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Idaho’s capital city offers lots of small-town charms with big city amenities. Boise’s revitalized downtown is great for shopping, dining and people watching as well as cultural attractions, with a number of museums, performing art centers and theaters. The city is also the starting point for practically an endless array of outdoor adventures too. No matter what you’re looking for, these fun things to do in Boise are sure to make for a good time.
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The grand State Capitol sits at the center of Boise and is one of the state’s most famous structures. The more than century-old building is known as “A Capitol of Light” and offers guided tours to the public by reservation at least two weeks in advance. You can even ring the bell which sits at the foot of the Capitol steps. Or, simply enjoy a stroll through the grounds and gardens.
The Idaho Penitentiary opened in 1872, and once housed some of the West’s most infamous and violent criminals. Today, it serves as a museum that provides an interesting glimpse into the past, with tours that reveal its inner workings, including visits to old prison cells and solitary confinement, as well as the stories of how the prisoners ended up there, and some haunted tales too. This historic site also happens to rank among the state’s most haunted, with a number of executions and violent events taking place here. Some of the inmates are said to have never really left after their deaths. Strange events, including being touched by invisible entities, sudden overwhelming feelings of despair, and disembodied whispers in the hallways have all been reported.
The Aquarium of Boise is a hands-on aquarium that provides lots of fun for an afternoon or more. It hosts multiple interactive touch tanks, where you can actually feel and even hold some marine animals like rays, crabs, sharks, and starfish. In the Shark and Ray pool, you can even feed the sharks and rays, while the Amazing Angels exhibit is a tropical reef exhibit that allows for feeding and touching of fish that come from around the Tropical Pacific seas. Other highlights include the shark nursery, a bird aviary, coral reef habitat and a giant octopus tank.
Albertsons Stadium hosts Boise State’s University’s Bronco football team, and is famous for its iconic blue turf. Not only is it a great place to catch a game, it’s great for tailgating. As there are practically an endless number of bars and eateries within a one-mile radius, you can enjoy game day specials before or after too. Even when it’s not football season, visitors can take a tour, the Hall of Fame walk, and pick up souvenirs like Bronco gear in the gift shop.
Boise Art Museum is a must for art lovers, with its extensive collection of modern works, along with static and rotating exhibits. Open for nearly 90 years now, it spans over 34,000 square feet and includes the main museum area, an education center, outdoor sculpture garden, and a gift/souvenir shop. It also offers a variety of programs and hosts numerous special events throughout the year.
The Discovery Center of Idaho is an interactive science center that aims to inspire people to take an interest in science, technology, math and engineering. While it offers lots of ways to play, it’s not just for kids, it’s fun for children and adults, while helping kids become curious about the physical and biological sciences. It features some 200 exhibits, like the Bubble Wall, the Centripetal Wheel, and the Turbulent Orb. In addition the permanent collection, there are rotating exhibitions, programs like Young Discoverers for preschoolers and the Adult Nights which include live music, local food and drink.
The Capital City Public Market is huge, though it started out with just a few vendors when it opened nearly a quarter of a century ago. Today, it hosts over 150 vendors and occupies four city blocks in downtown Boise, where you’ll find a wide range of fresh, local produce, baked goods, fish and meat, handcrafted items and more. It also hosts special events, including live music, children’s programs and Bike to Market for Bike Month.
The Egyptian Theater opened in downtown Boise back in 1927. While it’s gone through a number of transformations over the decades since, it still retains its main feature, inspired by King Tut’s tomb, with lots of Egyptian aesthetics and historical touches. When you step inside, you’ll feel as if you’ve traveled back to Old Hollywood, with its art deco design and plush red carpets. While it’s worth visiting just to view the building and its interior, you can catch one of the frequent classic films that are shown, or watch the Idaho Opera.
Boise is surrounded by a wealth of opportunities to get out and enjoy a hike, including Hulls Gulch Reserve, which hosts about 150 miles of trails at the base of the foothills just north of downtown. The reserve is home to all sorts of wildlife too, and visitors can look forward to viewing animals like red fox, coyote and mule deer as well as lizards and snakes, and birds, including the great horned owl. At the Jim Hall Foothills Learning Center, visitors can learn about the reserve’s environment and preservation.