“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” – Frank Herbert
Photo Credit: Visit Idaho
Do you have a list of favorite destinations that you love but don’t want them to get too popular, so they can be your favorite secret escape locations forever? That’s how I feel about Idaho. Now maybe I am a little biased since I grew up in Northern Idaho and lived there on and off until my mid twenties, but there is so much to share about the Gem state that I just can’t keep it a secret anymore.
When planning getaways to the Pacific Northwest, most people tend to skip over Idaho in favor of more popular places like Washington and Oregon. Yet, If you’re someone who loves nature and the great outdoors, an Idaho adventure should be on the top of your destination bucket list.
In this two part travel series, Boise: Visiting the City of Trees and the upcoming Boise Day Trips: Off the Beaten Path, I highlight some of Boise’s many offerings and share two day trips that will take you out of the city and into some of the most picturesque drives in the nation.
Boise, the capital of Idaho, is known as the City of Trees. This nickname started when the city’s earliest settlers climbed upon one of the surrounding hills, and looked down into the valley and gazed upon a vast forest that stretched out before them.
Boise is one of those places that’s off the radar for many people. During my most recent visit I was thrilled with how enjoyable it was to stay in the downtown area of Boise. The city center around the Capital building is filled with a fantastic selection of hotels, innovative restaurants and bars, and plenty of small businesses and shops that cater to visitors seeking a laid-back family-friendly vibe.
Photo Credit: Visit Idaho
Boise is a fun city to explore, as you meander through the streets you’ll find unexpected things like art murals and a part of Boise called “The Basque Block“, where you can learn about this area’s strong connection to Europe’s Basque country.
Photo Credit: The Basque Block Website
Boise is home to numerous outdoor activities including water sports and skiing, there are parklands, interesting museums, and a whole list of other activities that offer entertainment year round. In addition to exploring the downtown area you can;
The area surrounding Boise is also home to a number of award winning Idaho wineries, which is a great way to get in some out of the city sight seeing and taste some unique wines from the Snake River Valley AVA. More about the area wineries is added below.
You can find a complete list of current activities on the Boise Visitors Bureau Website.
There is no shortage of great places to stay in Boise, whether you are looking for budget or luxury accommodations, there is a wide selection of hotels and rentals all across the city. If you plans are for a weekend stay in Boise, consider situating yourself in the Downtown area so you can be in the center of everything. For a more extensive list visit the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Our long weekend stay in Boise was at The Grove Hotel, located downtown, it is one of the more popular hotels in the city. Conveniently located and only a few blocks from the state capitol building, this location allows for easy walking throughout the whole downtown area.
Situated on the corner of Capital Blvd. and W Front Street, The Grove Hotel has 250 rooms & suites and is attached to the CenturyLink Arena in downtown Boise. At The Grove Hotel you can enjoy access to the Grove Fitness Club & Spa which features an indoor lap pool, Jacuzzi, steam room, workout equipment and personal training fitness rooms, as well as an on-site spa.
The guest rooms and suites at The Grove Hotel are perfectly suited for a weekend of relaxing or a week long work trip. During our stay we enjoyed our suite and the hotels amenities, yet what really stood out was the exemplary service we received from the hotel staff. We were given a warm welcome at the reception desk when we checked in and that five star service continued throughout our stay.
The King Grand Suite with Terrace Access was our home away from home while in Boise. This one bedroom suite has a step out which leads to the 4th floor terrace that includes seating areas, access to the fire pits and incredible views of the Boise skyline and surrounding foothills.
Early mornings sitting outside on the terrace at The Grove Hotel were a perfect place to watch the sunrise and plan our daily activities and adventures.
While in Boise our daily excursions made it difficult to have set dinner reservations in the city so we took advantage of The Grove’s on site Restaurant Trillium and The Bar located just off the lobby.
Happy Hour in The Bar or in Trillium includes $4 draft beers and well cocktails, plus a wonderful selection of appetizers at 50% off. Available Sunday – Thursday from 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm (Excluding Arena event nights), We enjoyed Happy Hour at The Bar with sips of local beers, a craft cocktail and a delicious charcuterie board.
Trillium is conveniently open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, offering a New American menu served in an elegant space by friendly and attentive staff. Many of the menu items are also available for room service which is perfect for those times when you want to dine in the comfort and privacy of your own room.
The atmosphere at Trillium is both comfortable and classy.
Fresh local ingredients and an impressive wine list are just a few of the charms of Trillium Restaurant.
Trillium’s Tablerock Cobb Salad, Oregon’s Montinore Estate Borealis, and Smoke + Fire Pizza.
As you make your way around Boise you’ll soon discover there’s a plethora of great dining and drinking spots. This Big Little City is a great place for foodies to visit who are looking for something unique.
Photo Credit: Visit Idaho
The culinary contributions of Idaho may frequently be associated with potatoes, but Boise is known as a hub for Basque culture and cuisine. Not familiar with the Basque region and it’s culture, don’t worry, wikipedia can help with that.
The majority of the Basque region is located in Spain, but a small chunk of the territory is located across the French border. Reflecting the unique culture and heritage of the Basque Country, Basque cuisine is wide-ranging and varied; it is based on ingredients sourced from the sea as well as from the local gardens and farms. When traveling to Boise a meal at an authentic Basque restaurant should not be missed, we discovered Epi’s during our search for Basque food to celebrate our anniversary and it was the most memorable meal of our trip.
Epi’s Basque restaurant is in Meridian, just west of Boise.
An Anniversary toast with Eguren Tempranillo and Lan Reserva Rioja.
Many Basque meals in Boise restaurants start with croquette appetizers, Epi’s Ham Croquettes are a golden brown and have a decadently thick, creamy texture. You’d swear there were potatoes or cheese in the middle but it is a mixture of chopped ham in a solid chilled béchamel. These delicious bites were just the introduction of the scrumptious food still to come.
Basque cuisine is a delicious way to warm your soul, this flavorful yet simple food is unique, hearty, and wonderfully satisfying.
Arkumea Txuletak. grilled lamb loin chops charbroiled and topped with a roasted garlic marinade and Gambak, sizzling garlic shrimp sautéed in butter, garlic, parsley, and lemon. Each entrée was served with soup, salad, bread, and two pre-selected side dishes. A must visit when in the Boise area.
A day trip that doesn’t take you far away from the heart of Boise, is to a part of Idaho’s Wine Country, just 20 minutes way from the city. Idaho wines have been up and coming for a while now, and it’s easy to explore the variety of wines produced outside of Boise in towns like Meridian, Garden City, Kuna, Caldwell and Eagle.
Located in the scenic Snake River Valley AVA one wine area to explore is the Sunnyslope Wine Trail, just outside of Caldwell, which is home to 17 wineries and vineyards. The wineries found on the wine trail are the ideal spots for taking in the panoramic views while sipping on award-winning Idaho wines. While many of our getaways are centered around wine this long weekend was more about a chance to explore the areas outside of Boise, so this time wine tasting was kept to just one stop.
You can read more about the Sunnyslope Wine Trail and the Snake River AVA on the Idaho Wines Website.
For a wine tasting around lunch time Sawtooth winery, which was founded in the Snake River Valley in 1987, was the perfect spot to take in some incredible views and enjoy a couple of wine flights along with a delicious charcuterie board. Sawtooth offers an impressive selection of white and red wines including Riesling, Pinot Gris, Syrah, Merlot and Tempranillo. A sister winery to Ste Chapelle Winery, right next door, both wineries are owned by Precept Wine and winemaker Meredith Smith produces the wines for both wineries.
When planning a visit to the Boise area wineries, check their websites to see if tasting reservations are needed.
With such a fantastic selection of interesting venues and exciting outdoor adventures available, Boise has a lot to offer. We absolutely loved all the activities offered in Boise and we hope to return to explore the city in more depth someday soon. As I mentioned earlier this trip was also about exploring some out of the city destinations, which can lead you to popular Idaho towns and long scenic drives through some of the most beautiful landscapes in the Pacific Northwest.
Stay tuned for part two of this Idaho adventure, Boise Day Trips: Off the Beaten Path were I’ll be sharing a picturesque loop through the Sawtooth National Forest and Sun Valley Idaho, as well as a leisurely drive to Payette Lake, in McCall Idaho.
I’d love to hear about some of your favorite Idaho destinations.
Images and Content © Drink In Nature Photography and Drink In Life Blog.