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Things to do in Idaho

98 contributors

The top 49 attractions in Idaho

Of Cultural Interest in Boise
The Basque Museum & Cultural Center
The BASQUE Museum and CULTURAL CENTER can be found in BOISE, Idaho, USA. The museum was created in 1985, on the site where the first Basque immigrant's house was ve came to this city. His name was Uberuaga Cyrus Jacobs, and he lived there for 40 years. This gentleman was a rich merchant in Boise had built his house in 1864. Ms. Adela Garro Simplot, also of Basque descent, bought the house in 1985, and once it was restored it became the operational BASQUE CULTURAL CENTER MUSEUM and BOISE. From the front of the building you can see on the pavement a great LAUBURU (Basque Cross four arms that was used on the handle of cane typical Basque). BOISE has the biggest BASQUE community in the world outside of Basque Country. In this center you can learn about Basque culture.
Valleys in Sun Valley
The Top of River Run
One of the times that I tried to snowboard, I repear that I was trying, I saw some amazing views, although i was excited and scared of having a bad fall! But I did survive the day; and it was simply one of the greatest experiences there is, there is nothing like feeling connected with the breeze and nature ... and this incredible mountain!
Nature Reserves in Arco
Craters of the Moon National Monument
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In the center of the state of Idaho, a national park covers old lava fields. On the black, vegetation-free slopes, torrents of lava have solidified into strangely shaped ropes. Several trails can be followed into this rough, dark mineral world. One leads to the beautiful, obsidian Lava Cave. Early twentieth century explorers thought that the moon would look like this, hence the name of this arid region.
Skiing in Sandpoint
Schweitzer Mountain Resort
Schwetizer often comes up on ski magazine "best unknown spot" lists -- and for good reason. This growing mountain has superb terrain, dependable snow, easy access, and great views. The mountain is in north Idaho, just shy of the Canadian border, and overlooking the chocolate-box-cute town of Sandpoint as well as the sprawling mountain-ringed Lake Pend Oreille (say "pond-er-a"). The front of the mountain has open learner slopes that lead to steeper bowls, while the backside has never-ending cruisers that shoulder into steep-dropping runs with sparse trees. The mountain is big enough that it rarely feels crowded, though there can be good deals if you can manage a mid-week stay. There are two very nice slopeside lodges to choose from, as well as a large assortment of rental homes; down in Sandpoint is a larger variety of accommodations. A steep, windy road connects the town to the ski lifts; unless you truly have a massive amount of gear to lug around, I'd really recommend taking the shuttle.
Historical Monuments in Boise
Old Idaho Penitentiary
This historical site in Idaho’s capital city is well worth your time if in the area, and especially for history fans. For just $5 (for adults), visitors can walk around the 100+ year old facility and get a feel for the environment inmates lived in when the prison was open. It’s interesting to see how the maximum security cells differed from that of regular ones, where those on death row were hung, as well as where laundry was done. The architecture is fascinating as well. Additionally, there is a museum on the premise that details the evolution of weapons throughout the years. If you take time to go through all the buildings, it should take about an hour or so to cover the grounds.
Museums in Boise
Freak Alley Gallery
This mural/graffiti art project in downtown Boise is an intriguing site right in downtown. It’s interesting to look at all the distinct and different paintings by local artists. Sometimes, you’ll even get to see the artists painting the walls, and it’s great to stop and watch them create for a bit. The alley is located on Bancock Street between N 8th and N 9th Streets. Beyond the immediately visible artwork in the spacious alleyway, visitors can continue walking toward the inside of the block to find more creations in the works. Even with some dumpsters lined up against the buildings, a walk through art in the alley is pleasant. It’s hard not to appreciate all the talent showcased in Freak Alley. Don’t forget to bring your camera!
Historical Monuments in Boise
Boise River Diversion Dam
A scenic view and a brief history lesson are two gains you’ll make by visiting Diversion Dam in Boise. Located on the Boise River about 7 miles southeast of the city along Warm Springs Avenue, this dam is on the National Register of Historic Places. There doesn't appear as though there’s an option for a tour of the facility, but there’s a display with brief information about it. It’s also easy to take photos of the site. There’s a small area across the dam to park cars and a bike path between the road and dam, so watch out for cyclists.
Of Cultural Interest in Boise
Spacebar Arcade
Look no further than Spacebar Arcade in Downtown Boise for vintage games like pinball, Donkey Kong, and Pac-man! Games at this arcade are also only about 25 to 50 cents per play so it won’t hurt your wallet as much if you get carried away. You won’t get tickets to win prizes when you win, but who needs that when you’re having tons of fun? There’s also a bar with a nice selection of alcohol, a juke box, and tables and chairs if you want to sit and chat. You have to be 21 to even enter this place, so have your ID ready.
Gardens in Boise
Capitol Park
Capitol Park is a mini-park located right in front of the capitol building and a relaxing place to be. It provides places to sit, a picnic area, a lot of trees (which is awesome if for those who may end up visiting on hot days) and brick paths for brief walks. It is also a great place to take photos of the capitol building and even portrait photos. As it is right in downtown, the park is not too far from restaurants, bars, etc. Those who enjoy parks and soft scenery will like it here, and even those who aren't will probably enjoy spending at least several minutes in this area.
Airports in McCall
McCall
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Enjoy every season in McCall, a vibrant town on the south banks of Payette Lake, surrounded by lots of recreational zones, shopping centres, and restaurants apt for any taste and budget. Excellent skiing, snow-boarding, snowshoeing, golf, hiking, biking, camping, rafting, kayaking, fishing, boating, jet skiing, sunbathing, as well as amazing wildlife and natural hot-springs.
Lakes in Priest River
Nature Reserves in Kooskia
Tom Beal Park
Tom Beal Park is actually a high saddle deep in Clearwater National Forest. A good-condition dirt road leaves from the Lochsa River (pronounced “Lock-saw”) and climbs 3,000 vertical feet in 9 miles to a sublime alpine setting nearly at treeline. Though these mountains – some call them the ‘Little Bitterroot’ – are comparatively low in elevation, they receive tremendous amounts of snow, and the road to Tom Beal Park is rarely drivable all the way until after July 4. This has been a favorite spot for several years now as it is easy to get to yet feels remote. I've found it to be one of the most dependable and easy-to-access summer skiing spots in the area, but later in the summer and early fall, once the snow is all gone, the mountainsides fill with elk and wildflowers. From the end of Tom Beal Park Road, a trail leads 1.7 miles downhill to Walton Lake, a remnant glacial depression – the lake is rock-lined and the water is cold and clear – so clear that you can see fish well before they surface. In the other direction, a faint trail leads uphill to a fantastic view of the main body of the Bitterroots, upper Colt Killed Cirque, and Graves Peak, which can be climbed by a steep and rocky trail.
Skiing in Mullan
Lookout Pass
Lookout Pass is a historic ski area straddling the Idaho-Montana border home to a handful of creaky chairlifts and a whole lot of snow. Though relatively small, the area offers three faces of skiing and a mix of gentle first-timers' runs, wide open cruisers, and fun tree and steep shots. Mostly what you'll notice, however, is the snow -- by the time you exit Interstate 90 (that's right -- the ski area is just yards from the freeway) the snow will likely be piled higher than your car's windows, and a lot of that snow hangs around long into the spring and summer. Base depths -- not cumulative snow, but how much snow is actually on the ground -- regularly exceed 10 feet. The ski area has a fun and cheap cafeteria and offers great packages for beginners. It also sells one-ride tickets for trips into the backcountry. This is another ski area with big expansion plans which are in the process of approval -- the new skiing would be largely on the Montana side of the mountain and dramatically expand the terrain. If you are coming up from Montana, note that the area operates on Pacific time -- one hour later that Mountain time.
Bike Paths in Plummer
Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes
Around the country old train routes are being turned into multi-use paths. I've been on a bunch of them, but few compare to the Trail of the Couer d’Alenes. This decommissioned train route follows a backcountry route across northern Idaho, from Plummer, a prairie town near the Washington border, to Mullan, a mountain town near the Montana border. In between it crosses a state park, a lot of lake, river, and marsh, the cute town of Harrison, and the historic and pretty Silver Valley. It’s open to walking, skiing, in-line skating, and biking, with several campgrounds along with way and a few places to buy provisions. We've section biked a few parts of the trail and loved it – the best part is the super scenic jaunt along the shores of Lake Couer d’Alene and across it on the Chatcolet Bridge. Although the trail climbs and dips from plateau to valley to mountain, since it’s a railroad grade it’s never steep – actually, it’s usually impossible to tell you are climbing or descending except in a few places.
Hiking in Mullan
Hiawatha Trail
What’s this? A bike trail through the mountains that is all down hill, with tunnels and rickety bridges and a magical bus at the end to take you home? It sounds too good to be true, but it’s actually very real and indeed is fun as it sounds. The Route of the Hiawatha is a converted rails-to-trails path that starts in Montana, goes through a pitch-black tunnel, and pops out in Idaho, only to run through a series of tunnels and wooden trestles on its gentle downhill path. Along the way are rest areas and interpretive signs, most of which are about the train that used the trail and which once ran across the nation. The trail is open from May through September and requires a ticket. Tickets, bike rentals, and a shuttle ticket can all be had in the lodge at Lookout Pass Ski Area, just off Interstate 90 on the Montana-Idaho line – plan on $19 for a weekend ticket and shuttle. And if you don’t have your own headlamp or bike light, you can rent those too – an absolute necessity, as the longest tunnel, the Taft, stretches 1.6 miles and is completely dark (and cool).
Skiing in Kellogg
Silver Mountain Ski Resort
Silver Mountain is now one of Idaho’s slicker four-season resorts, so it’s a little hard to believe that when this place was founded it was called “Jackass”. “Jackass” referred to a donkey that was used in nearby mines. The area opened in 1968 and was renamed Silverhorn when it changed hands in 1973. Eventually the city of Kellogg took over and used grant money, gifts, and a new tax to solve the ski area’s chief problem – it’s steep and dangerous access road. The problem-solver was a 3.1-mile long gondola which starts just steps from Interstate 90 and ends 3,400 vertical feet later at the ski area. Since opening the gondola, more chairlifts have been added and what is now known as Silver Mountain sprawls across two mountains. The base area, meanwhile, now sprouts condos, restaurants, and one of Idaho’s largest indoor water parks. A little-known insider’s tip about Silver Mountain is that once the main season is finished the resort runs its chairlifts until the snow is mostly gone – usually well into May.
Lakes in Stanley
Stanley Lake
The Satwooth Mountains of central Idaho have no shortage of lakes, yet of all the ones you can drive to, Stanley stands among the nicest. This smallish lake (about a mile across) sits at 6,500 feet about 7 miles west of Stanley, which is the hub and gateway for travelers into the Sawtooth. Two campgrounds line the shore and several trails begin from here. There’s a boat ramp and fishing. Plenty of people show up during the day to boat, swim, and fish, but most clear out in the afternoon, leaving a sublime all-to-yourself feeling. While the trails heading into the mountains from here see fair use, they are empty in the early morning and that is when we saw a wealth of wildlife.
Lakes in Idaho City
Diamond Lake
Diamond Lake is an easily accessible sub-alpine lake in the northern Bitterroot Mountains south of Superior. In a region full of lakes, this is one of the few that you can actually drive to – and most of the time you can make it there in a regular passenger vehicle. The lake, which is a few hundred yards long, is wedged into a narrow valley just shy of the Montana-Idaho state line. It’s easy to toss a kayak or canoe into the bone-chilling waters, but the real reason to come here is to take the 1-mile hike to Cliff Lake – a truly spectacular alpine lake guarded on three sides by soaring cliffs. The trail to Cliff passed under avalanche chutes and rarely melts out before July 1; the easy road access makes this a prime and highly scenic summer skiing spot. If you do come just to visit Diamond, there is a pit toilet and a few spots where you could pitch a tent.
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