The capital and most populous city in Idaho, Boise is called the “unexpected West” by the local tourism bureau. Both “urban and wild,” they say their “lively, clean, artistic, vibrant, tree-lined city is just steps from all you want to discover.”
After an obligatory touristy pic in front of the state’s capitol building, walk over to the Freak Alley Gallery, a 24-hour open-air showcase of unique painted murals. In the same vain, keep walking down to Gallery 601, the Capitol Contemporary Gallery and MING Studios, all nearby art institutions.
Right by the zoo is the Boise Art Museum, which would be a good final stop for the day. Ongoing exhibitions include Outside the Lines, Re-Framed: American Life, Legacy and Ideals, and Jacob Hashimoto: Fractured Giants.
Outside of the art scene, there are opportunities to raft the Boise River or hike the greenbelt that hugs it.
Then, of course, there’s the Old Idaho Penitentiary, which now belongs to the Idaho State Historical Society. Built in 1870, it’s one of only four territorial prisons open to the public today (another famous one is in Yuma, which was on our 2022 list of Places to Visit). It was a functional prison from 1872-1973.
Another, more relaxing spot is the Idaho Botanical Garden, which is located on 50 acres on the city’s east side (funny enough, right behind the old prison).