Boise, Idaho, is a city dedicated to sustaining the harmony between nature and culture. Nicknamed the “City of Trees,” Boise is the state’s largest and the capital city.
Tourists should head straight for the Greenbelt path, the ultimate way to experience Boise's best. The path, most of it paved, runs along 23 scenic miles of the Boise River. While it gives walkers and joggers a great place to stretch their legs, the Greenbelt is also the center of a larger system of 15 parks, the Warm Springs Golf Course and the Morrison Knudsen Nature Center. Greenbelt hikers and bikers can access the expansive Ridge to Rivers trail system, with more than 125 miles of paths among valleys and foothills.
The Greenbelt also passes a major cultural destination: Julia Davis Park. Here, Boise tourists can venture into the animal kingdom at Zoo Boise, home to 200 animals across 80 species. The zoo’s neighbor, the Boise Art Museum, has a permanent collection of more than 3,000 works. Also nearby, the Idaho State Historical Museum chronicles life in the region during the prehistoric era and early settlements, with fascinating details about local fur trading and the 1860 gold rush.
Across from the art museum, visit Boise’s tribute to human diversity at the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial before crossing over the 8th Street Bridge. Follow the street northeast to Grove Street into Boise’s downtown (“BoDo” to locals) and its epicenter, the Grove. This open-air public square hosts a summer concert series and the Capital City Public Market, a popular place to buy locally produced food from April to December.
For lunch or dinner, try Bardenay Restaurant and Distillery. Named for an old sailors’ term for “cocktail,” Bardenay is known as the nation’s first distillery-restaurant. With inspired entrees like the rum pepper steak, the delicious and extensive gluten-free menu and inventive drinks, the popular eatery sends off each seafarer completely satisfied.
Next door to Bardenay, a top Boise attraction is stationed at 611 Grove St. The Basque Museum and Cultural Center is where tourists can explore the city’s heritage as the largest Basque-ancestry community outside of northern Spain. For an inside look at Idaho’s legislative tradition, Boise tourists can return to 8th Street and continue to West Jefferson Street and the imposing Idaho Capitol Building.
East of downtown, the Old Idaho Penitentiary is another top Boise attraction. Built in 1870, the stunning Romanesque structure confined more than 13,000 convicts within its sandstone walls before closing in 1973. The building is open year round for tourists eager to explore the prison’s 30 historic buildings, solitary confinement house and dreaded gallows.
Just 15 minutes south of Boise, the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area provides jailbirds a vision of freedom. The park boasts one of the country’s greatest concentrations of birds of prey, with some 24 species of raptors nesting, swooping and perching along the outskirts of the City of Trees.