From Denver to Boise: A Summer Guide to Idaho’s Urban Outdoor Playground

Denver to Boise, Camel's Back Trail

Denverites know mountain cities are super rad, that’s why we live here. We enjoy easy access to the mountains, plenty of open space and a city center that boasts almost everything you want and need for your urban lifestyle. Because of this, we have felt the influx of transplants from other cities and states with increased traffic and home prices. Needless to say, people are taking notice that mountain-city living is exceptional.

Home to a flourishing culinary scene, a slew of brewpubs and wineries, the orange and blue Bronco football team and easily accessible outdoor recreation, you might think we’re talking about Denver. But we’re not, we’re talking about Boise, Idaho. As Idaho’s largest city, Boise offers visitors a diverse blend of outdoor adventures and urban sophistication, making it an ideal getaway to experience the best of both worlds. For those who enjoy a little taste of home while traveling, discover how to enjoy your next getaway from Denver to Boise with our curated itinerary below. 

Explore Downtown Boise

downtown Boise Idaho, Denver to Boise
Downtown Boise, Idaho. Photo by Jessica Hughes.

Boise feels a bit like a secluded urban oasis with the next closest big city being Salt Lake City five hours to the south. With its downtown in the heart of Treasure Valley, surrounded by the foothills and nearby mountains, Boise is a treasure trove of urban living and outdoor recreation, something we Denverites can appreciate. Start by exploring downtown to get acquainted with the city’s diverse culinary scene, fun and funky art, local brewpubs and cultural nods to the West. 

Tour the Idaho State Capitol

As Idaho’s capital city, Boise’s downtown is anchored by the Idaho State Capitol building. Built in 1905, the capitol’s impressive features such as the dome and rotundra beneath with Corinthian columns and its mainly Renaissance Revival architecture make touring the inside of the building a must. But the most impressive feature is one you can’t see. Because Boise lies above geothermal waters, the structure is the only U.S. capitol building heated by geothermal waters, much like many other buildings in Boise. 

JUMP Boise

One of 54 vintage tractors at JUMP Boise, an urban park and creative center. Photo by Jessica Hughes

Located on the campus of the J.R. Simplot headquarters, Jack’s Urban Meeting Place (JUMP) is a non-profit creative center and community gathering space in the center of downtown. Inside, you’ll find access to a variety of creative spaces, studios and free activities. But outside, is where you’ll find its most unique attraction — a collection of 54 vintage tractors anchoring the space’s green park. Meant to showcase industrial art and innovation that highlights Boise’s agricultural roots. If you want to learn more, there are tours available.

Cultural, Art, and Food Scenes

Art installation by Jacob Hashimoto at the Boise Art Museum. Photo by Jessica Hughes

In addition to its outdoor appeal, Boise also boasts a robust arts, cultural and culinary scene that beckons discerning foodies, music fans and art lovers. Explore rotating exhibits and collections at the Boise Art Museum or get your freak on walking the whimsical Freak Alley outdoor gallery and Basque Museum and Cultural Center. 

Freak Alley Gallery
Freak Alley Gallery downtown Boise. Photo by Jessica Hughes

Theater and live entertainment options range from nationally touring Broadway productions to local troupes like Ballet Idaho and Opera Idaho, while music venues like the Revolution Concert House bring big acts to town. Spend an evening taking in a show, or catch the Boise Philharmonic or Idaho Shakespeare Festival during warmer months for outdoor performances.

Eat your heart out

The best way to experience Boise is with its unique culinary experiences. And no we’re not just talking Idaho potatoes, although you will find plenty of opportunities to have your starch. 

Farm-fresh flavors shine bright in Boise with a burgeoning culinary scene heavily focused on locally sourced cuisine. The Boise Farmers Market, local food halls and bustling eateries abound downtown provide a diverse palate of flavors. Savor favorites at The Wylder, The Lively, Fork, and high-end culinary experiences at KIN — where chef Kris Komori wins Idaho’s first James Beard award for Best Chef: Mountain Region.

Get started with a visit to The Warehouse, Boise’s first food hall to sample from 14 different food concepts/vendors. There’s a flavor for everyone from gourmet grilled cheeses at Totally Toasted to Bao buns from Bao Boi Japanese restaurant.

the warehouse food hall Boise Idaho
Outside the Warehouse, Boise’s first food hall. Photo by Jessica Hughes

Sample almost every kind of local Idaho potato, with a burger on the side, at the Boise Fry Co. Using the freshest potatoes available, the eatery serves Russet, Gold, Red, Purple, and Yam potatoes with your choice of burger on the side. Paired with their selection of housemade sauces and seasonings such as jalapeno ranch, spicy ketchup and cinnamon ginger salt, your burger will be jealous of your Idaho-potato fries.

Boise to Denver, Boise Fry Co.
Idaho potato fries with a side of burger at Boise Fry Co. Photo by Jessica Hughes

Breakfast becomes the most important meal of the day at Wild Root Cafe where Chef Michael Trebbi and his wife Anne-Marie whip up favorites such as bruleed ruby grapefruit or steak and eggs, made with Snake River Farms Wagyu beef and cage-free eggs.

breakfast at wild root cafe
Fresh, seasonal ingredients make breakfast at Wild Root Cafe a great way to start the day. Photo by Jessica Hughes

Cap off the day with a fine dining experience at Richard’s at the new Inn at 500 Capitol Boutique Hotel. Richard’s Café Vicino was a staple of Boise’s North End neighborhood and after years of popularity, the James Beard-nominated chef, Richard Langston, relocated downtown.

The Avery Boise Idaho
Dinner at the Avery. Photo by Jessica Hughes

Or stop in for drinks and dinner at the Avery. Classic elegance and a historic bar anchor the ambiance at this high-end eatery and hotel. Helmed by Michelin-starred chef, Cal Elliott, the Avery features a refined menu of flavors that include duck rillette and braised short ribs. And don’t forget to venture to the back alley for a nightcap at Tiner’s Alley — an English-inspired speakeasy at Boise’s oldest Brunswick bar.

Experience Basque Culture

Basque Market, Boise to Denver
Basque Market Boise, Idaho. Photo by Jessica Hughes

One of the best culinary experiences in Boise resides within the Basque community. Boise is home to the largest Basque community outside of Spain, much of it residing in the famed Basque Block. The Basque Museum and Cultural Center is a great place to begin your exploration of this unique cultural hub. Learn about how the Basque culture came to be in Idaho and how the community makes strong efforts to keep the culture alive and thriving in Boise.

Taste your way through the community by shopping at the Basque Market for unique food finds including canned spiced octopus and sardines, along with Basque products appropriately marked with a Basque flag sticker indicating the food is from Basque country and used in traditional Basque cooking. Join them for Paella on the Patio every Wednesday and Friday where they dish out their famous paella on the market’s open-air patio.

Basque Market, paella on the patio
Paella on the Patio at the Basque Market. Photo by Jessica Hughes.

For dinner, pull up a seat at Leku Ona for a traditional Basque dinner with foods such as croquetas, TXIPIRONES (stuffed squid, ink sauce and garlic rice) and the traditional drink of Kalimotxo — red wine mixed with Coca-Cola. 

Wineries and Breweries

wine tasting Boise Idaho
Wine tasting on the patio at Telaya Wine Co. Photo by Jessica Hughes

If red wine with coke isn’t your favorite, stop in one of Boise’s many breweries or wineries. Similar to Denver, Boise’s brewery scene is having its 15 minutes of fame with local craft breweries occupying every street corner. Use the Boise Beer Guide to discover your favorite spot for trying something new, a brewpub with a patio or rediscovering the classics.

Idaho is home to three AVAs, or wine-growing regions, including the Sunnyslope area just outside Boise. With the first grapes planted in 1864, Idaho wine culture has been around for some time but is often overshadowed by its other Pacific Northwest neighbors. Now with over 70 wineries and a variety of growing regions in the state, Idaho’s viticulture is on the rise and Boise is a great place to begin your tasting adventures.

Several wineries have tasting rooms along Boise’s Urban Wine Trail, including Telaya Wine Co. Owned and operated by a husband-and-wife team, Telaya Wine Co. has put the Boise wine scene on the map with exceptional wines, beautiful views and a community-focused atmosphere. Enjoy a wine tasting and small bites on their gorgeous outdoor patio that overlooks the Boise River and Greenbelt.

Play in an Urban Outdoor Oasis

Explore the Boise River Greenbelt Trail

Boise River Greenbelt Trail
Boise River Greenbelt Trail offers hop-on, hop-off access to favorites like the Telaya Wine Co. Photo by Jessica Hughes

Despite its urban core, one of Boise’s biggest draws is its supreme accessibility to nature and outdoor recreation, much like Denver. Dubbed the “City of Trees,” parks and greenbelts lace throughout the city, including the popular Boise River Greenbelt trail system that runs over 25 miles along the river’s shores from downtown Boise to Garden City.

Boise River Greenbelt Trail
Biking along the Boise River Greenbelt Trail. Photo by Jessica Hughes

The tree-lined path fills with walkers, joggers, and bikers on their way to nearby restaurants, wineries, and other city parks coined the “ribbon of jewels” — a series of green spaces named after some of Boise’s top women civic leaders.

Splash around at the Boise Whitewater Park

The Boise Whitewater Park in the river’s waters is a local hot spot for surfing, rafting, kayaking and paddleboarding. Spanning over 1/4 of a mile of the mountain-fed Boise River, this urban whitewater park gives you access to surfing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding just minutes from downtown. 

Or join in on the summertime tradition of floating the Boise River. Much like Colorado Front Range residents like to float the Clear Creek River in Golden, Boise locals take to the waters and float down the river from Barber Park to Ann Morrison Park. Float season typically begins in late June and runs through August.

Hiking from the city center

Similar to Denver, the Boise butts up against the foothills of the Boise Mountains, offering ample hiking opportunities from the middle of the city. With over 200 miles of trails managed by the Ridge to Rivers trail system, there are plenty of options for hiking or biking.

Boise to Denver, Camel's Back Trail
Views of Boise from the Camel’s Back Trail. Photo by Jessica Hughes

At Boise’s West End — Boise’s oldest “new” neighborhood, one of the more popular hiking trails is Camel’s Back Trail. This moderate 1.7-mile loop climbs steadily (a similar start to Manitou Springs Incline), to a vista that overlooks the Boise skyline and surrounding mountains.

Table Rock trail, Denver to Boise
Hiking Table Rock loop. Photo by Jessica Hughes

At Boise’s East End, a climb to the top of Table Rock is a local and visitor favorite. Located at the Old Penitentiary parking lot, Table Rock Trail is a 3.7-mile loop that soars above Boise’s landscape with stunning views of the foothills and city. 

Unique things to do in Boise

From Felons to Flowers at the Idaho Botanical Gardens

The most unlikely combo, the old Idaho Penitentiary, and the Idaho Botanical Garden are some of Boise’s more unique attractions. The 42-acre historic site lies at the base of the Table Rock trail (mentioned above) making this the perfect outdoor day excursion when visiting Boise.

Idaho Botanical Garden, Denver to Boise
Strolling through the Idaho Botanical Garden. Photo by Jessica Hughes

Built in 1870, the Old Idaho Penitentiary is one of only four territorial prisons open to the public today. During its 101 years of operation, the penitentiary saw over 13,000 inmates. Today, visitors can see the old cell blocks, solitary confinement quarters and the gallows.

Idaho Penitentiary
Inside one of the prison cells at the Idaho Penitentiary. Photo by Jessica Hughes

Walk around the prison grounds and learn about the inmates and the architectural history of the historic buildings. Stop and smell the roses at the rose garden built in 1917 as a test garden to test new rose varieties before they were sold to retailers. 

rose gardens at Idaho Penitentiary
Test rose garden at the Idaho Penitentiary. Photo by Jessica Hughes

Next door, soften your visit from felons to flowers with a stop at the Idaho Botanical Garden. Resting on 15 acres of what was once the Idaho Peniteniary’s nursery and farm, the botanic gardens are now home to a variety of gardens, such as the English Garden, Herb Garden and meditation garden. Or join them for a concert at Outlaw Field — a place where fellow inmates used to spend time outside. Other unique features of the garden include the cemetery that backs up to the gardens, where inmates who died while in prison were buried here if the family were unable or unwilling to claim their remains. 

Visit the World Center for Birds of Prey 

Center for Birds of Prey
The Center for Birds of Prey is the largest breeding facility for the California condor. Photo by Jessica Hughes

The World Center for Birds of Prey is the headquarters for the Peregrine Fund — a non-profit that focuses on the conservation of endangered raptors from around the world. This unique training and rehabilitation center for large birds of prey is the largest breeding center for the California Condor, the largest flying bird in North America, with 66 condors and 14 eggs hatched as of last year. Very impressive considering that in 1982, there were only 22 of the scavengers alive. 

Center for birds of prey
Peregrine falcon demonstration at the Center for Birds of Prey. Photo by Jessica Hughes

It is also home to one of the largest nesting grounds for raptors in Boise, assisting in the return of the Peregrine Falcon — a bird that can reach up to speeds of 240 miles per hour, making it one of the fastest animals on the planet. Mark your calendars and join them during their annual California Condor release and other special events.

Where to stay in Boise

While there are plenty of hotel options in Boise, stay at one of Boise’s newest hotels — The Avery. Remodeled and repurposed inside a historic, four-story Renaissance-style building, the hotel features 39 rooms, a restaurant, a gastropub and a bar featuring acclaimed chef, Cal Elliott.

the avery hotel boise
Old-world charm makes The Avery a favorite place to stay in Boise. Photo by Jessica Hughes

Find old-world charm in every quiet corner of the hotel, along with comfortable rooms that showcase the building’s historic features and modern upgrades.

Hotel Renegade is another new addition to Boise’s hospitality scene. The “rough yet refined” boutique hotel just opened its doors with big Boise views, high-end rooms and its in-house restaurant, Baraboo Supper Club.

Getting from Denver to Boise

Getting from Denver to Boise is easy. A direct two-hour flight gets you to Boise Airport, a short 15-minute drive to downtown. United and Southwest Airlines, both offer multiple direct flights from Denver to Boise every week. To learn more about how you can plan your trip to Boise, visit

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