazing bike course is where it’s at.
Built in late 2019, the park features stunt ramps, hills, and jumps for all levels of expertise, from beginner to professional. Did we see a 3-year old boy speed through 3 stunt courses on his pedal-less bike? Yes! Yes, we did! It’s not just for kids, though, and all ages will enjoy this fun and FREE bike park.
TIP: If you’re visiting in the winter and there’s fresh snow, it’s the BEST sledding place.
TUBE OR RAFT THE BOISE RIVER
If you’re visiting in the summer, then tubing down the Boise River is the perfect hot weather activity. A popular route is to start at Barber Park and end at Ann Morison Park. It’s a great choice for visitors to Boise since you can rent tubes or kayaks in Barber Park. There’s also a return shuttle so you can get back to your car or bike. The float is six miles and takes 2-3 hours.
Another choice is to raft the Boise River. It’s a good option for anyone who doesn’t want to actually get in the water or if you don’t have your own equipment and need a tour guide! You can read reviews and book a rafting tour here.
HIT THE TRAILS
Explore the foothills of Boise and discover why everyone loves living in Boise. With hundreds of miles of hiking trails, it’s hard to choose where to begin. For the new visitor to Boise, we suggest trying out the famous hiking trails of Boise and digging deeper when you return (yes, you need to return for a longer visit!).
- Table Rock: Table Rock is the most well-known hike in Boise and is something every Boise resident does eventually. While it’s not my favorite hike in Boise, it’s close to the city and offers amazing views of Boise. The graffiti that lines the sides of Table Rock does make for interesting photography, and kids will love spotting the marmots that dart in and out of the rocks. It’s also a stellar spot for sunrise or sunset.
- Castle Rock: Another good option if you want something close to downtown is Castle Rock, also known as Eagle Rock. Both Castle Rock and Table Rock trailheads start at the same place (the historic Old Penitentiary), so you could combine the two if you want a full day of hiking.
- Hulls Gulch Park: This is one of our favorite areas to hike, and there is a slew of great hiking options. We like the Hull’s Gulch Nature Trail, a 6.3-mile trail that includes a waterfall. There are several shorter trails that are good for families. Sometimes we just kind of meander through the trails, not knowing what trails lead to where or the official trail name. Do watch out for mountain bikers as they ZOOM past you, or choose a path that’s only for foot traffic.
- Stack Rock Trail: If you want to go slightly off the beaten path, explore the hiking trails up the mountain to Bogus Basin. It’s a 10.9-mile moderate trail that offers beautiful views and interesting rock formations.
BOGUS BASIN MOUNTAIN
Bogus Basin is the place to be if you’re looking for things to do in Boise in the winter. From beginner to expert ski and snowboard runs, this mountain recreation area will satisfy the powder lovers. While the primary activity is hitting the slopes, it also offers Idaho’s only mountain coaster, the Blade Runner. With 4,330 feet of twisting thrills through trees and wilderness, kids (and adults!) will love the ride. Be sure to check out their website to see if they’re offering any fun events or concerts while you’re in town.
Yup, you read that right. Go river surfing in Boise. Boise has one of the best whitewater parks in the US. Located on the Boise River, the Boise Whitewater Park features machine-assisted waves that change daily. You can rent kayaks or surfboards from Idaho River Sports, conveniently located next to the park. This activity is best suited for those with prior experience kayaking or surfing. Make sure to check out the park’s Facebook page for up-to-date info on waves and park closures.
KAYAK OR PADDLEBOARD
If you’re yearning to explore the Boise River, but it’s still too cold to get in the water, renting kayaks or paddleboards is a great way to explore the river. If you’re a bird lover you’ll love trying to spot hawks and eagles that call the river home.
LUCKY PEAK STATE PARK
At the end of the Boise River Greenbelt is Lucky Peak State Park. This family-friendly park is the ideal summertime spot. You can swim at Sandy Point Beach, have a picnic, and go fishing in the crystal clear waters.
THE FOODIE’S GUIDE TO A WEEKEND IN BOISE
Okay, people, let’s get ready to eat. And drink. And then do it all over again. If you’re most excited about what to eat in Boise, you are my people!! Here are our recommendations for what to do in Boise if you live to eat.
The coffee scene in Boise is ridiculous. For such a small city, they stand up well to other big cities renowned for their coffee. Step aside Portland!
- Neckar Coffee – Its sleek minimalism will appeal to those who just want coffee done right. No frills. Just beautifully made coffee. (And be sure to check out their mural in the back by RASGORSHEK.)
- Slow By Slow – While they are popular for their pour overs, I love their homemade syrups and am partial to their espresso with clove syrup.
- Java – An Idaho chain, any visit to Idaho needs to include ordering “a bowl of soul” from Java.
- Push and Pour – Located in neighboring Garden City, this hip, youthful coffee shop is worth crossing the Boise River to visit.
BEER AND ALCOHOL
Along with great coffee is an exploding craft beer scene. You can find countless breweries in Boise, and they all have something different to offer. We love Payette Brewing Co for its mix of classic and inventive brews. Sofa King Sunny and North Fork are their most popular beers, but I’m partial to their dark beers, particularly the Embers Mexican Chocolate. They have a fantastic outdoor drinking area where you can play games or snack on one of the many food trucks that park outside. We also love it because it’s family-friendly! So many kids and dogs joyfully running around. We did a brewery tour, and it’s awesome to learn about everything that goes into making beer. Plus…free beer!
Read here to learn more about our day doing a Payette Brewing brewery tour in Boise.
If you want to read about our favorite breweries, check out our post on 14 fantastic Boise Breweries.
BREAKFAST + LUNCH
- Waffle Me Up – Mouthwatering liege waffles that will more than satisfy all your brunch needs.
- Bacon – It’s an entire restaurant dedicated to Bacon. That either thrills you or disgusts you. If it thrills you, you’ll want to try a sampler of their 5 different types of bacon.
- Wild Root Cafe – If you’re looking for healthier fare, Wild Root Cafe is the place to go. Serving seasonal dishes for the vegan to the meat-eater, with a priority on local ingredients, Wild Root Cafe is one of our favorite places for lunch.
- Lemon Tree Co.– The best sandwiches ever! This is the place to go for an amazing artisan sandwich shop with fantastic lemonade. If you eat meat, you have to try the sausage and pear sandwich. It’s ridiculously good!
- a Cafe – a Cafe is a chic, beautiful cafe with delicious food and wonderful service. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a scrumptious bunch or tasty salads.
Downtown Boise is packed with fantastic restaurants. These are our absolute favorites.
- The Wylder – If you’re looking for craft pizza and cocktails, then The Wylder is where you want to be. Their pizza is made with a 50+ year-old sourdough starter, and it’s delicious. Honestly, everything on the menu is amazing. You can’t go wrong there.
- The Funky Taco – If you’re a purist about your tacos, then this isn’t the place for you. If you love creative tacos that sample from a worldwide flavor profile, then this is the place for you. Meat lovers should go for The Macho, a coffee braised brisket taco, and the vegetarians will go crazy over the Flower Power, a panko cauliflower taco with “Bomb Sauce.” I don’t know what the bomb sauce is, but it’s amazing!
- Alavita – Home-made Italian food done well. Uncomplicated and straightforward, the food there is impeccable. Also, the desserts are worth saving room for.
- Fork – Locally sourced American fare, this Boise staple restaurant is always on every “best of Boise” list. Does it live up to the hype? Yes. Make reservations. It’s always busy.
- Bittercreek Ale House – If you’re looking for a tasty burger, then Bittercreek Ale House is where you need to be. There’s everything from grass-fed beef, a brisket blend, lamb, sweet potato, and black bean burgers. Oh yeah, and an impressive selection of local beers.
If you are a dessert lover (who isn’t?), there are two places you must visit when exploring Boise. Both are locally owned, and both will blow your dessert-loving mind.
Guru Donuts has the distinction of being the best donut shop in Idaho and one visit will convince you why. The donuts are made daily, and they pride themselves on offering gluten-free, dairy-free, and classic-style donuts. Their most famous donut is the hipsterberry donut, a vegan donut topped with their signature blackberry, blueberry, and lavender glaze. TIP: Get there early to have your choice of donuts. They sell out quickly.
The STIL, an acronym for “the sweetest things in life,” is an artisan ice cream shop that sells flights of 2-ounce servings of ice cream matched with a 5-ounce glass of beer. If ice cream and beer aren’t the flavor combo you’re looking for, no worries, you can nosh on the ice cream sans beer. Flavors change seasonally, but you can look forward to fun choices like honey bourbon or blackberry with salted dark chocolate.
Want more dessert picks? Check out our detailed post on five of the best desserts in Boise.
Boise has two wonderful farmer’s markets that run from Spring to Fall. The original Boise farmer’s market is the Capital City Public Market. It’s a festive, community-driven market that is worth visiting if you’ll be in town while it’s open. There’s also the Boise Farmers Market, a food-centric and agriculturally based market.
THINGS TO DO IN BOISE FOR THE CULTURE SEEKERS
Lastly, let’s dive into the art, history, and creative scene of Boise. We’ll look at things to do in Boise that enrich and educate.
If you love seeing murals in a city, then Boise is a fantastic place to visit. The city has put a lot of effort into traffic box art and commissioned murals. Walk around downtown Boise, and you’ll be sure to see murals everywhere you go. Without a doubt, the best place to see outdoor murals is Freak Alley, the largest outdoor gallery in the Northwest. Located in the alley between 8th and 9th street, Freak Alley is a great add-on when exploring Downtown Boise.
ANNE FRANK HUMAN RIGHTS MEMORIAL
Located right off the Boise Greenbelt, the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial is a beautiful, contemplative park that stands as a memorial to human rights. An easy stop off the Greenbelt, the most striking section of the park is the 180-foot quote wall. Inscriptions from presidents, philosophers, poets, enslaved people, and more speak to the “universality of the struggle against injustice and oppression.” It’s a stirring tribute and worth stopping for when biking or walking the Greenbelt.
IDAHO BLACK HISTORY MUSEUM
Located in Julia Davis Park is the Idaho Black History Museum. Housed in the St. Paul Baptist Church building, this historic church was Idaho’s first black church. This small but impactful museum tells the story of black Idahoans and their place in Idaho history. The museum has limited hours, so it’s best to check their website or Facebook page for updated information.
OLD IDAHO PENITENTIARY
Haunted jail, anyone? The Old Idaho Penitentiary is a national historic site 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. It’s a fascinating place with a glimpse into some of America’s most notorious criminals. Exhibits include a large collection of weaponry and military memorabilia as well as a woman’s ward exploring the stories of the west’s most dangerous women. 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.
The Old Idaho Penitentiary is also where you’ll find the trailheads for Castle Rock Hike and Table Rock Hike. You can combine the penitentiary with one of the hikes for a day of history and nature.
Tip: If you’re visiting in October, they offer fun spooky Halloween themed tours.
BOISE ART MUSEUM
Lovers of fine art will be more than pleasantly surprised by the Boise Art Museum. This non-profit museum has a rotating showcase of photography and art installments from Pacific Northwest artists. Check the website for classes and events they offer throughout the year.
A non-profit organization, BAM also offers drawing and craft workshops to both children and adults. Be on the lookout for their First Thursdays, where admittance is free, and their annual “Art In the Park” festival.
JAMES CASTLE HOUSE
The James Castle House is a site dedicated to the artistry and passion of self-taught artist James Castle. The home is where Castle lived and worked for 46 years and is now a cultural center for exhibits, tours, talks, performances, and preservation of the arts. It also has an artist in residence program and provides community partnerships to keep the spirit of art alive in Boise.
BASQUE MUSEUM AND CULTURAL CENTER
Did you know that Boise has the largest Basque population outside of Spain? With over 16,000 Basque residents, it only fits that there be a Basque Museum and Cultural Center. The Basque Block features Basque restaurants, Basque items, and a Basque museum that is dedicated to “preserving, promoting, and perpetuating Basque history and culture.” With rotating exhibits, events, and talks, the Basque Museum is a wonderful addition to Boise and an easy visit when exploring Downtown Boise.
IDAHO STATE MUSEUM
Any lover of history will want to stop by the Idaho State Museum to learn more about Idaho and the people who have lived there and how the landscape has influenced the history of the people. Interactive and hands-on exhibits help to make what could be a stale subject interesting and fun.
Located in Downtown Boise is JUMP (Jacks Urban Meeting Place), a community center that is an amazing spot for kids to play and be creative. Besides being an ideal kids spot, it also houses an outdoor museum featuring 50 vintage steam engines and tractors dating as far back as 1885. Donated by J. R. (Jack) Simplot, an entrepreneur whose history and legacy are paramount to Idaho’s story. Be sure to check out their website to see if any events are happening during your visit.
If you happen to be visiting Boise around the time of Treefort, you might want to consider moving your tickets to be there DURING Treefort. What’s Treefort? It’s a multi-day music festival featuring hundreds of local and international bands playing at different Downtown Boise locations. But it’s so much more than that. This small indie music fest has grown into a large festival that takes over Downtown Boise and is basically a huge family-friendly party. The festival now has additional forts like Foodfort, Alefort, Comedyfort, Kidfort, Yogafort, Storyfort, and more. It’s a big party, and a must-do. You can learn more about Treefort here.
SAMPLE BOISE ITINERARY
If you’ve read through this gargantuan list of things to do in Boise, Idaho and you’re ready to start planning your Boise itinerary, then go for it! If you’re like, will you PLEASE just tell me exactly what to do and in the exact order to do it, so I don’t have to think at all?!
I’ve got you.
Here is a sample itinerary for two days in Boise so you can just show up and enjoy your weekend in Boise.
Wake up and head over to Neckar Coffee to grab a coffee and to a Cafe for breakfast. They are conveniently located right next to each other.
Bike to the Greenbelt and head in the direction of Julia Davis Park. You’ll make a quick stop at the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial before crossing under the bridge to check out the Idaho State Museum and the Boise Art Museum. Both museums are right next to each other. If museums aren’t your thing, skip that and continue down the Boise Greenbelt to Barber Park to tube down the Boise River. If tubing isn’t your thing, then skip all of that and bike all the way to the end of the Greenbelt to Lucky Peak State Park. If that’s your plan, pick up a picnic lunch from Lemon Tree Co before you go.
For lunch, head back into Downtown Boise, where you’ll stop at tacos from The Funky Taco. Next to Funky Taco is the entrance to Freak Alley, where you can check out the latest murals to adorn the alley between 8th and 9th street.
Afterward, walk or bike through Downtown Boise checking out the local shops before hitting up the Basque Block to learn more about Boise’s thriving Basque community.
Use a rental car or grab an Uber or Lyft to head over to the Old Idaho Penitentiary. Tour the old penitentiary and/or hike up Table Rock to get sweeping views of Boise. Grab a spot for yourself and watch the sunset from one of the benches or rocks overlooking the valley.
Finally, head back into Downtown Boise, where you’ll dine at The Wylder, the best pizza in the city. Make sure to make a reservation beforehand. If you want some after-dinner cocktails or beers, head to Payette Brewing for craft beers or Water Bear Bar for craft cocktails.
Day 1 was primarily about exploring Downtown Boise activities. For Day 2, I would suggest going deeper into Boise and trying out a fun day trip near Boise. The surrounding nature of Boise is out of this world incredible.
If it’s winter, try out a day of skiing and snowboarding at Bogus Basin. If natural hot springs entice you, check out The Springs at nearby Idaho City. If sand sledding seems intriguing, make the drive out to Bruneau Sand Dunes to check out the tallest freestanding sand dune in the United States. If petroglyphs and a historic railroad bridge strike your fancy, try out Celebration Park, Idaho’s first archeological park. THERE’S SO MUCH!
Check out our full post on the best day trips from Boise to get more info on all these places and where they’re located. Also, if you’re looking for a Boise itinerary that includes more kids’ activities, be sure to check out our post with 25 things to do in Boise with kids.
That’s it! Could I have gone on and on about more amazing things to do in Boise? Yes! The truth is, you need more than a weekend in Boise to get to know this awesome city.
We haven’t even touched on Boise’s smaller neighborhoods with their cute local restaurants and trendy boutiques. Next time!
Have a great weekend in Boise and let us know if you have any questions below!
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