BOISE — Boise is a relatively quick getaway for much of northern Utah. Whether you're in the mood for a change of scenery or in the city for a business trip, here's what to do with 24 hours of spare time in the City of Trees.
Wandering through the city's downtown district will help you understand why some writers call Boise the "West's best-kept secret." The city, built on the banks of the Boise River with a mountain backdrop reminiscent of Salt Lake City, is a beautiful mix of the outdoorsy culture Westerners are accustomed to and an artistic spirit you'd more expect to find in Portland.
Start your day off with a jog or bike ride along the Greenbelt, a 25-mile stretch of trails along the Boise River that will show you why Boise is commonly referred to as the City of Trees. Keep an eye out for bald eagles if you go during winter.
Make sure to head out early enough to experience breakfast at Goldy's, a popular local joint that has won Boise Weekly's Best Breakfast award for several consecutive years. Grab a seat and you'll understand why weekend walk-ins are willing to wait an hour for the restaurant's eggs Benedict with house-made hollandaise.
Spend your afternoon soaking up more of Boise's cultural offerings. The city is home to the largest Basque community in the U.S. (about 16,000, according to its website,) and downtown is home to the Basque Block, a celebration of culture that includes restaurants, the Basque Museum, a Basque market and a cultural center, among other attractions.
Head toward the Basque Block and you might be able to smell it before you see it. The scents of seafood, frying vegetables and garlic mingle together in the air every afternoon, drawing visitors into the market for a taste of its traditional paella, a show-stealer in the region. The paella, a Spanish dish of rice, saffron, chicken and seafood, often sells out so arrive by noon to get a taste of the action.
You could easily spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the Basque Block, or you could head to the Boise Art Museum a few blocks away. The museum has around 3,500 works of fine art and focuses on contemporary realism, but the exhibits are varied and there's something for every art lover to enjoy. Or, since you have limited time to enjoy Idaho nature, spend a few hours wandering through the 50-acre Idaho Botanical Garden.
Price: Paella: $8.99; Boise Art Museum admission: $6 for adults; Idaho Botanical Garden admission: $7 for adults
For dinner, plan on a true farm-to-table American experience at Fork, where you'll get to appreciate some of the best of what the area's farmers, ranchers and bakers have to offer. The menu is brimming with local fare that has been topping lists of the best restaurants in Boise for years.
Around the corner is the Freak Alley Gallery, a free outdoor gallery of pro-grade murals that capture the city's independent, artistic spirit. The murals, located in a service alley and adjacent parking lot in the heart of downtown, are painted by a rotating cast of up-and-coming and well-known local artists.
Close out your evening with a classic film, philharmonic performance or show at the Egyptian Theatre, the last single-screen theater in the region. The theater has been around since 1927. Walking through its earth-toned rooms harks back to an era immediately following the discovery of King Tut's tomb when a renewed interest in ancient Egypt popularized the Egyptian revival style of architecture the theater is known (and named) for.
Prices: Tickets for upcoming events at the Egyptian Theatre range from $14 to $100.
What's your favorite thing to do in Boise? Let us know in the comments.
Steph Grimes is a writer and editor based in Las Vegas. Follow her on Twitter: @stephgrimes