I have a special place in my heart for Boise, Idaho. Partly because it’s one of the most beautiful big cities in the United States, but mostly because this is where I spent several years of my childhood. Visiting Boise with kids is always a good idea!
I think what I love most about this area is that there is so much open space to explore, yet it has some modern touches and a variety of food choices for those of us who have a soft spot for ethnic foods. You can also tell that Boise was designed by people who loved nature.
Trips to the Boise area are fairly common for us. My grandmother, my dad’s siblings, and cousins call Idaho home. During our visits, we always incorporate some of our favorite activities that are kid-friendly.
If your next summer vacation is taking you to the Boise area, check out some of our favorite family activities!
Float Down the Boise River
Floating down the Boise River on a sunny day is one of the best things to do when visiting Boise with kids during the summer months. It’s safe, fun, with just the right level of excitement, making it a great group activity for most ages.
The river opens for floating as early as the middle of June or the beginning of July. Floaters can enter the water at Barber Park, meander down the river for six miles, and get out at Ann Morrison Park. The trip takes right around two hours.
There are three small drop-offs. We didn’t tell some members of our party about the said drop-offs until we were already in the water. They were quite pleased with this “surprise” and thanked us profusely for keeping things exciting. At least that’s how I interpreted their exclamations. The first drop-off gives you a fleeting moment of panic. But we all made it over without incident while floating on river rafts, tubes, and even air mattresses.
RANDOM MEMORY: Once, I floated down the Boise River with my family as a teen. We got caught in a thunderstorm. It was before the age of cell phones, so we dragged our tubes to the nearest office building and stood there shivering, hair plastered to our heads, looking like drowned rats while my dad made his way into the building dripping wet to ask to borrow their phone to hitch a ride in a taxi back to our vehicles.
Flotation Devices & Life Vests
You can either bring your own floatation device (nothing flimsy that will pop if it hits a branch or rock) or rent one from the on-site rental company. The rental company has individual tubes, 4-person rafts, or 6-person rafts. Each rental includes life jackets as well. While life jackets are only required to be worn by children under 14, adults are supposed to have a life jacket in their floatation device. We all opted to just wear our own life vests. It just seemed like a good idea.
A waterproof case will keep your phone dry and help you capture this epic trip to remember forever.
Floating down the Boise River in Idaho
Visit a Mountain Lake
Within a short drive of Boise, are some of the most beautiful forests, lakes, and streams in the Western United States. If you don’t have time to camp for a few nights near one of these lakes, take a day-trip! Our family opted to visit Lost Valley Reservoir, located off of HWY 95, north of Weiser.
Go Trout Fishing
Fishing is one of our favorite pastimes at mountain lakes, so we brought our poles, and purchased bait and fishing licenses. Children under 14 fish for free in Idaho. Fishing licenses can be purchased at a variety of places in Idaho, including some Albertson’s grocery stores and Sinclair gas stations. We caught enough fish to cook over the campfire for dinner. Trout is one of the most mild fish and is delicious with butter and salt!
Pick Wild Huckleberries
We were lucky enough to be in Idaho during huckleberry season this year! If you’ve never had a huckleberry, you’re in for a treat. It looks similar to a blueberry, and I think it tastes something like a cross between a blueberry and a blackberry. All around the lake, the huckleberries grow wild next to the road. We had to hunt a little, but were able to find quite a few when we stepped off the beaten path. In fact, we found enough that my mom made huckleberry cobbler over the campfire! I didn’t eat much (just the berry part—I don’t do gluten), but it was delicious!
Go for a Swim
Taking a dip in the lake is a perfect way to round out your day. Some of the larger lakes allow for skiing and other water sports. While the water may be cooler at higher altitudes, it’s certainly a great activity for your day trip to the mountains.
Lost Valley Reservior, Idaho
Wild huckleberry cobbler
Fishing for trout
Spend a Day at a Waterpark
During our last trip to Boise with kids, we surprised them with tickets to the Roaring Springs Water Park in the neighboring city of Meridian. Of course, they were thrilled! We went on a Monday when tickets were $10 off.
The park had a perfect blend of activities for all members of our family. Our youngest enjoyed the kids’ slides, wave pool, and lazy river. The older kids enjoyed the thrill rides, shave ice, pizza, and ice cream. Allan and I enjoyed doing whatever the kids were doing.
We arrived about one hour after park opening and found most of the lounge chairs were already in use. However, guests were also claiming tables with chairs. We found an open table, spread out our towels and backpacks, and set headed to the slides.
The day was full of laughter, new memories, and absolutely no pictures.
Eat Dinner at The Village in Meridian
Magical. That’s the best way to describe The Village in Meridian. The Village is an outdoor shopping mall. I’m not a shopper, so I didn’t set foot inside one single store. However, I have a thing for beautiful landscaping, music, and water. The Village has all three. Hanging and potted plants line the sidewalks and patio lights and street lamps bring cheer to this outdoor space.
The real gem though is located in the center of the mall called The Fountain Square. It’s a large fountain (surprise!) surrounded by beautiful landscape, ample outdoor dining space, and a children’s play area. There’s a building that houses food that’s a step up from a traditional food court–one counter that serves up Mexican inspired dishes and another with an Asian flair.
I opted for a burrito bowl then proceeded to snitch bites of Allan’s Korean Beef bowl. Allan’s chill like that. After all, our family motto is “We share around here.” Though, in retrospect, I didn’t do much reciprocating. The cucumber kimchi paired perfectly with the ginger beef and sauteed shiitake mushrooms.
Every hour, on the hour, the music would sync with the fountains and lights for a lovely little show. It was almost like being at Disney’s California Adventure Park. Almost.
There’s also a fun play structure for the kids to get their wiggles out while the adults relax. I also heard a rumor while we were there, that a portion of the outdoor oasis converts into an ice skating rink during the winter!
The Village is definitely a place to put on your list when visiting Boise with kids.
Synchronized water, music, and lights display every hour at The Village in Meridian, Idaho (small but magical)
Go On a Fruit Picking Adventure in Emmett
As a child, I lived in the quaint little town of Emmett, located northwest of Boise. My family owned a 60-acre apple orchard in Emmett, and my grandparents also had their own orchard and fruit stand. My grandpa was a gifted farmer and grew the biggest, juiciest, most flavorful fruit around. I know, it sounds like something a granddaughter would say, but it’s the truth.
Depending on the month you’re visiting, your fruit experience varies. Cherries, strawberries, peaches, and apples are at the top of my list. Especially the peaches. If I had to choose one fruit to eat for the rest of my life, it would be yellow peaches. Followed by berries of all types: strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and huckleberries.
We arrived this year when the peaches were just ripening. We grabbed an empty bucket at Williams Fruit Ranch and hiked up the hill towards trees loaded with peaches the size of small bowling balls. I kid, of course. BUT, these peaches were giant. They were about ½ pound each, and the size of a grapefruit. We filled our bucket with these delectable peaches. Some of our party might have complained about the tall, itchy grass, but the rest of us were oblivious. We had one thing on our mind. Peaches.
Do yourself, and your tastebuds, a favor. Swing through Emmett while you’re visiting Boise with kids!
Picking peaches at Williams Fruit Ranch in Emmett, Idaho
Bike and Hike the Boise Greenbelt
Open spaces are an obvious part of the design of the city of Boise. A greenbelt lines 25 miles of the Boise River, fulfilling the dream of hikers, runners, and bikers. There are plenty of spots to enjoy a picnic lunch and take in the sounds of nature…right in the city. Fishing and birding opportunities are also abundant.
If you didn’t bring a bike along, you can rent a bike or even a scooter. E-scooters can be found throughout the city and can be rented via an app by the minute.
BOISE with kids is fun!
If you’re ready to start planning for your trip to Boise with kids this summer, create a foolproof vacation budget in 9 easy steps!
Planning a summer family vacation to the Boise area is guaranteed to be a crowd-pleaser for adventure, nature, and city lovers alike!
What are your family’s favorite activities in the Boise area? Or, if you’re visiting Boise for the first time and have questions, drop them in the comments below!