We love where we live — but when’s the last time you spent some time indulging in all the treasures we love about the Treasure Valley? Maybe it’s time for a staycation.
Downtown Boise bustles with a strong local culinary scene, boutique shopping, hip music venues and an ever-growing arts culture. And the entire Treasure Valley is popping with variety and energy. No wonder we land on so many of those “best of” lifestyle lists.
Here are some ideas for making the most of your summer — close to home.
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Make plans to take in the “biggies” this summer. The Idaho Shakespeare Festival, for instance, stages five plays during the summer at its outdoor amphitheater nestled between the Boise River and the scenic Foothills. Boise’s monthly First Thursday art walk takes over the Downtown area and gives artists, musicians and more a chance to highlight their work. Alive After Five brings local and national musical acts — and a festive atmosphere — to Downtown Boise each Wednesday evening during the summer. This year, you’ll find the action on the Basque Block.
For the outdoor adventurer, mountain biking and hiking in the Boise Foothills are easily accessible — and should be a must-experience on your summer bucket list. And you can float the Boise River or drive to soak in hot springs that are less than an hour or two out of town.
Indulge in a restaurant you may not have tried
The Treasure Valley food scene, for instance, boasts several James Beard-nominated chefs, and many restaurants pride themselves on focusing on local farm-to-fork food.
▪ Boise fine-dining restaurant State & Lemp, 2870 W. State St., serves an inventive, elegant, locally focused menu created by chef and 2016 James Beard semifinalist Kris Komori.
▪ Satisfy your sweet tooth at Janjou Pâtisserie, 1754 W. State St., a bake shop owned by 2016 James Beard semifinalist and baker Moshit Mizrachi-Gabbitas. You’ll find a range of rich French-inspired puff pastry, chocolate éclairs and flaky tarts.
▪ Brick 29 Bistro, 320 11th Ave. S. in Nampa, is helmed by the innovative Dustan Bristol, who has received multiple James Beard nominations.
▪ Check out the popular Goldy’s Breakfast Bistro, 108 S. Capitol Blvd., on a late weekday morning (rather than on the weekend, when there are typically, yes, lines to get in). Order Goldy’s acclaimed eggs Benedict and a cup of signature coffee.
▪ Fork, 199 N. 8th St., is great every day of the week. But on Tuesdays? They have a cast-iron buttermilk fried chicken and cheddar waffle special. The chicken is crunchy with a buttermilk batter, slathered in balsamic vinegar-infused maple syrup and orange-honey butter, and plopped on a cheddar-cheese waffle. That may sound like too many flavors, but it works.
▪ If you want a comprehensive beer and cocktail list to accompany local, upscale pub food, head to Bittercreek Alehouse, 246 N. 8th St. The duck poutine is a decadent must-try appetizer, and Bittercreek serves one of the juiciest burgers in town. Try the Red Feather Lounge next door for cocktails and high-quality comfort food.
▪ Speaking of beer, Boise is home to a growing craft beer scene, including Payette Brewing Co., Boise Brewing, Woodland Empire Ale Craft and Sockeye Brewing.
▪ For a casual pizza and sushi lunch (Yes, they go together!), visit LuLu’s, 2594 N. Bogus Basin Road. Salads are fresh and flavorful; pizzas are wacky but grounded in good flavor. And they have a solid sushi selection (technically as part of a separate restaurant, Superb Sushi, but within the same location).
▪ You will want to explore Idaho’s growing wine country this summer. Head out to the Snake River Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area) for a tour of the Sunnyslope Wine Trail in and around Caldwell. Information: sunnyslopewinetrail.com or idahowines.org. Closer to Boise, Garden City is home to Idaho’s urban wine scene. Check out Cinder Wines, 107 E. 44th St., and Telaya Wine Co. and Coiled Wines, 240 E. 32nd St. (the Telaya/Coiled tasting room is right on the Boise River), and others.
Check out the nightlife
▪ If you want to do a pub crawl, start on the Basque Block at Bar Gernika, 202 S. Capitol Blvd. It’s where Boise celebrates its Basque roots with one of the most delectable snacks in town: croquetas.
▪ Pengilly’s Saloon, 513 W. Main St., usually has a show of some sort, from banjo-picking riffers to burlesque performers.
▪ If you’re longing for that craft cocktail, put on your feather boa and try the Press & Pony, 622 W. Idaho St.
▪ The super fun Spacebar Arcade, 200 N. Capitol Blvd., has retro
arcade games, beer and wine.
▪ We don’t have to tell you about the wonders of our Boise Greenbelt, which winds about 25 miles along the Boise River and takes its turns through the city’s beautiful parks. But we want to remind you that in the summer, it’s kept relatively cool with shade from the trees and its proximity to the river. It’s the perfect way to get away from it all. You could even rent one of the Boise Green Bikes at several locations in the Downtown area.
▪ Hike to the top of Table Rock, which boasts one of the best views in the city. You can choose from several trails, with varying degrees of difficulty. And now — thanks to a 2015 cooperative project with local graffiti artists, the Rotary Club of Boise East and the Idaho Historical Society — Table Rock also features three large murals. Trails start from the Old Idaho Penitentiary parking lot, 2445 Old Penitentiary Road.
▪ When summer rolls around, one of the chillest ways you can recreate is by floating the Boise River. Rent tubes and rafts from Ada County Parks and Waterways, and put in at Barber Park. Then just mosey down for about 6 miles before taking out at Ann Morrison Park. Shuttle service is available.
▪ Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area, about 16 miles north of Boise, offers day and night skiing in the winter; in the summer, it’s a great place to hike and bike — and even play disc golf.
▪ The Idaho Botanical Garden, 2355 Old Penitentiary Road, is open year-round, but one of the better times to visit is in late spring and early summer. ($7 for adults and $5 for kids older than 4 and seniors. Kiddos under 4 get in free.) It also hosts some of the snazziest concerts and other events.
Don’t forget some shopping
In Boise, we have dueling Saturday markets within a few blocks of each other. The Boise Farmers Market is located at Grove Street and 10th Street (9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays). The Capital City Public Market, along 8th Street, is open from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturdays. There are several other summer farmers markets in the area. You’ll find a link to many of them in this story at IdahoStatesman.com.
Boise Towne Square in West Boise, of course, has everything you’d expect from a city mall — Dillard’s, Macy’s, H&M and Kohl’s, and smaller stores and restaurants.
The new Village at Meridian is a shopping wonderland. Developers were clearly going for the Southern California outdoor-shopping vibe, and it works. There are fountains, food, and plenty of shops and fun to be had at this popular spot.
The Boise area also has many consignment shops with high-quality merchandise so you can get your “thrift” on. Check out Lux Fashion Lounge in Downtown Boise, Again Consignment in Eagle, the Assistance League Thrift Shop near the fairgrounds in Garden City and many more.
Independent bookstore Rediscovered Books, 180 N. 8th St. in Boise, expanded in 2015 so you have more space to linger and lounge. The shop also hosts readings by local and nationally recognized authors, and other events. You can also get lost in stacks of old books at Trip Taylor, 210 N. 10th St. in Boise.
The Record Exchange, 1105 W. Idaho St., is a Boise institution. On top of its expansive music collection, novelty gifts, jewelry, graphic novels and kitchenware (yes, kitchenware), the store hosts concerts and events.
See the sights
OK, so maybe going to a prison is a hard sell, but the Old Idaho Penitentiary, 2445 Old Penitentiary Road, is definitely interesting and a little spooky. Admission to the prison is $6 for adults, $4 for seniors, $3 for children 6 to 12 years old, free for kids 5 and younger.
▪ The Boise Art Museum brings in new exhibits regularly and will be hosting a collection of folk art through July 24. Admission for nonmembers is $6 for adult; $3 for school-age children; $4 for seniors, military personnel and full-time students; and free for children 6 and younger. There are several galleries across town. Two you definitely want to check out are Gallery Five18, 518 S. Americana Blvd. — which features fine art and photography — and Ming Studios, 420 S. 6th St., which focuses on installations, shows and performances by local and international artists.
▪ If you want to explore the cultural history of Idaho, swing by the Basque Museum & Cultural Center, 611 W. Grove St. in Boise. People from the Basque country, located in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain, emigrated to Boise decades ago for new opportunities. They herded sheep, built boarding houses and became an important part of Treasure Valley history. Explore the museum on your own or request a tour. Admission for nonmembers is $6 for adults, $4 for seniors and students, $3 for children 6 to 12 years old and free for children 5 and younger.
▪ Go to the Capitol, 700 W. Jefferson St. in Boise. Do a self-guided tour, or schedule a guided tour (reserve at least two weeks in advance) by calling 332-1012. The tours are between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.
▪ The historic Boise Depot overlooking Downtown (2603 W. Eastover Terrace) is open to the public on Sundays and Mondays.
▪ Other notables: For the young science enthusiast in the family (or even the older science nerds), The Discovery Center of Idaho, 131 W. Myrtle St., is a must. It’s more than science: It’s interactive and way too fun to be so educational. Zoo Boise, 355 Julia Davis Drive, is a cool organization that donates funds to conservation efforts. Check out Boise’s giraffes, red pandas, lions and all the monkeys. The World Center for Birds of Prey, 5668 W. Flying Hawk Lane, also is a must for families. If you have kids, they will go nuts checking out the raptors that biologists are helping to conserve. There’s an indoor/outdoor interpretive center as well as educational tours. Find admission charges for these attractions at their websites.
▪ When fall rolls around, take in a Boise State football game to see all the action on the famous blue turf if you haven’t made a visit. (Ticket information: broncosports.com.) Or you can view the home of BSU football and take a photo of the blue field by visiting the Allen Noble Hall of Fame and its patio on the campus. It’s open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. most Mondays through Fridays. Learn more at varsityb.boisestate.edu/ see-blue.
Take a day trip
If you’re looking for a quick trip out of town, take Idaho 21 up into the hills. The drive alone, with its view of Lucky Peak Reservoir, will knock away any stress. Once you cruise into Boise County, the landscape will subtly change from a high plains desert — with sweeping barren hills, almost always brown — to a bio-diverse canyon, bedecked with greenery and wildlife.
There are many places to stop along the way. Discovery Park at Lucky Peak State Park is a nice plot tucked right next to the river. It’s a lovely spot for a picnic and only about a 10-minute drive from the city. Just a little farther down is Sandy Point Beach. In the middle of the summer, it’s packed with people; kids will love the big fountain.
Then check out a town that still, somehow, is Old West. Just keep trucking down Idaho 21 toward Idaho City.
The community suffered a major blow in the summer of 2015, when an entire city block of tourism-related businesses burned down. But some have rebuilt or reopened, and new businesses are coming to town.
Try some old-fashioned ice cream at Sarsaparilla Ice Cream Parlor, 101 Montgomery St. Then check out the Boise Basin Museum, 503 Montgomery St., to learn about the mining boom that brought ambitious prospectors to the territory. Situated next to the museum are several old buildings you can tour. Have a budget-friendly lunch at Donna’s Place or Trudy’s Kitchen. (Oh, and have some pie!)
If you want more history, take a hike up to the Idaho City Pioneer Cemetery. It’s an understandably somber place, but beautiful — tucked up on a hillside in dense pine forest.
Wind down in the warm water at The Springs at Idaho City, just off Idaho 21 ($16 a day for adults and $10 a day for children). The resort offers many perks along with its day pass: tea, mineral water, shampoo and full access to their pools, steam room, lounge and splash deck.
Other ideas for day trips and both about two to three hours from Boise: Head north to McCall with its gorgeous views of Payette Lake and the surrounding mountains. The upscale Sun Valley and Ketchum area features top-notch dining, shopping and more in one of the most scenic parts of Idaho.
Some ideas for planning
Late May- September: Idaho Shakespeare Festival: Outdoor theater in a beautiful venue. idaho shakespeare.org.
June-August: Alive After Five: Free summer concert series at 5 p.m. every Wednesday on the Basque Block: downtown boise.org.
June 25: Boise Music Festival. Go to boisemusic festival.com for tickets/information.
July 4: Boise’s Fourth of July Celebration. cityofboise.org.
July 16: Boise Twilight Criterium. Bike races attract thousands of fans to watch intense competitions. boisetwilight criterium.com.
Aug. 11-13: Braun Brothers Reunion. If you like esoteric music festivals that still make you feel at home with country and bluegrass sounds, check out this event in Challis. braunbrothersreunion.com
Sept. 24: FitOne 5k, 10k and half- marathon. Race draws thousands to Downtown Boise. Fitoneboise.org for pricing.