Boise Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Boise

For thousands of years the tree lined Boise River valley was home to the Shoshone people. They would meet here to trade with other tribes. The valley was congenial and the river full of salmon. It was a holy place for indigenous people.

The name "Boise" originated in the 1820s. The valley was thick with cottonwood trees. French Canadian trappers called it "La riviere boisee" or the "wooded river". Be sure to say "BOY-see." exactly. Newcomers are easy to spot.

In 1863 the U.S. Army established Fort Boise on the Oregon Trail. That year, two brothers, Frank and Thomas Davis, met with friends in the Davis cabin. They laid out plats for the city of Boise. People were pouring into the valley for gold and silver and things were growing.

Downtown Boise is the city's cultural center and home to many small businesses. Notable areas to visit would include Basque Block. The Block celebrates the heritage of Basque immigrants to Idaho.

Not far from the Block is the Idaho State Capitol, a building designed to encourage morality in government through natural light. The classic Egyptian Theatre on Main Street recalls the golden era of movie palaces. Progressive themes are found in the Anne Frank Memorial, and the Black History Museum.

A chain of unique, well designed parks run along the river through the center of Boise, often referred to as "the string of pearls" or "the necklace of jewels."

Finally, among the finds of Treasure Valley, find The Gene Harris Jazz Festival, Idaho Shakespeare Festival, the Boise Art Museum, Freak Alley...so much to see, so little time. Come every year, like the Shoshone, to see, to meet and greet.
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Boise Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Boise Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Boise (See other walking tours in Boise)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Author: Linda
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Idaho Capitol Building
  • Freak Alley
  • Egyptian Theatre
  • Basque Museum and Cultural Center
  • Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial
  • Idaho State Historical Museum
  • Idaho Black History Museum
  • Julia Davis Park
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Idaho Capitol Building

1) Idaho Capitol Building (must see)

"The great white light of conscience must be allowed to shine and by its interior illumination make clear the path of duty." These are the words of John Tourtellotte, the Original Capitol Architect of the Idaho State Capitol building.

John saw light as a metaphor for enlightenment in government. His design for the capitol opened the interior chambers and corridors to shafts of sunlight captured and reflected from polished marble surfaces. The presence of natural light was to serve as a reminder of the need for clarity and morality in government.

In 2005 the Idaho State Capitol Commission was able to commence its plan to preserve and restore John Tourtellotte's creation to its original mission of light.

The overall appearance of the building closely resembles that of the Capitol in Washington DC. There is a central dome and rotunda. The rotunda is supported by classical columns in Ionic, Doric and Corinthian styles. From the central rotunda in both east and west directions are two underground atrium wings.

Glass skylights extend over the central corridors. Senate rooms are in the west wing. House rooms are in the east wing. All bathed in natural light.
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Freak Alley

2) Freak Alley (must see)

Colby Akers made the first drawing on the back alley doorway of Moon's Cafe. That was in 2002, the beginning of Freak Alley, Boise, Idaho.

Colby was noticed as he worked. Other business people asked him to keep painting in the alley. As the years passed more art has been added to Colby Akers' original effort. There are some political themes expressed but for the most part the Alley is genuine Freak. So far over three hundred artists have left their compositions in Freak Alley.

There are a few pieces that stay on the walls. However, fresh art is added year by year. No matter what kind of visual art floats your boat, it may well be found in Freak Alley.

Freak alley thrives entirely through donations and volunteer labor. The alley reaches into an indoor gallery as well, good move in winter in Idaho.
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Egyptian Theatre

3) Egyptian Theatre

The Egyptian Theatre "embodies the characteristic features of the land of the Nile, from the truncated pyramids which form the great pylons, to the lotus bud pillars with their ornate frescoes." So a local newspaper declared when the Theatre opened in 1927. The theatre, located in Ada County, was also known as the Ada Theatre.

The theatre was designed by Frederick C. Hummel, of the architectural firm of Tourtellotte & Hummel of Boise. The style of the theatre echoes the Egyptian revival. This style was ignited by the discovery of the tomb of King Tut. The theatre was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

The theatre stands out among the few great, whimsical palaces surviving from the 20s. The Cinema is alive and well at the Egyptian. The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum all premiered here. Actor Aaron Paul streamed the 14th episode of Breaking Bad at the grand old Ada.
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Basque Museum and Cultural Center

4) Basque Museum and Cultural Center

Basques came to America in significant numbers in the mid 19th century. The country had opened up after the civil war and train travel brought waves of immigrants. Among the would be settlers were mostly unskilled men from the Iberian Peninsula willing to take on jobs Americans would not touch.

As opportunities appeared in later years the trickle of lonesome men became more of a spate of families looking to settle. Many newcomers moved into communal-style houses. The Cyrus Jacobs/Uberuaga House, built in 1864, became a boarding houses in 1910.

The Uberuaga house became The Basque Museum & Cultural Center in 1985. The idea of the museum was to teach the culture of the Basque people. Exhibits, classes, a library and a kitchen were added to the Museum and Center. Boiseko Ikastola, a Basque preschool, teaches the Basque language at the Museum.

Other buildings were acquired. Pubs, markets, and restaurants dedicated to things Basque. In 1999 the Boise City Arts Commission met with the Basque community to create what is now Basque Block.

A plaza appeared by removing curbs and inserting granite slabs bearing the names of Basque families in Idaho, songs and music, and the Basque coat of arms. Sculptures and murals describe the changes of the neighborhood over time. The appearance is of an open plaza. So Basque Block was born. It is a place to meet in Boise. "Meet you at the Block."

Opening Hours: Tuesday-Friday: 10am - 5 pm; Saturday: 10am - 4pm; Sunday, Monday: closed
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Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial

5) Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial (must see)

In December 2020 the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial was desecrated and defaced with hate slogans and threats. The desecrators left behind their ugly tagline "We are everywhere." The Wassmuth Center for Human Rights had sponsored the Memorial and they needed a response. They turned wickedness around and made the phrase their own.

"We Are Everywhere" their response reads, "...people who believe in compassion, equality, justice, love, respect and kindness are in fact everywhere." "We Are Everywhere" signs can be seen in homes and businesses throughout Idaho. To stand against hate is to stand tall.

The Memorial was dedicated in 2002 as an educational park that would encourage discussions on human rights issues.

The heart of the Memorial is a life-sized bronze statue of teen-aged Anne Frank peeking out of her garret window. She sees a world gone mad.

The Memorial finds expression in a composition of elements. There are Anne's attic in an amphitheater, Memorial Quotes on walls, the Rose Beal Legacy Garden and the Marilyn Shuler Classroom for Human Rights.

The Anne Frank Memorial is the only one of its kind in the United States. It is also one of the very few places where the entire Universal Declaration of Human Rights is on permanent display.

The Memorial is open to all, free of charge. There is an audio self-guided tour. There is also a virtual tour available online.
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Idaho State Historical Museum

6) Idaho State Historical Museum

The Idaho State Museum has more than 80,000 square feet of space for exhibits including over 500 artifacts. Visitors may use available immersive technology to examine and explore the natural and geological development of Idaho. Through an interactive process one may study the effects of the land and the people on each other.

The museum has two rotating galleries, Syringe and Treasures. These galleries can expand on themes within the exhibits, emphasizing artifacts of the collection.

The Origins Gallery presents Idaho's five official tribes. There is a tribal theater to show each tribe's history. The rest of the gallery deals with tribal land stewardship and the types of topographies in Idaho.

Pioneering women have shaped the history and communities of Idaho. In the Syringe gallery one learns of their trailblazing exploits. The Treasures gallery features clothing and accessories, fashions and photography.

The J. Curtis Earl Exhibit highlights arms and weapons from the Bronze age to the present era.

Among the Permanent Exhibits are Disturbing Justice the story of the Idaho State Penitentiary, and Lincoln, his Legacy in Idaho, including his remarks to Congress in 1864 regarding the organizing of Idaho.
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Idaho Black History Museum

7) Idaho Black History Museum

Founded in 1995, The Black History Museum works for the recognition of the contribution of black Americans. It explores the legacy of black people and black cultures in Idaho and across the world.

The museum is ensconced in Julia Davis Park, one of the jewels in the "Ribbon of Jewels" along the Boise River. The museum building is the former Saint Paul Baptist church. The church was built in 1921 by the African Americans of Boise. In 1982 the church was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1904 there was a wave of black migration to the city of Boise. Among the new arrivals was the Reverend William Riley Hardy. No sooner had he arrived he became the first pastor of the African American Church in Boise.

The church met wherever it could at first. There was a forgotten building on Main Street in downtown Boise. This was followed by the back room of Gottlieb Lach's Blacksmith Shop on South Street. Finally, in 1918 the Saint Paul Baptist Church lodged at the GAR Hall by the Capitol.

A plot of land was donated and Reverend Hardy, who also was a skilled carpenter, commenced the construction of a permanent home for the church. By 1994 the church faced overcrowding. It was replaced by the new Saint Paul's. The old church became the Idaho Black History Museum and it found a new home in Julia Davis Park in 1998.

Opening hours: Tuesday: 10:00am - 3:00pm; Wednesday- Thursday: 10:00am - 4:00pm; Friday: closed; Saturday: 11:00am - 4:00 pm.
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Julia Davis Park

8) Julia Davis Park (must see)

In 1862, Thomas and Frank Davis, two orphans who traveled west, became the Romulus and Remus of Boise, Idaho. They came from Cincinnati, Ohio, looking for gold. They didn't find much but they staked a claim and built a cabin on Cottonwood Creek. As Fate would have it, the cabin was located in what later became Julia Davis Park.

On the Fourth of July in 1863, the Davis boys were followed by the U.S. Army. The soldiers built a fort and called it Fort Boise. That got the Davis boys to thinking. They met in the cabin with some friends and founded the City of Boise. Yep, there's gold in a dream if not in the ground.

Gold never did pan out, but there was always real estate. Thomas Davis was a key player in Boise. He had bought hundreds of acres on the river by 1868. In 1871 he married Julia McCrumb, who had traveled to Boise from Ontario. Dreams were coming true.

The Davises were generous. They offered land to the city for a public use as a park. The offer was not accepted until 1907 after Julia Davis had died. Thomas deeded 40 acres of land to the city in memory of his wife. He insisted that the park would be "always and forever" called Julia Davis Park. Thomas died in 1908.

Many additions and improvements were added to the park by the city. Union Pacific's engine, "Big Mike". Zoo Boise, the Boise Gallery of Art, The Bob Gibb Friendship Bridge, The Idaho Historical Museum, and the Idaho Black History Museum.

Walking Tours in Boise, Idaho

Create Your Own Walk in Boise

Create Your Own Walk in Boise

Creating your own self-guided walk in Boise is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Fort Street Historic District Walking Tour

Fort Street Historic District Walking Tour

The Fort Street Historic District in Boise, Idaho, contains roughly 47 blocks located within the 1867 plat of Boise City. When the nomination form was prepared in 1982 for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), the district contained 318 buildings. The inventory consisted mostly of houses, but schools, churches, and commercial structures were included. Many structures were designed by...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 Km or 1.1 Miles