Boise in 1 Day – Downtown and Environs
[Boise, ID, Sep 3, 2021]
Despite Boise’s small size, there is plenty to do to fill a full day.
Breakfast at Bacon
We started our day with breakfast at Bacon (they’re only open for breakfast and lunch). As you’d expect, bacon features heavily on the menu. We couldn’t resist the bacon tasting, which came in these five tall shot glasses! I opted for the shrimp and grits, with a side of bacon. Leave your diets at the door!
Freak Alley was across the street, and we were excited that it was nearly empty compared to the night before. This all began as a single painting on one of the alley doors in 2002. It’s now grown to include the entire alley and the adjacent gravel parking lot. Today, Freak Alley is known as the largest open-air, multi-artist mural gallery in the Northwest. Artists add new works every year, creating a dynamic experience.
This unique gift and novelty store was one of several Boise attractions I found out about from Atlas Obscura. Lovers of pop culture will appreciate the nods to pretty much every TV show or movie that has entered the cultural zeitgeist over the past few decades. I especially enjoyed the replica of Monica’s door from the TV show Friends, which B and I had just finished binging. The Bilbo Baggins hobbit hole replica was also fun, and B enjoyed Captain Kirk’s command chair.
Gentle Breeze in Cherie Buckner-Webb park
The pink tree statue by Matthew Mazotta was recently completed in July 2021. It sits on a tiny hill in Cherie Buckner-Webb park, named after the first Black woman to serve in the Idaho legislature. The tree is outfitted with a couple of swings, which we took advantage of.
Idaho State Capitol
You can’t miss the Idaho State Capitol, which has been housing the Idaho legislature since its completion in 1905. The building was inspired by St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, St Paul’s Cathedral in London and, of course, the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Unfortunately, the rotunda was covered in scaffolding on our visit, but we still enjoyed walking around the interior and climbing the spiral staircases.
The statue of the fourth governor of Idaho, Frank Steunenberg, sits directly across the Capitol. The rose garden surrounding it makes for capital pics!
The Basque Block
An unexpectedly Boisean thing is the Basque block. The Basque came from a region that straddles the westernmost Pyrenees in adjacent parts of Northern Spain and Southwestern France. Boise is home to the largest Basque diaspora in the United States. We enjoyed the small Basque Museum and Cultural Center, which highlights Basque communities in the American West through oral history exhibits, 3D photographs, and artifacts. Right next door is the Cyrus Jacobs House, built in 1864 and used as a Basque boarding house in the early 20th century. It was a home away from home for people emigrating from the Basque Country to job opportunities in Idaho and served as a social center that preserved many elements of Basque culture including food, music, dance, games, and most importantly, their language, Euskera. Nearby Bar Guernika highlights Basque cuisine and drinks; we will make sure to visit its sister bar, Bar Boise in the Basque city of Guernika!
Boise Art Museum
We didn’t go inside BAM (fun acronym!) but it seemed like a cool place to visit. The rose garden in the back was beautiful, and nearby Julia Davis Park was bustling with people on bikes and on foot enjoying the beautiful day.
Boise Public Library!
Plans for a new Boise public library are in the works but bookworms can still duck into the existing structure, located conveniently across from the BAM (much more fun to say than Boise Art Museum). The exclamation point you see on the sign was added in 1995 after a local businessman, Howard Olivier, convinced the then library marketing director to do it.
Capitol Blvd Memorial Bridge
At this point, we were right by the Capitol Blvd Memorial Bridge. Also known as the Oregon Trail Memorial Bridge, it sits above the Boise River and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It was constructed in the 1930s in an Art Deco style and leads to the Idaho State Capitol further up Capitol Blvd. The bridge is pretty and it was fun to watch people rafting down the Boise River from it, but what amazed us most was the number of spider webs and spiders that make this bridge home. The bridge is covered in them! I would not want to cross this bridge at night.
Boise State University
Just on the other side of the bridge is Boise State University, a public research university founded in 1932.
With still a few hours left in the afternoon, we decided to hop in the car and check out some sights on the outskirts of town.
Lucky Peak State Park
This public park was not on our list but we happened upon it as we were looking for the Black Cliffs nearby. Lucky Peak State Park is about ten miles from Boise and was created in 1956 by agreement with the United States Army Corps of Engineers, following the completion of the Lucky Peak Dam. Sandy Point, at the base of the dam, is a popular spot for swimming.
This area was another Atlas Obscura find. These towering columns of black lava are a popular place for rock climbing, although the place was deserted when we were there. The cliffs are in full sun in the afternoon and I imagine it was way too hot to climb. We still enjoyed seeing them up close.
Boise River Diversion Dam
Climbing up to the Black Cliffs allowed us to see the Boise River Diversion Dam from above. Completed in 1909, it diverts water for irrigation for Ada and Canyon counties. The dam is outfitted with a small powerhouse that provided power for the completion of another dam upstream. In 1976, the power plant was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It is still operational and can provide emergency power in peak demand.
Oregon Trail Historic Reserve
Also nearby is the Oregon Trail Historic Reserve. The area features a scenic view of the Boise Front and the historic Kelton Ramp, a path forged by overland travelers heading down the rim to the Boise River. There are several hiking trails in the reserve.
Once back in town, we grabbed an afternoon drink at The Whiskey Bar. The barrels and wood-paneled decor made the inside quite inviting but we opted for the outside patio.
For dinner, we headed to Chandler’s, Boise’s famous steakhouse. It was conveniently located in the lobby of our hotel (bring on the drinks!). We splurged on the foie gras to start. B got a steak, of course, and I got the scallops. We couldn’t agree on dessert so we ended up with two – the cheesecake and the chocolate soufflé. It was good that we were headed to the mountains the next day because we definitely needed to burn all those calories.