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 a bit of planning you’ll be able to enjoy many if not all of the best attractions in the city while also dining at some of the top rated restaurants. To make your planning that much easier, the following is a practical guide to transportation, lodging, dining and attractions that you can fit in just two days.
How To Get Around
As one of the most bike friendly cities in America, one of the best ways to get around the city 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, with rates starting at $5 an hour.
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 to routes 9, 10, 11, 17 and 29. Regular fare onboard a VRT bus is $1 and day passes are just $2. Students, seniors 65 and over and people living with a disability pay a single fare of 50 cents and $1 for a day pass, while 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, including Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz and Thrifty.
Where To Stay
Hotel 43 *
Asterisk * denotes a top choice
Related: Upgrade Your Summer Getaway With Vacasa
Bars & Nightlife
Asterisk * denotes a top choice
Asterisk * denotes a top choice
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, Guru Donuts, Goldy’s Breakfast Bistro and Waffle Me Up. Afterwards, visitors can take a walk, bike or rideshare over to the Idaho State Museum.
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, which included the addition of 18,000 square feet to the existing 30,000 square foot building. Highlights of the museum include an exhibit on Sacajawea, a full room that showcases clothing worn by famous dignitaries like Governor Brad Little and First Lady Teresa Little, a complete section on Sun Valley Resort, America’s first ski resort, a fountain counter from the original Albertsons store and an interactive display “Stories from Idaho”, featuring famous Idahoans, like Governor Moses Alexander, Ruthie the Riveter, Judge Sergio Gutierrez and Paul Revere, the leader of his namesake 60s rock band, Paul Revere and the Raiders.
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. Open daily except on Mondays, the museum has an estimated permanent collection of more than 3,000 works of art, with a particular emphasis on 20th century American art. Visitors are advised that photography of any kind is not allowed in the museum, although visitors are allowed to take pictures of the Jae Yong Kim’s temporary exhibition “Donut Ever Forget Me” that runs through July 9. Later in September is the museum’s Art in the Park event, considered as one of the top cultural events in the Northwest.
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, “Not Tacos”, “Sweets” and more, along with a fabulous pop-up Wine Dinner menu that may include exceptional dishes like Porcini Risotto, Pan-Seared Diver Scallop and Filet of Beef.
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.
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.
After dinner, visitors might want to stop to see the amazing street art at Freak Alley, just around the corner. The night can be capped off at a preferred bar or a relaxing evening back at the hotel or vacation rental.
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, Idaho Black History Museum and the Abraham Lincoln statue in Julia Davis Park, Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, featuring a sapling from the famous Anne Frank Tree in Amsterdam, Firefighters/9-11 Memorial, JUMP Boise, the Basque Museum & Cultural Center, Freak Alley and a visit inside the Idaho State Capitol.
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 and offers deliciously inventive waffles that are perfect for that Instagram moment.
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, in addition to exhibits like the new Faces of the Idaho State Penitentiary exhibit and the J. Curtis Earl Memorial exhibit featuring one of the largest collections of historic arms and military memorabilia in the country.
Also not far is the 50-acre Idaho Botanical Garden that was served as the penitentiary’s farm and nursery. Open daily, the botanical garden is hosting a number of upcoming events this summer, including Forest Bathing with Wild Wellness Guide July 8, Stroll for the Heart & Soul July 9, live music with Ural Thomas & the Pain July 11 and Slightly Stoopid July 12, Josh Groban August 30, Foreigner September 12m Dropkick Murphys October 14 and Rufus du Sol, as part of the Outlaw Field Summer Concert Series.
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. Visitors who are lucky enough to stop by on a Thursday for paella are advised to get there earlier than the posted time of 6 p.m., as dinners will likely run out early. For those who can’t make it on Thursdays, Paella on the Patio is offered every Wednesday and Friday at noon. Before or after dining at Basque Market, guests may also be interested in visiting the city’s Tree of Gerika (Guernica), a sapling taken from the famous tree in Northern Spain that was a symbol of freedom by the Basque people, outside the Basque Museum.
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. But this extraordinary restaurants is also well know for its array of seafood dishes, like Swordfish, Halibut, Hawaiian Ahi Tuna, Pacific Lobster Tail and Day Boat Scallops.
About The Author:
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who has covered national/international travel for CBS Local and all things San Francisco for CBS San Francisco. He is a Media Fellow of Stanford University and a member of the Freelance Council of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW).
He is a lifelong resident of Santa Cruz County, in California.