Boise with Teens: A Perfect Family Day
Boise, Idaho is an outdoor lover's dream. With the Boise River running through the heart of the city, and mountains to the north and east, the capital city of Idaho offers fun for the entire family. Follow this itinerary, and you'll have no problem satisfying the crowd on a family vacation in Boise with teens.
Start the day bright and early with breakfast at Goldy's Breakfast Bistro (108 South Capitol Boulevard, 208-345-4100), located just three blocks south of the domed State Capitol building. After eating (if it's open to the public), stop in and take a peek at the newly remodeled capitol building. You can even watch the legislature when it's in session.
Goldy's Hours: Mon-Fri 6:30AM-2PM and Sat-Sun 7:30AM-2PM
Just west of the State Capitol, you'll find 8th Street. Head north on 8th Street to go up into the foothills for remarkable views of the city and the wilderness surrounding Boise. Teens will love hiking through the foothills on the well-marked trail system called "Ridge to the Rivers" (208-493-2531). Maps and guidebooks that discuss the area's ecology are readily available. An entire day can easily be spent hiking the foothills, but we'll hop in the car and head back towards downtown.
Boise State University (1910 University Drive, 208-426-1000), where you can see its famous, love-it-or-hate-it, blue-turf football field. It looks even stranger in person than it does on TV. You'll understand why visiting teams feel disoriented, but ducks and geese do not, in fact, think it's a lake and try to dive into it.
Continue your Boise family vacation at Julia Davis Park (700 South Capitol Boulevard, 208-384-4240), where you'll find the Boise Zoo (355 Julia Davis Drive, 208-384-4260), Idaho State Historical Museum (610 North Julia Davis Drive, 208-334-2120) and Boise Art Museum (670 Julia Davis Drive, 208-345-8330). Find a place to park your car and visit the sites in the park. Along the south side of the park, you'll see the Boise River. A greenbelt, popular with walkers and bicyclists, runs beside the river. Head west on the greenbelt and walk through three city parks, called the Ribbon of Jewels, all named for prominent women in Boise history. After Julia Davis Park, you'll come to Ann Morrison Park (1000 Americana Boulevard, 208-384-4228), which offers play and rest areas. Finally, you'll see Kathryn Albertson Park (1001 Americana Boulevard, 208 384-4228), which is best known for its bird sanctuary and nesting habitats. It's an easy and pleasant walk, and it is quite popular among college students and teens in Boise.
Julia Davis Park Hours: Daily dawn to dusk
Boise Zoo Hours: Daily 10AM-5PM, Admission: Adults 12-61, $6.50
Idaho State Historical Museum Hours: Seasonal, Admission: Adults 12-64, $5.00
Boise Art Museum Hours: Tue-Sat 10AM-5PM, Sun noon-5PM, Admission: $5.00
Ann Morrison Park Hours: Daily dawn to dusk
Kathryn Albertson Park Hours: Daily dawn to dusk
After a morning of family adventure in Boise with your teens, you're probably ready for lunch. North of Julia Davis Park, you'll find the downtown area including BoDo (Boise Downtown), Old Boise and the traditional downtown area which centers on 8th and Idaho. Throughout these areas, you'll find lots of great restaurant options. An inexpensive Boise tradition is Moon's Kitchen Café (712 West Idaho Street, 208-385-0472). Enjoy some excellent burgers and sandwiches, but save room for what Boiseans humbly call "the best milkshakes in the world."
Moon's Kitchen Café Hours: Sun 7AM-3PM, Mon-Thu 6:30AM-3PM, Fri-Sat 6:30AM-8PM
After eating, be sure to stroll along the streets and visit some of the shops in the area. Note the many unique old buildings, saved from developers' wrecking balls by a citizen revolt against the boring, modern buildings of the 1970s. Serious shoppers might want to zip out to the Boise Towne Square Mall (350 North Milwaukee, 208-378-4400) with hundreds of shops, including Dillard's, Macy's, Borders and other well-known stores. Take Front Street, which merges onto a highway overpass. The Cole Street exit leads directly to the mall, a popular hang-out for teens.
Boise Towne Square Mall Hours: Mon-Sat 10AM-9PM, Sun 11AM-7PM
After shopping, you'll be ready for some relaxation. If your Boise family vacation is during the winter, you could drive up to Bogus Basin for tubing or skiing. Stay for dinner and a sleigh ride with Bogus Creek Outfitters (7355 South Eagle Road, Meridian, ID, 208-887-7880). You'll want to make reservations for the sleigh ride. In spring and autumn, you might want to visit Idaho's Old Penitentiary (2445 Old Penitentiary Road, 208-334-2844). But if you're visiting in summer, don't miss the opportunity to float the Boise River.
Bogus Creek Outfitters Hours: Seasonal
Old Penitentiary Hours: Seasonal, Admission: Adults 12-64, $5
Head over to Epley's Boise River Raft & Tube Rentals (4049 Eckert Road, 208-577-4584) and rent an inner tube, raft or even a kayak for a leisurely float down the Boise River. This is not white-water rafting; rather, it is a slow, leisurely, enjoyable ride along the river. To add to the family atmosphere of these trips, no alcohol is allowed on the river. Leave the river at the Ann Morrison Park Floater Take-Out spot. There, you'll be able to catch a shuttle back to your car. Depending on how fast the river is flowing, and how much you paddle, you'll spend two to three hours on the trip.
Epley's Hours: Seasonal
Be sure to look for herons and other water birds on the river. It's an amazingly beautiful trip, and it will certainly be a highlight of your family travel in Boise.
From late May through September, the Idaho Shakespeare Festival (5657 Warm Springs Avenue, 208-336-9221) not only features performances of Shakespeare plays but also lively musicals and rollicking comedies in an outdoor amphitheater. Most patrons picnic on the grounds before (and sometimes during) the performances. You can buy a picnic meal at the theater or bring your own fast food and drinks. If you go, be sure to get there in time for the Green Show, a Boise favorite, which is filled with local humor. Play times and ticket prices vary, so check the website and plan in advance.
If nothing of particular interest is playing, go to the Basque Block. Boise is home to more Basque (who call themselves "Basquos") than any other place in the country. The Basque people are from an area between Spain and France, near the Bay of Biscay. They call their language "Euskara" and their homeland "Euskal Herria." Once every five years, an enormous Basque festival called Jaialdi (pronounced "hai-al-dee") is held in Boise in July. The festival features dancing, music, food, artifacts and even attracts dignitaries from the Basque homeland. The Basque Block is located on Grove Street between Capitol Boulevard and 6th Street. This area features numerous traditional Basque buildings and restaurants, as well as the oldest brick building in Boise. Teens will love finding Basque songs and music stamped into the concrete sidewalks, and there is also a small museum which will relate the history of the Basque people in America.
A Basque dinner at the Leku Ona (117 South 6th Street, 208-345-6665) restaurant is the perfect way to finish your family adventure in Boise. Dinner typically features lamb and fish, but beef and chicken are also available. Eat indoors or out on the sidewalk patio.
This is a quick overview of things to do in Boise with teens. It's a hidden jewel of a city - safe, casual and friendly, and it's sure to provide a great time for the family.
Can't Get Enough? Discover More of Boise
- Overview:Boise Travel Guide