Few neighborhoods in Boise carry the mystique of the North End. It's one of the most sought after residential locations in the city for its eclectic mix of craftsman bungalows, Queen Annes, Victorians and stately turn-of-the-20th-century mansions on the area's tree-lined streets.
The North End was one of the first areas of planned residential growth in the city, with new neighborhoods laid out in a grid system as the need for new homes grew.
Among those early planned developments was Harrison Boulevard, where many of the city's most prominent residents built their homes along the wide street, which included the median parkway as far back as 1916. Now, the street is a primer for architectural styles and has been on the National Register for Historic Places since 1980.
The North End hit a rough patch through the 1960s and into the 1980s, when many of the now must-have homes fell into disrepair or were subdivided into apartments for student housing.
Now though, the North End is back, drawing residents and visitors to places like Hyde Park, a quaint collection of boutique stores, businesses and popular restaurants (especially those with summer patios where diners can kick back with friends and their dogs).
The North End is also the jumping off point for exploring the Foothills via the well-developed Ridge to Rivers trail system, while the hill at Camel's Back Park (1200 W. Heron St.) has been calling to children for generations.
The Fort Boise Community Center (700 Robbins Road) is another neighborhood gathering point, offering programs for children, teens and adults alike. North of the community center, the Military Reserve encompasses 479 acres of Foothills land that is home to trails as well as an archery range, a military cemetery and one of the city's newest off-leash dog parks (Reserve Street and Mountain Cove Road).
The Foothills are also home to the Foothills Learning Center (3188 Sunset Peak Road), where the public goes to learn about nature and the environment. And, of course, there's the always popular Library at Collister (4724 W. State St.).
The North End is the gateway to Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area, which keeps skiers and snowboarders happy throughout the winter, and mountain bikers and hikers busy through the summer with a network of trails.
One North End landmark stands above all others: the former home of Idaho potato baron J.R. Simplot. While the home (above Bogus Basin Road) was donated to the state to serve as the official governor's mansion, it remains empty. But the commanding, grass-covered hill on which it stands is a popular destination for what may be a uniquely Boise activity: ice blocking, which involves sliding down a hill with your backside planted on a block of ice. Don't ask us how this got started, but we assume it involved a dare.
Known as Boise's liberal enclave, the North End is where you'll see an expensively renovated home next door to a haphazard seven-plex adorned by Tibetan prayer flags. North End necessities: a dog, a cruiser, a mountain bike and a car that'll carry it all.