Exploring with Kids: 36 Hours in Boise

Exploring with Kids: 36 Hours in Boise In July, my kids and I had the opportunity to explore Boise, Idaho. It was the perfect stop on our way from Bend, Oregon where we visited with my brother-in-law to Yellowstone National Park. From learning about state history to racing down waterslides, Boise is a must-visit with kids.

Whether you have just a day or two, or even a week, you’ll find much to do as a family in Boise. Here’s the scoop on where to stay, what to do and where to eat. Have fun. 🙂

Where to Stay

We stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites Boise/Downtown, which recently completed a full renovation. It’s in a great location for exploring Boise as a family since it’s a short walk to the Idaho State Capitol and to a number of casual restaurants, like Bonefish Grill and PF Chang’s. It’s also an easy walk to the Boise Zoo and Boise River Greenbelt, which is great for family walks and bike rides.

Sports fans will love that the Hampton Inn is close to Boise State University, which is known for its blue football field turf (aka Smurf Turf). In the winter, the hotel is also quite convenient for those who want to stay in-town, but then make the short drive to Bogus Basin Ski Area for skiing and snowboarding.

We stayed two nights at the Hampton Inn & Suites Boise/Downtown and made full use of the heated indoor pool, which had a colorful, tropical theme complete with a palm tree. My kids loved the spraying water mushroom. There’s also a turtle-shaped waterslide that’s ideal for toddlers.

Exploring with Kids: 36 Hours in Boise

There’s even a hot tub in the pool area as well as a fantastic fitness center that’s just on the other side of the glass from the indoor pool. It’s perfectly situated should you want to get some miles on the treadmill while still keeping an eye on your school-age kids as they splash in the pool.

Of course, we loved the free wi-fi and free hot breakfast that came with our room – always a plus with my kids. It was nice to be able to eat breakfast in the hotel before heading out to enjoy our day. It was not uncommon for my kids to get breakfast in their pajamas just like they do at home. The hotel also has On the Run breakfast bags with an apple, a muffin and a water bottle when you’re really short on time.

What to Do

The Hampton Inn & Suites Boise/Downtown is easy driving distance to a number of kid-friendly attractions, including Roaring Springs Waterpark and Zoo Boise. If you go, here are a few of my top things to do with kids in the Boise area.

Roaring Springs Waterpark. In summer, Roaring Springs Waterpark is the place to be. Kids will love multiple waterslides, including a family raft ride, a massive wave pool and the lazy river. There’s also a water playground, as well as several kid-sized slides at the Little Splash Mountain kiddie play area.

Exploring with Kids: 36 Hours in Boise

Zoo Boise. Located inside Julia Davis Park, there’s plenty for kids to see and do at Zoo Boise. Visit with snow leopards, zebras and monkeys before taking a spin on the carousel. In the summer, sign up to have Breakfast with the Lions. Take time for encounter experiences with giraffes and sloth bears. 

Idaho State Capitol. You can’t go to Boise without taking a free self-guided or group tour of the Idaho State Capitol. Before you go, click over to Idaho’s Capitol for Kids, a website where kids can watch videos and play games to learn more about the state capitol building before seeing it in real-life.

Exploring with Kids: 36 Hours in Boise

Discovery Center of Idaho. Kids will love all of the hands-on exhibits at the Discovery Center of Idaho. Design, build and test structures at SuperStruct before checking out one of the monthly demos that explore everything from chemistry to electricity to the science behind flinging and launching objects (physics).

Wahooz Family Fun Zone. Adjacent to Roaring Springs Waterpark, Wahooz Family Fun Zone is the place to go once you’re done slipping and sliding for the day. There’s so much to do from laser tag and bumper boats to mini golf and go-karts. There’s even a huge arcade with all kinds of video games.

Exploring with Kids: 36 Hours in Boise

Boise Art Museum. Head to Boise Art Museum to take in exhibits that explore weather’s impact on nature, modern and contemporary ceramics, even Chinese gardens. Pick up a Family Activity Pack when you arrive to help children ages 4-12 explore the museum through games, stories and hands-on activities.

Where to Eat

There are a number of restaurants in the Boise area that are perfect for kids and families. Here are a few to check out during your visit:

Boise Fry Company. When in Idaho, the potatoes are a must, but really you want the spicy fry sauce, so head to Boise Fry Company. When ordering fries, choose from russet, purple, gold, sweet, okinawa or yam.

Exploring with Kids: 36 Hours in Boise

Moon’s Kitchen. A Boise institution since 1955, head to Moon’s Kitchen for breakfast, salads, tasty burgers and world-famous milkshakes, even floats and banana splits.

Guru Donuts. For those with a sweet tooth, Guru Donuts is a must for delicious made-from-scratch donuts. No ordinary donuts, look for flavors like “The Party Girl,” “I Have a Dreamsicle” and “The Bart Simpson.”

Flying Pie Pizzaria. There’s pizza, and then there’s Flying Pie Pizzaria. There are more pizza combinations than you can imagine and you can even take a one-hour pizza-making tour.

Photo Credit: Stuart Seeger (Idaho State Capitol)