A family-friendly guide to the City of Trees.
Boise may have a national reputation as an outdoor recreation city with a flourishing craft brewery scene, in other words, an adult's paradise. As you probably already know, it's also one of the best places to raise a family. Kid-friendly trails, acres of parks, and a healthy array of science centers and museums designed to spark curiosity and inspire young minds are just a few of the reasons families plant roots in the Treasure Valley.
And it must be said: one of the best ways to explore a city is through a child's eyes. So whether you're a Boise native or just visiting for the weekend, we've compiled a list of the best activities for families with kids, as recommended by the locals who love them.
Aquarium of Boise
64 N Cole Rd, Boise, ID 83704
(208) 375-1932 | Website
Have you ever pet a pacific diamond ray, watched a shark feed, or held a parrot? This small but mighty aquarium features more than 250 species of marine and animal life, including shark and puffer exhibits, tidepools, a stingray lagoon, and a parrot aviary. Staff regularly give scheduled talks about the aquarium’s residents, and there are plenty of interactive activities to delight children and adults alike.
Courtesy of the Aquarium of Boise Facebook Page
355 Julia Davis Dr, Boise, ID, 83702
(208) 608-7760 | Website
In partnership with Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, Boise’s only zoo recently opened Gorongosa National Park Exhibit and Expansion, featuring African wild dogs, baboons, spotted hyenas, crocodiles and much more.
Two cuter than cute baby snow leopards at Zoo Boise. Courtesy of the KTVB Facebook Page
400 W Overland Rd, Meridian, ID 83642
(208) 884-8842 | Website
Nothing says summer quite as loudly as a trip to the local water park. Young children love Bearfoot Bay, which features a shallow wading pool, six small slides, and giant umbrellas to shade parents and children alike. Older, more adventurous kids (and kid-at-heart types) love the Snake River Run, which includes a “double explosion loop.” If you’re feeling waterlogged, right next door is Wahooz, a popular mini-golf and arcade game space.
Discovery Center of Idaho
131 W Myrtle St, Boise, ID 83702
(208) 343-9895 | Website
Idaho’s only hands-on science center offers families interactive STEM learning with more than 150 hands-on exhibits. Beloved staples like the giant bubble maker are interspersed with rotating exhibits, like getting to know the skeleton of Tinker the T-Rex.
1000 W Myrtle St, Boise, ID 83702
(208) 639-6610 | Website
This eclectic meeting space has many kid-friendly attractions, including antique tractors spread across its two-block campus in downtown Boise. But its crowning glory is a five-story, covered spiral slide open from 6-8 p.m. every Thursday from May through October, weather permitting (kids must be at least 44 inches tall to ride). An impressively tall, three-story net jungle gym is also located near the bottom of the slide and open for play every day.
Children’s Museum of Idaho
790 S Progress Ave, Meridian, ID 83642
(208) 345-1920 | Website
Designed with curious kids ages 2-8 in mind, the museum offers children the opportunity to learn about their environment through explorative play and experiences created just for them. The museum also hosts themed camps for kids, including Mad Hatter's Tea Party, Earth & Space Camp and Ready, Set, GO! (to school) camps.
The train area offers a hands-on experience. Courtesy of the Children’s Museum of Idaho Facebook Page
Idaho Botanical Garden
2355 Old Penitentiary Rd, Boise, Idaho 83712
(208) 343-8649 | Website
If you have a budding gardener in your family, a trip to the Idaho Botanical Garden will make their smile bloom. Aside from sensory beds that allow kids to feel, see and smell the garden, the children’s adventure garden features hollow logs to scramble through, a canopied treehouse, and a fountain with tadpoles, native tree frogs, and water skippers. The garden’s Winter Garden Aglow, with more than 550,000 energy-efficient lights adorning 14 acres, is also a family must-see.
Esther Simplot Park
3206 W Pleasanton Ave, Boise, ID 83702
(208) 608-7600 | Website
This 55-acre park includes roughly 23 acres of ponds suitable for fishing, wading and swimming – including a roped off kids wading area (lifeguard not on duty). The park also has plenty of open play areas, wetlands, two reservable shelters, a playground and restrooms. From the park, families can access Whitewater Park, which has surfing and kayaking river waves suitable for adults and skilled teenagers.
Boise River Greenbelt
700 S Capitol Blvd, Boise, ID 83702
(208) 608-7600 | Website
Hugging both sides of the Boise River, the popular path features 25-miles of paved walk- and bikeways. It’s not unusual to see families biking down the Boise Greenbelt and stopping to picnic or fish at an intimate river inlet.
Courtesy of the Boise River Greenbelt Facebook Page
Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area
2600 N Bogus Basin Rd, Boise, ID 83702
(208) 332-5100 | Website
Once just known for skiing, Bogus Basin has branched out to include a very popular snow tubing hill in the winter months and a mountain coaster open both summer and winter months. In the summer, the area keeps its chairlifts running with scenic rides and mountain biking trails designed for the whole family.
Courtesy of the Bogus Basin Facebook Page
Camel’s Back Park
1200 Heron St, Boise, ID 83702
(208) 608-7600 | Website
If you have a budding hiker on your hands, Camel’s Back is the place to help them develop their trail legs. The iconic hill has both steep and slightly-less-steep trails to its summit overlooking downtown and Boise’s North End neighborhood. Don’t worry – trails wrap around the hill, for those who prefer flatter hikes. The park also features ample green space and a kids’ playground. The best part? It’s a short walk to Hyde Park for an after-hike treat at Goody’s Soda Fountain and Candy Store.
Courtesy of Pat Schneider and the Boise Parks and Recreation Facebook Page
Float the Boise River
4049 S Eckert Rd, Boise, ID, 83716
(208) 608-7600 | Website
Floating the Boise River is summer tradition for more than 125,000 people every year. Meandering over six miles and taking about two hours from start to finish, the float is gentle enough for even the youngest adventurers. With Barber Park's raft rentals and Ann Morrison's simple shuttles, floating is safe, memory-making fun for the whole family.
Idaho State Museum
610 Julia Davis Dr, Boise, ID 83702
(208) 334-2120 | Website
This newly renovated museum makes learning about the native people who once inhabited Idaho, and how mining and fur trapping forever changed its history, accessible and fun for all ages.
MK Nature Center
600 S Walnut St, Boise, ID 83712
(208) 334-2225 | Website
Tucked along the Boise River Greenbelt in Boise’s East End neighborhood, the nature center features 4.6 acres of trails punctuated with ponds and tributaries teaming with fish and wildlife. Viewing windows built into the pods give visitors a fish-eye view of an underwater world filled with sturgeon, salmon and trout, among other species.
Courtesy of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game MK Nature Center Facebook Page
Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey Area
Murphy, ID 83650
(208) 384-3300 | Website
Bring your binoculars, pack a picnic, and drive 20 minutes south of Boise to spend the day in the home of the highest concentration of nesting raptors in North America. Kids will be in awe of the roughly 800 pairs of hawks, owls, eagles and falcons that journey to the 484,000-acre conservation site each spring to mate and raise their young.
Boise Urban Garden School (BUGS)
2995 N Five Mile Rd, Boise, ID 83713
(208) 376-3006 | Website
BUGS is in the business of feeding inquiring minds and growing enthusiastic gardeners. Housed on a ¾-acre organic garden, BUGS staff teach children and adults alike the scientific fundamentals of gardening through environment-based plans and activities. During summer months, staff also host week-long garden and culinary camps for kids.
Eagle Island State Park
165 S Eagle Island Pkwy, Eagle, ID 83616
(208) 939-0696 | Website
Whatever the season, this state park is one of the most popular places for kids to explore. Bordered by two channels of the Boise River, the park features a swimming beach and water slide in the summer, and a snowy tubing hill in the winter. In addition, the 545-acre park has plenty of long, flat trails perfect for nature walks with youngsters.
Warhawk Air Museum
201 Municipal Dr, Nampa, ID 83687
(208) 465-6446 | Website
Located a short 20-minute drive from Boise, this military aviation museum will wow aviation enthusiasts of all ages. Founded by a couple who restored WWII-era planes in their free time, the museum features restored the “Boise Bee” North American P-51C Mustang, “Yellow Peril” Naval Aircraft Factory N3N, and the Mikoyan Gurevitch MiG-21, among many others.
Courtesy of the Warhawk Air Museum Facebook Page
Treasure Valley Skate
4712 W State St, Boise, ID 83703
(208) 342-1842 | Website
Yes, skating is hip again, so dig out your wheels, oil your joints and get ready to show the kids your moves! The skating rink features a new floor, arcade games, a DJ, and food.
Old Idaho Penitentiary
2445 Old Penitentiary Rd, Boise, ID 83712
(208) 334-2844 | Website
Many parents fantasize about sending their kids to solitary confinement for a few hours, but only at the Old Idaho Penitentiary site can families experience that and more. The Old Pen, which opened its doors in 1872, now offers tours of its 30 historic buildings – including cell blocks, gallows, and solitary. It also features a collection of historic weaponry and in-depth profiles of some of its most famous, and fascinating, inmates.
Courtesy of the Old Idaho Penitentiary Facebook Page
Idaho Museum of Mining and Geology
2455 Old Penitentiary Rd, Boise, ID 83712
(208) 368-9876 | Website
Most kids love rocks, and there’s no better way to explore the Gem State than through its rich mineral deposits. This tiny museum, tucked next to the Old Pen, has a beautiful array of local specimens, as well as books on how to hunt themselves down yourselves and maps on where to go to do it. Best yet, the look in your kids’ eyes when they say, “you rock!”
Courtesy of the Idaho Museum of Mining and Geology Facebook Page
7072 S Eisenman Rd, Boise, ID 83716
(208) 608-7716 | Website
All it takes is one Steelhead game for kids and adults alike to get the itch to ice skate. This popular destination includes two NHL regulation-size ice rinks, an arcade, and restaurants. In addition to public skate sessions, the facility also hosts adult and youth hockey leagues, figure skating programs, and ice skating lessons.
Courtesy of the Idaho IceWorld Facebook Page
The Little Gym
3210 W Chinden Blvd, Suite 120, Eagle, ID, 83616
(208) 938-9185 | Website
More than just a tumble-gym, The Little Gym nurtures self-confidence and growth through a variety of physical exercises, experiences, camps, and classes. With something for four-month-olds to twelve-year-olds, lessons get kids moving, boost brain power, and emphasize social and emotional learning through activities like dance, karate, and gymnastics.
Planet Kid Indoor Soft Playground
1875 Century Way, Boise, ID 83709
(208) 376-3641 | Website
The name says it all: in this indoor playground, kids 12 and younger can safely explore, climb, swing, zip, slide, and play on large, padded, labyrinth-style play equipment. The facility is located in the Wings Center complex, which also houses a climbing gym designed for kids.
Courtesy of the Wings Center Facebook Page
Pojos Family Fun Center
7736 W Fairview Ave, Boise, ID 83704
(208) 376-6981 | Website
This family-owned and operated arcade has been helping weary parents entertain kids since 1974. Things to do highlights include an antique carousel and a cafe for family members to meet up and refuel.
Courtesy of the Pojos Family Fun Center Facebook Page
Lisa is a top Idaho Realtor and creator of WeKnowBoise.com. From Southeast Boise to the North End, up to Eagle and west to Meridian, or right in the middle of the Boise Bench and downtown - We Know Boise. Whether buying or selling a home, we provide full-service real estate solutions dedicated to helping our clients achieve their goals.