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Idaho is more than farms and potatoes. In fact, Idaho is full of amazing things to do and Boise, Idaho, the state capital, is no exception. Whether you are visiting for a weekend or a week, during the summer or the winter, there are plenty of things to do in Boise with kids. Some of our favorites will make you want to start planning your next trip immediately. Here’s five amazing things to do in Boise, Idaho.
5 Amazing Things To Do in Boise, Idaho
I love my home state. When most people think of Idaho, they probably think of potatoes. Rightly so, because we do grow some pretty delicious spuds. But there is so much more to Idaho than potatoes. Did you know that Northern Idaho has a theme park? Yep, Silverwood. Eastern Idaho is home to a wildlife park called Bear World. Then there is Boise, Idaho. Boise is the state capital, and my home town. Growing up, I honestly did not think there was a ton to do here. I don’t know what was wrong with me. I must have lived under a rock or something.
Now that I am older and have kids of my own, I realize there are so many adventures and interesting places that I just never took the time to explore. I mean, within the city limits or a short drive away, you can enjoy art, nature, adventure, and so much more. There is even something for every season.
So what can you do in Boise with kids? A lot. I could probably share over 100 things to do here, but you would never have time for that, so I will just share five of my favorite things to do.
From outdoor adventures to urban fun, there’s something for everyone. Don’t believe me? Just check out all of these things to do in Boise, Idaho.
1. Skiing or camping are a short drive away.
One thing I love about Boise, Idaho is the fact that within a 30 minute drive, I can get to the mountains and enjoy skiing or snowboarding in the winter. Well, in my case, I sled down the mountain while everyone else skis or snowboards. In the summer everyone loves to head to the reservoir just outside the city limits and go water skiing or camping.
Camping is always a favorite of my family. There are plenty of campgrounds within a short drive of the city. In the winter, camping in the snow is a huge thing. My husband went one year as a Boy Scout leader and has been begging to go back.
There is something great about not having to drive for hours to get to your outdoor recreation. It means we get to have more adventures and spend less time in the car.
2. Explore nature in the city.
Last year my family took up hiking in preparation for our trip to the Redwoods. Because we had a busy schedule, we had to find places in the city to do some of our hikes. We actually found some really cool places.
For starters, Kathryn Albertson Park is a great, flat loop trail in the city limits. When walking here, my family often sees some wildlife, mostly geese and a few deer. The park is nice and serene.
The Boise Green Belt is a 25-mile-long path that follows the Boise River and connects multiple city parks. This path is great for a stroll, bike ride, or even a long run. I love that I can take my two-year-old twins here and let them walk and run on the green belt.
Nature Center and Bat Reserve
Near the Boise Green Belt at the edge of downtown Boise is the MK Nature Center. My family loves to walk around here and learn about the ecosystems for fish in Idaho, as well as other wild life. The MK Nature Center is free and also right next to the Kristin Armstrong Municipal Park. After we explore the nature center, we head to the park to let the kids play on the equipment.
By far, our favorite, and I feel the most unique, place we found to get some hiking in is the Hyatt Hidden Lakes Bat Reserve. Yes, you read that correctly. A bat reserve. This is seriously such a cool thing to do in Boise, Idaho and my family now goes there at least once a month. I have yet to see a bat so don’t let that freak you out.
The bat reserve is an urban wetland that is right in the middle of the city. It has a mile loop trail, with a few side trails you can take as well. Several water areas are home to huge fish, a muskrat, and several other wetland creatures.
Walking through the bat reserve, my family tends to forget that we are in the middle of the city. The bat reserve does lack shade and has a lot of loose gravel, so head out early if visiting in the summer and wear tennis shoes.
3. Get nose to beak with Birds of Prey.
One unique place in Boise is the World Center for Birds Of Prey. The Center for Birds of Prey is located just south of the Boise city limits. The center is an organization dedicated to conserving birds of prey, specifically those that are on the endangered species list.
Visiting the World Center for Birds of Prey, my family gets nose to beak with several different species, from falcons to eagles to condors and owls. The educational center helps teach children and adults alike about conservation efforts, the birds of prey, and why conservation of these birds is important. My seven-year-old’s favorite activity is to check his wingspan against the different birds found there.
We like to visit the Birds of Prey in the afternoons in order to catch some of the birds taking their daily flight. It is so much fun to learn about the different species and watch as they spread their wings and take to the skies. Check their website often as they will have special events and even free or discounted days throughout the year.
4. Float down a river through the middle of the city!
Every summer locals and tourists alike enjoy floating down the Boise River, which goes through downtown Boise. The leisurely float takes a couple of hours and is a great activity for families.
While it is an easy float, the water can be swift and deep in some areas, so life jackets are suggested. You can rent rafts, tubes, and life jackets at the launch point in Barber Park at Epley’s Boise River Rentals. Even though you can rent them, I bought life jackets for my children as the smaller sizes are usually quite popular.
The rental company also has a shuttle from the end point in Anne Morrison Park in downtown Boise that will return you to the launch point to retrieve your vehicle for an extra charge of $3/head – so just send one person back to get the car.
My family loves to pack a small cooler with waters and snacks, or even lunch, and float down the river. We usually try to be on the river by 10:30 a.m. so that we can get home in time for dinner.
In 2016-2017 Boise had a record-breaking winter snowfall, which led to high water levels in the river this spring and summer. The 2017 float season didn’t open until the last weekend in July. Normally, the float season begins by Fourth of July. If the river is open to floating, this is a great family activity. Just be sure to have sunscreen and plenty of water to stay hydrated.
5. Explore history, art, science and other cultures as a family.
If you love a little culture or education in your travel, there are plenty of things to do in Boise, Idaho that will fulfill this requirement.
The Discovery Center of Idaho is a science based children’s museum that kids and adults alike will love. We have found it is best for school age kids, as toddlers and preschoolers may find many of the stations and activities a little advanced. My seven-year-old loves heading here for a mommy or daddy date. This is easily a most-of-the-day activity.
Boise, Idaho is also home to a Historical Museum (currently closed for expansion and renovation), the Boise Art Museum, and a Black History Museum. All three are conveniently located in Julia Davis Park. There is also plenty of history between old downtown Boise, surrounding towns like Idaho City – a “ghost town” from the Idaho mining boom, and my personal favorite the Old State Penitentiary.
The Old Pen’ (as it is called by locals) has areas open to the public for free, but the main building requires paid entrance. The Old Pen was used until the 1970s and has 100 years of history. Walking through the buildings and exploring the different areas on a self-guided tour is a great afternoon activity. Displays are set up throughout the grounds to educate and bring to life the stories of the former residence. It is even kind of spooky in some areas. Around Halloween, there are even ghost tours. I have yet to do one, but it is on my bucket list.
If you love to learn about other cultures, I strongly suggest checking out the Basque Center in downtown Boise. Basques are an ethnic group from the Bay of Biscay region in Europe. The Basque are ancestors of the Vascones and Aquitanians and have a rich culture.
Boise, Idaho has one of the largest Basque communities in the country. In fact, each year, there is the Boise Basque Festival where you can be immersed in the Basque culture- from dancing to food and everything in between. It is a great event where families can celebrate this culture within our community. The food is delicious and my kids love the dancing.
Even if you are not here during the Boise Basque Festival, you can still visit the Basque Block, which includes a Basque Market. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in this beautiful culture.
What I love about Boise, Idaho is that no matter what your family’s travel style, there are things to do that will keep you exploring your entire stay. From outdoor adventures, to education, and everything in between Boise, Idaho has something for everyone.
If you are looking to visit Northern Idaho, check out this great post about Coeur d’Alene, Idaho by Active Traveling Mom, Kimberly Tate.