Boise, Idaho has always been one of those cities that’s low on my list of places to visit. Because I honestly knew absolutely nothing about it. I stopped by Coeur d’Alene for a hot minute and stayed with my girlfriend in the tiny town of Sandpoint, but that was my only only experience with Idaho. So when this trip popped up, I was excited to see somewhere new and see what a small, yet well known city has to offer. And even though it was a short trip, I was able to eat my way through the city pretty well.
When I landed in Boise, I went straight to Quinn’s Pond for a little paddle boarding lesson with Idaho River Sports. This adorable little park is home to people swimming, paddleboarding, kayaking and fishing or just floating in the 100 degree heat. It’s just like hanging out at a super cool public pool. And what’s cool about this place is there’s no fee to get in. Just park, blow up your floats and cool off immediately. I had a lesson with a guy named Jimmy who showed us all the basics about paddle boarding (don’t worry, he told me to turn the paddle around as soon as we got in the water – see below) and how to turn, steer and just get better at paddle boarding. The staff at Idaho River Sports was SO friendly and helpful, and their paddle boards were super easy to paddle on. If I could go back, I would probably skip the lesson and mess around with the paddle board on my own. Sure, I might hold the paddle the wrong way but that’s how you learn, right!? Right?!
Next to Quinn’s Pond is the Greenbelt and their super cool Whitewater Park. Two state-of-the-art waveshapers have been put in in the middle of the Boise River. These waveshapers elevate stainless steel flashboards which raises and lowers the flashboards to control upstream water levels. This creates a 20-foot wide primary wave and a longer 25-foot secondary wave that’s perfect for kayakers and surfers to get their workout on and stay cool in the heat. When I was there, I watched a kayaker go through the wave and it looked so damn fun!
But if you’re not a surfer or kayaker and floating is more your style, no problem! The Boise River is the perfect place to load up your floatable coolers and float for miles and miles with your friends! They also have Green Bikes you can pick up throughout the city to get wherever you need to around town or just ride along the Boise River Greenbelt! I picked up a Green Bike one afternoon to check out the Greenbelt and seriously loved it! The tree-lined pathway gave a ton of shade and cooler temperatures when the heat hit 100 degrees outside. And it made me miss college after biking past Boise State University and seeing all the students heading to class. Those were the good ole days!
For my first meal in Boise, I checked out Bittercreek Ale House which shares a space with the sister company Red Feather Lounge. Both restaurants are focused on the environment and sustainability in Boise. And for being a restaurant that focuses so much on their draft microbrews, they have super delicious food. I just grabbed a quick burger with fries and ate every last bit! They don’t specify on their menu which items are gluten free, so be sure to mention to your server that you are gluten free so you don’t run into any issues when ordering your meal!
The next morning, I took some advice from one of my readers and stopped in at Goldy’s. This tiny restaurant can be a little hard to get a table at (unless you’re traveling alone and sitting at the bar – always a plus!) but it’s definitely worth the wait! When I was trying to figure out where to eat that morning and checked out Goldy’s on yelp, I was swayed by the veggie hash breakfast I saw in the photos. It can sometimes be challenging to get a ton of veggies while traveling so I try to get them whenever I can. It can also be tough to get breakfast anywhere without eggs (I try not to eat eggs very often because of an allergy), but I had no issue there. I added their pork sausage to my veggie hash and literally ate every last bite! It was so incredibly delicious! And they serve you a GIANT fruit bowl if you ask for that instead of a biscuit. They don’t just give you crappy melon! It’s actually a fruit bowl worth eating! And Goldy’s uses as many fresh local ingredients as possible to provide a variety of choices and in-season favorites!
After that amazing breakfast, I headed out to explore downtown Boise. What’s nice about Boise is it’s so incredibly walkable! I walked EVERYWHERE when I was there, which was perfect after a big meal. And throughout the city, you can find unique shops and stores to find the perfect item for you or whoever you may be shopping for! Some of my favorites included Idaho Made, Rediscovered Books, SHIFT Boutique, Sugarbums where I grabbed some Alo activewear, and Blush by Jamie Rose where I picked up some of my favorite makeup and some products I had never heard of! The more you walk around Boise, the more stores you’ll run right into on random corners!
In the afternoon of my second day in Boise, I wandered around the adorable neighborhood of Hyde Park, then I went out for a quick hike in Camel’s Back Park. This 11-acre park has tons of trails, playgrounds, tennis courts, picnic areas and access to the Boise Foothills. This hike is pretty damn easy compared to some of the miserable hikes I’ve been on in Colorado (I think it’s safe to say I’m not much of a hiker) but the part of the hike I was on had 100% no shade so it made the 100 degree heat pretty unbearable. I think I only made it less than 30 minutes then I need air conditioning immediately! If you’re going to head out on this hike, definitely do it early in the morning because the views are worth the easy walk! You can see all of downtown and the foothills!
After cooling down and showering up from the hot hike, I walked to dinner at Alavita. If you love pasta, you MUST try this restaurant. Chef Chris of Alavita is all about farm-to-table and using fresh and local ingredients to make his amazing dishes. The restaurant name means “To Life” and is a great place to celebrate life with friends, business associates and family. Not only do they have creative pasta dishes, unique cocktails and small plates that will blow your mind, but most items on the menu are gluten free or can be made gluten free! Yes, that includes the pasta dishes! I was lucky enough to try the Seared Pacific Coast Diver Scallops that are made with amint-fava bean puree and lemon curd, which will blow your mind! I couldn’t believe how amazing the lemon curd and scallops went together. It was beautiful. I shed a tear. Then I taste the crispy pork belly on top of cognac glazed apples, shallots toasted almonds & olive oil, which made the most interesting and delicious flavor. And last but not least, I order the Rigatoni pasta dish (I order it gluten free, of course) which had Barolo braised Northwest boneless short ribs, arugula & pecorino. It was PHENOMENAL!! I never order pasta while out at restaurants because most sauces are made with some sort of less than needed ingredient, but I didn’t have to worry about that at Alavita. And after meeting the chef and seeing how passionate he was about what he creates, it made me even more excited to go back again one day!
After dinner, I walked off my meal so I could enjoy a little late night snack at The STIL. The STIL (Sweetest Things In Life) just recently opened and has quickly become one of the hot spots around town! I was lucky enough to meet with Kasey Allen, one of the owners of The STIL and hear a little bit about their story and how this ice cream shop came to be! Some of their menu items go beyond the traditional ice cream flavors we are accustomed to see. They offer boozy ice cream with local craft beer and wine or they will mix their ice cream into beer or wine floats OR you can order a flight of microbrews and micro scoops. And they always offer vegan options that actually taste good!! I sampled a ton of different flavors, even their bourbon (which was awesome, and I HATE bourbon) and ended up getting a scoop of their vegan lavender because it was AWESOME! And I also got a little scoop of their chocolate with fresh mint because it was so refreshing after dinner. If I could go back, I would have ordered a bigger size cup and got the vegan lavender just by itself. It was seriously amazing!
The next morning I decided I needed to listen to my readers again and I headed to the highly recommended breakfast and lunch spot, Wild Root Cafe & Market. When I was at Alavita the night before, the chef also recommended this spot so I knew it had to be amazing. Wild Root Cafe & Market is another farm-to-table restaurant that uses local ingredients to create clean, delicious and beautiful food! When I was trying to figure out where to eat for breakfast that morning, I was instantly pulled to Wild Root Cafe & Market when I noticed their menu that had bone broth, sweet potato hash and house-made sausage. Like I said before, it can sometime be hard to find breakfast menus that have items without eggs, but I had no issue here. I ordered the Wagyu steak and eggs and asked for no eggs, bread and extra steak! No problem at all! The stone fruit agrodolce (which I had never even heard of) was SO SO good. I left feeling satisfied and not weighed down by this clean food! So glad I went there!
After wandering around downtown a little more, exploring the Greenbelt again, and working at a local coffee shop, I headed to my last restaurant of the trip at Boise Fry Company. This restaurant idea is AWESOME!! Instead of picking your burger first and the fries being an after thought, at Boise Fry Company you choose what kind of potato, cut, seasonings and even ketchups you’ll have…THEN you choose your burger! They have russet, gold, laura, yam, sweet potato, purple, okinawa, or just order brussels sprouts! After you get your fries or veggies, pick your seasonings and grab your favorite dips. And don’t worry, the burgers aren’t lacking even though they are specializing in fries. I tried the bison burger after multiple people recommended it and it was OUTSTANDING! And the best part of this restaurant is you can tell them that you need gluten free and they will make sure everything is made correctly. And all their seasonings and sauces are marked gluten free so you know what you’re getting! At Boise Fry Company everything is fresh and local so you can trust the food you’re eating! And it’s honestly just a really cool spot to hang out! AND there is a waffle place that shares the same space which makes it smell unbelievable!
Last but not least, before I headed back home to Colorado, I stopped in at City Peanut Shop to take a tour and whip up some candied almonds with owner Dan Balluff. Dan opened City Peanut Shop in downtown Boise after enjoying a high-tech career that took him all over the world. As a child Dan would visit a classic peanut store in his Midwestern hometown and once he was older he decided to take a gamble and open his own! At the City Peanut Shop, you’ll see tons of collaborations with Idaho breweries, wineries, chocolatiers, restaurants and local craft food makers. The shop is filled with all sorts of amazing candied nuts and creative flavors, but you’ll also find his other collaborations such as beer chocolate bars, brittles (which are SO addicting), sauces that include his peanut butter, and other unique items! After meeting Dan, it was pretty obvious how passionate he is about working with his community and bringing small businesses together. I went home with a huge goody bag of items and have been eating the brewers nuts NONSTOP. Especially while stress eating during the season finale of Game of Thrones. I can’t even.
Since I was only in Boise for a total of 2 whole days, I wasn’t able to hit up every spot I wanted to. But I wanted to make sure you knew all about the other restaurants and places that the locals told me about. So here’s a quick list of other local spots you definitely should check out if you’re ever in Boise! And if you know of any outdoor activities or gyms in the area that I missed on my short trip, let me know and I’ll add them to the list!
Thank you Boise for hosting me! All opinions are my own.