In February my older son and I spent some time in Seattle, enjoying two days of sightseeing in both the typical downtown attractions and also the aviation attractions, including the Museum of Flight and the Boeing Everett Factory Tour.
Tacked onto this was a two-night stay in Boise, Idaho. I’d never been to Idaho, and as the flights didn’t cost any more (well, a mere $5.60 more because of the TSA fee), using Alaska’s amazing stopover trick, it was a no-brainer.
Our time here was a bit more laid-back than our lightning fast itinerary in Seattle, but we really enjoyed it. I also learned a number of things about both Idaho and Boise. Here are five facts about Boise you may not know:
It’s the City of Trees
Boise was originally named by French trappers who purportedly called it “Les Bois” (the forest) or “la Riviere Boisse” (the forested river) for the trees they finally found as they make their trek along the Snake River. Apparently they hadn’t seen trees for a while, so the stands along the river in the Boise area were a refreshing sight.
Personally, I didn’t see appreciably more trees than other small cities I’ve visited. The hills also weren’t very forested from what I could tell. But then again, I am comparing the distant scattered pines to the thick mixed evergreens we have in northern California. We also visited in winter when the trees are devoid of foliage. Boise has made a concerted effort to plant a maintain a large number of trees in the city, starting way back in the mid-1800s.
It’s Boy-see, not Boy-zee
I’m definitely one to try to learn place names as accurately as I can, preferably from locals. Notable examples include “Cal-gree” (Calgary), “Tronno” (Toronto), and “Row-noak” (Roanoke). But this distinction was one of which I was completely unaware before we arrived in the Idaho capital.
An incorrect pronunciation is something that will immediately tag you as an out-of-towner. Get that ‘s’ sound down before you pay Boise a visit. Otherwise you’ll stand out like an evergreen in a deciduous forest in winter.
It has the largest community of Basque Americans
The Basque are a European people from the area surrounding the western Pyrennes and are one of the larger people-groups in the world without their own country. What I find most interesting about the Basque is that their language is unlike any other in Europe and is completely unrelated to the Latin-derived (Romance) languages of surrounding Spain, France, Portugal and Italy.
The Basque diaspora has resulted in Basque people all over the world, including a few pockets within the United States. More than any other state, Idaho is associated with the Basque presence in the U.S. Boise is home to the Basque Museum and Cultural Center that celebrates the history, culture and heritage of this people. Boise and Gernika (officially Guernica, Spain) are also sister cities, and my son and I had dinner at Bar Gernika during our stay in Boise.
It’s an up-and-coming foodie city
The number and variety of the restaurants in Boise surprised me. From Thomas Hammer Coffee Roasters down the street from our hotel to an introduction to Basque cuisine at Bar Gernika, I definitely enjoyed our quick taste of Boise. I don’t do fine dining with the kids, but there is plenty to enjoy on the more budget end of the spectrum. Boise is off the food radar, but it shouldn’t be.
Craft beer, which has long been a fixture of the Pacific Northwest states of Washington and Oregon, is a distinct part of Idaho as well. If the food isn’t enough to satisfy you, a pint might. There are a number of breweries right in Boise, including award-winning Sockeye Brewing and Payette Brewing.
Boise may not be on your travel radar, but it is a city certainly worth visiting for a couple days. If you’re considering other places in Idaho for a potential trip, whether skiing in Sun Valley or a fun summer weekend in Coeur d’Alene, consider a stop in the Idahoan capital as well.