Idaho’s lively, outdoorsy capital, Boise is brimming with opportunities for biking, hiking and paddling in the summer, great skiing nearby in the winter, and a huge range of indie stores, restaurants and bars year-round.
Most top attractions are located in Downtown Boise, a one-and-a-half mile grid north of the Boise River, though there’s plenty of action to the south in the Boise State University District, and huge shopping malls further afield in West Boise. Further south and north along the Boise River lie attractive, leafy neighborhoods known for tubing, kayaking, craft breweries and wineries.
While it’s relatively easy to explore Downtown Boise on foot, the best way to access the surrounding neighborhoods is with your own transport. Failing that, Valley Regional Transit (valleyregionaltransit) provides a network of bus services that cover most of the greater Boise area, with single rides $1.50 and day passes just $2.50.
The Best Places to Stay in Boise
Best Luxury Hotels in Boise
Hotel 43 • Inn at 500 Capitol • Grove Hotel
Best Boutique Hotels in Boise
Hotel 43 • Modern Hotel
Best 3-Star/4-Star Hotels in Boise
Franklin House • Hyatt Place Boise/Downtown • Residence Inn Boise Downtown/City Center
Best Cheap Hotels in Boise
Best Western Vista Inn at the Airport • Inn America – Boise
Best Neighborhood to Stay for First Timers: Downtown Boise
Almost all Boise’s primary attractions and museums can be found Downtown, making this the best area for first-time visitors. The choice of accommodation is good, everything is within walking distance, and Boise’s best restaurants and bars are also clustered here, including the city’s celebrated Basque eateries. In the summer, there’s always something happening at Grove Plaza, while the Boise River is lined with parks and the city’s popular Greenbelt, a 25-mile pedestrian and cycle trail that hugs the riverbank.
Most Romantic Neighborhood: Garden City
Some two miles northwest of Downtown Boise, Garden City is a primarily residential neighborhood on the south bank of the Boise River. The river provides much of the romantic allure here, a quiet, tree-lined ribbon of water rich in wildlife. Staying at the Riverside Hotel provides on-site access to the waterside Greenbelt trail (bike rentals available), discreet riverview rooms (so close to the water you can hear the ducks and geese), and outdoor bands playing nightly – couples often dance on their balconies. Active couples can check out Boise Whitewater Park (www.boisewhitewaterpark.com). The hotel is also within walking distance of some of the city’s increasingly lauded wineries: Coiled Wines (www.coiledwines.com) and Telaya Wine Co (www.telayawine.com), with several others a short drive up Chinden Boulevard.
Best Neighborhood for Food and Restaurants: Downtown Boise
Downtown Boise is crammed with excellent restaurants, cafés and bars. At the top-end is classic steakhouse Chandlers (chandlersboise.com), farm-to-table hotspot Fork (boisefork.com), and Wild Root (wildrootcafe.com), while Goldy’s (goldysbreakfastbistro.com) is a great place for breakfast. Downtown is also the place to sample the region’s Basque culinary roots, with Bar Gernika (bargernika.com) a good place to start. Boise’s craft beer scene is also thriving, represented here by the like of the Bittercreek Alehouse (bittercreekalehouse.com), while local coffee culture can be experienced at Flying M Coffee House (www.flyingmcoffee.com). Finally, Boise is the home of “fry sauce” (mayonnaise, ketchup and spices), best sampled with burgers and fries at Boise Fry Co (boisefrycompany.com).
Best Neighborhood for Shopping: West Boise
Though Downtown is the city’s traditional commercial heart, dedicated shopaholics will appreciate the concentration of stores in West Boise’s mega malls. Some 4.5 miles west of the city center (on I-184), Boise Towne Square (www.boisetownesquare.com) is the largest shopping mall in Idaho, with over 150 stores and numerous eateries. Just to the south, the Boise Spectrum Center (boisespectrumcenter.com) is another mall at the heart of a major shopping hub at the junction of I-184 and I-84. With numerous hotels and motels at both sites, it’s easy and relatively good value to stay here, all within a short drive (or bus ride) of Downtown Boise.
Best Neighborhood for Local Vibe: North End
Backed by the Boise Foothills, the leafy and affluent streets of North End are off the tourist trail, but provide an enticing insight into everyday life in Boise. North End also features one of the city’s best places to stay, Franklin House, offering “bed and beer garden”. A short walk north from the hotel is the buzzing Hyde Park area along North 13th Street, lined with local shops and restaurants, while just a few blocks further is Camel’s Back Park with trails into the foothills.
Best Neighborhood for bargains (and regional access): Boise Airport
Drivers intent on exploring not just the city of Boise but also the surrounding area should consider the concentration of motels and hotels around Boise Airport (on the border between the Bench and South Boise neighborhoods). With easy access to I-84 (for points north and south in Idaho), and Downtown (a 15-minute drive), the location is perfect. And with so much competition, rates here tend to be good value – properties tend to be modern, spacious and renovated regularly.
1 Downtown Boise
Boise’s thriving Downtown is a tantalizing blend of old and new, where modern office blocks share space with stores, galleries, theaters, arenas and conference centers. Activity is focused at Grove Plaza, with its fountains and annual “Alive after Five” concert series every summer. Downtown also boasts the biggest concentration of restaurants and bars in Boise, and some of the city’s landmark sights. Boise has one of the largest populations of Basque origin in the world (The Basque Country is the culturally distinct region in northern Spain and southern France); the “Basque Block” contains the Basque Museum and Cultural Center (basquemuseum.eus), as well as restaurants such as the Basque Market (www.thebasquemarket.com), and Bar Gernika (www.bargernika.com). On the southside of Downtown, along the Boise River, Julia Davis Park contains the city’s top museums: Boise Art Museum (www.boiseartmuseum.org), Idaho State Museum (history.idaho.gov/location/museum), Idaho Black History Museum (www.ibhm.org), and Discovery Center of Idaho (www.dcidaho.org), as well as the local zoo (zooboise.org). On the northside, Downtown is dominated by the stately Idaho State Capitol Building.
The Best Hotels in Downtown Boise
Boise Guest House • Hotel phone: +1 208 761 6798
Grove Hotel +1 208 333 8000
Hilton Garden Inn Boise Downtown • Hotel phone: +1 208 342 7000
Hotel 43 • Hotel phone: +1 208 342 4622
Hyatt Place Boise/Downtown • Hotel phone: +1 208 991 5275
Modern Hotel • Hotel phone: +1 208 424 8244
Residence Inn Boise Downtown/City Center • Hotel phone: +1 208 424 9999
Inn at 500 Capitol • Hotel phone: +1 208 227 0500
2 West End and Garden City
The West End and Garden City are primarily residential neighborhoods facing other on either side of the Boise River, just northwest of Downtown. Staying here means easy access to Downtown’s attractions, but also various activities along the river, from Esther Simplot Park to the Greenbelt Trail. Boise Whitewater Park provides a little more thrills, while there are a growing number of wineries and craft breweries in both neighborhoods. In Garden City, the Memorial Stadium is home to the Boise Hawks Minor League Baseball Club (www.milb.com/boise), while the Boise Fairgrounds host the annual Western Idaho Fair (www.idahofair.com) each August.
The Best Hotels in West End and Garden City
Red Lion Downtowner • Hotel phone: +1 208 344 7691
Riverside Hotel • Hotel phone: +1 208 343 1871
3 Boise State University District
This neighborhood lies just south of Downtown across the Boise River, enlivened by the students at Boise State University (BSU), whose riverside campus provides much of the district’s allure. Catch BSU’s Broncos football team (broncosports.com) playing at the famed Albertsons Stadium, with its blue-painted turf and enthusiastic local support, or take shows at the Morrison Center (www.morrisoncenter.com) or ExtraMile Arena (www.extramilearena.com).
The Best Hotels in Boise State University District
Anniversary Inn • Hotel phone: +1 208 387 4900
Residence Inn by Marriott Boise Downtown/University • Hotel phone: +1 208 344 1200
TownePlace Suites by Marriott Boise Downtown/University • Hotel phone: +1 208 429 8881
4 East End and Southeast Boise
The East End and Southeast Boise encompass both sides of the Boise River southeast of Downtown, with the river (and Greenbelt trail) once again taking center stage. Both are primarily quiet residential areas (with plenty of historic Queen Anne Victorian homes and Craftsman bungalows, especially on Warms Springs Avenue), but leafy East End also contains lesser-visited gem such as the Idaho Botanical Garden (idahobotanicalgarden.org) and Old Idaho Penitentiary (history.idaho.gov/location/old-penitentiary), now a fascinating museum.
The Best Hotels in East End & Southeast Boise
Courtyard by Marriott Boise Downtown • Hotel phone: +1 208 331 2700
Holiday Inn Express Boise-University Area • Hotel phone: +12083452002
SpringHill Suites by Marriott Boise ParkCenter • Hotel phone: +12083421044
5 Boise Airport (South Boise)
Boise Airport lies on I-84 four miles south of Downtown in South Boise, serviced by a diverse array of accommodation options, from plush hotels to cheap chain motels. The surrounding neighborhood doesn’t have much character, but for drivers it’s the most convenient place for exploration of the surrounding area, with easy access to Downtown, and to north and south Idaho via the interstate, as well as the airport itself. There are the usual strip mall options for eating and drinking nearby on South Vista Avenue, but almost everything the city has to offer is within a short drive. Another plus: hotel rates here tend to be very competitive.
The Best Hotels near Boise Airport
Best Western Vista Inn at the Airport • Hotel phone: +1 208 336 8100
Comfort Inn & Suites • Hotel phone: +1 208 342 1075
Comfort Suites Airport • Hotel phone: +1 208 608 5612
Hampton Inn Boise – Airport • Hotel phone: +1208 331 5600
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Boise Airport • Hotel phone: +1 208 342 4322
Inn America – Boise • Hotel phone: +1 208 389 9800
6 West Boise
Though residential West Boise – some four miles west of Downtown on I-184 – is home to the family-friendly Aquarium Of Boise (www.aquariumboise.net), the biggest attractions on this side of town are related to shopping. The huge Boise Towne Square mall is here, with upscale Village at Meridian (www.thevillageatmeridian.com) to the west and Boise Spectrum Center just to the south, with a plethora of shops in-between, from a Walmart Supercenter and Costco to Cabela’s sporting goods and Michaels craft store. Accommodation options are plentiful and good value.
The Best Hotels in Boise Towne Square
Candlewood Suites Boise – Towne Square • Hotel phone: +1 208 322 4300
Hampton Inn & Suites Boise/Spectrum • Hotel phone: +1 208 323 2500
Hyatt Place Boise/Towne Square • Hotel phone: +1 208 375 1200
Oxford Suites Boise • Hotel phone: +1 208 322 8000
La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham Boise Towne Square • Hotel phone: +1 208 378 7000
Residence Inn by Marriott Boise West • Hotel phone: +1 208 385 9000