When it comes to straddling the best of city life and the great outdoors, it is hard to beat Boise. Called the “City of Trees,” Idaho’s capital city offers a cornucopia of happening bars, cultural cornerstones and delicious, diverse food options while being mere minutes away from beautiful mountains and sparkling rivers. We love the accessibility, the lack of jostling crowds … and that you can find a parking spot downtown. (Can you believe it?)
Here is the lowdown on a great getaway to Boise.
The Inn at 500 is an art-inspired, boutique hotel smack in the center of downtown. Offering panoramic downtown views, a colorful palette, and superb in-room amenities, the hotel is a destination unto itself.
With a focus on art, design and local wine (yes, really!), the 109-room hotel’s thematic decorations demonstrate what’s special about Boise, from The Boise Art Museum and the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, to local wineries like Telaya and Koenig. Wine — no surprise — is a big deal at the Inn at 500. In addition to Idaho wine-themed rooms, the hotel offers complimentary local wine, organizes wine tours and provides shuttle services to many tasting rooms. My recommendation? Before hitting up the wine trail, tuck into brunch at Richard’s, the hotel’s gorgeous in-house restaurant that dishes up comfort food infused with creativity.
A short walk from the hotel takes you to Boise’s Basque Block where a long-standing institution, The Basque Market, is a gateway to authentic Basque culture through the lens of food and wine. On Wednesdays at noon, owner Tony Eiguren stirs up a giant pot of paella on the patio — quite a spectacle to watch, and a treat to eat. Enjoy it with small-bite pintxos and some delightful, effervescent Txakoli, a signature Basque wine. The Basque Museum and Cultural Center is nearby, as well as another (yet very different) glimpse into old-school Basque culture: Bar Gernika. This old Basque watering hole is as genuine as it gets, where you can devour one-too-many croquetas and wash them down with a chilled beer.
Dive into Diversity
Despite the hold Basque culture has on Boise, there’s a wide variety of cuisine to be found – perhaps surprising given this city’s relative isolation in the intermountain west. There’s the dreamy Sunshine Spice Bakery & Cafe, the first Afghan eatery in the city, where the saffron green tea and the pistachio baklava make for a blissful afternoon pick-me-up. The chic downtown Boise Mai Thai serves a splendid Khao Soi – a savory, spicy curry with braised chicken and plenty of aromatics. And given Boise’s long sheep-herding tradition, we’d be remiss if we didn’t call out the Kadhai Gosht from Spice Indian Cuisine in the nearby city of Meridian. Marinated overnight, this grilled lamb is smothered with a creamy, spicy gravy. This is not your Americanized Indian food – curries are not sweet, but deliciously complex. There is no dearth of authentic eateries here, and the combo platter at Kibrom’s, an Ethiopian restaurant is a delicious testament to that.
Bikes, Brews and Wine
Borrow a bike at the Inn at 500, and bike around the Boise River Greenbelt, a 25-mile paved pedestrian and bicycle route that runs alongside the Boise River. Along this strip, there are many breweries, wineries and other worthy stops along the way. Lost Grove Brewing and Payette Brewing are both about a block from the Greenbelt, both with large outdoor spaces to enjoy the sunshine. And if you want to venture off the Greenbelt a few blocks more, you’ll find breweries like Mother Earth, Boise Brewing, Woodland Empire and Clairvoyant are all within striking distance.
As the Greenbelt stretches west from downtown it arrives at Garden City, a funky-urban municipality that is completely enclosed by Boise. Here, there is a bustling pocket of urban wineries also reachable by foot or bike. A few recommendations: Telaya sits right on the Greenbelt and is known for bold and beautiful reds; Split Rail has a playful approach to winemaking — and lively wines to match — is also nearby. Also a few blocks from the Greenbelt is Cinder and its excellent Viognier that is a true expression of the Snake River Valley.
Presumably, having so many eating and drinking options close to each other means that there’s more time to get into the nearby open spaces and work those calories off. In Boise, that’s easy, too. Take in a bird’s eye view of Boise at the gorgeous Camel’s Back Trail, a 1.6 easy loop that affords a view of the entire Treasure Valley. Or, stroll around Idaho Botanical Garden, a magnificent sanctuary that holds a different charm during different seasons.