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Did You Know … ?
- Boise has the highest percent of Basques of any place outside the Pyrenees Mountains.
- Boise was first in the nation to harness hot springs for heating (1892); the system is still in use.
- Idaho City, a mining town, was once the largest town in the Pacific Northwest.
- Varney Airlines, a forebear to United Airlines, launched America’s first airmail service from Boise (1926).
- The Arrowrock Dam, at 350 feet, was the world’s tallest when built in 1915.
About birds and a bard
Boise’s name may derive from the French words, les bois (the woods). If that isn’t true, it should be.
Known in any case as the City of Trees, Boise is proud of its 25-mile Greenbelt, which follows the Boise River. In addition, the 2.6 million-acre Boise National Forest begins only a few miles northeast of town. The forest is rich with options for boating, camping, cycling, climbing, fishing, hiking and swimming.
But visitors don’t have to leave the Idaho capital for outdoor pleasures. In-town diversions range from cycling, jogging or strolling at any pace on the Greenbelt or in city parks, to playing golf or enjoying open-air musical, theatrical or other entertainments.
The placid Boise River invites visitors for an informative and relaxing float; for more action, whitewater rapids aren’t far from town. Boise, with mountains to the north and south, also is considered a top mountain biking destination.
Birds are a prominent aspect of the area’s natural environment. Visitors can see raptors at an endangered-species rescue program in Boise and in the wild at a conservation area beyond the city. Birders may take their binoculars farther afield to the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge to spot waterfowl.
Boise is distinguished by a number of other features, too:
- Over time, it attracted significant numbers of Basque immigrants. The most visible aspects of the Basque community for tourists are a museum, former boarding houses, Basque eateries and Basque dance programs.
- Boise originated as a service center for gold and silver miners. Idaho City, a mining town about 45 miles away, is the place to connect with that past.
- Tourists also can revisit the Old West, after a fashion, at the Idaho Historical Museum, where exhibits include a recreated saloon, and at the Old Idaho Penitentiary, which is just what the name suggests. A century-old rodeo tradition remains very much alive in nearby Nampa; its Snake River Stampede is one of the nation’s top rated.
- In settings the bard never dreamed of, Boise hosts the annual Idaho Shakespeare Festival. Visitors may get local wine or beer at dinner before the show, too.
Things to do for Venturers
- Camp in Boise National Forest, and hike on any of its more than 500 trails, or cool off in one of more than 250 lakes and reservoirs. The forest covers more than 2.6 million acres.
- Rent a mountain bike and sample some of the in-city and nearby routes that are part of Boise’s 130-mile Ridge-to-Rivers trail system.
- Time your visit for the springtime Gene Harris Jazz Festival.
- Take a multiday whitewater rafting trip on the Payette River. Or, climb a sand dune at Bruneau Dunes State Park, about an hour southeast of town.
- Enjoy windsurfing on Arrowrock Reservoir, an 18-mile narrow canyon reservoir managed by Boise National Forest and 30 minutes from the city. Options on the reservoir also include canoeing and fishing.
- Groups of five to 20 can call ahead (a week ahead at least) to (208) 387-5512 to book a tour of the National Interagency Fire Center, the nation’s support center for wildland firefighting. The best time for a visit is October through April, the less busy months for fire fighting.
Things to do for Centrics
- See the Oinkari Basque Dancers, and sample ethnic food at a Basque eatery. Pursue this theme at the Basque Museum and Cultural Center, too.
- Cycle or jog along the city’s 25-mile Greenbelt beside the Boise River.
- Ski at night at the Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area 16 miles from downtown. Both cross-country and downhill skiing are on offer.
- This is the West. Attend one of the country’s top rodeos, the Snake River Stampede, held in July in Nampa.
- Learn a few things — and shudder — when visiting death row, the gallows and cells used for solitary confinement at the Old Idaho Penitentiary. Inmate riots led to its closing in 1973.
- Spend quality time spotting the abundant waterfowl at the Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge, which consists of Lake Lowell and more than 100 islands in the Snake River that are accessible by boat.
Things to do for Authentics
- Be fascinated by an up-close view of an endangered-species program at the World Center for Birds of Prey. Then, take a guided float trip to see the eagles, hawks and other raptors in the wild at the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey Natural Conservation Area outside the city.
- Get reacquainted with Shakespeare, and other playwrights, during the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, staged in an outdoor amphitheater in summer.
- Sample the wines at wineries in the Snake River Valley of southwest Idaho. Of if you prefer, look for the local breweries.
- Look at your outdoor options. Wednesday evenings May through September, Grove Plaza is alive with food and music. First Thursdays of every month feature gallery strolls, street entertainment and other events. The Capital City Market entices every summer Saturday. And, on any summer day, take an in-city float on the Boise River.
- Head to Idaho City, 45 miles away, to see an old silver mining town.
- Play golf on a different course every day for more than two weeks. The greens offer dramatic mountain, river and valley views; fairways may wind through canyons or actually be in the mountains.
For more information, consult the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau at www.boise.org