How to Make the Most of 48 Hours in Boise, ID
In my quest to visit and explore all 50 states, I decided to make Idaho state number 39, and visit its capital, Boise. About 223,000 people live in the city, and it is surrounded by the Boise mountain range. Due to the size and geographical layout of the city, it is very walkable, so it’s easy to fit in a lot in a short amount of time.
During the 48 hours I spent in this precious, underrated mountain town, I did urban hiking, urban exploration, tried local foods and discovered that Boise has some of the nicest people in the United States. This is the perfect place to visit for the creative, outdoor-loving, tree-hugging, nature and hiking enthusiast.
Boise is a very walkable city, weather permitting. I rented a car for any potential road trips, but I walked to 90% of my destinations from the charming North End, where I was staying.
Biking is another great option for alternate transportation, and there are numerous bike rental locations as well as a bike sharing program called Green Bike that's convenient and eco-friendly.
URBAN HIKING AND OUTDOOR MOVEMENT
Table Rock Hike
My first hike was the Table Rock trail #15 located near the Old Idaho Penitentiary. The hike is a 3.8 miles out and back trail that takes you to the top of Table Rock and offers epic views of the city and Treasure Valley. This is one of the more popular hikes but during my visit in November there was not a lot of foot traffic and it was perfectly peaceful, beautiful (and chilly). This is a great well-marked trail for sunset and sunrise views. I highly recommend this hike and found it easy to moderate in difficulty with a subtle but steady incline.
You can park and access the trail at the Idaho Penitentiary and Botanical Gardens, which allows you to hit a few Boise sights in one outing. Because I visited in late fall, the Gardens were not open, but hiking Table Rock, taking a tour of the Penitentiary for $6 and visiting the Botanical Gardens would make for a great day.
Camel's Back Park
Camel’s Back Park is an 11-acre park featuring tennis courts, outdoor gym equipment, and a playground. Behind the park are numerous trailheads offering shorter out and back hikes offering views of downtown and the capitol building. These hikes are more casual and a great way to have easy access to different views of the city.
Boise River Green Belt
The Boise River Green Belt is a 25-mile stretch of a paved path along the Boise River, and is a great place to take a walk, run or bike ride. The path leads you through the heart of the city and is lined by the river, bridges and tall trees.
I highly recommend visiting this long stretch of nature path that passes many sights of Boise including Boise State University, several parks, and the Boise zoo.
Freak Alley, Downtown Boise
Downtown Boise is very walkable and easy to maneuver. During my urban exploration, I came across some alleyways displaying creative outdoor street art known as Freak Alley.
The mission of the project is to provide a public forum for local street and mural art artists to display their art without the limitations of other venues. There is a variety of styles of artwork and is definitely worth taking a stroll through to see a different side of Boise.
Saturday Farmers' Market
If you find yourself in Boise on a Saturday, visiting the Boise Farmers' market is a great local activity to do. The market is outdoors through the end of October and moves to an indoor location during the winter at the corner of Fulton and 8th Street. The market offers a nice selection of seasonal vegetables and fruits as well as grass-fed meats, wine tasting, hand-made crafts, local baked goods, and coffee.
WHERE TO EAT
BREAKFAST & LUNCH
Wild Root Cafe and Market
Wild Root Cafe and Market is a great little spot for a quick coffee, breakfast or brunch and the cafe has a strong focus on farm-fresh and seasonal ingredients. They offer a nice selection of vegetarian and vegan options as well as an impressive list of bone broths to order on a cold winter's day. I thought this was a fairly progressive menu item!
Side note: They are closed on Sundays
Notable mention: Goldy’s (I heard this is a must for breakfast, but I ran out of time).
Fork is located downtown and is a great spot for lunch or dinner. There is an outdoor patio surrounded by tea-lights or you can opt to eat inside with exposed brick walls and tables and chairs made from recycled or reclaimed materials. The owners developed a "loyal to local" pledge to source the majority of their ingredients from local Boise farmers, brewers, bakers, etc.
I was so hungry I ended up eating dinner here at 3:00 PM. I had my heart set on the grilled salmon but my server informed me dinner entrees were not served until after 4:00 PM. He easily changed that by kindly requesting the chef to make an exception and they also accommodated my special request cocktail order. I was really happy with both the meal and service at Fork and was reminded once again that Boise truly does have the nicest people.
During my visit, I lost half a day due to cold and heavy rains. One of the restaurants at the top of my list was Juniper. Sadly, I did not have a chance to go, but I had to make mention of this restaurant. They work with local farmers and offer a beautiful selection of local, non-GMO organic ingredients including cage-free chicken and grass-fed beef selections.
They have a great menu selection for breakfast or dinner and an impressive cocktail and wine list offering a 2-for-1 happy hour on cocktails.
WHERE TO GRAB A COCKTAIL
Red Feather is a small but swanky lounge serving up some well-made handcrafted cocktails. The drink menu includes classics as well as their own creations, including the Peary Mason I ordered, which is made with pear vodka, spiced brown sugar, lemon and walnut bitters.
I think Boise and Idaho are underrated destinations that you do not hear much about, despite the epic mountainous beauty throughout the state. Besides the external beauty, it is a progressive and creative city. Out of all of my United States travel, I can easily say this is one of the friendliest places I have been to. Every local I came in contact with was warm, friendly and enjoyed engaging in conversation and offering tips and advice about the place they call home.