101 GuidescityTravel

boise, idaho guide

by Grace Bonney

today’s city guide was written by jennifer wood, a graphic designer and assistant professor of graphic design at boise state university. four years ago jennifer moved out west from miami, florida to teach in the art department at BSU and even though she’s been an east coaster her whole life (and never thought she would live west of the mississippi) she is happy to be living in boise. her guide covers great places to shop, eat, play and stay when in boise, so i hope you’ll enjoy her guide and check out all of the great things that boise has to offer!

CLICK HERE for the full boise guide after the jump!

This mid-size metropolitan capitol city nicknamed the City of Trees in the 1800’s by French-Canadian fur trappers who came over the mountains to discover the valley of trees and exclaimed Le Bois! (the woods!), is filled with a growing population of great people and a ton of fun things to do. Surrounded by the foothills of the Rocky and Owyhee Mountains, outdoor activities are a part of the lives of most who dwell here. There is a thriving art and design community along with many cultural activities to take part in.



1. Paisley Roberts Papers & Press: This is a beautiful shop filled with hand printed papers, greeting cards and a variety of writing and office accessories. They also provide a design service for weddings and announcements.
2. Renewal Consignment Homewares: My favorite furniture store in Boise. A consignment furniture store with a well priced inventory that is updated weekly. They often have distinct mid-century pieces to classic Victorian, and many accessories for the home.
3. Latta : A beautiful store with the most modern appeal. They carry top of the line modern furniture, lighting and objects for the home.
4. Epitome Home & Garden (no website) The home of specialty wares such as vintage metalwork to use as art in home, antique botanical prints, great smelling soaps and candles and tons of beautiful home accents.
5. Boise Blue At Supply: The go-to art supply store in town. They will help you find whatever is needed to complete your project. It is fun to just wander the isles and read all the comic strips posted on the front counter.
6. Davies-Reid Oriental Rugs and Art: A nest of treasures housed in a Boise historical landmark building that is filled with heaps of hand-woven rugs, antiques and collectibles, jewelry and art.
8. Second Chance Building Materials Center: Housing restoration is a popular pastime in Boise and this is the place to find great used doors, windows, antique glass doorknobs at great prices and for a good cause.
9. The Record Exchange and The Edge: In the historic Hitchcock Building the brightly painted Record Exchange offers a great music selection (both vinyl and cd), many live in-store concerts and a super fun gift store called The Edge.
10. The Basque Market: On the historic Basque block, in the middle of downtown, is a cozy market with incredible Basque products and specialty food items. They offer cooking classes, catering and wine and tapas tastings.
11. The Boise Co-op: The Co-op is my favorite place to wander around and dream of cooking great things. They have incredible gourmet foods, groceries and house wares. In the summer they have a large selection of Idaho native, low water plants many of which they have growing in the garden in front of the store. I always need something from the Co-op!
12. Atomic Treasures: Repurpose-Reuse-Reinvent is the tagline of this cool clothing and accessories shop. They have fun collections of vintage clothing, housewares, and cowboy boots!


Eat + Drink

13. The Modern Bar: The Modern Bar has drink mixologists’ infusing the cocktails of your dreams, and the kitchen’s menu is chock full of delightful entrees and appetizers. My favorite menu item: the Modern salad with trout: mixed greens, goat cheese, candied almonds and locally caught and smoked Idaho rainbow trout. Catch a local band and sit around the outdoor fire pits in the courtyard and if you are here in May – The Modern hosts over 50 local artists who take over the hotel to create art installations in all of the hotel’s rooms. Now that is fun!
14. Bardenay Restaurant and Distillery: Also located on the Basque block, Bardenay has great mixed cocktails, a fun tavern atmosphere and great hearty food.
15. Berryhill & Co. Restaurant: Casual fine dining is what you will find at this stylish spot. to have a special dinner or upscale lunch. The menu often includes local food and wine specialties. I especially enjoy their menu design and branding.
16. Casanova Pizzeria: Wood-fired pizza is what makes dining here so tasty. Try the “Jimmy the Greek” or the “Medusa” made with gorgonzola and dried figs.
17. Donnie Mac’s Trailer Park Cuisine
: Comfort food starring frozen custard. You can even dine inside of an old car with a built-in table! Try the veggie burger made with black beans served with sweet potato fries.
19. Flying Pie Pizzaria: I think this is my favorite pizza place in town because they have the world’s largest tin foil ball displayed on a scale and still growing. They also have outstanding pizza and a serious variety of new beers on tap weekly. Don’t forget to honk the squeeze horn when you leave to make the kitchen hollar!
20. Pair Restaurant: The “I’m your Huckleberry” martini won first place in the Boise martini mix-off this year. They have many inventive martinis and my favorite small plates are the yam fries and the salmon and trout share.
21. Gernika Basque Pub & Eatery: You can’t visit Boise and not eat at this Basque gem. The veggie kabob and the melt in your mouth croquetas are my favorites but many swear by the beef tongue served up every Saturday.
22. Asiago’s Restaurant and Wine Bar: This Italian eatery creates beautiful made to order pasta dishes. They have seasonal specials and a wine list for true connoisseurs.
23. Westside Drive In: A classic drive-in, burger and shake joint. They are proud to create sliders, fries and thick shakes but Chef Lou is most famous for the Ice Cream Potato—which looks (but doesn’t taste) exactly like a hot, buttered baked potato.
24. Le Café de Paris French Bistro: A true taste of Paris in downtown Boise. Café de Paris serves delectable French cuisine at all times of the day. If you can stop starring at the pastries at the counter – you can order and enjoy true pastry bliss.
25. The Stagecoach Inn: Worth the short trip to Garden City (moments from downtown) is this shiny pearl. Known for steaks and prawns, it is Boise’s oldest family owned restaurant.
26. Bittercreek Ale House: A great pub for a beer, burger and people watching on 8th street downtown.
27. Boise Fry Company: If you are serious about French fries, this is your place. You choose your cut and potato and they make them right there—they even have blue French fries! We are the potato state after all.
28. Goldy’s Breakfast Bistro (no website) There is always a line in the mornings outside of Goldy’s, but that is why they have a pot of hot coffee for you while you wait to eat the best blueberry pancakes around!
29. Jenny’s Lunch Line: A lunch of fresh soup, sandwiches and salads. The food is all made from scratch and they offer a different menu for each day of the week. You can even fill your lunch bag online for delivery. Love the logo.
30. Pollo Rey: My favorite Mexican food in Boise. A fun atmosphere on 8th street. Try the chico fish burrito—what is that sauce? So good.
31. Red Feather Lounge: I love the red feather on a hot summer day, it feels like an oasis. It is a dark and cool loungy atmosphere with an excellent brunch on the weekend. Try the grilled kale Caesar salad!
32. Highlands Hollow: Drive down historic Harrison Blvd. through Boise’s northend and you will find this toasty brewery. They brew their own tasty beer and have satisfying salads and sandwiches. My favorite to try is the grilled eggplant sandwich.
33. Jim’ Coffee Shop (no website) You can’t miss this classic diner because it has a giant rooster on the roof! This is an old time diner with a sense of humor and great hospitality. It always hits the spot.

Sweets + coffee

1. Java Coffee & Cafe: Java is a great coffee, snack and meeting place destination. The downtown location is always busy but there is always a seat. The Northend location is more of a breakfast on the back deck stop.
2. Thomas Hammer Coffee Roasters: Located right on 8th street, T. Hammer makes a great cup of coffee and they even have a meeting conference you can reserve. Nice logo branding!
3. The Chocolat Bar: This chocolatier makes gourmet chocolate using distinctive ingredients and beautiful design. My favorite is the lemon lavender almond bark!
4. Goody’s Soda Fountain: A great Hyde Park stop for a sweet tooth. Goody’s has everything from great milkshakes to the biggest jawbreakers imaginable all in a classic soda fountain setting.
5. The Flying M (no website) This is my favorite coffeehouse in Boise. The Boise location is filled with great vintage seating and great “M” merch. The coffee is always great while enjoying the local artists shows that revolve monthly. The “M” also has a great gift shop located right inside. Grab some art from the Art-O-Mat and a no-bake cookie and all will be well in the world. The Flying M Coffeegarage is in Nampa, ID (20 minutes outside of Boise) and has the same great vibe and often has live music!
6. Hannifin’s Cigar Shop (no website) Hannifin’s has been around for a century. Walking in to the store feels like you are stepping back in time. I love the typography on the outside and the vintage appeal it has.
7. Powell’s Sweet Shoppe : Located in Bown Crossing, this is candyland. They carry every candy you can think of. There is a wonderful old library card catalogue chest filled will packs of humor gum. Willy Wonka – the movie- is always playing and they have great gelato too!
8. Big City Coffee – Linen District (no website)- A big garage door opens to the sweet breezes of Boise’s Linen District, a place to eat, shop and listen to live music.: Big City has a satisfying menu for breakfast or lunch, funky décor and great people watching.

To do

1. Boise Contemporary Theater: BCT is a contemporary theater located in Boise’s Cultural district. Each season presents thought provoking new works that delight viewers in and around Boise.
2. Trey McIntyre Project: A little over a year ago, Trey McIntyre decided to make Boise the headquarters for his full-time international dance company. We are so glad he did! Artistic Director, Trey McIntyre has created over 80 works for dance companies throughout the U.S. and in Europe. In their inaugural season Trey McIntyre Project conservatively estimated a reach to more than 100,000 people worldwide, including 8,000 Idahoans.
4. Basque Museum & Cultural Center: Boise is home to the largest concentration of Basque Americans in the country. The Basque culture is vibrant and is an incredible attribute to our community. The museum shares the history of the Basque heritage in Idaho along with exhibits, collections and tours.
5. Capital City Public Market: Most cities have a farmers market but the Boise market is a great way to start the weekend on Thursday! Each week throughout spring, summer and fall the market brings in local farmers, Basque dancers and various arts and crafts.
6. Treasure Valley Roller Girls: These are tough girls on skates fighting it out to win the bout! Going to the derby is so much fun but you will lose your voice cheering them on!
Jaiadi 2010: The International Basque Cultural Festival celebrates Basque culture through dance, music, education and food. It takes place the last weekend in July.
8. Idaho international film festival: Independent films are included from America and abroad. You can buy passes to a whole week of films shown throughout the city.
Idaho Shakespeare Festival: This Festival is held right on the outskirts of Boise in an open amphitheater and habitat reserve. You can picnic on the grass while taking in Shakespeare.
10. Visual Arts Collective: A cool venue located in Garden City that hosts an array of great performances throughout the year. These shows include local and visiting bands, local artists and theatre performances to name a few.


1. The Modern Hotel and Bar : Formerly a Travel Lodge in the 1960’s this swank boutique lodge is a modern spot in the heart of Boise’s Linen District. All of the rooms are mod, minimal and luxurious.
2. Hotel 43: Situated in heart of downtown Boise and the 43rd parallel in Idaho, the 43rd state, is this luxury hotel with 112 rooms. This hotel also houses Chandlers Steakhouse an exclusive steakhouse and martini bar.
3. Boise Guest House: A Victorian house built in 1895 recently renovated into 6 furnished suites for nightly, weekly and monthly stays. A beautiful alternative hotel solution all with walking distance of downtown Boise.

Must be noted

1. Boise Weekly: The Weekly is the handbook to Boise for most. It has a really fresh perspective on life in Idaho. Each week there is cover art by a new local artist that gets auctioned off at the end of the year.
2. Idaho Mountain Touring: It is so easy to get around town that many ride bikes. Cruiser, mountain, you pick– it’s a biking town.
3. Department of Arts and History: Boise has tons of commissioned public art downtown and in surrounding parks. You can download a podcast tour or go on one with a group.
4. Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area: It is hard to share in one city guide all of the outdoor activities Boise has to offer. But 25 minutes out of town and up the surrounding mountains in Bogus Basin ski resort. In the summer there are great hiking trails that all overlook the city.

Suggested For You


  • Slightly stunned and thrilled to see our new hometown on d*s! Boise is… getting there. This did a good job highlighting the hotspots, I just wish there were more. :p

  • wow, so much has changed since i lived in boise15 years ago (and it was a great city, unsuspecting city when i lived there). about all i recognize is the Flying M, great basque food and bogus basin. thanks so much for the guide, jennifer – i’ve passed it along to all my friends who still have family there :)


  • Living in NYC I always got skeptical looks when I said I was from Boise. This highlights why I love it! One of the greatest places to grow up.

  • I grew up in Boise and still love to go back and visit whenever I can. I highly recommend Berryhill and Co. for lunch and dinner. The parks downtown and the Boise Art Museum shouldn’t be missed either. I had my wedding reception at the art museum (located next to Julia Davis Park), it was perfect. The main public library across the street from the art museum has a fantastic children’s section if you are traveling with kids.

  • Don’t forget the Egyptian theatre, located at the heart of downtown… A beautiful historic theater where you can sit in the balcony and enjoy the hieroglyphics as you watch your movie. For sight seeing, taking a small hike (or drive) to Table Rock which gives you a view of the whole city. And, the historic penitentiary directly below is said to be haunted!

  • Yay! I’m so glad you did this. I live just outside of Boise and need awesome places to check out when I’m in town, and now I have a whole guide! But our secret to how amazing Idaho is is going to get out:)

  • I wish I had this a couple weeks ago when I went to visit my family in Boise! I’ll save it for my next visit. Boise is really such a great city, we’ll probably end up there eventually.

  • As a Boise transplant now living in Brooklyn, I was so glad to see this post! Boise is a very special place. Not too big, but not too small with an incredible pulse on the food scene.

    A few things I would add to the list:

    Check out the views from Tablerock, about a 15-20 minute drive from downtown.

    The Old Boise Penitentiary/ Botanical Gardens just off the BEAUTIFUL Warm Springs Drive.

    And finally, if you are lucky enough to be traveling there the first week of any month, check out First Thursdays, admission at BAM is free, and there are a lot of great shops downtown hat offer free wine tastings, snacks and deals.

    I heart BOISE!!

  • As a transplant from Ketchum, it took me a while to warm up to Boise. I will say that having Java is super nice. The city has the right balance of city and old Idaho charm.
    It is a great place to rest and relax!

  • Boise is a well kept secret!……I was unprepared to discover such a beautiful city surrouned by majestic mountains and over flowing with roses everywhere!

    The campus is an interesting focal point.

    I was fortunate enough to attend a Trey McIntyre ballet while there.

    Beautiful scenery, great shopping,
    outstanding art and cultural events plus a fine college.

    I give Boise a 10!

  • Tickled to see our little big city featured on the d*s city guide! Thanks for all the great tips on places to go and things to see. We’ve been here for over a year and haven’t even begun to explore this place!

  • I cannot believe she left out all the beautiful signage that abounds throughout Boise and the surrounding communities. Signage that is an art to itself courtesy of Classic Signs – an institution that produces some of the most amazing hand-lettered signage there is. Anyone who has visited Disney (land or world) is familiar with their work, though they don’t necessarily know it, because Classic does many of the signs along Main Street USA.

  • I second the Flicks recommendation- best movie theater in town.

    Also, Cafe Vicino and Brick 29 (the latter is actually in Nampa) for fantastic food.

  • I live in Boise and it is so exciting to see a post about this wonderful little big city! Make sure if you visit Boise to check out the Flicks to watch an independent film and drink a beer. And don’t forget Boise’s parks… there are quite a few and they each are unique.

  • im from boise, and now live in dallas. i miss it so much, and am so glad someone finally showcased all the wonderful things about boise! there are so many more….go visit!

  • Yay I’m so happy to see a Boise guide! There are a few places on there I haven’t been to, so I’ll have to check them out.

    I agree about checking out the parks, we have some really amazing outdoor places.

    Thanks for this guide!

  • I’d so like to live in Boise. You have given all of us numerous reasons to start moving. Maybe you should have kept it a secret.
    C U There

  • What a wonderful surprise to see my hometown! As a Basque American from Boise now living near Seattle, I really appreciate the nod to all the Basque culture (I used to dance with the Oinkari Basque Dancers – check out their schedule if you want to see some traditional dancing). And you’ve touched on all the best places around town, new and old! The only thing I’d add is the Capital City Saturday Farmer’s Market along 8th Street – great place to get some fresh food and handmade treasures. I also second the notes above about Warm Springs, the Flicks, the various parks. Eskerrik asko, Jennifer!

  • Good start to a good guide to my great hometown. I agree that visitors will enjoy the Egyptian and the Flicks. I was so happy to see the Stagecoach listed!

    Another local secret is Lulu’s Fine Pizza on Bogus Basin Road. And there is usually a line of locals at the Goldy’s downtown for breakfast.

    Two other ‘to dos” include walking the Greenbelt any time of the year, or tubing the Boise River during the summer.

  • My husband and I came to Boise two years ago in search of a nice place to settle our ever-expanding family (two kids and counting). We fell in love with the city. I can’t believe how lucky we are to have found it! Our friends who have never been think Boise is “a hole” and just “the sticks. We’ve stopped trying to convince them otherwise. We love this place to much to share it with people who wouldn’t appreciate it 100%. Amazing place. We have to pinch ourselves to know it’s real.

  • Thanks for the great guide. We moved here six years ago from the Baltimore area and only regret that we had not do so sooner!

  • This is great — i’m headed to Boise for the first time and am looking forward to checking it out. But it would be *great* if there were a map to go along with this. It’s pretty hard to tell where all of these things are/which ones to pair with each other while touring without a map. Merp.

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