Teetering between its rural roots and high-tech tomorrow, Boise's distinctive neighborhoods tell a story of growth. Elegant subdivisions line manicured golf courses along the Boise River. Rolling eastward and westward, these neighborhoods have replaced farmland, shortening the boundaries between adjacent towns.
What were once sleepy, rural villages are now considered Boise's bedroom communities: Meridian, Eagle, Nampa and Caldwell are all located west of Boise off Interstate 84. Boise proper is built around breathtaking mountains and sagebrush desert. Seven distinct districts, each with its own feel, introduce the new Boise to visitors.
Tree-lined Harrison Boulevard's historic mansions set the tone for this old neighborhood. Including the downtown area, this northern district is referred to by locals as the North End. Young couples looking for charm are fixing up homes in this area, creating a renewed interest in one of Boise's first neighborhoods.
In the middle of the North End sits Hyde Park , with its boutiques and popular eateries like Lucky 13 . For more than 20 years, the Hyde Park Street Fair has set the tone for this funky neighborhood. Spilling into Camel's Back Park , one of Boise's more popular open spaces, the fair attracts visitors from all over the Treasure Valley.
Like the North End, the area northeast of downtown Boise also boasts a historic street, Warm Springs Avenue . Its posh Victorian homes make it a popular tourist attraction. Many of the houses are geothermally heated, using hot water sources for heat. Stretching high into the foothills, the East End also includes many modern homes with enviable views of the city.
In addition, the district hosts some of Boise's most impressive parks. Julia Davis Park hugs the neighborhood's southern boundary while Warm Springs Golf Club stretches along its eastern edge. The nearby educational Morrison-Knudsen Nature Center is one of Boise's main attractions.
Merging farmland with modern subdivisions, this district is a good example of the changes Boise is undergoing. From its eastern boundary near Eagle, the district touches the Boise River to the south and stretches north to include some of Boise's most exclusive subdivisions and the Quail Hollow Golf Course .
Although new homes punctuate the landscape, there is still plenty of room for horse pastures and older farm homes in this neighborhood, dating back to the late 1800s. One of the main roads, Collister, is named for Dr. George Collister, a Boise pioneer. Pierce Park Road takes its name from Walter Pierce, whose park building efforts have been transformed into the Plantation Golf Course.
Named for historic gardens raised by Chinese immigrants, this small city within Boise's boundaries stretches along Chinden Boulevard, also named for a Chinese garden. The 50-year-old city has a tarnished past from legalized gambling in the late 1940s to adult bookstores. Today, its main attraction is the Western Idaho Fairgrounds, home to the Western Idaho Fair. Idaho Downs at Expo Idaho offers horse racing, while professional baseball is found at the Hawks Memorial Stadium .
Not that long ago, the Boise Bench was a mixture of 1950s brick bungalows and grand homes overlooking downtown Boise and its string of parks. Today, the Bench's character has changed because of Hewlett-Packard (HP), one of Boise's largest private employers, and the Boise Towne Square Mall .
Divided by Highway 184, the Bench includes the West Bench, dominated by HP and the Boise Towne Square Mall , and the Central Bench, home to quiet bungalows. Boise's largest parks, Ann Morrison Park and Kathryn Albertson Park , are found in the Central Bench. The Boise Train Depot , with its priceless views of downtown Boise and surrounding mountains, and the Stage Coach Theatre , home to entertaining community theater, also call this district home.
One word says it all for this southeastern district: Micron. Micron Technology's complex dominates the far eastern corner of this Boise neighborhood. Growing along with Micron, the area has sprouted subdivisions, housing Micron employees, and attractive green spaces.
Even though the new threatens to overshadow the old here, southeastern Boise is also home to Barber Park , the official beginning for the longtime summer tradition of rafting the Boise River. Boise State University and the picturesque ParkCenter Boulevard are also found in southeastern Boise. ParkCenter hosts many corporate offices, hotels, posh eateries and exclusive Boise River neighborhoods.
Just across Interstate 84, this neighborhood unfolds across a high desert plain. There is less of everything in this area, less development, less shopping and fewer services. The Boise Municipal Airport, Idaho Military History Museum and the National Interagency Fire Center are the tourist highlights.
Growth in Boise has brought a myriad of dining options. Downtown brims with restaurants from eclectic coffee houses to Mexican eateries. Diners can select from more than 60 restaurants and never leave the downtown area. Brewpubs have sprung up around town, offering not only Northwest microbrews but delicious vittles as well.
The elegant Gamekeeper Restaurant and Lounge has been a Boise tradition for years. At the Cottonwood Grille you can dine on fresh beef and fish while gazing through picture windows at tree-lined streets.
Original cafes can be found throughout the downtown area, tucked up and down the streets. Many roll in and out of town quickly, but some like the Brick Oven Bistro have been around for years. Another Boise favorite, Moon's Kitchen , offers unforgettable milkshakes and, as its motto explains, it "never met a calorie it didn't like."
Also downtown, is the historic Eighth Street Marketplace with many restaurants surrounding its thick brick walls. Nearby is Rick's Cafe American , named after Humphrey Bogart's joint in Casablanca.
For a more upscale Italian dining experience, head to the Grove Hotel and its signature restaurant, Emilio's . Spanish speakers will feel at home at the many Mexican restaurants scattered throughout the Boise Valley. Named after Mexico's largest lake, Chapala serves hearty helpings of Mexican dishes. Another successful Mexican restaurant is Cafe Ole , hosting the largest Cinco de Mayo celebration in Idaho.
Downtown's North End
Another North End Area treasure, Hyde Park , offers itself to visitors like a gift ready to be unwrapped. Coffee houses, used bookstores, galleries and delicious restaurants make this neighborhood a must for any visit to Boise. Among the Hyde Park eateries is Lucky 13 , a popular pizza place.
Boise's dining and drinking options can't be pigeonholed. You can travel the culinary world during your Boise stay, stick with the traditional steak-and-potatoes, or sample rich microbrews.