*Hosted visit by Visit Boise. All ideas and opinions expressed within this article on the best things to do in Boise with kids are that of the writer, Antonia Grant. Find additional disclosure information at the bottom of this article.*
Travelers seeking a family-friendly destination that is truly a hidden gem in the United States can end their search. Boise, Idaho, is calling! Nestled amongst the Boise Foothills, this post-card-perfect city offers a variety of outdoor activities, from hiking to river surfing, as well as indoor museums filled with history and kid-friendly exhibits. Plus, a pedestrian-friendly downtown means you can walk to just about everywhere from your hotel. If you’re looking for fun things to do in Boise with kids, we have compiled this list just for you! We’ve included various family activities across Boise and nearby day trips to help you plan your own itinerary. Then, we’ve also included some of the best family restaurants and hotels in Boise. Ready to start exploring? Keep reading to learn more about the 22+ Best Things to Do in Boise with Kids!
Explore Downtown Boise
Start your visit to Boise with kids by getting your bearings in the downtown area. Boise has a very walkable downtown. In fact, many of the best things to do in Boise for families are within walking distance of downtown, including Zoo Boise, the Idaho State Capitol Building, the Discovery Center of Idaho, Freak Alley Gallery, and more. This makes traveling to Boise reasonably easy without a car, not to mention a breeze with a stroller or a kids’ scooter! Those traveling with older kids or teens will find adult-sized scooters and bicycles to rent across the city (as well as special lanes to use them on the road). Boise even has pedestrian-only areas lined with restaurants and cute shops.
There are several neat things you can do when exploring the downtown area. In addition to the attractions listed above, families can spend an afternoon shopping! If you’re looking for a little retail therapy, consider browsing through charming shops like Rediscovered Books, Re-Pop Gifts, Mixed Greens, and Fluff Hardware. Then, those visiting over a weekend can stroll through the Capital City Public Market, located downtown, or the Boise Farmers Market, walkable from downtown (check to make sure they are in season).
Need an urban playground or green space? Consider wandering over to Cherie Buckner-Webb Park. This urban green space has public art installations and a huge tree-inspired swing that offers a great break from exploring downtown. Then, JUMP also offers a lovely urban green space, a play structure, seasonal events, and more. Check the hours for the Spiral Slide, an exciting five-story slide that kids will adore! Finally, families seeking additional playgrounds to let kids burn some energy can head to nearby Julia Davis Park, Ann Morrison Park, or Kristin Armstrong Municipal Park.
Meander the Historic Hyde Park Neighborhood
Another neighborhood perfect for family exploration in Boise is the Hyde Park neighborhood. Listed on the National Historic Register, the Hyde Park neighborhood boasts charming buildings and architecture, lovely shops, and trendy eateries. Families will love meandering the quaint streets and checking out some of the best things to do with kids in Boise in this area.
Firstly, pop into the G. Willikers toy store, offering nostalgic and new toys for all ages. Next door, Goody’s Soda Fountain is a quintessential soda shop showcasing hand-made ice cream, candies, souvenirs, and more. When tummies get hungry, Parilla Grill is one of the best family-friendly restaurants in the Hyde Park neighborhood. Camel’s Back Park is also located in this area (more on that later!). As you make your way back downtown, head down historic Harrison Boulevard, featuring stately homes that often decorate for holidays.
Click here for the 23 Best Places to See Fall Colors in the U.S. for Families!
Best Indoor Activities to Do in Boise with Kids
Next, we will cover some of the best indoor activities in Boise with kids! From museums and aquariums to planetariums, families will find plenty of fun things to do with kids in Boise on rainy or hot days – or, when you just want to head indoors for the day! Keep reading to discover the seven best indoor things to do in Boise for families.
Idaho State Capitol Building
When visiting Boise with kids, taking a moment to appreciate the Idaho State Capitol Building is a must. Whether you want to meader by and enjoy the green space out front or take a guided tour inside, there are a variety of ways to appreciate the history made here. In fact, within its beautifully crafted walls, laws have been passed, issues debated, and citizen rights safeguarded for nearly a century. In addition to being one of the best things to do in Boise with kids, it is one of Idaho’s most treasured buildings. The building is open to the public and free to access, plus they offer guided tours. Tours must be scheduled at least two weeks before your visit, and two times each day, Monday through Friday, are offered. Finally, you can also find self-guided booklets to assist with your visit.
Discovery Center of Idaho
The Discovery Center of Idaho focuses on STEM learning and is a must for curious, science-loving kids. There are three large rooms of hands-on exhibits, as well as a smaller gallery dedicated to TINKER THE T-REX and its movements and more. In the Classics Collection room, kids can practice paper airplane folding skills, while a machine shows them how fast and far they can fly. Then, stretch your imagination in the SLIME! room, where kids can experiment with vibrant green slime. Throughout the space, kids and adults alike can learn about how slime moves and relates to the world. The piece de resistance, however, is the large exhibit in the middle, where kids can go INSIDE a bubble. Finally, those with babies and toddlers in tow will love the Young Learners Area, where young scientists (ages four and under) can explore in a safe and supportive environment.
Aquarium of Boise
As one of the best indoor activities in Boise for kids, the Aquarium of Boise offers an abundance of fun things for families to do together. Within the aquarium, over 250 different species of animals and marine life can be observed. In fact, the aquarium features 38 exhibits in total! Kids can get up close and personal with the sting rays and other creatures housed in Ray Pool. Then, admire a white spotted bamboo shark within the Shark & Puffer Exhibit. Different habitats, from the Amazon to Tide Pools, can also be explored, offering fun learning opportunities for everyone in your family. Families can also see colorful birds at the Bird Aviary and various reptiles and chameleons in the reptile exhibit. Finally, families interested in learning more can also book a behind-the-scenes feeding tour (two tours available).
Children’s Museum of Idaho
Families looking for a great indoor, interactive place for kids to explore will love the Children’s Museum of Idaho. As one of the best things to do in Boise with kids between the ages of two and eight, the museum hosts a variety of hands-on exhibits that allow children and parents to connect through play. Each exhibit is specially designed to encourage kids to get creative and imaginative through playful experiences. Kids can pretend to be everything from conductors in the train exhibit to engineers in the builder’s space. There is even a fun area where kids can pretend to milk a cow! Undoubtedly, this museum offers a variety of fun areas for families to have fun together!
Idaho State Museum
Families looking to learn more about Idaho can spend some time enjoying the permanent exhibits and two rotating galleries at the Idaho State Museum. With a unique look at how people here connect with the land and history, the museum provides an exceptional opportunity for families to understand the story of Idaho. With over 500 artifacts and immersive, innovative technology to aid in telling the stories of Idaho, this is certainly one of the best indoor activities in Boise with kids. Permanent exhibits highlight everything from Idaho’s five federally recognized tribes to the geography of Idaho. Summer visitors can also explore Pioneer Village.
Idaho Museum of Mining and Geology
Next on our list, the Idaho Museum of Mining and Geology offers several interesting exhibits showcasing Idaho’s unique mining history. First, check out the highlights on the Idaho Mining History, including samples of the minerals found in Idaho and their mining histories. There are also exhibits on fossilized stromatolites found in Idaho, earthquake tracking, and meteorites. Kids are sure to be impressed by the Fluorescence Minerals, which can glow vibrantly. Observe how they look under normal conditions, then flip on a black light to see how they change! Admission is always free, making this one of the best free things to do in Boise with kids! Finally, the hours change seasonally; check the website for hours before finalizing your Boise itinerary with kids.
Idaho Black History Museum
Black and African American peoples have extraordinarily impacted Idaho’s history. Housed in the former St. Paul Baptist Church Building (the first Black church in Idaho), the Idaho Black History Museum provides an intimate learning experience about these contributions and histories. The current exhibit discusses the early history of Black Idahoans, from the Lewis and Clark expedition in the early 1800s to the integration of schools in 1871. Indeed, the Idaho Black History Museum offers an important look at Idaho’s history. No wonder it is one of the best things to do with kids in Boise! It’s worth noting that this museum is located in Julia Davis Park, which is within walking distance of the downtown area. Note that hours can be limited; check the website to ensure availability before adding it to your itinerary.
Best Outdoor Things to Do in Boise with Kids
Ready to explore the great outdoors? Boise is well-known for its outstanding hiking trails, urban green spaces, and other outdoor activities. In fact, whether you want to meander through lush botanical gardens, delight in outdoor urban art galleries, or hit the trails, Boise has just what you want. Plus, many of these outdoor activities are some of the best free things to do in Boise with kids! Here are our top picks for the 12 best outdoor things to do in Boise with kids.
Idaho Botanical Garden
Nestled on a 42-acre site of the old prison grounds, the Idaho Botanical Garden offers a lovely place for families to stroll and make memories together in Boise. Under the watchful eye of the remaining guard towers from the old prison, over 10 unique gardens await exploration. From native collections and an herb garden to an inspiring meditation garden, you won’t be bored while meandering through the lush grounds. The Children’s Adventure Garden is a true highlight, showcasing an immersive play area, a sensory garden, edible plants, a playhouse, and more! Check the events calendar in advance of your visit. The Idaho Botanical Garden hosts various fun events throughout the year, including the Fall Harvest Festival and Scarecrow Stroll. Finally, kids under three receive free admission. There is also a joint admission rate for those interested in exploring the nearby Old Idaho Penitentiary.
Note: food trucks are often available for a quick lunch on the grounds, offering a great place to eat lunch between visiting the Idaho Botanical Garden and seeing the Old Idaho Penitentiary.
Old Idaho Penitentiary
Dating back to 1870, the Old Idaho Penitentiary is open to the public as a museum highlighting stories of the inmates who lived here, as well as sparking important conversations around social justice and prisoner’s rights. In operation for just over 100 years, the Old Idaho Penitentiary witnessed escape attempts, prison riots, imprisoned kids, and more. Each exhibit throughout the grounds attempts to share their stories in a humane way, while raising awareness about the conditions they lived in. Families can explore the grounds on their own, or take a guided tour. You can see many buildings during your visit, including the old laundry room, cells, and more. While many of these exhibits are indoors, you will spend much of the time outside walking between buildings and exploring the grounds, making this one of the best outdoor things to do with kids in Boise.
Note: due to the nature of the content throughout the exhibits at the Old Idaho Penitentiary, it may not be suitable for young kids. Likewise, the guided tours may discuss topics not suitable for young children. Please use your own discretion before purchasing. When in doubt, talk with the staff on-site or call ahead.
Hike up to Table Rock
Families interested in impressive views of Boise will adore hiking at Table Rock. With a trailhead near the Old Idaho Penitentiary and the Idaho Botanical Garden, it’s an ideal spot to embark on an afternoon adventure. Not to mention, enjoy sunset views of the surrounding area (just be sure to be back in the parking lot by nightfall)! This 3.7-mile loop trail is rated moderate, but it would be easy to alter the route or take a different trail if you want to do an abbreviated out-and-back version. Be prepared for a steep, packed dirt trail (mud is very possible here). There is also very little shade, be sure to bring sun protection and plenty of water. As one of the most popular hikes in Boise, it’s no wonder Table Rock also makes our list as one of the best things to do in Boise with kids!
Freak Alley Gallery
Freak Alley Gallery is the most extensive open-air, multi-artist mural gallery in the Northwest. Centrally located in downtown Boise, you can find it between 8th and 9th street and Bannock and Idaho. When exploring the downtown area, you simply can’t miss this colorful display of talent. The first mural began in 2002 and started a movement. Since then, Freak Alley Gallery has expanded to encompass the entire alley and a bit beyond. Artists add new works of art every year, meaning it will never be the same from visit to visit! As one of the best free things to do in Boise with kids, parents can encourage kids to reflect on each mural and select their favorite one. Undoubtedly, they will be inspired to go home and create their own dynamic drawings!
Camel’s Back Park
If you’re ready to head outdoors and experience some of the best family activities in Boise, look no further than Camel’s Back Park. This 11-acre urban park provides families endless opportunities to breathe fresh air and explore together. For a great view of Boise, head up the Camels Back Trails Loop. You can walk straight up the steep (very steep) sandy path, or take the winding loop trail to the top. The full hike is a moderate 1.6-mile loop, but it can be easily shortened if you just want to see the expansive view of the area. For a longer trek, you can keep hiking in the Hulls Gulch trails behind and off the back of Camel’s Back.
Then, back on the park grounds, kids will adore the large playground where they can run, climb, swing, and slide. While they’re entertained, parents can use the outdoor gym adjacent to the playground or rest on one of the many benches flanking the park. There are plenty of open areas to play, so bring a ball or frisbee to let your kids run free. Sand volleyball and tennis courts are also available. Finally, Camel’s Back Park is open every day from sunrise to sunset. There are bathrooms available year-round.
Julia Davis Park
Adjacent to the downtown area, Julia Davis Park boasts some of the best things to do in Boise for families. Not to mention, it’s the city’s oldest park! As a park, families will find plenty of green space to spread out and play, as well as a playground, tree-lined walking paths, the beautiful Rose Garden, and more. Those with older kids will also appreciate the bocce courts, tennis courts, and horseshoe pits. Then, birding is another popular activity here. Plus, picnic tables around the park are ideal for packed lunches or snacks. Unique to this park, don’t miss taking a stroll through the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Survivor Plaza and the Childhood Cancer Pavilion. Notedly, there is also immediate access to the Boise River Greenbelt, Zoo Boise, Idaho Black History Museum, and more from the grounds. Finally, bathrooms are available on the grounds year-round.
Boise River Greenbelt
One of the most beloved parts of Boise, the Boise River Greenbelt offers 25 miles of trails and links many of the city’s parks and green spaces. These tree-lined paths are perfect for running, walking, and biking. Birding families will also catch glimpses of various songbirds, ducks, Canadian geese, great blue herons, and more. Accessible from many parts of Boise, families will love meandering the scenic paths and taking in the city’s sights, including the Boise River. For those interested in renting bikes, the McU Sports downtown location (at 9th and Jefferson) offers several options. Alternatively, there are some Boise GreenBike Stations located throughout the area. Regardless of how you explore the many miles of trails, the Boise River Greenbelt is one of the best free things to do in Boise with kids.
Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial
Located near Julia Davis Park, the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial is an excellent option for families seeking things to do with kids in Boise. Beautifully designed, this .81-acre educational park was inspired by Anne Frank’s faith in humanity. Flanking one side of the park, families can meander through a series of quotes from peacemakers and other historical figures, including Anne Frank, that allows parents and children to reflect, connect, and discuss their roles in the community and the world around them. There is also an installation of the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Then, near the Anne Frank Statue, families can listen to readings of her diary to learn more about her life in hiding. Finally, if you want to learn even more as you experience the memorial, you can schedule a tour. Behind the park, you can easily jump on the Boise River Greenbelt.
Within walking distance of downtown and located in Julia Davis Park, Zoo Boise will undoubtedly be a hit for families with young children! Zoo Boise is home to over 300 animals from 100 various species. Resident creatures include lions, giraffes, sloth bears, penguins, and more. Each exhibit is well-labeled and helpful in teaching kids about the animals who call Zoo Boise home. Plus, zoo staff are stationed throughout the grounds to answer questions and engage children in learning. As you walk around the zoo, make stops at the seasonal carousel, playground (with a giraffe slide!), and Conservation Cruise. Then, as one of the best family activities in Boise, this zoo also offers two fun animal encounters that kids will adore! Finally, families will also find dining options, a small gift shop, and several bathrooms on the grounds.
Watch the River Surfers
One of Boise’s most unique activities might be river surfing! In order to watch surfers hit the artificial waves, head to Boise River Park/Boise Whitewater Park (located off Whitewater Park Boulevard on the Boise River behind Quinn’s Pond – access through Esther Simplot Park). Initially designed for kayakers, these manufactured waves now rotate wave types to please both kayakers and surfers. They are typically surfable anytime from March-October. Kids will adore watching people catch the waves and maneuver skillfully through the water. Indeed, this is one of the best free things to do in Boise for families.
Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve
Next on our list of the best outdoor things to do in Boise for families is Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve. This 53-acre reserve is a haven for birds, animals, and people looking to escape to the great outdoors. Located on the edge of Boise’s West Bench neighborhood, Hyatt Hidden Lakes Reserve showcases easy walking paths, conservation stations, and scenic overlook areas. The conservation stations offer unique educational opportunities for families to learn about various conservation topics. Then, the easy 1.4-mile loop trail is kid-friendly, with flat, wide gravel trails. They are certainly doable with strollers equipped with all-terrain tires. During your walk, challenge kids to keep an eye out for ducks and other birds along the path! Finally, the restrooms are open year-round. Please note, bikes and dogs are not allowed here.
Eagle Island State Park
Just 20 minutes west of Boise, Eagle Island State Park is a lovely option for families looking to get out of the city and explore nearby outdoor spaces. As one of the best family activities near Boise, Eagle Island State Park offers biking, hiking, swimming, paddle sports, disc golf, and more. Hikers can use the Eagle Island State Park Loop, an easy 4.7-mile loop trail. Then, there is a Junior Ranger program for kids interested in discovering more while exploring here! Families with older kids can consider adding Zip Boise Tours to their summer visit to explore the park by a canopy. Have you ever been to a state park with a waterslide? You have now! Riders 42″ tall can shoot down the thrilling slide over and over. Alternatively, winter visitors can appreciate the world-class terrain parks and tubing hills within the state park.
Take a Day Trip
Taking a day trip from Boise is a great way to explore other parts of Idaho with kids! Whether you are seeking another city to stroll through or a thrilling outdoor adventure, here are a few of the best day trips from Boise for families – all within two and a half hours of the city.
Day Trips within 1 Hour of Boise with Kids
- Bruneau Dunes State Park, about an hour south of Boise, showcases North America’s tallest freestanding sand dunes! Here, families can hike along trails, climb up sand dunes, or, more excitedly, rent a sandboard and surf the sandy waves.
- Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area is ideal for winter visitors and ski families! This recreation area is just 45 minutes from Boise and offers alpine skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and Nordic skiing. Off the slopes, families can also go snowshoeing and ride fat tire bikes. Summer visitors can enjoy the mountain coaster, mountain biking, scenic chairlifts, hiking, and more.
Day Trips within 2 Hours of Boise with Kids
- Idaho City, just under 2 hours from Boise, has a variety of fun things to do with kids, including its Historic District, featuring an old jail and Boise Basin Museum. If you’re visiting in the fall or winter, make a reservation at The Springs for hot springs experience the whole family will enjoy. Afterward, explore the area by hiking! The Buena Vista Loop is an excellent option for kids.
- Boise National Forest is a great option for outdoor adventure. Here, families can embark on epic whitewater rafting journeys, swim at a lake, camp, hike, and more. Plus, fall is the perfect time to seek out some natural hot springs in Idaho. Within Boise National Forest, families can hike to experience a natural hot spring through several hikes. A particularly kid-friendly one, Pine Flats Hot Spring is a .6-mile out-and-back hike rated as easy (plus, the trailhead is just 90 minutes from Boise).
- Shoshone Falls Park, often called the “Niagara of the west”, is about 2 hours from Boise near the town of Twin Falls. In fact, these falls are higher than Niagara! Here, families can enjoy lovely hiking trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, and a swimming area. Finally, don’t miss the scenic overlook!
- Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument is a must for aspiring paleontologists and dinosaur enthusiasts alike. About 90 minutes from Boise, this area boasts one of the world’s best Pliocene fossil sites. Start your day at the visitor center, where you can see several fossils on display. Finally, don’t miss the Oregon Trail Overlook, where you can see evidence of the wagons that passed through here.
Where to Eat in Boise with Kids
Foodie families will find a lot to love about Boise too! The downtown area is lined with restaurants of every flavor, many of which are very kid-friendly. Undoubtedly, you are sure to work up an appetite after exploring some of the best things to do in Boise with kids. So when you’re ready to eat, here’s where to eat in Boise with kids.
Families seeking restaurants with kids’ menus and other family-friendly amenities can consider 10 Barrel Brewing or Sid’s Garage. Then, Boise Fry Co. also offers a kid’s menu. Plus, you can choose fries from six different varieties of potatoes (including purple spuds!) and a variety of unique ketchup options. It may be the only place in the world where french fries come first, and the burger is on the side! Families will delight in going to The Warehouse Food Hall. Offering several choices, everyone is sure to find something they want to eat here. Kids can munch on waffles, pizza, or gourmet grilled cheese, while parents can enjoy poké bowls, BBQ, or lobster rolls. Finally, while Prost German Pub doesn’t offer a kids’ menu, they do have some of the best food in Boise!
Then, for ice cream, families can head to Stella’s Ice Cream. If you want to mix cocktails with ice cream, head to the STIL. Here, you can gobble up small-batch ice cream from Idaho dairy, including alcohol-infused and vegan options.
Where to Stay in Boise with Kids
There are many wonderful places to stay in Boise with kids. Likely, downtown is the most convenient area to stay in Boise for families. Firstly, Hampton Inn & Suites Boise-Downtown includes a hot breakfast, an outstanding hotel pool (with a water feature for kids!), and an excellent location within walking distance of Zoo Boise, the Boise River Greenbelt, and the Idaho Discovery Center.
Then, Hyatt Place Boise/Downtown is another great option. This downtown hotel has modern rooms and suites, an outdoor pool, and a prime location for families. Courtyard by Marriott Boise Downtown is another option to consider, featuring an on-site restaurant and free parking. Finally, families wondering where to stay in Boise with kids can also consider Hotel 43, The Grove Hotel, and Residence Inn Boise Downtown/City Center.
We hope you found this article covering the 22+ Best Things to Do in Boise with Kids helpful in planning your own adventures. There is more to Boise than potatoes and foothills – a lot more! From kid-friendly indoor and outdoor activities to nearby day trips, there is much to love about taking a family trip to Boise, Idaho. Indeed, this hidden gem is sure to become a family favorite. Have a fantastic time exploring Boise with kids!
*Unless otherwise noted, all images within this article belong to and are courtesy of Antonia Grant.
*Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of the attractions, accommodations, or things to do on this list may be closed. Please ensure availability before making your decision.
*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.
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