Boise Idaho Area Attractions
Includes Idaho State Capital, Old Idaho State Penitentiary State Historic Site, Snake River Valley Wineries, Bruneau Dunes State Park, Silver City National Historic District, Payette River National Scenic Byway, Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway
Payette River National Scenic Byway near Boise, Idaho
Boise Idaho is the largest city in Idaho with a population of about 215,000 people in the metro area. Boise is not only the capitol of Idaho, but is also home to many fantastic things to see and do. We will highlight These "Top Things To Do and See" in the Boise Area include the Idaho State Capitol Building, Julia Davis Park and Old Idaho Penitentiary State Historic Site.
Boise is also where the amazingly scenic Payette River National Scenic Byway begins, and for those of you who are really looking for a road less traveled, we'll highlight the ghost town of Silver City located south of Boise.
Boise Idaho is also home to some of the best wineries in the West. Found in the Snake River Valley just east of Boise, there are over 20 outstanding wineries to enjoy, and there are tour companies that provide tours to these wonderful facilities.
There are of course many more things to see and do in and around Boise, such as the Bruneau Dunes State Park, and of course fantastic shopping, dining and museums in the Boise Area, but we did our best to highlight the very top attractions in this incredible area of Idaho.
Idaho State Capitol Building
The first portion of the Idaho State Capitol Building was constructed during the summer of 1905, which is actually 15 years after Idaho became the 43rd state in the Union.
The architects were John E. Tourtellotte and Charles Hummel. The final cost of the Idaho State Capitol Building was slightly over $2 million dollars, and was completed in 1920.
Four types of marble were used, which included red marble from Georgia, gray marble from Alaska, black marble from Italy and green marble from the state of Vermont. Without question the most prominent feature of the Idaho State Capitol Building is the magnificent 208 foot high dome. When visitors enter the rotunda and look up.... it literally takes their breath away as the view upward is absolutely spectacular.
Capitol Building Tours
There are very interesting and entertaining tours of the Idaho State Capitol Building that are very will worth your while if you're interested in architecture and history.
Julia Davis Park
Julia Davis Park in Boise Idaho was founded in 1907.
The Julia Davis Park is located in downtown Boise Idaho, and is a wonderful place to spend some time with your family during your visit to the Boise area. Centrally located in Boise, the Julia David Park was created in 1907 and features the Boise Art Museum, Idaho Black History Museum and State of Idaho Historical Museum. The Julia Davis Park is also home to the Boise Zoo, Gene Harris Band Shell, Idaho Rose Society with a beautiful rose garden, Idaho Discovery Center, playground, river access, paddle boats and a tennis court.
Old Idaho Penitentiary State Historic Site
The Old Idaho Penitentiary State Historic Site was an active prison from 1872 to 1973. Surrounded by a 17 foot high sandstone wall which was quarried from nearby ridges by the resident convicts. Through its 101 years of operating as a state prison, the Old Idaho Penitentiary State Historic Site received over 13,000 inmates, which the most living in the prison at one time was about 600.
Most inmates were men, but there were 250 women inmates as well. The two most "famous" inmates were Harry Orchard and Lyda Southard. Harry Orchard assassinated Governor Frank Steunenberg in 1905, and Lyda Southard was known as “Idaho’s Lady Bluebeard” for killing a number of her husbands to collect on their life insurance policies.
The Old Idaho Penitentiary is operated by the Idaho State Historical Society, and they provide fascinating tours of this very interesting and historical place. There are also several museums and an arboretum. And by the way, the Old Idaho Penitentiary has been featured on the TV show Ghost Adventures because it appears to be haunted! The Old Idaho Penitentiary was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, and is really a “must see” during your Idaho vacation if you like fascinating historic places.
Snake River Valley Winery Tours
There are over 20 fantastic wineries in the Boise Area which are extremely popular to discover and explore. Most of the wineries are located west of Nampa Idaho, however there are wineries located throughout the Boise Area. A popular activity are Boise area winery tours, which are hosted by a number of private companies. So if you like good wine and love to explore wineries, then we highly recommend either exploring the Snake River Valley Wine Country on your own, or take one of the fantastic winery tours that are provided for visitors of the Boise Area.
Payette River National Scenic Byway
The Payette River National Scenic Byway is a fantastic roadway that takes its travelers along some of the most impressive white water in North America, as well as gorgeous mountain scenery and two very popular tourist towns of Cascade and McCall.
Beginning just off I-84 at the Idaho 55 junction near Eagle, Idaho, the Payette River National Scenic Byway takes visitors northward into a scenic wonderland that is home to many incredible things to see and do.
The Payette River National Scenic Byway is located north of Boise along Idaho 55. This incredible byway is 112 miles in length before it ends at New Meadows, and is well worth the effort and time during your Idaho vacation… that is, if you like raging white water rivers, terrific scenery and terrific tourist towns.
The Payette River National Scenic Byway offers world-class white water rafting!
World Class Whitewater!
The Payette River along the Payette River National Scenic Byway is world famous for its white water.
There are all levels of white water along this amazing river, where some sections are over a mile of class IV rapids which is only for the serious professional white water adventurer.
Many sections of the river also have extremely fun class II and class III rapids that visitors with absolutely no experience can enjoy with one of the several local white water rafting guides.
Payette River National Scenic Byway.
The Payette River is world renowned for its amazing white water rafting opportunities.
Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway: South Fork of the Payette River
The town of Banks, Idaho rests in the middle of the action along the Payette River National Scenic Byway along Idaho 55, and is also the junction where the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway begins as it follows the world famous South Fork of the Payette River, where some of the best class IV white water rapids can be found in North America.
Rafters and kayakers from around the world try their skill along this amazing river way, and there are several local river rafting guide companies that take visitors down this fantastic river.
Visitors getting ready for the white water ride of their lives on the South Fork Payette River!
White water rafters enjoying the world renowned wild waters of the South Fork of the Payette River along the Wildlife Canyon Scenic Byway in Idaho.
Rafters heading for the world class white water of the South Fork of the Payette River.
Nestled along Lake Cascade, the tourist town of Cascade Idaho provides its visitors wonderful shops, restaurants, lodging and a fantastic golf course right along the lake. Also located at Cascade Idaho is Lake Cascade State Park, which provides outstanding camping and boating opportunities.
McCall Idaho is a top-notch tourist town that is a popular destination throughout the entire year.
McCall, Idaho is an absolute top-notch tourist town nestled along Payette Lake along the Payette River National Scenic Byway, and is an absolute joy to visit and explore.
There is fantastic dining, lodging and shopping along its charming main street, as well as an extremely nice marina and beach area. McCall Idaho also has a very nice museum that tells the story of this fascinating area, and is also home to Ponderosa State Park. which is a popular state park along Payette Lake for water sport enthusiasts.
During the winter season, McCall is host to the Winter Carnival where visitors enjoy ice sculptures all along the main street. McCall Idaho is a charming tourist town that is nothing less than “two thumbs up” in our opinion, and is a “must see and do” during your Idaho vacation.
McCall Idaho has a fantastic beach area along Payette Lake.
McCall Idaho is one of Idaho's most charming tourist towns.
Bruneau Dunes State Park
The Bruneau Dunes State Park is located 64 miles southeast of Boise, and features North America’s highest single-structured sand dune at 470 feet high.
Located just south of Mountain Home, Bruneau Dunes State Park is not only home to the tallest single-structured sand dune, but all of the sand dunes at Bruneau State Park are unique in the Western Hemisphere. All other dunes in the Americas form at the edge of natural basins. The Bruneau Dunes are completely unique because they form near the center, where the basin behaved as a natural trap for nearly 12,000 years. Also quite unique to the Bruneau Dunes is that they are relatively stable and do not drift very far at all, even though the prevailing wind is blowing nearly 30% of the time.
Bruneau Dunes State Park in Idaho is home to the tallest sand dune in North America.
No motorized vehicles are permitted on the Bruneau Sand Dunes, however climbing on the Bruneau Dunes are allowed, which is the most fun activity in the park in our opinion.
There is also a 7 mile and a 9 mile horseback trail that takes riders around the dunes. An educational center is also located on the premises which provides natural history displays and a nice gift shop.
Two small lakes are located in Bruneau Dunes State Park where visitors can swim or fish for bass and bluegill, and there is excellent bird watching along the shores of these lakes.
The Bruneau Dunes State Park offers a nice campground with 82 RV sites with water and electricity, and 32 standard sites year round within two campgrounds known as the Eagle Cove Campground and Broken Wheel Campground. There are also two cabins available, and an equestrian overnight facility with corrals.
Public Astronomical Observatory
There is also a fascinating public astronomical observatory that is open on Friday and Saturday evenings from mid-March through mid-October. So if you enjoy astonomy, or simply love looking into the night sky, the Bruneau Dunes State Park Public Astronomical Observatory is a great place to visit during your Idaho vacation.
Bruneau Dunes State Park is fun for the entire family to discover and explore!
Silver City National Historic District
Founded in 1864 after silver was discovered in the area, and the mining camp of Silver City exploded in growth seemingly overnight, and quickly became one of the major cities in the Idaho Territory. In fact, the first daily newspaper and telegraph office in the entire Idaho Territory were started in Silver City during its glory days. Silver City was also one of the first towns in present day Idaho to have electricity and a telephone service. At Silver City’s height in the 1880s it had a population of about 2,500 people with 75 thriving businesses within the city limits.
Silver City National Historic District is home to over 70 standing historic buildings.
Boom and Bust
When the silver supply became depleted around the time Idaho became a state in 1890, and partly due to Silver City’s extremely remote location, Silver City began to decline but never became completely abandoned. Small mining operations continued until World War II, where the last mine to operate year round near Silver City was the Potossi Mine
Present Day Silver City: Silver City National Historic District
There are approximately 70 standing buildings presently in Silver City, and all are privately owned. Most of the owners are actually third and fourth generation descendants of the original miners, and there are a few small businesses where visitors can have cold drinks, snacks and a meal during the summer months. Restored and re-opened in 1972, the Idaho Hotel in Silver City provides meals and charming antique furnished hotel rooms for Silver City visitors.Also in 1972, the entire townsite of Silver City was placed onto the National Register of Historic Places as an historic district, and is now known as the Silver City Historic District, which encompasses an area of 10,240 acres.
Silver City Historic District (6,179 feet) is located 25 miles southwest of Murphy Idaho (2,820 feet). There is a dirt road well marked off of Idaho 78, but we must warn you that this dirt road gets less and less maintained and more and more bumpy as it climbs dramatically in elevation into a remote mountainous region. The road is extremely narrow and there are many sharp turns as it winds up into the mountains. With that in mind, be ready for a dirt road adventure that will take several hours to reach the ghost town. Silver City is in an extremely remote location, and visitors must be mentally prepared for it. It’s not an easy, leisurely drive to this historic Idaho ghost town.
Silver City National Historic District is a very remotely located ghost town south of Boise Idaho.