Teetering between its rural roots and high-tech tomorrow, Boise's distinctive neighborhoods tell a story of growth. Elegant subdivisions line manicured golf courses along the Boise River. Rolling eastward and westward, these neighborhoods have replaced farmland, shortening the boundaries between adjacent towns.
What were once sleepy, rural villages are now considered Boise's bedroom communities: Meridian, Eagle, Nampa and Caldwell are all located west of Boise off Interstate 84. Boise proper is built around breathtaking mountains and sagebrush desert. Seven distinct districts, each with its own feel, introduce the new Boise to visitors.
Tree-lined Harrison Boulevard's historic mansions set the tone for this old neighborhood. Including the downtown area, this northern district is referred to by locals as the North End. Young couples looking for charm are fixing up homes in this area, creating a renewed interest in one of Boise's first neighborhoods.
In the middle of the North End sits
Like the North End, the area northeast of downtown Boise also boasts a historic street,
In addition, the district hosts some of Boise's most impressive parks.
Merging farmland with modern subdivisions, this district is a good example of the changes Boise is undergoing. From its eastern boundary near Eagle, the district touches the Boise River to the south and stretches north to include some of Boise's most exclusive subdivisions and the
Although new homes punctuate the landscape, there is still plenty of room for horse pastures and older farm homes in this neighborhood, dating back to the late 1800s. One of the main roads, Collister, is named for Dr. George Collister, a Boise pioneer. Pierce Park Road takes its name from Walter Pierce, whose park building efforts have been transformed into the Plantation Golf Course.
Named for historic gardens raised by Chinese immigrants, this small city within Boise's boundaries stretches along Chinden Boulevard, also named for a Chinese garden. The 50-year-old city has a tarnished past from legalized gambling in the late 1940s to adult bookstores. Today, its main attraction is the Western Idaho Fairgrounds, home to the Western Idaho Fair.
Not that long ago, the Boise Bench was a mixture of 1950s brick bungalows and grand homes overlooking downtown Boise and its string of parks. Today, the Bench's character has changed because of Hewlett-Packard (HP), one of Boise's largest private employers, and the
Divided by Highway 184, the Bench includes the West Bench, dominated by HP and the
One word says it all for this southeastern district: Micron. Micron Technology's complex dominates the far eastern corner of this Boise neighborhood. Growing along with Micron, the area has sprouted subdivisions, housing Micron employees, and attractive green spaces.
Even though the new threatens to overshadow the old here, southeastern Boise is also home to
Just across Interstate 84, this neighborhood unfolds across a high desert plain. There is less of everything in this area, less development, less shopping and fewer services. The Boise Municipal Airport,
A lush green valley appeared in front of the early 1800s French-Canadian fur-trappers like an oasis rising out of the dry, brown high desert. Overcome with excitement, they are rumored to have exclaimed "Les Bois! Les Bois!" This is literally translated as "the wooded" in French. This historic utterance not only named a city, but also established Boise's nickname, "City of Trees."
It wasn't long before the Hudson Bay Company, also drawn to the Boise River's fertile ground, established Fort Boise in 1834, near present-day Parma. The Fort's most famous guests were Oregon Trail emigrants, who after 1,554 miles of traveling arrived at Fort Boise's protective gates. An 1843 emigrant remarked that his stay at the Fort had been "exceedingly polite, courteous, and hospitable."
Overwhelmed by Indian attacks, Fort Boise closed in 1854. Interest in Fort Boise was renewed when gold was discovered in the Boise Basin. A new fort was built in the crossroads of the Oregon Trail and Boise Basin and Owyhee gold mines. With this kind of traffic, Boise prospered and soon became known as a bustling commercial hub.
One German immigrant saw the miners and cowboys tramping through Boise as thirsty customers. Opening his brewery in 1864, John Lemp eventually became known as the "Beer King of Idaho." When he died in 1912, he had lived in Boise longer than any other resident. Today, visitors can stroll along Lemp Street in Boise's North End.
The same year Lemp began peddling his brew, Boise was incorporated and named Idaho's territorial capital. Except for a short decline in population after the end of the gold rush, Boise has been growing ever since. Prosperity brought the need for a federal mint or assay office, and in 1872, after one year of construction, a U.S. Assay Office branch opened in Boise.
Unfortunately, the good times also brought organized crime and petty criminals. On July 4, 1870 construction for the Idaho Penitentiary began. Local newspapers noted that it was ironic that the end of freedom for many began on Independence Day. Taking more than a decade to complete, the structure was mostly built with convict labor. The prison closed in 1973, but the Old Idaho Penitentiary is open today as a historic landmark and home to the Idaho Botanical Gardens.
Another important edifice, the original brick Capitol building, located between Sixth and Seventh and Jefferson and State streets, was built in 1886. Four years later, Idaho was named a state. Idaho's new government soon outgrew the Capitol, and in 1905 a new building was commissioned. Local sandstone from east Boise's Tablerock Quarry was used as well as convict labor. The sandstone and marble Capitol was completed in 1920, costing tax payers a little over $2 million.
Like many other high desert cities, Boise's growth depended on water. The expanding use of irrigation in the early 1900s brought farming families to the Boise Valley. Plans were made by the Boise Irrigation Project to construct the Arrowrock Dam, at the time the tallest dam in the world, and other Boise River dams.
The early 1900s brought other firsts to Boise. In 1914 Boise welcomed Moses Alexander as Idaho's governor, the first Jewish governor in the United States. Another first in the nation took place in 1926 when Boise received commercial airmail.
One of Boise's most prominent companies also saw its beginnings in the early 1900s. In 1912 Harry W. Morrison and Morris Han Knudson joined forces to start Morrison-Knudsen, an engineering, construction and manufacturing company. Morrison-Knudsen had its hand in some of the century's largest construction projects, including the Hoover Dam, San Francisco Bay Bridge and the Trans Alaska Pipeline.
Always a hospitable host to immigrants, Boise opened its gates in the 1930s to Basque travelers leaving their home in the Western Pyrenees Mountains for America's fortunes. Although the Basque started migrating to Idaho in the 1800s, the 1930s saw the largest migration, making Idaho home to the second largest group of Basque immigrants in the United States.
Even the Great Depression couldn't hold back Boise's growth. Boise State University welcomed its first students in 1932. Joe Albertson opened his first grocery store in Boise in 1939, marking the beginning of Albertson's Supermarkets. J.R. Simplot started processing potatoes in nearby Caldwell in 1941. Today, both Simplot and Albertson's are among Idaho's largest employers.
During World War II, Boise's Gowen Field hosted airmen as they trained for battle. Nearby Mountain Home opened the Mountain Home Air Force Base in 1942. Boise continued to prosper during the years following World War II. In 1957 two smaller lumber companies combined forces, creating Boise Cascade, which today has two million acres of timberland under its control. It isn't surprising that in 1959 Pete Oleson, president of the local Chambers of Commerce, coined Boise Valley's nickname, the Treasure Valley. He said that the name emphasized the "treasure chest of resources and opportunities in the area."
Boise was slow to respond to the tumultuous 1960s. The first civil rights march did not take place until 1968, after Martin Luther King's assassination. But it didn't take the Boise legislature long to catch on, creating the Idaho Human Rights Commission in 1969.
Boise's past 20 years have seen tremendous growth closely linked with two companies, Hewlett-Packard and Micron Technology. Hewlett-Packard created its Boise Division in 1973, specializing in scanners and printers. Today, it is one of Boise's largest private employers. Founded in 1978, Micron Technology designs and manufactures semiconductor memory components, and is Boise's largest private employer.
While Boise's high-tech industries continue to grow into the 21st century, it is easy to get lost in the busy fast-paced world of corporate culture. Visitors need only stroll through the Pioneer Village to feel Boise's humble beginnings. Compare the rustic cabins to the large Micron complex, and you will appreciate how far Boise has come in a relatively short time. Boise's future, as its past has proven, should be spectacular.
Travelers have sought refuge within Boise's comforting arms since the beginning of Boise's history. Oregon Trail emigrants, looking forward to their stay at Fort Boise, remarked that the early Boiseans were "exceedingly polite, courteous and hospitable." Boise's charms attracted early 1900s dignitaries like Will Rogers, Teddy Roosevelt and Clarence Darrow.
The Owyhee Plaza Hotel is considered one of the top choices in the Downtown area. The 90-year-old facility retains an old-fashioned charm while offering modern conveniences, like 11 meeting and banquet rooms.
Nearby, is the Grove Hotel, the pulse of downtown Boise. Offering 250 rooms and 22 suites, the hotel is connected to the Bank of America Center, host to professional sports, well-known entertainers and conventions. Convention-goers can also stay at the nearby Hotel 43, Safari Inn or The Modern Hotel.
For a luxurious, pampered stay in Boise, visitors should check into one of the newer hotels, the Anniversary Inn. With 38 themed rooms, the Inn spoils its guests with a Jacuzzi and big screen television in every room. Close to Kathryn Albertson Park and Boise River, it offers delightful recreation nearby. Adjacent to the Boise River, the Shilo Inn Riverside is the perfect location for downtown convenience and Boise River access. Guests jog, bike or skate along the paved pathway, stopping at a riverside restaurant for a cool refreshment or snack along the way.
West of downtown, Boise State University and ParkCenter Boulevard, lies Boise's shopping hub, the Boise Towne Square Mall. Flagship stores like Dillard's and the Bon Marche attract shoppers from around the state. Chain restaurants and other large stores dot the area.
The mall's popularity has also attracted comfortable lodging options. Two all-suite hotels, AmeriSuites Hotel and Plaza Suite Hotel, are close to the mall and only a few minutes by car from downtown Boise. Shopping junkies should check into the Ameritel Inn, located next to the mall, and indulge in their bargain-hunting impulses.
Boise River accommodations are popular for a reason. Guests can combine some of Boise's best features with friendly lodging. Sitting near the Boise River Greenbelt, SpringHill Suites Boise ParkCenter is an all-suites hotel so close to the river that fishermen might want to bring their gear. The equally comfortable Doubletree Club ParkCenter is located nearby, offering the same large hotel luxuries, as well as freshly-baked cookies, a tradition that many hotel chains now include. These two luxurious hotels are located in the ParkCenter Boulevard area, home to elegant houses lining the Boise River and a variety of shops and restaurants.
Considered an entertainment hub, nearby Boise State University (BSU) attracts visitors for musical and theatrical entertainment at the Morrison Center for Performing Arts and the BSU Pavilion, and sporting events at the Bronco Stadium. The University Inn is a popular lodging option for Bronco fans with easy access to BSU and downtown attractions.
As the mall's growth has attracted hotel chains, so has Boise's airport area. Flights, bringing businesspeople to Boise for high-tech meetings, have increased. Located in Boise's barren southwestern district, these hotels offer modern comforts but do not have the ambiance of Boise's other locations. However, if convenience to the airport is your only criteria, you will be amazed at the number of hotels greeting you as you leave the airport.
The Shilo Inn Airport and Holiday Inn Boise are two of the more expensive airport hotels. The Holiday Inn offers an unique entertainment complex, the Holidome, with a video arcade, indoor pool, Jacuzzi and fitness center. The hotel is also home to one of the larger conference facilities in town.
Boise unfolds in sections. It is the mountains, rolling brown velvet topped with white in the winter, that most people notice first. After that, the charming downtown area's historic buildings, funky eateries, elegant restaurants and quaint shops grab the attention. In the end, the parks, the Boise River Greenbelt and the Ridge to Rivers Trail System complete the package.
Warm Springs Avenue
The Historic Center of Boise displays some of the most beautiful architecture in the city. Admire the sandstone Belgravia Building, noted for its thick walls and bay windows, on your way to have lunch at nearby the Melting Pot restaurant. Nearby you'll find the U.S. Assay Office, built in 1872, and some of Boise's oldest homes on Warm Springs Avenue. The Municipal Park is also just a short walk away.
Explore the Old Warehouse District, or the North End Area, which hosts gracious old mansions and bungalows, as well as the quaint Hyde Park shopping area. This district preserves Boise's industrial past and is home to coffeehouses, shops and restaurants, such as Asiago's. Hiking enthusiasts will enjoy the nearby Ridge to Rivers Trail System.
Boise River Greenbelt
Enjoy breakfast at Goldy's Breakfast, then enjoy the great outdoors. Connected by the Boise River Greenbelt, Ann Morrison Park, Kathryn Albertson Park and Julia Davis Regional Park are the grand dames of Boise's park system. Visitors can spend a morning or afternoon exploring the park's attractions or viewing wildlife while following the smooth, paved Greenbelt pathway.
Crossing over the Boise River and passing by the Boise Public Library, you come to Kathryn Albertson Park. Located between Capitol Boulevard and Broadway Avenue, the park offers many attractions including Zoo Boise, the Boise Art Museum, Pioneer Village, Idaho State Historical Museum and Discovery Center. Somewhere in between, you can grab a bite to eat at the popular Flying M Coffeehouse.
Treasure Valley Wine Country
Stop into the Flying M Coffeehouse before heading out to discover some of Boise's best wineries. Treasure Valley boasts several outstanding choices, including the largest and best known, Ste. Chappelle Winery. The Koenig Vineyards and Hell's Canyon Winery are located practically around the corner. Both are open on the weekends for tours and wine tasting. A few miles away is the Indian Creek Winery in Kuna, offering weekend tours, wine tasting and a variety of special events.
Perhaps the best tour a visitor can take is to treat oneself to a hike or mountain bike ride on the Ridge to River Trail System. You can mountain bike from downtown Boise to the Boise Ridge and within minutes be in the golden, rolling foothills. From the trail system, the Boise Ridge disappears behind a barrier of Evergreens and trails twist left and right. It's possible to be only a few miles from the Capitol Building but feel much farther away.
If you'd rather tour the Boise area with a guide, there are several different ways to do so. Here are a few of the services provided by local tour guides:Walking Tours: