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Things to Do in Boise with Kids

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When deciding where to go on your next family vacation, Boise, Idaho may not be the first place that comes to mind…but maybe it should be! Boise is home to recreational and outdoor activities that meet the needs of any adventure-seeking family. I was also delighted to find an incredibly friendly city filled with many fun attractions to explore. Here's what to see and do in Boise with kids.

Things to Do in Boise with Kids

View of Boise (Photo credit: Claudia Laroye)

Bike the Boise River Greenbelt

This flat pedestrian and bike-friendly path runs 30 miles along the Boise River, just 5 minutes from downtown. The Boise River Greenbelt is a gorgeous and gentle ride that is rightly beloved by Boise residents and downtown commuters, who call out politely when passing on the left. The route passes many parks, green spaces, and golf courses, as well as Boise State University. The school is home to the incredibly popular Boise Broncos football team, and you can stop to catch a game at the NFL-worthy stadium with its unique blue turf field.

Bike the Boise Riverbelt - Boise with Kids

Bike the Boise Riverbelt (Photo credit: Claudia Laroye)

Explore the MK Nature Center

Located along the Greenbelt, the MK Nature Center provides a perfect stopping point to learn about beavers, birds, and other wildlife in the Boise area. The kids will love to spy on trout and 8-foot-long sturgeon in the center's pond.

Who said there's no surfing in Boise, Idaho?

Surfer taking on the rapids at Boise River Park's Quinn Pond (Photo credit: Claudia Laroye)

Play at Boise River Park

If you're feeling really brave, kayak the river rapids at Boise River Park. Located along the western portion of the Greenbelt, Quinn's Pond is very popular with locals for outdoor recreation throughout the year. Active families can rent paddle boards for a fabulous core workout. If you're not up for getting wet, sit back and watch the kayakers and even the surfers, who give the rapids a go.

Warhawk Air Museum - Boise with Kids

History comes alive with Warhawk Air Museum Archivist Lou Baumann (Photo credit: Claudia Laroye)

Discover the Warhawk Air Museum

The Warhawk Air Museum is worth the 30-minute drive to Nampa, west of Boise. From World War I to the Space Age, the history of aviation and warfare is recorded and memorialized at Warhawk.

The volunteer-run museum would not exist without the efforts of dedicated people like Archivist Lou Bauman. He has personally put together collections of memorabilia like POW and ration cards, condolence letters, and medals. These items, along with binders filled with photographs, interviews, and stories from veterans and their families, make the Museum come alive with history. You can wander the Museum on your own, but if he’s there, ask Lou for a tour and you’ll be blown away.

Get up close with raptors at the World Center for Birds of Prey - Boise, Idaho with kids

Get up close with raptors at the World Center for Birds of Prey (Photo from PeregrineFund.org)

Go Birding at the World Center for Birds of Prey

A winding road into the Nampa hills, not far from the Warhawk Air Museum, takes you to the hilltop location for the World Center for Birds of Prey. Guided tours teach visitors all about the lives and habits of eagles, hawks, condors, and other birds native to the West. The center features interactive displays, multi-media shows, and live demonstrations with raptors.

If these walls could talk - at the Old Idaho Penitentiary

If these walls could talk – at the Old Idaho Penitentiary (Photo credit: Claudia Laroye)

Tour the Old Idaho Penitentiary

Visiting a decommissioned jail in a National Historic Site is one of the cooler things you can do in Boise. The first building in the Old Pen complex dates back to 1894. You can easily imagine the misery of prison life by looking into these old, tiny 3 x 8 foot cells. A guided tour brings the buildings to life, including the fascinating Marked Men Tattoo Exhibit, where you can learn the meaning and history of prison tattoos. A walk through the History of Arms and Armament building is included in the admission price.

Whimsical art in the Children's Activity Garden at the Idaho Botanical Garden

Whimsical art in the Children's Activity Garden at the Idaho Botanical Garden (Photo Credit: Claudia Laroye)

Revel at the Idaho Botanical Garden

The Idaho Botanical Garden is an oasis in the high desert. Situated in the former farm area next to the Old Penitentiary, the garden has grown and transformed over its 30 years. The Garden includes meditation, rose, native plant, and children's activity gardens, as well as a very interesting Lewis and Clark exhibit. Come here to revel in your freedom after visiting the Old Pen site.

Hands-on science play at the Discovery Center

Hands-on science play at the Discovery Center (Photo credit: Claudia Laroye)

Learn by Doing at the Discovery Center

The Discovery Center of Idaho promotes hands-on scientific exploration and education. The Center is celebrating its 25-year anniversary with a very popular Da Vinci Inventions exhibit (until November 2014). The other half of the science center continues to host its popular, kid-friendly Earth Science and learn-by-doing exhibits.

Riverside Hotel Boise

Riverside Hotel pool area (Photo from Riverside Hotel's website)

Spend the Night in Boise with Kids

For a traditional resort-style family stay, choose the Riverside Hotel in Garden City. The property feels a wee bit dated, but it’s clean and the staff is very friendly. Families with kids flock to Riverside with its close proximity to downtown Boise. This large hotel complex on the banks of the Boise River provides an outdoor pool, gym, excellent buffet breakfast, Sandbar riverside restaurant and bar, and free WiFi.

Would you like to visit Boise with kids? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Curious Travel Mama: Thank you to the fine folks at Visit Idaho for hosting my visit. As always, my opinions are honest and my own.

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About Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama

Claudia Laroye lives in Vancouver, Canada, with her husband and two sons (ages 17 and 19). She started travelling at a very young age, and has never stopped. She’s had the fortune of visiting more than 20 countries on four continents, and has also lived abroad in Sweden. Claudia is passionate about family travel and about educating children through the travel experience. She is the author of the thetravellingmom.ca, and contributes to many online and print media publications. Connect with Claudia on Twitter as @travelling_mom.

Comments

  1. Ellen Lanin says:

    I have been to Boise but no one told me there was so many interesting things to do there. I need to write some of these things down so I don’t forget. We were there prior to going to Yellowstone Park and that’s a good way to start a vacation.

  2. Sure, Boise is a lovely place for kids. But I guess it’s a great destination in totality. Looks like you can spend a carefree day, soaking the sun and just doing nothing. 🙂

  3. That river park looks awesome. It looks like they have a good mix of activities to satisfy all ages.

    • Claudia Laroye, The Curious Travel Mama says:

      Boise is such a great destination. I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed myself Jody!

  4. Michelle howard says:

    I’m moving up there soon I have a 13,5 2 year I will start following Boise Idaho looks nice

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