Not to be confused with Boise City, Oklahoma.
The Idaho State Capitol, looking north from Capitol Blvd.

Boise is the capital and largest city of Idaho. Although its economic growth has its roots in agriculture, the city is now home to many high tech industries. Notable firms such as Albertson's, Micron, WinCo Foods and the J.R. Simplot Company are headquartered here.


Although the exact origin is disputed, the name "Boise" is thought to be derived from the French les bois, or "the trees." The name is a reference to the tree-lined Boise River, which passes through the heart of the city. To this day the city takes its "City of Trees" moniker very seriously, although before settlement there were actually very few trees in the area.

Boise began its life in the mid-1800s as Fort Boise, a U.S. Army installation located at a strategic junction on the Oregon Trail between what were then the major settlements in southern Idaho Territory, the mining camps of Silver City to the south and Idaho City to the northeast. A city grew quickly around the fort, and by 1865 became the capital of Idaho Territory (much to the chagrin of northern Idahoans, namely residents of the original capital of Lewiston). By the dawn of the 20th Century, Boise was far and away the dominant city in the region, having long eclipsed the likes of Silver City and Idaho City.

Today Boise is sometimes seen as the eastern edge of the Pacific Northwest, or the western edge of the Rocky Mountains, or both, depending on who you ask. Downtown Boise and the North End neighborhood offer a PNW feel every bit as strong as anything in Portland or Seattle, while suburbs such as Meridian and Nampa steadfastly cling to the decidedly self-reliant ethos of the Intermountain West.

Boise is a sports town strongly supporting its local teams, including the NBA D-League Idaho Stampede, the ECHL Idaho Steelheads, and of course its emerging college football powerhouse at Boise State University – all with recent league and conference championships. Slowly but surely, Boise is beginning to accept its role as a major metropolitan area in the western United States, while at the same time embracing its small town past.

Regions of the city are best distinguished by the age of construction (pre-1950's, 1950's-1980's suburbs, and post-1990 suburbs) and the affluence of their inhabitants, with the premier exception being the downtown core, which primarily consists of non-residential corporate and nightlife establishments. The North End refers to a distinct neighborhood due to the grid style of street construction, smaller pre-1940's suburban houses, relatively dense vegetation, and numerous amenities within walking distance of most residents. Boise has no culturally discernible neighborhoods, although a few ethnic restaurants and food stores exist.

Get in

By plane

Boise Airport (BOI) is located less than 5 miles (8.0 km) south of downtown Boise. Getting downtown from the airport is simple, essentially requiring driving in a straight line (i.e. north on Vista Avenue). The airport is serviced by several airlines, including Alaska, Allegiant, American, Delta, Southwest, and United.

The airport sports a modern terminal building and offers free WiFi.

By car

Boise can be accessed by car via Interstate 84, which connects to Meridian, Nampa, and eventually Oregon to the west, and to Twin Falls and eventually Utah to the southeast. Boise can also be accessed via State Highway 55 from McCall and Northern Idaho.

By bus

Get around

By public transportation

Idaho is not known for public transportation, so your own vehicle is pretty much mandatory to get around outside the city center. There is a city bus service, ValleyRide, but routes are lacking compared to other cities of similar size. In addition buses stop running after 6:45PM Monday through Saturday, and don't run at all on Sunday.

By car

Cars can be rented at the Boise Airport from major rental companies including Hertz, Avis, and Enterprise. Traffic in Boise is relatively light and peaceful, especially compared to Seattle or Portland. That said, Boise is no stranger to heavy traffic in certain places. Interstate 184, Capitol Boulevard, Meridian Road, Eagle Road and State Street should be avoided during rush hours. Interstate 84 between I-184 and the Garrity Boulevard exit in Nampa (and sometimes into Caldwell) can be challenging as well. I-84 traffic in eastbound lanes is heavy in the morning, and in westbound lanes in the afternoon.

If I-84 is in bad shape, Ustick Road can be a smart alternative from Boise to Canyon County and vice versa, passing north of Nampa and south of Caldwell. Ustick runs unbroken for some 35 miles (56 km), from the Boise Bench neighborhood to U.S. Route 95 northeast of Homedale, close to the Oregon border. Victory Road provides a similar but more direct alternate route between south Boise and Nampa.

Traffic east of the Idaho City (State Highway 21/Federal Way) exit on I-84 from Boise towards Twin Falls is rarely - if ever - problematic. However, winter storms can make the Mountain Home area treacherous.

If you're going downtown, expect to pay to park even though parking meters aren't enforced on weekends or after 6PM After hours you might get lucky finding a spot on the street, but chances are you'll be heading to a private parking garage and paying a $2 minimum. This is especially true on weekends. Fortunately, parking outside the downtown core (i.e. east of Broadway, south of Myrtle, west of 15th and north of State) is insanely easy - and almost certainly free 24-7.

By taxi

Taxi service is adequate and available 24-7, but because the city is so spread out even traveling between neighborhoods can easily run over $20. Both companies and drivers must be licensed by the city. Established companies include:

By bicycle

The Boise city center is extremely bicycle-friendly. The Boise Greenbelt is a paved pedestrian and bike path that stretches approximately 25 miles (40 km) from Lucky Peak Reservoir east of Boise all the way through town . For avid bikers and walkers, much of the river and Boise's parks can be accessed this way.

Cyclists should avoid main thoroughfares west of downtown, particularly Meridian Road and State Street west of 27th Street. Several bicycle-related fatalities have been recorded in those areas in recent months. Stick to side streets in Meridian and western Boise.


Boise is the administrative and cultural hub of Idaho. Many of Boise's main attractions are located in the downtown area.


East of Downtown

South of Downtown

West of Downtown


Because of Idaho's massive outdoor recreation industry, Boise is the starting point for many outdoor activities in the surrounding mountains, including rock climbing, mountain biking, and kayaking. However, since Boise is also a large city, it also has urban attractions consistent with its status as the largest city in the state. Local activities include:



Floating the Boise River





Most of the fancier restaurants are in the downtown area.


Boise has a surprisingly well-rounded nightlife, all stereotypes to the contrary, but once again, the best places to drink are all downtown. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, throngs of young women in midriff-baring outfits (no matter the weather) and young men strutting their stuff cruise downtown bars.

Boise bars may serve from 10AM-2AM daily, however some close earlier. All bars within Boise city limits are smoke-free, although smoking at bars is still permitted in nearby Garden City.





Go next

Routes through Boise

The Dalles Nampa  W  E  Mountain Home Twin Falls
Bend/Prineville Ontario  W  E  Mountain Home Craters of the Moon

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, February 08, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.