From forests and rivers to mountains and skyscraper-speckled skylines, Boise, Idaho, is a highly underrated U.S. travel destination. Thrilling outdoor recreation, renowned museums, and family-friendly zoos & aquariums are all among the best things to do in Boise, ID.
Roaming through the top tourist attractions in Boise, you’ll stumble upon beautiful parks and gardens, strung out along the Boise River Greenbelt, with outstanding scenery and wildlife-watching opportunities. You’ll also experience top-notch museums like the Idaho State Museum and art galleries like the Boise Art Museum.
Hung up on trying to sift through endless suggestions of what to do in Boise? Plan the perfect trip to Idaho’s capital city with this complete guide to the best places to visit in Boise, ID.
Must-see places to visit in Boise, ID
Looking for a place to launch a family-friendly Boise itinerary? A day trip to Zoo Boise is a great choice for tourists of all ages. You can expect this fun zoological park to be a hit with everyone in your travel crew, especially if you’ve got some animal lovers in your midst.
Besides eight zoo areas housing over 100 different species, the Zoo Boise also offers a series of self-proclaimed “special attractions.” The zoo offers exciting activities like anteater feeding, conservation cruises on solar-powered boats through the monkey lagoon, and ziplining through a wild dog exhibit.
At Zoo Boise, you’ll even have a chance to get face to face with a sloth bear. What’s a sloth bear, you ask? This unique bear species is known for hanging upside down in trees just like a sloth. How cool!
Proceeds from all special attractions, animal encounters, the zoo farm, and $3 from every admission go towards the Zoo Boise Conservation Fund. This is a trip to the zoo you can feel extra good about!
Idaho Botanical Garden
A staple for Boise sightseeing, the Idaho Botanical Garden is the perfect attraction for slowing down to smell the roses. Quite literally!
Located in the Boise foothills, this 15-acre park represents the paramount of Idaho horticulture. The Idaho Botanical Garden is a sanctuary for all kinds of native flora as well as some exotic species. Of course, the garden also provides a gorgeous backdrop for an afternoon stroll.
On a self-guided tour around the Idaho Botanical Garden, be sure to keep an eye out for their most popular collections of blooms. Sections include a traditional English garden, lush rose garden, peaceful meditation garden, and even a veggie garden with a seasonal pumpkin patch.
Throughout the garden areas, you’ll also find a unique collection of art. Look out for everything from garden sculptures to pretty paintings donated by local stakeholders.
Aquarium of Boise
Carve out time in to visit the Aquarium of Boise to meet over 250 magnificent species. Some of the aquarium’s most beloved inhabitants include starry pufferfish, axolotls, caiman, and several species of giant rays.
Visit the shark nursery to observe shark eggs and embryos at various stages of development. If you’re lucky, you may even get to watch a hatchling break free of its egg!
During your visit to the Aquarium of Boise, you’ll have several opportunities to get hands-on time with your favorite aquatic buddies in designated petting zones. Plus, you can also get up close to a whole slew of reptiles and amphibians and feed some tropical birdies at the onsite bird aviary.
Julia Davis Park
Need a breather in the outdoors? Julia Davis Park is one of the top Boise points of interest for your laid-back travel days. Throughout 43 acres of public lawns and trails, you’ll find plenty of fun recreation and leisure facilities, including horseshoe pits, bocci ball courts, playgrounds, fishing ponds, and even a fragrant rose garden.
If you have a passion for birding, a trip to Julia Davis Park is a must. The park backs onto the Idaho Birding Trail. It’s considered one of the state’s best places for spotting winged wildlife in their natural habitat.
Old Idaho Penitentiary Site
A visit to the Old Idaho Penitentiary Site is a staple in any Boise trip itinerary. After 100+ years of serving as a territorial prison, it’s now one of only four penitentiaries in the United States to open its doors to the public.
At the Old Idaho Penitentiary State, you’ll travel back in time and get a look inside the rows of cells. Though you’re free to explore the prison on your own, a guided tour is highly recommended for the ultimate Old Idaho Penitentiary Site experience.
On a tour, you’ll be locked in the prison yard to imagine life as an inmate. The tour guides will regale you with stories of “wild west” prison scandals and infamous escapes. Even if you don’t have any official history buffs in your group, the lessons here will be fascinating.
Camel’s Back Park
Located about two miles north of downtown, Camel’s Back Park is Boise’s most photogenic outdoor recreation area. The star of the show is the magnificent rolling hills, peppered with hiking trails leading to some of the loveliest vantage points in the city. Once you’ve reached the viewpoints, you’ll be rewarded with the stunning bird’s-eye views of the Boise skyline.
After working up a sweat on the trails, hang around and enjoy a picnic at the foot of the hills or watch your children let loose in the play area.
Traveling during the winter? Camel’s Back Park is also a popular location for sledding once the hills are coated with snow.
Idaho State Museum
During your stay in Boise, it’s practically a right of passage to make a trip to the Idaho State Museum. Wander the halls of local artifacts, interactive displays, and storytelling experiences to learn about the history of Idaho and how it grew into the state it is today.
The Idaho State Museum features four permanent exhibits that’ll teach you about Idaho’s people, landscapes, and politics. You can also explore the museum’s two rotating exhibitions, hosting traveling national history collections.
Boise Art Museum
The Boise Art Museum is one of the must-see Boise tourist attractions for all art lovers. Located inside the Julia Davis Park—featuring a collection of museums in Boise—you’ll find halls full of sculpture, painting, ceramics, textiles, and even video.
In addition to an exciting rotation of traveling exhibitions, the Boise Art Museum is home to an extensive permanent collection. It features a barrage of American, Native American, Asian, and Northwestern art across several mediums.
The Boise Art Museum is the only accredited fine art museum in Idaho; be sure to plan a stop here—even if you’re just passing through Idaho’s capital.
Boise River Greenbelt
Located centrally in downtown, the Boise River Greenbelt is your gateway to the city’s outdoor recreation scene. The park acts as the entrance to 25 miles of forested trails. One of the top places to go in Boise, it’s also a local hotspot for birding and fishing.
You can choose from several pedestrian and biking paths running through the Boise River Greenbelt. Travel between some of Boise’s most famous parks along the “Ribbon of Jewels,” a path connecting many of the city’s lush urban greenspaces.
Freak Alley Gallery
Calling all street art fanatics! The Freak Alley Gallery is one of the top Boise attractions for art lovers—and it’s easy to see why! Located between 8th Street and 9th Street in Downtown Boise, this open-air art museum showcases a vibrant collection of eclectic street art. It’s even been voted the city’s best local art gallery!
The Freak Alley Gallery is constantly changing with new murals and graffiti artists leaving their mark every year. Every summer, the outdoor gallery hosts a “painting event” where local talent can join in to add their art to the walls.
If you’re interested in watching the alley walls come to life, check out the Freak Art Gallery events calendar when booking your Boise trip.
Ann Morrison Park
If you’d like to add in some exercise during your trip, Ann Morrison Park has everything you need to stay active without hibernating in your hotel gym. Here, you can take on 18 holes at the disc golf course, lift weights or hit the ellipticals at the outdoor gym, play sand volleyball with your squad, or challenge a local to a game of tennis.
Ann Morrison Park is one of the top points of interest in Boise for nature lovers looking to immerse themselves in the Idaho wilderness. You can visit several conservation stations for wildlife observation and naturalist education. Highlights include an insect hotel, a milkweed reserve for butterfly observation, and a pollinator garden.
At the popular Boise park, you’ll also have direct access to the Idaho Greenbelt trails for day hiking.
Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area
Looking for a little outdoor activity on your trip? The Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area is your source for all things “mountain,” from extreme adrenaline-inducing activities to slower-paced recreation.
Boise is the ideal, all-season destination. And the popular Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area is the perfect example of why. Whether you want to play in the snow on alpine slopes or bask in the heat amongst the great outdoors, there’s not much you can’t do at Bogus Basin.
During the winter months, Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area is the city’s hub for skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing, snowshoeing, and winter biking. Just as exciting, however, are its spring & summer outdoor activities.
In the spring or summer months, tackle the hiking and biking trails; go rock climbing or horseback riding, enjoy live music; or stretch out with some mountainside yoga. One of the most popular day trips from Boise, Bogus Basin also offers a scenic chairlift and a mountain roller coaster to take in the lovely views.
Barber Park is your Boise destination for summer water activities. Located just a few miles outside of the downtown core, this park has a lovely network of trails and walking paths backing onto the Boise River.
The park’s main attraction, the Boise River, is ideal for swimming and stocked for fishing. It also has a facility along the banks where you can rent rafts and tubes to float the afternoon away.
Barber Park also boasts an amazing space for picnicking. Aside from the beautiful scenery, there are multiple BBQs, tables, and pavilions available for public use. All you need to bring is a blanket, some hamburgers or hotdogs, and a cold soda. There are even a few playgrounds and basketball courts to keep everyone entertained.
Discovery Center of Idaho
The Discovery Center of Idaho is one of the best places to visit in Boise for those traveling with children, especially those who welcome a little bit of educational fun into their travel itinerary.
The interactive and play-based exhibits at the Discovery Center of Idaho are designed to ignite curiosity and a passion for STEM. Your kids will love making memories in the paleontology hall, where they can compare their height to a cast of the largest T-REX ever found. They can also relive the Apollo 11 space mission or see experiments in the mad scientist lab. To keep the fun going, you can bring home a few experiment kits from the gift shop to cultivate a lifelong love for science.
The Discovery Center of Idaho is a great choice for children of all ages. They even have a designated collection of exhibits for “scientists” under the age of four.
Kathryn Albertson Park
Kathryn Albertson Park is without a doubt one of the best displays of Boise’s natural landscape and wildlife. Though it’s more tamed than other hiking spots around Boise, the park represents an approachable natural experience for all and is easy to fit into a shorter timeframe.
During your visit, you’ll wind through the trails around ponds, waterfall features, and pretty forested areas flanked by wildflowers. Paved footpaths make this natural attraction accessible for wheelchair users and young families with strollers. Kathryn Albertson Park is a fantastic spot to go hiking for groups with varying fitness levels.
Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial
One of the top places to see in Boise is the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial. Situated on South 8th Street along the Boise River, this memorial was designed by a local Idaho architect to honor the life of Anne Frank.
Throughout the beautiful park, you’ll observe several monuments. They include a wall of quotes, a concrete bookshelf inscribed with excerpts from Anne’s diary, and a statue of Anne Frank herself.
For the most meaningful experience, you should take a self-guided audio tour with one of the complimentary headsets. You’ll learn about history as well as get lessons on modern-day human rights activism.
During your visit to the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, be sure to keep an eye out for the chestnut tree sapling, sprouted from the original Ann Frank Chestnut in Amsterdam.
Morrison-Knudsen Nature Center
Located just a little east of downtown Boise on the Boise River Greenbelt lies the Morrison-Knudsen Nature Center. Sprawled across 4.6 acres of land is the StreamWalk, a trail network that’ll take you through forests, wetlands, underwater viewing areas, a butterfly garden, and even a display of ancient petroglyphs.
Climb your way up to the infamous Eagle’s Nest overlook. Finish your day off with a stop at the M.K. Visitor Center. Here, kids and adults alike can explore galleries of taxidermy of local wildlife and touch real pelts, antlers, and more.
Though the main visitor center and StreamWalk are the main attractions, many people make the trek out to the Morrison-Knudsen Nature Center to take advantage of their vast hunting grounds and plentiful fishing for Chinook, Steelhead, and wild salmon. You can even go ice fishing here during the winter.
Idaho State Capitol
Dating back to the early-20th century, the Idaho State Capitol is the city’s most impressive architectural iconic. Including its golden eagle topper, the building measures an impressive 208 feet tall and tops the list of what to see in Boise for architecture buffs.
Taking 15 years to complete, the capitol building was constructed from marble sourced from around Idaho, other U.S. states, and even as far as Italy.
Inside the Idaho State Capitol, you’ll marvel at The Winged Victory, a replica statue of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. You’ll also spot a copy of Philly’s Liberty Bell in the capitol front courtyard.
The easiest way to explore the State Capitol is on a self-guided tour, using the booklets available at the Garden Level visitor center.
If you have a group of more than five, you can book yourself onto a guided tour a minimum of two weeks in advance on the official website.
Hyde Park Historic District
Located within Boise’s North End, the Hyde Park Historic District is one of the coolest spots to visit in the city center. The neighborhood, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, is chock-loaded full of local restaurants, cafés, and boutique shops, set among early-20th-century buildings.
Grab a cup o’ joe at Hyde Perk Coffee House, a coffee shop that’s one of the city’s best, and explore the cute & eclectic neighborhood on foot.
Hyde Park also hosts a barrage of events throughout the year, including the Hyde Park Street Fair. Held every September in Camel’s Back Park, the festival features delicious food, vendors, live music, and fun activities for the kids including a parade.
While Idaho isn’t exactly synonymous with wine, a visit to Cinder Wines might make you change your tune. Located in Garden City just five minutes from Downtown Boise, the popular wine producer has made a name for itself as one of the top urban wineries in the Pacific Northwest.
Book yourself onto a 90-minute wine-tasting experience at Cinder Wines to experience the winery’s famed Viognier white wine, and its delectable Syrah and Tempranillo red wines.
Besides regular tasting tours, the winery also hosts special events throughout the year. Check the official website to see what’s cookin’ during your Boise trip.
Boise Fry Company
Built up an appetite on your Boise sightseeing journey? Slide on into the Boise Fry Company. Located in the Capital City Event Center, this popular local burger chain serves up some of the city’s tastiest American comfort food.
As its name implies, Boise Fry Company is most famous for its fries. The diner uses only the finest local Idaho potatoes, fried up in non-GMO sunflower seed oil and unsalted so their flavors shine through.
Pop in for a plate of fries and a grass-fed burger, washing it down with one of the local craft beers on tap.
Basque Museum & Cultural Center
Located on Grove Street, the Basque Museum & Cultural Center is one of the city’s most surprising attractions. The center was established in 1985 in the Cyrus Jacobs-Uberuaga House, a former Basque boarding house within the city’s so-called Basque Block.
The Basque Museum & Cultural Center tells the story of Idaho’s Basque immigrant community while enlightening visitors on Basque history in general. The engaging exhibits cover topics, ranging from the preservation of the Basque language (Euskara) to Basque farming and sheepherding in the American West.
Once you’ve soaked up the museum, spend some time roaming around the Basque Block. Centered along Grove Street between Capitol Boulevard and 6th Street, the neighborhood is the cornerstone of Boise’s vibrant 16,000-strong Basque community.
If you’ve built up an appetite, you’ll find a handful of Basque restaurants & bars, including the popular Bar Gernika, serving up traditional Basque food and pinxtos (Basque tapas).
Boise Art Glass
Searching for less touristy things to do in Boise? Hook yourself up with an art class at Boise Art Glass. Located on West Front Street, this art glass studio offers patrons a variety of glassblowing classes to help hone their artistic skills with this unique medium.
Even if you’re not an artistic type, trying your hand at this unique art form might be one of the highlights of your trip to Idaho’s lovely capital city.
If you’re new to glassblowing, book yourself onto the introductory Furnace & Hotshop class. During the hour-long session, you’ll get personalized help in creating your own unique glass souvenir.
Don’t want to test your artistic skills? No worries: Boise Art Glass also offers a gallery of its finest glass products to buy for yourself or the folks back home.
Got some serious sweet cravings to tackle? Saunter over to Guru Donuts on West Main Street. For the past decade, the famed donut shop has been a Boise local hotspot, attracting crowds from all around the city to sample its head-turning doughy delights.
In true Pacific Northwest fashion, Guru Donuts focuses on sustainability. Most of the ingredients for their freshly-baked artisan donuts are sourced from local farmers and producers, from the eggs to the flour.
Boise Farmers Market
Want to add a little local flair to your trip? Skip over to the Boise Farmers Market. Held on every Saturday at Shoreline Drive and South 14th Street, the local market features the finest seasonal produce and artisan products from local vendors.
At Boise Farmers Market, you’ll find a barrage of goods, from local vegetables & fruit to bread, honey, and jams. Got an appetite that can’t be tamed? The market also offers a selection of ready-to-eat foods and freshly-roasted coffee to go.
Westside Drive In
Searching for a little nostalgia while in Boise? Roll up to the famous Westside Drive In. Operating since 1957, this vintage American restaurant hearkens back to simpler times, delivering a classic 1950s-era drive-in experience. Whether it brings back old memories or creates new ones, this eatery is one of the city’s must-see places!
The Westside Drive In dives in with a classic American menu featuring everything from burgers and fries to prime rib. The diner is most famous, however, for its ice cream potato.
Bring your sweet tooth and indulge in this delicious dessert. Styled to look like a real baked Idaho potato, this ice cream treat is slathered with chocolate syrup, whipped cream, peanuts, and loads of cookie crumble. Yum!
Recommended places to stay in Boise for sightseeing
For most travelers, the best places to stay in Boise fall in & around the downtown core. Downtown Boise is home to many of the city’s top points of interest, with a variety of great accommodation options, from hotels to vacation rentals.
For a homelike stay in Boise, lay down your head at this downtown all-suite hotel. With connecting rooms available, it’s the perfect the choice for a Idaho family vacation. Amenities include fitness center, pool, and patio.
With its own on-site rink, The Grove Hotel is the perfect Boise winter getaway. After a day of sightseeing, lace up your skates and shoot around the puck with family and friends. The stylish hotel also includes an indoor pool, hot tub, sauna, and fitness.
Get the true American road trip experience at this funky vintage-styled hotel. With its rich wood finishes and mid-century modern accents, these rooms are both charming and sophisticated. Spend the evening sipping cocktails in the trendy on-site restaurant & bar or breathe in crisp PNW air around a fire in the courtyard.