Summer is almost half over. It’s time to force my lazy, couch-addicted self to revive that annual list of the obvious pleasures we should make an effort to savor every year.
Way too often, I take Boise for granted. But I’m far from alone. So I’ll make you a deal: Anyone who doesn’t accomplish half of these summer bucket-list activities in the next eight weeks — stretching into early fall — immediately has to relocate to California. Or at least to an empty cornfield in Iowa, the phonetic nemesis of Idaho.
1. Float the Boise River. How can any self-respecting Boisean justify not utilizing our amazing river? My valid, too-convenient excuse the past eight summers was that my young sons weren’t swimming well enough. Still, what has prevented me from enjoying this relaxing, refreshing activity with my wife or friends?
Was it the alcohol ban? Well, there is that. Still, what keeps a thirsty floater from hopping off the raft for a quick beer stop at The Ram Restaurant & Brewery? (A buddy and I actually did this once, dripping on the pub’s floor. This memory seems particularly ridiculous considering that beer on the river was legal back then.)
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2. Spend a day at Bogus. After being talked into a challenging round of disc golf by relatives visiting Boise last summer, I was stunned by how much I enjoyed our day trip to Bogus Basin. The air grew cooler as we made the quick drive up Bogus Basin Road. The scenery overlooking Boise was gorgeous.
Bogus will host a Music on the Mountain festival Saturday, July 30. It’s the second of four all-day summer festivals. Sponsored by 10 Barrel Brewing Co., it will feature live music, chairlift rides, a bike shuttle and demos. I haven’t mountain biked Bogus in a zillion years. I’m pathetic. Bogus will run the chairlift Saturdays and Sundays through Labor Day weekend.
3. Do Alive After Five, Thursday Thunder or Rock the Village. These free, outdoor concerts are easy to dismiss because they happen every week (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, respectively). Last week, I finally ventured out to Rock the Village at The Village at Meridian. First time ever.
I was impressed by the jam-packed crowd. Impressed by the shade. By the surrounding food options. By the large stage. By the effective strategy of hiring top-notch, touring cover bands rather than original groups playing music for uninterested Idahoans. (Man, that drummer in Eagles tribute The Long Run really did sound like Don Henley.)
Basically, Rock the Village is a higher-end, Orange-County-vibed take on Alive After Five. I plan to do it again.
4. Party at a mountain-town music festival. There’s something so Idaho about attending the Braun Brothers Reunion Festival — coming up Aug. 11-13 in Challis. Or breathing that fresh Donnelly air at the way-too-fun Huckleberry Jam, happening Aug. 12 and 13 at Tamarack Resort. There are plenty of other festivals I’ve never done, such as the Sawtooth Valley Gathering Aug. 19 and 20 in Stanley. Make a Gem State mountain fest happen. You’ll thank me later.
5. Spend a few hours in Hyde Park. When I came to Boise at 22, I was supposed to be here temporarily — for a summer newspaper internship. Knowing nothing about this place, I called the first roommate ad I could find. A day later, I was living on 13th Street one block down from Hyde Park.
In other words, yes, I get nostalgic about Hyde Park. But if you live here and don’t grab a taste of this neighborhood oasis once per summer, you’re not taking full advantage of Boise life. Sip a glass of wine. Nibble a slice of pizza outside. Toss the crust to a friendly dog. Reminder: The Hyde Park Street Fair is Sept. 16-18 at Camel’s Back Park.
6. Hit a Boise Hawks game. Ice-cold beer. Heart-attack nachos. Everything is better at a baseball game. Especially ballpark dogs. It’s “Bark in the Park” — aka take your-mutt-to-the-game day — Saturday, July 30. How totally Boise is that? (P.S. Boise also needs a minor-league soccer team.)
7. Check out Shakespeare. Whenever my wife coaxes my Cro-Magnon brain into attending Idaho Shakespeare Festival, I’m shocked by how much I enjoy this cultural staple of Boise. It certainly helps that it involves a beautiful outdoor setting and gourmet grub.
8. Do that little Boise thing special to you. Want to know where I’ll be Friday, July 29? Enjoying family and friends outside O’Michael’s Pub & Grill, 2433 N. Bogus Basin Road, at its second annual outdoor parking lot party. Local blues and rock band the Hoochie Coochie Men will perform from 7 to 10 p.m.
It’s basically like a backyard party (with full bar service). But its whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I realized this last summer. Socializing at the foot of that steep Foothills bank behind the “North End’s oldest bar and restaurant,” it was like there was no other spot in the universe quite like it. I felt lucky to be there.
At that moment, I knew that I was making the most of my Boise summer.