The state capital and largest city in Idaho, Boise has plenty of great places to see and things to do. But what if you’re on a tight schedule and only have 48 hours to explore the City of Trees? Fortunately, with planning you’ll be able to enjoy many if not all of the best attractions in the city. Furthermore, you can also dine at some of the best restaurants.
To make your planning that much easier, here’s a practical guide to transportation, lodging, dining and attractions.
How To Get Around Boise
As a leading bike friendly city, one of the best ways to get around is on a bicycle. This includes bike rentals, bike tours, e-scooters and the popular bicycle-sharing system Boise Green Bike, with bike hubs scattered all over central Boise. Visitors can download the Boise Green Bike app to locate, reserve and purchase a Green Bike.
Three different e-scooter companies also operate in Boise and are dock free. In other words, these rental bikes do not share a docking station. In detail, these are Bird, Lime and Spin, with additional information available from each respective website.
Boise also has a public bus system, Valley Regional Transit (VRT), with fixed route service throughout Greater Boise and downtown. Routes that serve the downtown area include routes 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. In addition are routes 9, 10, 11, 17 and 29. Regular fare onboard a VRT bus is $1 and day passes are just $2. Students, older adults 65 and over and people living with a disability pay a single fare of 50 cents and $1 for a day pass. Children 5 and under ride free.
Taxi companies like Boise Taxi Company and ride share services like Uber and Lyft are also readily available. For travelers who prefer to get around with a car rental, eight car rental companies operate out of Boise Airport. For instance, there are Budget, Enterprise, Hertz and Thrifty.
Where To Stay
Boise offers a wide range of hotel accommodations as well as a number of leading vacation rental companies like Airbnb, Vacasa and Vrbo.
Hampton Inn & Suites Boise Downtown
Holiday Inn Express Boise University Area
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Boise Airport
Hotel 43 *
Hyatt Place Boise Downtown
Inn At 500 Capitol *
Oxford Suites Boise
Residence Inn Boise Downtown City Center
The Grove Hotel *
The Riverside Hotel
Asterisk * denotes a top choice
Bars & Nightlife
CenturyLink Arena *
Egyptian Theatre *
Humpin’ Hannah’s *
Press & Pony *
The Balcony Club *
Asterisk * denotes a top choice
Basque Market *
Goodwill Barbecue Company
Asterisk * denotes a top choice
Day 1 – Things to Do in Boise, Idaho
There’s nothing better to start the first day than dining at one of the many excellent spots for breakfast in downtown Boise. Among the suggested spots to visit are Flying M Coffee, Goldy’s Breakfast Bistro and Waffle Me Up. Afterwards, visitors can take a walk, bike or rideshare over to the Idaho State Museum.
Julia Davis Park
Located on the northwestern edge of Julia Davis Park, Idaho State Museum is the largest and most visited museum in the Gem State and holds more than 250,000 objects in its permanent collection. Open daily except on most holidays, the Idaho State Museum dates back to 1950 but recently underwent a multi-million dollar redesign.
Boise Art Musem
Depending upon the time, visitors can then opt for lunch or head over to the Boise Art Museum (BAM), just footsteps away from the Idaho State Museum. Opened as the Boise Gallery of Art in 1937, BAM is also in Julia Davis Park and is a non-profit, educational and charitable organization, as well as the only AAM (American Alliance of Museums) accredited museum in Idaho that collects fine art.
For lunch, the top recommendation is Madre Boutique Taqueria, near Boise State University. About a half-mile walk from BAM while crossing the Boise River, Madre is known for its outstanding service, affordability and delicious tacos. Led by James Beard-nominated chef John Cuevas and his wife Julie, Madre is open all day for lunch and dinner and has an all day menu with gourmet tacos like the Chicken Tinga and Pineapple Al Pastor, along with a fabulous pop-up Wine Dinner menu .
Boise State University
After lunch, visitors might want to head over to Boise State University, especially for a chance to see the famous blue football field at Albertsons Stadium and the admission-free Allen Noble Hall of Fame museum, which features trophies, historic photos and other artifacts from famous athletes and coaches who represented the Boise State Broncos in sports like football, baseball, gymnastics, track and field and tennis.
Boise Train Depot
If time permits before dinner, visitors can then bike or take a rideshare over to historic Boise Depot although it no longer has train service and is open only on Sundays and Mondays. Otherwise, it might be a good time to head back to the hotel or vacation rental to freshen up before dinner.
The first night’s recommendation for dinner is Juniper, a hip restaurant located on Eighth Street, which is likely the hottest dining hotspot in the city. Known for its superb New American cuisine with locally sourced ingredients and fine collection of beer, wine and spirits, Juniper also offers excellent dishes like Blackened Trout, Skirt Steak Tacos, Shrimp and Grits and Vegan Ramen, along with small plates and fresh organic salads.
Day 2 – Things to Do in Boise
Day two starts with a breakfast spot of choice and then a walk around downtown Boise. Next take a scenic bicycle tour with Shawn Welsh, owner of Boise Bicycle Tours. Shawn offers a Best of Boise Tour, in addition to a Greenbelt Tour, Beer Bike Tour and private tours.
The Best of Boise tour lasts about three hours and takes guests through Boise’s Greenbelt section, in addition to several local attractions, like the Julia Davis Rose Garden and Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, featuring a sapling from Anne Frank Tree in Amsterdam. Other suggestions are Firefighters/9-11 Memorial, Basque Museum & Cultural Center and Idaho State Capitol.
Boise Fry Company
After the bike tour, a good spot for lunch is back downtown at Boise Fry Company, located just minutes from the State Capitol. A local chain with three locations in Boise, Boise Fry Company sells exceptionally tasty burgers, salads and French fries, with a choice of six potato types and five types of cuts like regular, homestyle and curly. If burgers and fries aren’t enough, one of the top breakfast recommendations, Waffle Me Up shares the same spaces as Boise Fry Company.
For an afternoon excursion, the top choice is the Old Idaho State Penitentiary and/or the Idaho Botanical Garden. Located about 2.5 miles from the State Capitol, the Old Idaho State Penitentiary is one of the top attractions in Boise and operated as a prison for 200 years from 1872 to 1973. For a small fee, visitors can explore historic cell blocks, the gallows, laundry facilities and the women’s ward.
For the last evening, the recommendation for dining is a toss up for the family-styled seating at Basque Market or superb fine dining at Chandlers Steakhouse, located at the four star Hotel 43.
Located in the historic Basque Block of Boise, Basque Market is well known for its sumptuous paella dinners on Thursdays only but also for its tasty tapas (aka pintxos) like skewered banderillas and Basque meatballs, soups, salads and amazing desserts like Arroz con Leche, Flan and the highly recommended Gateau Basque.
Evening Dinner Recommendation: Chandlers Steakhouse
Considered as the finest steakhouse in Idaho, Chandlers is the only Boise restaurant to earn the coveted Wine Spectator Wine of Excellence, with an inventory of 7,500 bottles. Chandlers has a full menu of prime steaks, including Filet Mignon, Rib Eye and New York Strip as well as specialty steaks like American Wagyu, “Bull’s Eye” Rib Eye and the delectable, certified authentic Japanese Wagyu.
About The Author
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who served as the National Travel Writer for CBS from 2012-2019. More than 900 of his stories still appear in syndication across 23 CBS websites, including CBS New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. During his peak years with CBS, Randy had a reported digital audience reach of 489 million and 5.5 million monthly visitors. Additionally, his stories have appeared in the Daily Meal, CBS News, CBS Radio, Engadget, NBC.com, NJ.com and Radio.com. He earned a Media Fellowship from Stanford University in 2012.