Ellie McKinnon found attractions all over Boise but chose a home near Greenbelt and Foothills

With the creation — still in progress — of Esther Simplot Park, Quinns Pond has become a community hub of summertime activity, from sunbathing to swimming to stand-up paddleboarding.
With the creation — still in progress — of Esther Simplot Park, Quinns Pond has become a community hub of summertime activity, from sunbathing to swimming to stand-up paddleboarding. Provided by Ellie McKinnon

Oh, what one can discover while pedaling through Boise.

Nearly a year ago, Candy Miller and I set off to explore neighborhoods within the city as I considered where to purchase a home. We found treasures in each of the areas we visited. We spoke with numerous residents who shared their feelings and thoughts about their respective parts of town and the city in general.

Of the neighborhoods we explored, it was in Boise’s Northwest region that I found a home. This bike-friendly part of town offers residents easy access to some of the city’s best hiking and biking, both in the Foothills and on the Greenbelt.

One day in early summer a friend and I shared a Foothills trail above Collister Road with a hiker and his train of pack goats. On other days I’ve biked or walked the Greenbelt along a meandering section of the Boise River, lingering now and then to drink in the serenity and to listen for the music of other languages.

While some stretches in this vicinity feature natural habitat, Mother Nature has been tamed in others. The green fairways of a duo of golf courses — one large, one small — and the expansive rolling lawn of Veterans Park complement the soft brown of the Foothills. Several garden centers dot this part of town, and the floral displays in many yards indicate that people frequent them. Quinns Pond and the soon-to-open Esther Simplot Park on Whitewater Park Boulevard add to the fun and the pleasure of living here. It is an eclectic part of town offering a complex variety of people, businesses and housing options.

My home is nestled in an enclave of craftsman-style townhouses in the Lake Harbor area. I am only a block from the Greenbelt and a bike ride from a Foothills trailhead. A small lake near my house is perfect for an evening float. There is a branch library near home and my place is not far from Downtown and Boise State University.

The house itself has the majority of the features I was hoping to find in a home. It is exceptionally well-built with an interior full of attractive craftsman detail. While smaller than my former home, it doesn’t crowd me. There is space for grandkids, for friends, for family. I can stretch out and entertain, and when the party is over and everyone has departed, the house surrounds me like a comfortable cape, keeping me safe and content.

A city wide open

When we began, I had no idea where this endeavor would eventually lead me to settle. Each area has its own assets.

Our travels began in West Boise, where I lived for many years. While this area has remained stable over time, it has also changed. Just a few blocks east of Delsa’s Ice Cream Parlor on Ustick — which dates back to 1961 — is a very active seven-year-old city library branch enticing readers to step inside. An artist’s co-op is thriving in the adjacent shopping center. Across Ustick, a conveniently located grocery market has claimed retail space. Reggie’s Veggies now dominates a corner near my former home. An old gravel pit has been re-purposed as a nature sanctuary — the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve. West Boise had and still has a great deal to offer.

In South Boise we sensed echoes of Oregon Trail days along the designated Oregon Trail Parkway and noticed particular homes in the Boise South Village subdivision that were once part of a thriving village separate from Boise — separate until 1892 when the original Broadway Bridge was completed. We explored Vista Avenue shopping centers and discovered a range of business selling everything from lasagna to diamonds, chocolates to pharmaceuticals.

Jumping across Vista, we admired the city’s iconic train depot, a quintessential landmark itself with its mission-style architecture. Passengers no longer wait for trains there, but it is still a busy place as it serves as a popular venue for wedding receptions and other special events.

Look straight down Capitol Boulevard from the station and you’ll see the Statehouse. Turn a bit to the right and Boise State University stretches out along the river. The Boise Bench’s Crescent Rim neighborhood spreads out behind and beside the old railroad station sporting a rich array of housing options, including luxury townhouses, stately homes, condos and apartments. Many overlook Boise’s Ann Morrison Park. Moving west, a bit of Boise history catches the eye. There, just beyond Morris Hill Cemetery stands the Jewish Synagogue moved to its current location from its original footings in Downtown Boise. A little farther to the southwest, the granite walls of the Boise LDS Temple rise from the ground.

Another day we explored the Southeast Boise area. Again the ghosts of travelers on the Oregon Trail accompanied us. We found actual ruts from wagon wheels and an Oregon Trail historical site with a replica of a Conestoga wagon beside Idaho 21 at the eastern edge of the area. The Idaho Shakespeare Festival Theater is not far from there. We enjoyed two major parks in this area — the new Marianne Williams Park, with its ponds, streams and bike baths, and Barber Park, where Boise River floats begin. We meandered through Bown Crossing and admired the contemporary architecture of homes in Harris Ranch and the maple trees that line the drive leading to Surprise Valley.

Visiting East Boise neighborhoods was pure delight. It seems all parts of this town have a measure of history and beauty, but this area is replete with both since this area includes the Idaho Botanical Garden, the Bishops’ House, the Idaho State Archives, the Old Idaho State Penitentiary, the MK Nature Center, Municipal Park and the Natatorium. There are streets here that feel like complete neighborhoods — streets like Elm and Bacon. Lots of happy people live in East Boise.

North Boise, where Candy lives, has a charm all its own. This area evoked a sentimental journey back to my Midwestern childhood home. Boise’s North End neighborhoods and the historical portions of my hometown look much the same. Many of the homes in this part of Boise have historical designations that carry strict regulations governing changes to their exteriors. Though those historical homes often sport updated and remodeled interiors, they seem firmly planted in a former era and at ease under the canopies of the mature trees that line the streets.

Hyde Park provides a simultaneously old and contemporary main-street feel. It vibrates with energy and life with its collection of coffee shops, restaurants and unique stores offering everything from vintage toys to highly engineered bicycles. At the end of the street, Camel’s Back Park draws summer picnickers, volleyball players, and cross-country runners. When the snow flies, kids use the park’s hill for sledding.

We took a couple of bike rides and also enjoyed a walk in the rain as we explored some of the city’s planned communities. We spent most of our time in Hidden Springs, seven miles north of town and in the Waterfront District, a Garden City delight located right on the river. Built to attract different segments of the population, both were highly attractive. They were also built in a manner that encourages a sense of community. Neighbors in both communities confirmed the success of that intent.

A neighborhood for everyone

Is there and ideal neighborhood in Boise? That depends on who you ask. It also depends on which amenities residents value. Nature at your doorstep? Proximity to Downtown? Convenient shopping? A sense of community? A slice of history? It can all be found in Boise.

And there is something else — something wonderful. Though expanding rapidly to the west and east and with construction cranes decorating the Downtown corridor, ours is still a very accessible city.

While I enjoy my new neighborhood, I’ve gained a profound regard for all of the areas we visited. The city itself has come to feel like “my neighborhood.” And this larger neighborhood is worth continued exploration as it evolves.

About this series

Longtime West Bench resident Ellie McKinnon, in looking for a new home somewhere in Boise, explored each of the city’s neighborhoods by bike — uncovering their best assets, talking to residents, soaking up the vibes — and wrote a periodic column that highlighted what she discovered. This is the final story in her series.

Housing data for Northwest Boise

July 2015

July 2016

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Source: Intermountain Multiple Listing Service Inc.