My trip this weekend takes me to Boise, the capital city of Idaho and home to Boise State University. My little brother Kevin attends college here and it was family weekend so I made the journey up from Phoenix. While I was in the air, I realized that this was the first time that our entire family had been together for a vacation outside of Montana since 2010. Although this trip would be a short one, I was excited to spend the weekend with my family.
Our hotel was located smack dab in the middle of downtown Boise which is where you want to be in this city. We stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites, which was pleasantly very nice and has all the amenities needed (gym, pool, and most importantly a generous continental breakfast). We started Friday off by heading out towards the Boise State Campus which is less than a ½ mile walk from the hotel, and what a beautiful walk it is.
On your right is the Boise River which is dwarfed by giant lush trees; to your left are the grounds of the Boise Zoo which make for a peaceful 15-20 minute walk to campus. After crossing the friendship bridge you are on campus and right away there is a buzz about. Due to family weekend, there were an abundance of people out enjoying the beautiful fall day. After crossing the bridge, you walk along a bike and pedestrian walking path that parallels the river, so you continue to enjoy the view of the river. We walked around campus for a bit while Kevin pointed out various buildings and gave us the lay of the land. After we had our fill of campus, we headed back towards downtown to grab some lunch.
Downtown Boise is not very large by any means, but you don’t need to be when the best parts of the city are all within a few blocks of each other. There are lots of great places in Boise, but the heart of downtown can be placed within a square running from West Jefferson Street on the north end, West Myrtle Street on the south end and in between North 5th Street to North 11th Street on the east and west ends. This is where the action is at, everywhere you look there is restaurants, bars, cafes, and shops each with their own unique brand and identity. One of the things I like most about downtown Boise is the majority of businesses you will see are small businesses, there aren’t many commercial chains here which is always a refreshing thing to see. While walking around downtown, something that stood out to me was how clean the city was. The streets and sidewalks were impeccably clean, void of any garbage, litter, or general grubbiness that you would expect to see in a city’s center core. Downtown Boise reminded me of another one of my favorite smaller cities, Fort Collins, Colorado. Both cities have this amazing character to them and I can see why people would choose to live here. As we were walking and talking about the city, Kevin recommended we have lunch at a local brewery up ahead as he knows how much I like craft beer.
10 Barrel Brewing Co is where we ended up and it looked like one of the many microbreweries in Denver, with its rolled up garage door exterior, outdoor eating area, exposed beam interior, and a generous sized bar to enjoy the variety of tasty brews concocted here. When you enter, your eyes immediately look upwards to the giant chalkboard that lists the variety of beers being served, all with their alcohol percent and ABV rating. While surveying the beer board, a waitress passed by with a gargantuan sized burger and the greasiest fries I think I’ve ever seen…my excitement to eat and drink here was off the charts. While I studied the beer menu and fielded questions from my sisters on what beer to get, it dawned on me that this was the first time that the three of us have been legally able to drink in a bar since Shelby turned 21. While I don’t remember the name of the beers I ordered, all I can tell you is they were robust in flavor and packed a serious punch! The food was equally exceptional, with items ranging from burgers, pasta, pizza, and salads. If you want a tasty craft beer and a large fulfilling meal, I highly recommend making a stop at 10 Barrel Brewing Co.
After resting for a few hours we headed out to dinner to meet some family friends and The Piper Pub & Grill. This is just a typical pub, the food was rather uninspiring, but if you like whiskey and scotch then this is your place as they have a full menu book dedicated to them. We spent a few hours here enjoying the company of our friends, and as the night were nearing a close, Scott (Dad), Darryl, Sheila and myself headed out to 5th Street where all the bars are at. According to Darryl and Sheila, this is where the main strip of bars is at, and sure enough as we got closer the streets were lined with college students out partying.
The first bar we went to was called Pengilly’s Saloon. As the name implies, it is definitely a saloon, dark lighting, brick walls, old furniture, antique fixtures, and a stage with live music full in force. The bar itself was decently busy with a good mixture of people, although the crowd seemed much older, and distinctly hipster. I’m sure that if you had lived in the 1800’s, the hipsters of that age would have definitely taken over this bar and more than likely claimed the cello that was being played on stage as an instrument of their own creation. I’m actually quite surprised we weren’t given a tall boy PBR upon entering. After we had our fill of this place, we headed down the street to one of Darryl and Sheila’s favorite bars.
Roddy’s is worlds different than Pengilly’s Saloon, and for good measure as it is a country bar filled with rowdy drunk college students. It is reminiscent of Dierks Bentley Whiskey Row in Scottsdale or Cowboy Lounge in Denver. You have a good mix of music, mainly country but sprinkled in are hip hop and dance music to keep the crowd going all night. There was a good range of ages here; the hipsters from Pengilly’s Saloon had been replaced by every “Bro” in Boise who owns a snapback and a bunch of “Wooo Girls” screeching as they took shots. I grabbed an ice cold Coors Light (‘Merica) and stood near the edge of the mechanical bull ring and watched in awe as droves of drunk college students were bucked from the bull. If you have never rode a mechanical bull they are not easy and it’s usually attributed to the person controlling the bull, for some reason they try to buck you off the moment you get on which is not enjoyable. After watching numerous people fall off the bull, my Dad and I called it a night and said goodbye to our friends and headed back to the hotel.
Game Day was finally here and I couldn’t be more excited. I always love being back on college campuses, especially for football games. There is always this energy in the air that makes the college football experience so exciting, thus I was thrilled to be able to experience another college football Saturday. Kickoff wasn’t until 8:30pm so we had the whole day to continue enjoying Boise. We started the day with a trip to The Capital City Public Market which is a farmers market in downtown Boise every Saturday from 10:30am-2:00pm. The market blocks off traffic on N 8th Street and the vendors line up on both sides. While roaming through the market I stopped by a local cider company who was advertising one of their new ciders “Gin and Juice”. I decided to give it a try and it was surprisingly delicious so I bought a bottle as I knew this would be one of my tailgating items for later. As I neared the end of the market, I noticed some pottery to my left, and focused in on some nice custom made coffee mugs. The coloring was very unique and the mugs shimmered in blues, golds, reds, and a variety of others. A tall gold, brown, and blue mug caught my eye, and you can never have enough coffee mugs so I decided to buy it and I am glad I did, as it is my favorite coffee mug at home!
After shopping at the market we headed a few hundred yards east to the capitol building. The grounds to the capitol are beautiful, they are manicured with the precision of a fine Japanese garden where sharply cut angles meet colorful flowers to create an impressive site as you approach the capitol. The capitol itself looks like any other state capitol building, a grand white facade, but what stood out most to me were the steps leading up to the entrance. Large stone steps cut a wide berth that lead up to the entrance. Upon entering the capitol you are greeted with an abundance of bright and blinding white light which is the marble that adorns every inch of the building. The intricate architecture and the interior design of the capitol is very impressive, and the cleanliness of the capitol was impeccable; this was bar far the nicest capitol building that I have set foot in.
We walked back towards our hotel contemplating what to do and decided that we would take my nephew Jack to the zoo, as this would be his first visit to a zoo. While en route to the zoo we smelled a nice sweet and salty aroma to our left which was the Boise Fry Company and Guru Donuts. Boise Fry Company is famous for; you guessed it….French fries and burgers. They aren’t your usual French fries; you get to choose your type of potatoes (Russet, Gold, Laura, Yam, Sweet, Purple, Okinawa, and even Brussels Sprouts) and the style as well (Regular, Homestyle, Curly, Chips, Shoestring, or Po’Balls). We skipped the burgers and fries since we weren’t too hungry and opted for the donuts instead. Guru donuts is not your average donut shop, they specialize in making some truly tasty creations. I opted for a pumpkin spice raised with a root beer glaze, and a wild berry puree topped donut. The donuts here are heavenly, soft dough meets delectable toppings to create a one of a kind masterpiece. I would say these donuts are far better than anything at the ever popular and overrated Voodoo Donuts.
After we devoured our donuts and took a few more family photos we started
our walk to the zoo, fast forward about 25 minutes and we were ready to see what this zoo has to offer. My nephew Jack loves animals and getting to see the awe, bewilderment, and excitement on his face was priceless. Jack was thoroughly enjoying every moment of being at the zoo, as any child should. One of my favorite things is that Jack refers to every animal as “Dog” so every exhibit we went to, you would see him pointing at each animal saying “Dog” and smiling, you had to be there to appreciate it. We were at the zoo for quite a while and Jack started to get tired so we headed back to the hotel so he could get some rest before the game.
The sun was setting as we made our walk back over to campus for the game and the campus was alive with excitement for tonight’s match-up versus Hawaii. We made our way towards the dining hall as the rest of the family was hungry so Kevin treated them to dinner from his meal plan; I on the other hand was not hungry so I headed over to Darryl and Sheila’s tailgate to soak up the classic college tailgating experience. While en route to their tailgate, I took in the game day atmosphere and appreciated the fact that I was back on a major college campus and about to see another college football game which I love. I have been to a game here before, but the stadium seemed much more alive than it was 11 years ago on a bitterly cold November day. The game itself was an absolute beat down, it looked like Hawaii had fielded a high school team and it showed as they were beat 55-0. We called it early and headed back to the hotel since my family had to get up and catch an early flight.
My family left very early on Sunday morning, and I slept in a little bit longer before having to get up and leave the room. I called Kevin and told him to meet me in the lobby so we could go get breakfast from somewhere nearby. We walked for a bit by a few places that were serving breakfast and settled on a restaurant called Fork. I am very glad we chose this spot, according to Kevin it was one of the more popular breakfast spots in town, and we got there early enough to avoid the Sunday rush. I decided on the Northwest Scramble which was a nice mixture of Idaho Gold potatoes, peppers, onions, ham and cheddar. Overall the food was very good, simple dishes made with quality local ingredients makes this a very good decision for breakfast.
After breakfast was up, I said my goodbyes to Kevin and headed to the airport to catch my flight. Overall my weekend in Boise was a very fun, albeit a short trip. Boise is a great city, it offers plenty of amenities concentrated in a smaller metro area, but still large enough to give you the hustle and bustle city vibe as well. The downtown is perfect, tons of shops, bars, and restaurant as far as the eye can see. As I mentioned prior, the city itself is impeccably clean, no trash lined streets or litter everywhere, just clean sidewalks and streets. Another positive aspect of Boise is that the people were generally very friendly and outgoing, which always makes a visit to a new city a positive and rewarding experience. So if you want to enjoy some delicious food, sip some great craft brews, and experience a friendly and clean city, add Boise to your list!