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While the origins of Boise's name are often disputed, one story attributes its etymology to a French-speaking wilderness guide who, upon glimpsing the cottonwood trees along the Boise River exclaimed, "Les bois! Les bois!" ("The woods! The woods!"). Nearly two centuries later, reminders of Boise's Francophone roots can be found along its Basque Block, the epicenter of the region's Basque community. In addition to this colorful enclave, a vibrant arts scene, world-class restaurants, and a plethora of active pursuits make Boise an ideal Idaho destination.
After orienting yourself to the city, venture into Boise's distinctive neighborhoods. From its bustling downtown to the Hyde Park district, known as the mountain bike headquarters of the Treasure Valley, there's something here for everyone.
A 15-minute trip from Boise International Airport, Boise's central business district teems with world-class eateries, sprawling public parks, and museums that clue in visitors to the history of the city. Destinations include Grove Plaza and the Capital City Public Market—a farmers' market that runs every Saturday between April and December.
The Basque Block enclave of Downtown Boise honors the Basque shepherds who settled in the foothills of the Boise Mountains a century ago. Spanish- and French-inspired fare and the Basque Museum and Cultural Center offer a stellar introduction to the enduring influence of Basque culture on the region.
The Hyde Park Historic District provides a taste of Idaho’s suburban charm in a location that's decidedly metropolitan. Eclectic restaurants and antique shops beckon beside outfitters who equip cyclists for adventures in the neighboring Hulls Gulch/Camels Back Reserve.
There are a bevy of things to see in Boise within walking distance of its commercial center. Begin at the Idaho State Capitol, erected to pay homage to St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, St. Paul's Cathedral in London, and the US Capitol in Washington, D.C.. From there, meander through Capitol Park to the Egyptian Theatre, the city's preeminent event space, where opera performances, film festivals, and rock concerts are held. For those visiting in summer, considering taking in a play at the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, which runs between June and October in an outdoor performance space along the Boise River.
With the skyscraping peaks of the Boise Mountains in the distance, it can be tempting to trade the city's urban charms for the remote wilderness. Don't be fooled—the City of Trees offers an array of things to do, beginning with its own natural wonders. Inside expansive Julia Davis Park, visit Zoo Boise, where you can marvel at red pandas, snow leopards, and Magellanic penguins. Then, journey to the Boise Art Museum, an exquisite Art Deco and Egyptian Revival building brimming with examples of 20th-century realism as well as ceramics from American, Northwest, and Idaho artists. For more adventurous types, rent a bike or take a trek on the Ridge to Rivers Trail System, which offers endless loops through the Boise foothills.