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This is a comprehensive guide to visiting Boise with kids. It’s chock full of things to do with kids in Boise.
Ever visit a city that you know right away is a complete gem? Well, that was Boise for us! Now that we’ve gone and returned, I’m really surprised the city doesn’t get more shine. It’s such a beautiful city that’s super clean with tons to do. This was our first trip to Idaho but we had such a wonderful time that I’m sure it won’t be our last!
This is a complete guide with everything you need to know so hopefully your family can love the city as much as we do! From fun things to do in Boise with kids to where to stay in Boise and even how to get around the city, it is all listed here. Without further adieu, here is a list of things to do in Boise with kids.
Disclaimer: Our trip [and this blog post] was sponsored in its entirety by Visit Idaho. All opinions are, as always, our own.
- Getting around Boise
- How Long Should You Stay in Boise
- Where to Stay in Boise
- Things to Do with Kids in Boise
- Outdoor Recreation
- Historic Boise
- Other Fun
Getting around Boise
This isn’t an option that I get to include in many cities but Boise is an exception! It’s one of the most walkable cities we’ve visited [like did you know there are nearly a hundred restaurants in downtown Boise] and with a few exceptions, we walked from our hotel to most places. If you don’t want the hassle of a car and you plan to stay downtown for the majority of your trip, your best mode of transportation is your own two feet.
Rental Car and Parking
One of the cool things about the city is how many awesome things to do in Boise with kids are located in the downtown area. That makes it much easier to get around and see all the sites. That said, I’d still recommend a car when visiting Boise with kids. It’s much more convenient and opens up more of the city for adventures. There is plenty of parking around the city and lots of it is free.
If you’d prefer to use public transportation, Boise has a regional bus system that will take you all over Boise and the surrounding counties. There’s also the Bronco Shuttle with stops around downtown that will take you to and from Boise State University if you’re visiting the campus or anything near it.
If you don’t want to rent a car in Boise or use public transportation, there are plenty of ride-sharing options in Boise too!
There are lots of bike trails throughout downtown Boise and beyond! Rent a bike or bring your own to explore the city on two wheels. There isn’t a city bike share program but there are plenty of bike rental shops around Boise.
Popular ride-sharing programs like Uber and Lyft are plentiful in Boise and will get you where you need to go to experience all the things to do in Boise with kids. If you’d rather ride in a traditional taxi, those are available as well.
How Long Should You Stay in Boise
Although we spent a week in Idaho overall, our stay in Boise was around 4 days. This gave us plenty of time to explore downtown Boise and hit up a good chunk of the places on this list of things to do in Boise with kids.
If you have more time to explore, a full week in Boise would be awesome too! There are plenty of places to visit outside the Boise city limits that are amazing for kids. Whatever the length of your stay, this list of things to do in Boise with kids can accommodate your itinerary!
Where to Stay in Boise
During our time in Boise with kids, there wasn’t a bad area in town. But if you’re looking for the most centralized area to stay in for things to do in Boise with kids, then you’ll want to stay in downtown Boise. Most of the family activities in Boise are there [or nearby], there are PLENTY of food options, and you can walk around to explore.
We stayed at the Grove Hotel at 245 S. Capitol Blvd and highly recommend it. The hotel itself is beautifully appointed with incredibly spacious rooms and amazing views of the city. Beyond that, there are several eateries directly across the street [including the new Warehouse Food Hall] and it’s a stone’s throw from many of the things to do in Boise with kids. It’s even attached to the Idaho Central Arena!
If you’d like to be a little removed from all the action, the Riverside Hotel in Garden City is a fantastic option! The hotel has an adorably quirky vibe that our family found enchanting. Not to mention it is riverfront [hence, the name] with direct access to the Boise River Greenbelt, an amazing breakfast buffet, and live entertainment in the lobby.
Other great hotel options in Boise, ID:
Things to Do with Kids in Boise
Basque Museum and Cultural Center
Did you know that Boise is home to one of the largest communities of Basque people in the nation? The Basque people are a unique culture that’s indigenous to an area located between Spain and France. They have their own language, practices, and foods. In fact, much of the Spanish and French cultures were influenced by the Basque people. The Basque history is on full display at the Basque Museum and Cultural Center where families can learn more about this awesome community and how they came to be in Idaho.
Discovery Center of Idaho
STEM for kids is always a good idea! When looking for things to do with kids in Boise, don’t forget the Discovery Center of Idaho. There you can immerse your family in a ton of interactive exhibits that cover everything from slime to dinosaurs. There’s even a special section for young scientists ages 4 and under.
Children’s Museum of Idaho
This probably won’t top your list of things to do in Boise with kids if you have tweens or teens, but for those of you with smaller kids, the Children’s Museum of Idaho is perfect! They’re all about creative play with special kid-friendly activities like story time and lots of hands-on exhibits for kids ages 2-8.
Aquarium of Boise
The Aquarium of Boise isn’t your traditional museum but it’s an educational addition to this list of things to do in Boise with kids nonetheless! Here you can check out over 250 different species of aquatic animals living in 35,000 gallons of water. See baby shark eggs, interact with an adorable tortoise, feed and pet some fish, and so much more.
Boise Selfie Museum
If you’re reading this list of things to do with kids in Boise with tweens and teens in mind, the Boise Selfie Museum is for you! The entire museum is dedicated to capturing Instagram-worthy snapshots with 16 different rooms with unique selfie stations. It’s completely family-friendly for those who want to do it for the ‘Gram.
Orma J. Smith Museum of Natural History
The College of Idaho has a small [but mighty] natural history museum in the basement of one of its buildings. The Orma J. Smith Museum of Natural History is the only natural history museum that encompasses the southwestern Idaho, southeastern Oregon, and Northern Nevada regions. If your kiddos are huge fans of nature, you’ll want to pop here for a quick visit!
Boise Art Museum
An art museum may not seem like an obvious choice on this list of things to do with kids in Boise, but it’s a great option – especially for older kids! The Boise Art Museum is inexpensive to visit – kids in grades 1-12 are half price and kids 5 and under are completely free. They also have the BAM Artexperience Gallery, an area specially designed for families featuring non-traditional artwork by local and internationally renowned artists.
The Boise River Greenbelt
If 25 miles of tree-lined pathways sounds like heaven to you, then you’ll definitely want this on your list of things to do in Boise with kids! Explore the Boise River Greenbelt that runs alongside the Boise River in the heart of the city. It’s definitely walkable but the beautiful scenery, in my opinion, is best enjoyed by bike.
Boise Whitewater Park
Surfing in the city? Yes, please! At the Boise Whitewater Park, your family can surf, kayak, or even do stand-up paddling. The park is fed by the Boise River but has special wave creating technology that makes different level waves for everyone in the family. From “easy going” to “river runner”, there’s a little bit of aquatic fun here for everyone in the family.
Esther Simplot Park
Explore 55 acres of outdoor recreation at Esther Simplot Park. Named after one of the city’s top philanthropists, it features a 23-acre pond [where the kids can go fishing], several play areas, a playground, and a fun area called Friendship Island.
Camel’s Back Park
If you’re visiting with kids under 12 and want some fun in the sun, be sure to have Camel’s Back Park on your list of things to do with kids in Boise. The park features a playground, tennis courts, sand volleyball, plenty of green space, and even an outdoor gym.
Cherie Buckner-Webb Park
Located in the heart of downtown Boise, the Cherie Buckner-Webb Park is named in honor of the first Black woman elected to the Idaho Legislature. It has a large green space for the kids to run free and cool swings under a pink “tree” (it’s actually an art installation). As huge fans of heritage travel, this park is one of our favorite things to do with kids in Boise.
Idaho Botanical Garden
The Idaho Botanical Garden is a pocket of serenity in the city with over 14 acres of botanic treasures. Families can take the self-guided tour or let one of the knowledgeable docents take you around. Take in the garden, look for the neat outdoor art, and [when it is open] peruse the garden store.
Julia Davis Park
I could, perhaps, have saved the best for last in the list of outdoor recreation options of things to do in Boise with kids. On 43 acres filled with green space, a rose garden, historical statues, a number of museums, a playground, the Zoo Boise, and more Julia Davis Park is the heartbeat of downtown Boise and is a sure hit with kids!
Idaho Black History Museum
The Idaho Black History Museum is the oldest Black history museum in the Pacific Northwest. Not only is the historical landmark filled with historical treasures but the building itself is historical too. The museum is housed in the old building for St. Paul Baptist Church, the first Black church in Idaho. The museum’s hours are limited so be sure to check their website before you visit.
[Check out our other posts related to heritage travel]
Idaho State Museum
If learning the story of Idaho while in Boise with kids is your thing, you’ll definitely want to visit the Idaho State Museum. There are centuries of history within its walls with plenty for everyone in the family to learn and enjoy. There’s even an entire floor dedicated to younger members of the family. Be sure to add this one to your list of things to do in Boise with kids and interact with history!
Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial
This historical site is named after Anne Frank but is dedicated to the pursuit of justice and peace. It has a wall of quotes from prominent human rights activists, monuments representative of local civil rights leaders, serene water features, and of course, Anne Frank herself. It’s an educational park that’s perfect for families of all ages to stand in remembrance and be inspired.
James Castle House
Get a mix of history and art with a family visit to the James Castle House. He was a self-made artist who was born and raised right in Boise. The museum serves as a tribute to his legacy and features over 60 pieces of his original artwork. While some of the artwork is sure to inspire some childish wonder, this museum would be better suited for families with tweens and teens.
Old Idaho Penitentiary Museum
I know the question at the top of your mind: is visiting a prison really one of the top things to do in Boise with kids? My answer is a resounding YES! We had so much fun at the Old Idaho Penitentiary Museum learning about the history of the institution. We got to tour old prison cells, learn about the numerous riots that eventually led to its closing, see remains of old prison buildings, and [Phil’s favorite] see the execution room on death row.
There is even a special exhibit detailing inhabitants from out of state, women that went through the system, and prisoners of color. And as odd as it sounds, the grounds are absolutely beautiful. I 100% recommend this spot when visiting Boise with kids.
Canyon County Historical Society’s Nampa Train Depot Museum
The Canyon County Historical Society’s Nampa Train Depot Museum is about 30 minutes outside of Boise but is a must for families that love trains! Learn about the railroad that used to journey through the region and view local antique treasures.
Indian Creek Museum
The Indian Creek Museum is another historical site run by the Canyon County Historical Society. It’s approximately 30 minutes outside of Boise and details the history of Caldwell, ID. It has 30 rooms, each with its own special theme, with historical artifacts that children would love. Not to mention, they have an interactive scavenger hunt just for kids!
Freak Alley Gallery
If your family loves art [and even if you don’t], you’ll want to have Freak Alley Gallery on your list of things to do in Boise with kids. It’s an alley in downtown Boise [don’t worry – it’s not as sketch as it sounds] filled with artwork from local artists. Some of it is a little eccentric but all of it is incredibly fun!
Boise State University
Did you know that Boise State University is home to the only blue-colored football field? And, boy oh boy, is it blue! Explore the campus and introduce your kiddos to collegiate life. Be sure to stop by the Athletic Hall of Fame on campus too. It’s free to visit and highlights some of the decorated athletes in the school’s history. Plus, you’ll get a chance to sit on the sidelines of the infamous blue field!
Idaho Shakespeare Festival
Despite its name, the Idaho Shakespeare Festival is more than just the iconic works of Shakespeare. This outdoor amphitheater hosts all kinds of festive theater from the grounds of an immaculate park dedicated to none other than William Shakespeare himself.
Come early before your show to enjoy the lush grounds, sit amongst boulders with quotes from the infamous playwright, and grab a meal from the on-site restaurant that benefits local food pantries. They have special Family Nights where all are welcome but families with children older than six can go anytime.
Jack’s Urban Meeting Place [JUMP]
I may or may not have a new life goal of convincing the JUMP folks that they should let me move into this place. It’s a community center in downtown Boise that inspires creativity and is designed to support the community as a whole. From creation studios to an outdoor amphitheater, there’s always a ton to do here. It’s all free and it’s all open to the public. The highlight of the whole place for families? The ridiculously tall slides that are open in the spring and summer.
Lions, tigers, and bears are all present and accounted for at the Zoo Boise! If you’re looking for a fun, carefree activity to add to your things to do in Boise with kids, this one is it. Located in Julia Davis Park, Zoo Boise is a great way to spend an afternoon in the city. Visit each of the zoo’s 300 animals and learn the importance of preserving life for these amazing creatures.
OK, yes, this is a book store. On a list of things to do with kids in Boise. I can see the weird looks you’re giving all the way from here. But hear me out! This isn’t any old book store. It’s a place where books and people meet [their words, not mine]. Rediscovered Books is an indie bookstore with a wide array of diverse offerings for family members of all ages. Best of all, they are a major contributor to many of the city’s school libraries so your purchase directly benefits area kids. But even if you don’t buy, they have an amazing selection for kids and it’s just a fun place to peruse.
Grove Plaza [located outside of the ah-mazing Grove Hotel] is all about the fun! Grab some ice cream from one of the ice cream shops nearby and bring the kiddos in their swimsuits [or not] to splash in the fountain. The city also frequently holds special, family-friendly events there like Alive After 5 free summer concert series, holiday tree lighting, and city market.
Idaho Capitol Building
Boise is the capital of Idaho and the Idaho Capitol Building is smack dab in the middle of downtown. Roam its impressive grounds or take a self-guided tour of its interior. Its circular rotunda is filled with educational placards about the history of the Idaho legislature and the state itself. There’s even a scavenger hunt and word hunt search games for kids.
Have you done any of these things to do in Boise with kids? Which is your favorite thing to do with kids in Boise?