Clear, cold days, shimmering frosty mornings, and a backdrop of foothills blanketed in snow: these are the defining sights of a winter in Boise.
Despite a belief that Idaho turns into a frozen tundra during the winter, Boise and the Treasure Valley often don’t see much snow, and instead, enjoy a relatively dry and clear cold season.
As a Boise local, I’ve experienced all the goodness that a valley winter has to offer, and it’s not a short list. Here’s just the beginning of a few things you can do every winter in Boise and the surrounding areas.
Best Winter Activities in Boise
Winter Sports and Outdoor Recreation
1. Bogus Basin: But Bogus Basin has more than skiing to offer: there’s snowboarding, tubing (for the uncoordinated and younger crowds), and even a mountain coaster to view the snowy forest in all its glory. Pack some thermoses and your wool socks and take in a scenic drive up to Bogus. Bonus: while the Boise valley sometimes experiences inversion and gloomy skies during the winter months, Bogus tends to stay sunny and above the clouds. Head up the highway for a sunshine fix!
2. Polar Bear Plunge: Feeling generous and just a little crazy? Join the annual Polar Bear Plunge, an event by Make a Wish Idaho to raise funds for their non-profit. Fundraise with family and friends and then jump into the freezing waters of Lucky Peak!
3. The Springs in Idaho City: The Springs in Idaho City is a beautiful, secluded retreat from the real world, and just an hour away from downtown Boise. Soak in the warm water while watching the snow fall, order poolside drinks and food, and even stay the night in one of their luxury rooms at Inn the Pines.
4. Hike to Hot Springs: There are many hot springs within an hour or two from Boise, and many feature beautiful mountain views. Pack your warm boots, a few snacks and beverages, and your swimsuit and soak with a few friends while enjoying this quintessential Idaho winter activity.
5. Backcountry Yurts: If you’re really ready to get away from it all, reserve a Yurt in one of Idaho’s State Parks and take in the quiet solitude of a winter in the woods.
6. Sledding at Camel’s Back Park: The steep hills at Camel’s Back Park make for ideal sledding and tubing. Hit the “slopes” in the North End, and don’t forget to stop for hot cocoa and some food at a local restaurant in Hyde Park afterward.
Arts, Culture, and Entertainment
7. The Sapphire Room: Take in a classic movie or a live show at the Sapphire Room in the Riverside Hotel. All winter long, their lineup of events is sure to keep you cozy with good food, drinks, and entertainment.
8. First Thursdays: Every first Thursday of the month, downtown Boise comes alive with events, raffles, demonstrations, discounts, and more. Even on chilly winter nights, you can stroll downtown Boise and pop into the plethora of local businesses for samples, treats, and excellent shopping.
9. Boise Art Museum: Experience the rotating exhibits and art on display at Boise Art Museum with a self-guided tour. BAM also hosts regular events and lectures, as well as First Thursday specials.
10. Idaho State Museum: Get a front row seat to Idaho’s past at the newly remodeled Idaho State Museum in downtown Boise. For families, groups, and history-loving individuals, this museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the past.
11. Old Idaho Penitentiary: The former cells of some of the West’s most notorious criminals are now a thrilling historical site. Take a self-guided tour or attend one of their popular winter events such as the Winter Scavenger Hunt in January and Romancing the Pen in February.
12. The Boise Philharmonic: From Brahms to Beethoven, Harry Potter to Star Wars, holiday pops to classics, the Boise Philharmonic offers an escape from your week in the form of exceptional live music.
13. Boise Little Theater: This charming, all-volunteer run theater has been producing plays since 1948, making it one of the oldest volunteer theaters in the nation. Catch a show in the unique round building that has become a Boise landmark.
14. Morrison Center Events: Ballet performances, comedy shows, Broadway in Boise, and more grace the impressive stage at the Morrison Center, Idaho’s premier performing arts venue. Check the events list regularly for a mid-winter pick-me-up.
15. Boise Classic Movies: Every month, the folks at Boise Classic Movies screen your nostalgic favorites at the historic Egyptian Theater. You can grab a beer and some popcorn and take in a classic.
16. Create your own art at Boise Art Glass: During downtown Boise’s First Thursday events, you can stop by Boise Art Glass and create your own unique piece. Anyone over 8 can join!
17. Concerts: All winter long, the concert scene is hot in Boise. Check out venues like The Knitting Factory, Taco Bell Arena, and Revolution Concert House so you don’t miss any of your favorite musicians or shows coming into town.
18. Liquid Laughs: Liquid in BoDo hosts Liquid Laughs every Thursday through Saturday night, so grab some friends and enjoy Boise’s funniest people over a drink and some delicious food.
19. The Basque Museum: Visit the Basque Block in downtown Boise for a glimpse into the past and experience the rich culture of one of Boise’s original settler groups, the Basques.
20. The Idaho Capitol: The historic Idaho State Capitol building in downtown Boise is full of history and beauty. Schedule a tour or check it out on your own with a self-guided walk through.
21. The Boise Depot: The stunning historic train depot is a wonderful location to tour, and the added bonus is a panoramic view of downtown Boise and the foothills included.
22. Historical Trolley Tour: Take a tour through Boise’s history in a trolley! Don’t forget to stop for dinner at one of downtown Boise’s local restaurants.
23. Boise Brew Bus: For the wine and beer enthusiasts, there’s a customizable tour of breweries and wineries. Get a group of friends together and take a brewery and/or winery tour with Boise Brew Bus.
24. Idaho Steelheads: Grab a beer or a hot dog and take in the thrill, excitement, and entertainment of an Idaho Steelheads Game in downtown Boise.
25. Boise State University Athletics: Do you bleed blue? Catch a Boise State football or basketball game through the winter and root for the home team.
26. Idaho Ice World: Bundle up and strap on some skates at Idaho Ice World. It’s a perfect evening of fun for the whole family or for a group, and every Wednesday is special admission “Family Night.”
27. Idaho Botanical Garden Winter Garden aGlow: From November through early January, you can see the Idaho Botanical Garden in a completely new way with over 400,000 twinkling lights.
28. The Village at Meridian: During the winter months, the The Village at Meridian offers a welcome respite from the cold temperatures. You can ice skate with the family from November to January, shop all your favorite brands, see a movie, and sit down for a delicious meal.
29. JumpTime: Cabin fever getting you down? How about JumpTime for a fun day that puts the “active” in “activity”? JumpTime is an indoor trampoline park with foam pits, games, obstacle courses, and more.
30. Aquarium of Boise: Touch a stingray, feed fish, and enjoy the beauty of underwater life at the Aquarium of Boise.
31. McCall Winter Carnival: The famous McCall Winter Carnival happens every year in late January. Take a scenic drive two hours from Boise and view ingenious snow sculptures, eat at the popular Pancake House, and have some winter fun.
32. Discovery Center of Idaho: Science exhibits and mind-blowing experiments make for hands-on learning and entertainment for the whole family at the Discovery Center of Idaho. There’s plenty of room to play to beat away the winter blues when you’ve been shut inside for too long.
33. MK Nature Center: The MK Nature Center is a 4.6-acre reserve on the Boise River Greenbelt with an interactive interpretive center. Even on cold winter days, the short walk will be invigorating and you’ll get a chance to see Boise’s winter beauty.
34. Children’s Museum of Idaho: Newly renovated, the Children’s Museum of Idaho makes for an excellent cold-weather activity.
35. Pop-up Park at Edward’s Greenhouse: Every year in late January, Edward’s Greenhouse on the North End offers a respite from the cold with their pop-up park. They convert part of their warm greenhouse into a park with fresh green sod and room for everyone to play.
36. Zoo Boise: It may be cold outside, but the Zoo is a great place to spend an afternoon. Many animals are more active during the cooler months and crowds tend to be slower, meaning you and your family could spend an entire day at Zoo Boise.
As you can see from this list, Boise is far from boring during the winter months. Don’t stay inside and fret; put these events on your calendar and experience the delight of Boise in winter!