Boise may not be the geographic center of the Treasure Valley but it certainly is the center of attention. It's the hub of the area's art and cultural worlds, the valley's economic force and the state's political centerpiece.
From the Foothills to the Boise River to the sagebrush and canyons, Boise appeals to rec-minded residents who can find just about any outdoor activity within a short distance of home.
From the historic Victorians and Craftsman bungalows beneath the towering trees of the North End to the family-friendly neighborhoods filled with parks and soccer fields of West Boise, the city is comprised of unique niches where a variety of people find a place to call home.
Downtown Boise has been the center of everything for nearly 150 years. From the centerpiece parks Julia Davis and Ann Morrison (cityofboise.org/departments/parks) lining the Boise River, which flows through the middle of town, to the dome of the renovated State Capitol (capitolcommission.idaho.gov), downtown brims with energy. Boutiques and restaurants create a vibrant social life around the hustle and bustle of business and government.
The downtown area is also the cultural heart of the city, home to many of its museums—including Boise Art Museum (boiseartmuseum.org) and Idaho State Historical Museum (history.idaho.gov), both of which are in Julia Davis Park. The park is also home to family favorites Zoo Boise (zooboise.org) and the Discovery Center of Idaho (scidaho.org).
On Wednesday evenings in the summer, the community gathers on the Grove in the center of downtown for Alive After Five (downtownboise.org) for free outdoor concerts, which are sometimes about the see-and-be-seen atmosphere (and playing in the fountain) as much as they are about the music. First Thursday gallery walks (downtownboise.org) also draw out the masses, who wander between galleries in a celebration of art and music.
The Capital City Public Market on Saturdays (capitalcitypublicmarket.com) is the ultimate social scene throughout the summer for those in search of some fresh veggies and catching up with friends.
The Cultural District houses some of the state's leading arts organizations, including Boise Philharmonic (boisephilharmonic.org), Opera Idaho (operaidaho.org), Ballet Idaho (balletidaho.org), Trey McIntyre Project (treymcintyre.com) and Boise Contemporary Theater (bctheater.org).
Just over the river is Boise State (boisestate.edu), with numerous arts organizations and performance spaces. From football games to farmers markets to free concerts to numerous festivals, downtown is the place to be in Boise.
The historic Boise Depot (2603 W. Eastover Terrace) marks the beginning of the Bench, where a mix of mid-century and modern homes stand alongside an increasingly diverse collection of businesses—especially ethnic markets.
The North End lies at the base of the Foothills, and it's a cultural experience all its own. Some of the city's oldest homes line the narrow, tree-lined streets. Historic Hyde Park and the ever-popular Camels Back Park (cityofboise.org/departments/parks) are always crowded with people. The area is the gateway to the Ridge to Rivers Trail System (ridgetoriver.cityofboise.org) that zigzags the Foothills and is one of the most popular amenities in the city.
The Boise River flows through the core of the city, and along its banks, the Boise Greenbelt (cityofboise.org/departments/parks) is filled with bikers, walkers and joggers year round.
The east end of town is a mix of old and new, where the historic mansions of Warm Springs Avenue and the Old Idaho Penitentiary (history.idaho.gov) are only a few miles from housing developments perched along the Boise River and Lucky Peak Reservoir. It's also the place where Boise River rafters launch from Barber Park (cityofboise.org/departments/parks) and where theater lovers settle in for an evening of art under the stars at Idaho Shakespeare Festival (idahoshakespeare.org).
West Boise was once a collection of scattered farms but the area has transformed into a sea of housing punctuated by parks, community centers and shopping. Boise Towne Square mall (boisetownesquare.com), with an array of national and local retailers, is where many head for shopping excursions.
South Boise is a mix of some of the city's most industrial areas, as well as sprawling housing developments where the city meets the High Desert. It's also home to the World Center for Birds of Prey (peregrinefund.org), where visitors can see hawks, falcons, eagles and other raptors up close in the sanctuary along the Snake River.
Not to be forgotten, Garden City is the part of Boise that's not actually Boise. It's surrounded on all sides by its larger neighbor, but Garden City has claimed some prime real estate along the Boise River.
The city-within-the-city is an eclectic mix of used car and RV dealers next to a dizzying assortment of stores, contractors and housing that runs the spectrum from trailer park to mansion.
In the last decade, the area has been evolving from its seedy roots and now includes an arts district that is home to Visual Arts Collective (3638 Osage St.) and Woman of Steel Gallery (3640 W. Chinden Blvd.) and even boasts access to Boise's soon-to-be-completed Ray Neef MD River Recreation Park (boiseriverpark.com). Garden City is also linked to the rest of Boise's Greenbelt pathway via a pedestrian bridge at 36th Street. Even wineries like Cinder (cinderwines.com) and Syringa Winery (syringawinery.com) and the new Payette Brewing Company (payettebrewing.com) have hung their signs in Garden City.
While the gambling parlors are long gone, residents can still try their luck thanks to the recent reopening of Les Bois Park (5610 Glenwood St.), which offers both live and simulcast racing.
More family-friendly action is found at the Western Idaho Fair (idahofair.com), which fills Expo Idaho each August with rides, livestock competitions and entertainment. Sports fans can get close to the boys of summer by taking in a Boise Hawks game at Hawks Memorial Stadium (5600 N. Glenwood St.).
Though it certainly stands out on its own, Garden City is undoubtedly an integral part of Boise.[ Video is no longer available. ]