Greetings Internet Stranger and welcome to a perfect 24 hours of the best things to do in Boise Idaho! Boise is the kind of city that offers the best of both worlds. It has gourmet restaurants and fascinating museums that appeal to the traveler looking for interesting cultural experiences. But it also has a kind of small-town appeal combined with a lack of crowds that those who want to get off the beaten track should love.
If you’re looking to have an amazing city break without breaking the bank, join me for a perfect 24 hours of the best things to do in Boise. I promise we’ll put the “Oi back in Boise” by the time we’re done. Let’s go!
Best Things to Do in Boise
Where to Stay?
My most recommended hotel in Boise is the charming boutique Grove Hotel. It has a perfect location in Downtown Boise, within walking distance of almost all major attractions. And I did say this was a perfect Boise walking tour, didn’t I? It has all the amenities you would expect from a mid-range hotel, like a coffee maker in the room and fast free Wifi.
But even better than that, I was in Boise on the 4th of July and their restaurant was open! They were basically the only people in Boise willing to feed me. And the flatbread pizza was way tastier than I had any right to expect Boise pizza to be. Thanks, Grove Hotel for not letting me starve!
If you’d like to check out a great deal on The Grove Hotel, just click here. And if it’s out of your price range, but you want to explore great deals on over 100 other hotels in Boise, just click here!
Best Things to Do in Boise
What to Pack?
The weather in Idaho can be…unpredictable. I don’t recommend visiting Boise in the winter, so I’m not going to suggest you need a winter coat. But you will need an umbrella. My favorite travel umbrella is the Repel Teflon Waterproof Umbrella. It is strong enough to stand up to the sometimes-quite-strong winds of Idaho. I hear that if it’s strong enough, potatoes will come raining from the sky.
If the weather is rainy, which definitely happened during my time in Boise, I recommend the Asgard Rain Boots. They are comfy/cozy and keep my feet dry all day. Plus they’re cute enough that I can wear them out without feeling like some gauche tourist with gross feet.
Finally, since we’re going to be out all day, you’ll want a battery for your cell phone. I always use the Anker charger. It’s light enough to fit in even a small purse. Plus the Anker lasts for several full charges of a phone, so I’ll never run out of juice!
Best Things to Do in Boise
Morning: Boise Food Tour
You know a city has really arrived when it has its own food tour. After all, all the major cities from Tokyo to Kalamazoo are getting in on the food tour game. That’s why I was excited to find that Indulge Boise runs food tours in the Historic Downtown area. You can book the tour yourself easily with this link right here.
You’ll learn all about what makes Boise unique, and you’ll fill your belly while doing it. I definitely recommend this as one of the best things to do in Boise. Let me whet your appetite with…
Approximately Top 5: Best Boise Food
1) Lemon Tree Co.
Our first stop was for artisanal sandwiches at Lemon Tree Co. (And you thought the only food they had in Boise was the potato. Foolish mortal!) This was a strong first stop because we got to speak to the manager, and I always enjoy meeting the people who work at small businesses when I travel. It was also strong because we sipped on mimosas served in cute Mason jars with our sandwiches and booze makes everything better.
But even better than the conversation was the food! It was made with fresh turkey and house-made Boursin cheese. I didn’t even know you could make Boursin cheese in a house in Idaho! I thought it had to come from France or something. This sandwich tasted exactly like Thanksgiving dinner only without annoying relatives. Most people on the tour said this was their favorite stop.
Our next stop was for a gourmet olive oil and vinegar tasting at Olivin. The enthusiastic young lady who worked here gave us a detailed lecture of about the health benefits of high-quality olive oil. (Apparently it’s good for your immune system. Who knew? Probably the Italians did.)
One lady in the tour group got kind of cranky at this information because she said she couldn’t afford expensive olive oil. But I don’t think the girl was trying to say you’ll get sick if you don’t get the pricier stuff–just trying to explain the difference between gourmet olive oil and the stuff you get at Costco. And in general, I don’t believe in taking comments from people at olive oil stores personally.
There’s no pressure to buy anything from the store, but you do get a discount if you come on the food tour. I got the Sicilian lemon and the Tuscan herb because they seem like the most versatile. And I can now say from experience that they taste amazing on pretty much any salad!
3) Guru Donuts
Now that we’ve chugged some olive oil, it’s time for breakfast! Fortunately, it won’t be a healthy breakfast because we’re going to Guru Donuts. One of the nice things about being on a food tour is that you often get to sample more than one dish at each restaurant when ordinarily you’d only be able to try one by yourself.
The white donut is a plain old-fashioned donut, and the purple is huckleberry. It really doesn’t get any more Idaho than the huckleberry. It’s the state fruit! I would have thought the state fruit would be the potato, but I didn’t major in Idaho History at university. The old-fashioned was simple and perfectly executed, and the huckleberry icing was decadent and sugary like I like my men.
Because almost every stop on this tour came with a drink, we also tried their kombucha and cold press coffee. I liked both, but the other people on the tour, who came from different parts of Idaho, weren’t crazy about the kombucha because they’d never tasted it before. The coffee was a huge hit with the entire group, though.
4) Flatbread Neopolitan Pizzeria
Our next stop was for main courses at a pizza restaurant located in the former Overland Hotel. This particular spot has been home to many different businesses, and it had been vacant when Downtown Boise went through a slow period. Our guide, whom I shall call Mrs. Potato Head, said the fact that a chic new restaurant had opened up here just showed how Downtown Boise had been revitalized.
As a New Yorker, I feel honor-bound to mention that their pizza is more of a flatbread with stuff on top of it than actual pizza. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t delicious! I dug enthusiastically into this chicken and prosciutto flatbread. (Don’t worry veggies, they had a veggie flatbread available as well.)
This was paired with a salad like was kind of like a Waldorf salad with chicken and blue cheese. We were supposed to share the salad: one for the meat-eaters and one for the vegetarians, but so many people in the group kept saying that there were foods they didn’t like and wanted taken out of the salad that we ended up each getting our own salad.
It was very nice for Indulge Boise to indulge everyone’s little food preferences, but I kind of think that if you’re a picky eater, you shouldn’t take a food tour. Almost all food tours can accommodate vegetarians, but beyond that it’s difficult. And food tours are supposed to be about trying new things, not picking all the grapes out of your salad!
5) Basque Food!
Of course, it’s not a Boise food tour without Basque food! Boise is famous for its Basque population. (The Basques come from a region that stretches across northeastern Spain and southwestern France.)
At the Basque Market, we nibbled on Basque tapas like olives, shishito peppers, and watermelon with tomato jam. (This last one was actually delicious. After all, tomatoes are fruits, so why not pair them with watermelon?) This was all washed down with a soothing white wine sangria made with orange juice because apparently Indulge Boise wanted us to try every single cocktail in the state of Idaho. Challenge accepted!
6) Mai Thai
Our last main course stop was for apps and yet another cocktail at Mai Thai. This restaurant is run by a Thai gentleman, but the food is Asian fusion, which means you’ll see influence from other Asian countries in the dishes.
Again, if I’d come here on my own, I only would have been able to try one or two dishes, but on the food tour, I got to sample a whole bunch like a lettuce wrap with chicken, tofu with tomato, and their specialty honey duck. The honey duck was quite sweet, but duck goes well with a sweet sauce. We’ve all had duck a l’orange, so why not duck a l’honey?
7) Chocolat Bar
It’s not a proper food tour without dessert at the end! And what dessert is better than chocolate? Especially artisanal chocolate from the Chocolat Bar. (You know it’s fancy because they spell it the French way without the E at the end.) We received three different kinds of chocolate bark: lavender white chocolate, toffee nut chocolate, and then a chili pepper dark chocolate.
My favorite was the chili chocolate, but it was actually spicy so if you don’t like heat then you won’t like it. The family of picky eaters on the food tour with me, whom I named the Blands, didn’t like the spicy one, but they did rave over the other two flavors. As far as I’m concerned, all chocolate is good chocolate. I’m a choco-holic and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
Best Things to Do in Boise
Afternoon: Idaho State Museum
We’ve spent the morning feeding our minds, so let’s go feed our brains full of history at the Idaho State Museum. Boise is the capital city of Idaho, and one of the most interesting things about visiting any capital city is getting to learn more about the history of its state. How did it become a state? What terrible things have happened there? And what is its state vegetable?
At the Idaho State Museum all these questions are more will be answered. But I will share some of Idaho’s *seeeeeecrets* with…
Three Fun Facts: Idaho History
1) Who Were the First People to Live in Boise?
Many different Native American groups lived in Idaho before the arrival of Europeans. The first section of the Idaho State Museum is dedicated to the history of Native Americans like the Nimipuu. Some people don’t realize how many Native Americans live in this country, but the Nimipuu reservation in Idaho is home to 770,000 people.
Some of the first Europeans to arrive in Idaho were Lewis and Clark, who were mapping the West at the behest of President Thomas Jefferson. Their translator was the famous Native American woman Sacagawea, whose face in on the dollar coin.
I always knew that Sacagawea was married to a Frenchman named Charbonneau. But the Idaho State Museum taught me that he had…won her in a card game. So that’s rape and kidnapping, not what I would call a marriage! Why is history always so terrible? Sometimes I just want to give up and hide under my bed.
2) What is Idaho Famous For?
Aside from potatoes? The part of the museum dedicated to Idaho as a state is divided into three parts: one for each region of the state: north, central, and south. Apparently Central Idaho is famous for mountains and skiing, so that must be the part of Idaho you’ll want to hit up if you are a paparazzi. (Not sure many paparazzi read this blog, but you never know.)
The northern part of Idaho is more famous for woods and logging, which is also why it used to be famous for its beavers. Back in the early days of Idaho as a territory, the Beaver Business was Big Business. Ladies in Europe would pay Big Beaver Bucks to wear a hat made of stylish beaver fur in the winter.
I don’t know how to tell the State Museum this, but I don’t think that’s a real beaver. For one thing, I stood perfectly still and watched this beaver for about 30 minutes, and it didn’t blink even once.
3) What’s the Prettiest Thing in the Idaho State Museum?
In my opinion, it’s the collection of dresses that Idaho First Ladies wore at the inauguration. (The First Lady of Idaho is the wife of the Governor of Idaho. I don’t believe Idaho has ever had a First Gentleman.)
The only thing I like more than looking at pretty dresses is enjoying fun names, so that’s why my favorite dresses belonged to Lori Otter. She used to be First Lady of Idaho, and I don’t know anything about her or her husband’s political positions. But I do know that she has an awesome name.
I would really like it if everyone would start calling me First Lady Otter, not because I have ever been married to the Governor of Idaho, but because I am the natural supreme ruler of all female otters.
Best Things to Do in Boise
Late Afternoon: Drinks at Barbarian Brewing
Boise has become a fantastic city for craft beer, and one of the best places in Idaho’s capital to partake is Barbarian Brewing. Don’t worry! No gentlemen with large axes and horns on their helmets will be waiting to carry you away.
Barbarian Brewing makes a ton of unique and creative beers. I suggest getting a flight and asking the bartender to put it together for you. She’ll be able to suggest beers that you will absolutely flip over. I’m a pretty adventurous drinker, so I ended up trying things like three of their sour beers, a cream ale, and something called a Norse IPA. (Again, this did not come with a horned helmet.)
Even if you’re not quite so comfortable with living on the edge as I am, I do encourage you to try one of the more unusual beers. Live a little! Don’t be like the Blands! The watermelon sour beer is a light and refreshing way to dip your toe in the world of sour beers.
Best Things to Do in Boise
Evening: Dinner at Chandler’s
I like molecular gastronomy and farm to table cuisine as much as the next girl. But sometimes you want to go to an old-school steakhouse that seems like a place Don Draper would wine and martini his latest mistress. In Boise, that place is Chandler’s. They fly the seafood for your Dungeness crab cocktail in daily. (Idaho is a landlocked state after all.)
I strongly recommend getting seafood for an appetizer, so that you can indulge in their fine steaks for the main course. My grass-fed filet mignon with chimichurri sauce was decadent and garlicky in all the best ways. (Plus it was cooked a perfect medium-rare. I always get my steak medium-rare. An animal died so you could enjoy your dinner! Respect its sacrifice by not overcooking the meat so you can really get the true flavor.)
Chandler’s isn’t really the place to go for some sort of experimental bacon-eggplant dessert. (Although that sounds like it could be really good, come to think of it.) Get a classic like key lime pie. My Idaho-friendly server Ralph recommended it, and Ralph has never steered me wrong. True, I only spent a couple of hours with him, but I could see he was trustworthy and not the sort of man to try to win a woman in a card game. Plus the key lime pie was exquisite.
That’s the Best Things to Do in Boise!
What do you think are the best things to do in Boise? Why are historical facts so often horrible? And when will I be crowded First Lady of the Otters? Please leave your thoughts below!
Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY spend 24 hours with the best things to do in Boise. If you have another 24 hours, try this itinerary. And if you’d like to add on a trip to Montana, try this itinerary.