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Boise, Idaho Travel Guide
Last Updated: Nov-08-2011, Hits: 3,555, Rating: 4.00, Reviews: 1, Votes: 1 Bookmark and Share
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Boise, Idaho Travel Guide Restaurants (44)
Hotels and Lodging (26)
Bars and Nightlife (22)
Attractions (15)
Services (7)
Maps (2)
Links (2)
Additional Articles (1)
Idaho Travel Forum (3)
Location: North America
Geography: Mountains, City
Vacation Type: Family, Adventure
Popularity: Off-the-Beaten Path
Costs: Budget, Moderate
Attractions: Skiing, Golfing, Nightlife, Cultural Attractions, Fishing, Hiking, Breweries, Wineries, Rafting

Facts and Stats:
City Population: 205,671
Metro Population: 616,561
Land Area: 64 sq mi
Elevation: 2,730 ft
Country dialing code: +1
Telephone Area Code: 208
Languages: English
Electricity: 110v
Time Zone: Mountain Standard Time (UTC-7)
Current Time:

Boise is a small city that was once a mining town. Today, Boise is growing into modern city centered around the arts and outdoor recreation. In that way (and many others), Boise is a lot like a smaller version of Portland, although local residents may take offense to that comparison as it seems that they are trying to forge their own identity. Boise moves at a slower pace than many places and that is why US Bank still hadn't removed their holiday lights in the shape of a Christmas tree from the top of their building - in mid-February. The city is laid-back, clean, and safe, and you will not find pretentious people here. This is partially because there isn't anything ritzy enough here for people to be pretentious about. At the same time, Boise still provides excellent food and drink, plenty of entertainment, and all of the facilities of a big city. Throw in a variety of outdoor recreation options and you have the makings of an excellent vacation destination.

Brief History:
It is rumored that Boise was given its name by French-Canadian trappers who marveled at all of the trees they found growing along the river. They labeled the area Les Bois ("the woods"). To this day, Boise still has the nickname "City of Trees."

Fort Boise, owned by the Hudson Bay Company, was established in 1834 by British fur traders. Now known as Old Fort Boise, it is located near the confluence of the Boise and Snake rivers 40 miles west of the city at the Oregon border. The fort was abandoned in 1854 due to frequent Indian raids. Less than a decade later, the military wanted to re-establish a fort in the area as gold was discovered in the Boise basin in 1862 and there were frequent massacres of travelers on the Oregon Trail. Construction of the new fort began in 1863 and a booming mining town sprung up around it. Boise became Lewiston as the capitol of the Idaho Territory in 1865.

After the gold rush, Boise's population declined from 1,658 citizens in 1864 to 995 in 1870. With new construction, including the territorial prison in 1869 and the U.S. Assay Office in 1872, Boise began to grow again. The capitol building was completed in 1886 and Idaho achieved statehood in 1890.

Boise expanded the irrigation of the valley in 1902 which led to the construction of Arrowrock Dam. At 350 feet high, Arrowrock was the tallest concrete dam in the world at the time.

In the late 1930s, Basques people migrated from the Pyrenees Mountains in Europe to the Boise area where they became sheepherders.

While most of the country struggled during the Great Depression, Boise continued to thrive and grow. Boise State University opened its doors in 1932, the first Albertsons store opened in 1939, and J.R. Simplot started farming potatoes in 1941.

When World War II came, Gowen Field (Now the Boise Airport) served as a training location for pilots and an Air Force base in Mountain Home began operations in 1942.

In 1959 Pete Oleson dubbed the Boise area, "Treasure Valley" which still serves as a commonly used nickname.

Boise has continued to prosper for the last 40 years, largely due to the creation of Hewlett Packard's Boise Division in 1973 and the founding of Micron Technology in 1978.

Boise is located 41 miles east of the Oregon border in Southwestern Idaho at 43°36'49" North, 116°14'16" West (43.613739, -116.237651). The elevation of Boise is 2,704 ft and officially takes up 63.8 square miles. The Boise River runs through the downtown area and the city is bordered to the northeast by the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The city itself lies in a flat river plain with loads of trees that almost look out of place with the arid foothills that border the area. The city is the 3rd largest in the Pacific Northwest and the largest in Idaho.

For those that have never been here, the terms Boise and culture might seem like antonyms. Like a bartender mentioned, "Boise is full of rednecks". While that may be true, you wouldn't know it spending time downtown. Every other car is not a pickup truck with a gun rack, there are very few people wearing cowboy boots and a 10 gallon hat, and the downtown area has no western saloons to speak of. Maybe this is because Boise is a college town, or maybe it is because young professionals have been lured here by good paying jobs at companies like Albertsons, Micron Technology, Boise Cascade, Syringa Bancorp, Washington Group International, and others. Whatever the case, Boise has been transforming itself into a modern city that enjoys the good life. Add the fact that Boise has a young population (average age is 33), has embraced the environmental movement, maintains a small-town feel and you have all of the ingredients in a Pacific Northwest city.

Boise is not a very diverse city, although, they do have the 3rd largest Basque population in the world (15,000 people). Boise does have nearly every type of white person you can imagine. But what Boise lacks in diversity, it makes up for in friendly residents and small city charm. The local residents are happy, love living in Boise, have excellent manners, and still say "hello" to strangers.

Boise has a range of outdoor and cultural attractions. In the winter, Bogus mountain provides skiing and snowboarding. In the warmer months, there is fly fishing and inner-tubing on the Boise River, river rafting on the Payette river, Saturday market, and the famous Greenbelt which provides 25 miles of hiking and biking trails and parks along the Boise River. The city also has a zoo, a World Center for Birds of Prey, a botanical garden, several museums including an art museum, and the Basque district.

Boise is also the home of the Boise State Broncos football team which was undefeated in 2008 and has been in the national spotlight for a couple of years. Boise is home to the Idaho Stampede (NBA D-League Basketball), Idaho Steelheads (EHCL Hockey), and the Boise Hawks (MLB farm team). There are also other sporting events and attractions that can be attended at the Qwest Arena. There is a comedy club under construction at the time of this writing. Click on the attractions link toward the top of this guide for information on specific attractions.

Food and Drink:
The Boise downtown area has a wide range of restaurants, most within walking distance of the major downtown hotels. Northwest Cuisine is the most common type of food to be had, however, there are French, Thai, Italian, Japanese, Basque and most other types of restaurants you might be interested in. Many of the restaurants use local ingredients when possible and trout is a local favorite. A Ruth's Chris Steakhouse is slated to open in the spring of 2009.

Boise has achieved amazing sophistication with regards to their alcoholic beverages. Belgian and locally brewed beers are easily found, many restaurants have extensive wine lists, and there are some excellent mixologists in town. The Red Feather/BitterCreek Alehouse has an incredible beer and wine selection and Bardenay has a good selection as well.

With regards to grocery stores, of course Albertsons is popular here as is locally owned WinCo Foods. If you are staying downtown, there isn't much in the way of convenience stores other than a couple of Jackson's convenience stores. There is a WinCo at 110 E Myrtle St. There is also the Boise Co-Op which specializes in locally grown and organic foods at 888 W. Fort st.

More information about restaurants and bars can be found using the links toward the top of this travel guide.

Boise is a fairly inexpensive city. A standard room in their nicest hotels will run less than $150/night. Food and drink are reasonably priced compared to other markets although Chandlers Steakhouse and the coming Ruths Chris are expensive. Boise has a sales tax of 6%. Their sin taxes on alcohol and tobacco are lower than other places like Portland in the Pacific Northwest.

Getting There and Around:
To get to Boise by plane, you will fly into the Boise Airport which uses airport code BOI. The Boise Aiport provides service to Delta, Frontier, Horizon, Northwest, Southwest, US Airways, and United airlines. The airport is small, but full service. It is modern, clean, and easy to use. The airport is only 3.5 miles from downtown and is an easy cab or shuttle ride to your hotel.

If you plan to stay in the downtown area, a rental car really isn't necessary. The Boise downtown is very walkable. The main part of downtown is about 12 blocks x 12 blocks and most of the restaurants and bars are very centrally located. If you call a cab, it will show up within minutes and the rates are very affordable. Boise taxi can be reached at 377-3333.

If you do rent a car, the city is very easy to navigate save for all of the one-way streets which can make it slightly more difficult to get where you need to go. On the plus side, the streets are wide and laid out in a grid formation.

If you need public transportation, bus service is provided by Valley Ride and you can view schedules and stops at their web site.

Boise's climate is arid and the area gets very little precipitation. The winters are cold and the summers are hot. Spring and fall are temperate. Below is a table of the average temperatures and precipitation in Boise.

Month Avg High Avg Low Average Rainfall
January 36°F 21°F 1.50"
February 44°F 27°F 1.10"
March 52°F 31°F 1.30"
April 61°F 36°F 1.20"
May 71°F 43°F 1.10"
June 80°F 52°F 0.80"
July 90°F 57°F 0.40"
August 88°F 56°F 0.40"
September 77°F 48°F 0.80"
October 64°F 39°F 0.80"
November 48°F 31°F 1.50"
December 37°F 22°F 1.40"

Below are the current weather conditions in Boise.

Tips/Additional information:
  • It is probably a good idea to avoid Garden City. Not only is there not much to do there, it is a particularly dumpy part of town.
  • You will want to always have warmer clothes when visiting here. Even during the summer, it cools off quite a bit at night.

  • Services and Contacts:
    Boise Airport - 208-383-3110
    Boise Convention & Visitors Bureau - 800-635-5240 / 208-344-7777
    Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce - 208-472-5220
    Police emergency - 911
    Police non-emergency - 208-377-6790
    City Hall - 208-384-4422

    Photo Gallery

    User Reviews (1)

    Reviewed by: sloshed
    Review date: Apr-23-2009

    I spent a few days in Boise earlier this year. Previously, I had driven through it a couple of times and thought it looked like a cool little city, and that turned out to be the case. I thought the city had a surpising amount of culture compared to stereotypes and preconceived notions I had. The city has NW charm, friendly people, good restaurants, and most importantly, lots 'o beer. My kind of place. 

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