The Thrifty Traveler’s Guide to Boise

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Hero image courtesy of @travelboise on Instagram

Whether you’re jumping in the car and hitting the road or heading to the airport to take a flight, Idaho’s capital city makes for a beautiful travel destination—that also happens to be relatively affordable. From history and culture to great food and nightlife, Boise is a dynamic, wilderness-infused metropolis and the most populous component of America’s Treasure Valley. 

Are you planning a trip to the City of Trees? Don’t fall for tourist traps that will leave your wallet hurting—take a look at our list of free places to see, low-cost things to do, and reasonably-priced spots to eat in Boise. 

Save Money in Boise One Free Attraction at a Time

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Table Rock Overlook

Breathtaking Views of the City, No Admission Required

Table Rock Road | Warm Springs Mesa |
Whether you rent a car in Boise and drive to the top or make the hike up the foothills, Table Rock Overlook rewards visitors with arguably the best view in town. Image courtesy of 7x7

Table Rock Overlook has much more to offer than being totally free (although, that’s definitely an added perk!). The mountainous landmark also boasts fresh air and spectacular scenery—plus, only a short distance from Downtown Boise, it’s pretty convenient to get to, too. 

Not only can you see a panoramic view of Boise from the top of Table Rock, but you can also take in the natural beauty of the surrounding area—the vantage point gives you a far-reaching look at a good portion of Treasure Valley. Open from dawn to dusk every day of the year with no entry fee, Table Rock Overlook an all-inclusive attraction that you don’t want to miss out on. 

“To start off, the hike up is a great hike. It's not hard but not flat either, LOL. The sight once you get to the top is definitely worth it. If you’re not up for a hike, you can also drive up the backside. I would recommend seeing it during the day or at night before they lock the gate; it's a great place to catch the sunset. This is also where I proposed to my wife. It's a must-see if you’re visiting Boise for the first time.” -Roque H. on Yelp

Freak Alley

Free Outdoor Art From a Range of Different Artists

210 N. 9th Street | Downtown |
Freak Alley is the largest open-air gallery in the Northwest and features a rotating collection of street art and murals. Image courtesy of Visit Idaho

There’s a lot to explore in Downtown Boise, but Freak Alley is a stop that you simply have to make. Situated in an alleyway bordered by 8th Street and 9th Street on one side and Bannock Street and Idaho Street on the other, the multi-artist outdoor art gallery is an explosion of color and completely free to the public. 

Since its debut in 2002, Freak Alley has established itself as a testament to the city’s vibrancy, not to mention its ever-growing art scene, and is a hotspot for photography (and, by extension, social media posts). In addition to the main attraction—outdoor gallery—the creative masterminds behind Freak Alley also have an indoor gallery where you can see more pieces by the artist featured outside and, if you want, purchase the art that’s for sale. 

“I was able to take some great pictures of this unexpected gem down an alley in downtown Boise. We visited this area during a foodie tour of restaurants. The alley features ever-changing murals by local artists. Some are very political and poignant. Don't miss out on this free, but colorful part of the Idaho experience.” -Adam S. on Yelp

Idaho State Capitol Building

Distinctive Downtown Landmark in Idaho’s Capital City

700 W Jefferson Street | Downtown |
Home to many decades of state history, the Capitol Building is a worthwhile stop during your stay in Boise, and since it’s right in the Downtown area, you don’t have to go out of your way to see it. Image courtesy of State Symbols USA

You might think that a government building is boring with not much to offer in terms of appeal, but this isn’t necessarily true—at least not with the Idaho State Capitol Building. While it’s true that history buffs and political enthusiasts might get the most out of a trip to the Capitol, the building itself is still pretty cool, thanks to its decadent architecture and room to explore. 

Constructed in 1905, the Capitol Building has been a definitive feature in the Boise skyline for over one hundred years. Many visitors are surprised to find that the inside of the Capitol is just as visually arresting as its outside. In fact, the interior features four types of marble sourced from Georgia, Alsaka, Vermont, and Italy. 

“Compared to Oregon, where I currently reside, Idaho's state capital is much more impressive, beautiful and available to the public. It was open on a Saturday, and even with the street fair and other events going on, there were only a few other people inside. Both the interior and exterior are beautiful and well taken care of, and it's a peaceful way to spend about an hour. The best part though? It's completely free!” -Sebastian K. on Yelp

These Low-Cost Activities Are Some of Boise’s Best

Capital City Public Market

Home of Boise’s Saturday Farmers Market

910 W. Main Street | Downtown | 
You don’t have to buy anything to have a good time at Capital City Public Market—join hundreds of visitors and locals at this hallmark event in Downtown Boise. Image courtesy of @capitalcitypublicmarket on Instagram

Plunge into the hustle and bustle of Downtown Boise by taking a walk down Main Street on Saturdays from 10:30 am to 2:30 pm. With a history that dates back to 1994, Capital City Public Market is so much more than a city farmers market—it’s grown into a Boise institution. 

You’ll find fresh produce, artisanal baked goods, handcrafted art, and more at this hub of local talent and domestically-sourced merchandise. Wondering what vendors will be at the Market while you’re in town? Check the website’s calendar to see what’s in season and if any special events will be taking place. 

“The Saturday Farmers Market is a great introduction to Boise. After Labor Day, the Saturday Boise Farmers Market isn't too busy except for BSU game days. We went on a BSU game day so the market was filled with people milling around. I love people-watching so it was great.  There are numerous vendors. There's a great selection of crafts and clothes. There are also baked goods, beverages, and snacks. All of us had a great time. Highly recommend!” -Karen W. on Yelp

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Kathryn Albertson Park 

Take a Walk Through This Natural Wonderland 
1001 N. Americana Boulevard | Boise Heights |
Part of the Boise River Greenbelt, Kathryn Albertson Park is a picturesque riverside path with paved walkways and ample greenspace. Image courtesy of @lovemycityoftrees on Instagram

Kathryn Albertson Park is just one of many parks that dot the Boise River Greenbelt, a collection of public parks along the Boise River. With paved walkways, various forms of wildlife, footbridges, and gazeebos, Kathryn Albertson Park is a lovely way to spend a few hours enjoying nature (and filling up your camera rolls with tons of photos!). 

A popular place for weddings, engagement photos, family portraits, prom pictures, and just about every other photographable event, Kathryn Albertson Park is sure to blow you away with its beauty, peacefulness, and the fact that it’s absolutely free. 

“This is a stunning park. Great for those who want to get in some walking while being surrounded by gorgeous nature. There are water features, trees, birds singing, and all types of woodland animals enjoying this lush paradise. I came with my 4-year-old, and she was so enthralled by the nature that she didn't even care there was no playground. It's well-maintained, and you feel as if a fairy or elf might jump out at any given moment.” -Samantha T. on Yelp.

Idaho Museum of Mining & Geology 

Free Admission Is Just One of the Reasons Why This Museum Rocks

2455 Old Penitentiary Road | Warm Springs Mesa |
Located right next to the Old Idaho Penitentiary and Table Rock, the Idaho Museum of Mining & Geology is a frugal way to learn more about the Gem State’s geographic history and ties to the mining industry. Image courtesy of @miss_melia_ann on Instagram

The Idaho Museum of Mining & Geology might not be Boise’s biggest museum but with free admission and a rockin’ rock collection, how can you say no to this ode to the earth sciences? Open noon to 5 pm Wednesday through Sunday (check the website for schedule changes throughout the year), the Museum of Mining & Geology is the perfect place for a quick stop and a bit of educational enrichment. 

Permanent collections and exhibits include Idaho Minerals and Gems, Florence Minerals, Meteorites, Life Leaving Its Mark, Earth Quake Tracking, Idaho Mining History, and the Fujii Collection. In addition to the permanent exhibits, the Museum of Mining & Geology also hosts lectures from guest speakers. 

“I have a child that collects rocks, crystals, and gems, so I wanted to take him to see the exhibit. They have a ton of rocks and crystals on display, a super educational meteor area, mining education and equipment... and it's FREE! The whole family enjoyed themselves, and we all learned things. It's a simple building packed with a lot of cool educational stuff.” -Ebony N. on Yelp.   

Top Spots for Cheap Eats in Boise 

Boise Fry Company

You Can’t Go to Idaho with Eating Some Form of Potatoes

204 North Capitol Boulevard | Downtown |
This might be the only restaurant where the fries are the main course and the burgers are the side! Image courtesy of @boisesbestbites on Instagram

Boise Fry Company takes Idaho’s signature crop to a whole new level. At this fast-cas’ joint Downtown, you pick the type of potato you want (yam, sweet potato, purple, red, gold, and russet) and the cut that you want (shoestring, regular, homestyle, curly, or po’ balls). Then, you choose seasoning and sauces for a heap of fries that are completely your own. 

Image courtesy of @paniaguasm on Instagram

Image courtesy of @twozeroate on Instagram

Image courtesy of @boisefryco on Instagram

Of course, the menu doesn’t end there—Boise Fry Company also has burgers (beef, turkey, bison, vegan, or funguy—which is half beef, half mushroom), BLTs, quinoa, and grilled cheese. All in all, it’s a dining experience that perfectly encapsulates the spirit of Boise and won’t break the bank. 

“I would recommend any out of state/towner to visit BFC because those fries and burgers are so tasty! . . . they have a ton of different seasonings (ex: cajun, smoked salt, salt & vinegar, garlic & rosemary, vanilla, etc) for your fries, and different sauces (fry sauce, blueberry ketchup, sour Thai, roasted jalapeno ranch, garlic aioli, etc) so you can be adventurous however you'd like!” -Mary F. on Yelp

Bar Gernika 

Authentic Basque with Outdoor Seating

202 S Capitol Boulevard | Old Boise |
Since its opening in 1991, Bar Gernika has been a staple on Boise’s Basque Block and continues to charm customers with its diverse menu and reasonable prices. Image courtesy of @gina_lehe on Instagram

This bar and restaurant in Old Boise once made an appearance on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives—so you know going into it that it has to be good. Not only does Bar Gernika give you the chance to try some food from another culture, but its menu is also super affordable. 

Image courtesy of @mdrboi_boiseadventures on Instagram

Image courtesy of @edwardjuvier on Instagram

Image courtesy of @bobwhy on Instagram

Dig into traditional Basque dishes like chorizo, croquetas, solomo, and even beef tongue! But not to worry, picky eaters—Bar Gernika also serves more familiar foods like french fries, grilled chicken salad, BLTs, and grilled cheese. 

“The chorizo here is delicious. Great drinks & good prices. We came in the afternoon and found a table, but it's a small joint & probably gets pretty busy. Friendly staff and a no-frills ambiance. This is the place I recommend to people visiting Boise.” -Bo J. on Yelp

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Artisanal Ice Cream, American Gelato, and More 

786 W Broad Sreet | Downtown |
Winning the title of “Boise’s Best Dessert” not one but two years in a row, The STIL (short for the Sweetest Things In Life) is one of Boise’s must-eats. Image courtesy of @amberalvardo on Instagram

The STIL isn’t your run-of-the-mill ice cream shop. In addition to a variety of homemade ice cream and gelato flavors, this Downtown dessert hotspot has beer, wine, and soda floats, as well as cookie-and-ice-cream sandwiches and paninis. And believing that no one should have to go without the sweeter things in life, the STIL also carries vegan and dairy-free options. 

Image courtesy of @ilovethestil on Instagram

Image courtesy of @livinglifel0ved on Instagram

Image courtesy of @ilovethestil on Instagram

Take a walk on the wild side by trying a booze-infused frozen treat or sampling an ice cream flight with four scoops of ice cream and four beers or wines. No matter what you get, you’re sure to fall in love with this sweet tooth heaven. 

“The sweetest things in life are found in Boise!  My bestie and I visited The STIL and fell in love!  We had such an awesome time here, sampling two of our favorite things: beer and ice cream . . .  Everything went really well with each other. The ice cream was perfectly creamy and very flavorful. But if I had to choose, my favorite was the brownie batter ice cream with an imperial stout.” -Jacques I. on Yelp

Boise on a Budget? No Problem! 

Brimming with public landmarks, sights, parks, and reasonably-priced restaurants, Boise is one of the best places to go if you’re traveling on a budget. You can get your fill of the city without blowing through a ton of cash, and with so much energy and natural beauty, Boise will have you wanting to come back before you even leave.

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